Filey to Bridlington Yorkshire
Brian, with Carr Naze in the background. Carr Naze is a peninsula of land made up of pure sandstone and limestone, it ends in a narrow rocky spit that runs from Carr Naze on the landward end out to Filey Brigg on the seaward end. The Romans knew this part of the coast well and in the late fourth century built a signal tower on Carr Naze, where soldiers watched for Saxon raiders. In local folklore there are two legends concerning the formation of the Brigg. According to one of them it was built by the Devil, who, having lost his hammer in the sea, reached in for it with his hand but caught a fish instead. The Devil exclaimed, "Ah Dick!", which accounts for the name of the fish – Haddock. It is said that since then Filey Brigg has carried the marks of the Devil’s grasp on its shoulders. Another legend states that the rocks were the bones of a dragon, which terrorized the area but was outsmarted by the townsfolk, who drowned it when it dived into the sea to wash parkin (a Yorkshire cake) from between its teeth.
Filey is a popular seaside town and historically part of the East Riding of Yorkshire. Once a small fishing village, its large beach has now become a popular tourist attraction. Several National walking trails finish in Filey, including the Cleveland Way, Yorkshire Wolds Way and Centenary Way. Its oldest building is the grade 1 listed 12th century church dedicated to St Oswald and it was said by Nicholas Pevsner, author of the "Buildings of England", to be the finest church in the north east corner of the East Riding. St Oswald or Oswald of Northumbria was the King of Northumbria from 634 until his death aged 38. Oswald promoted the spread of Christianity in Northumbria and we know so much about him thanks to the positive assessments by the historian Bede, who described him as a saintly king. He died in the Battle of Maserfield, Oswestry, Shropshire in 641 or 642. The spot where he died has come to be associated with miracles, mythologized after his death he was venerated a saint sometime in the middle ages.
Filey Bay stretches for miles with its extensive beach ending below Speeton Cliffe in the distance.
The public Victorian drinking fountain on the promenade at Filey celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and was donated by James Varley (1844-1906) who ran the Crescent Hotel in the town.
These pebble mosaic plaques on the Filey promenade are dedicated to the old Yorkshire / Filey Coble Boats, Guiding Star, Energy, Girl Annie, Pilot Me, Research, Summer Rose, Bluebird II, Windsor Lad II and Trio, all herring fishing boats from Filey. These old coble boats get their name from the slipways that they used to be landed on when returning from the sea with their catch, these slipways were normally made of cobbles, hence the name.
The beach here is rated as one of the top six in the world along with Bondi Beach in Australia and Siesta Beach Florida.
Brian sets the pace and I am pleased to be here following behind.
It's a lovely morning and its a real joy walking lower down on the sands.
We are hoping to walk the beach as far as possible before finding a path up the sea cliffs. However this could backfire on us, not knowing that for sure, but in my experience there's always a path and a short cut somewhere where the beach starts or ends. It's human nature for people to look for and eventually make through foot fall, a short cut over time.
The coastal erosion here has meant that several lozenge type pillboxes (a design specific to the north-east of England) have fallen from the cliff top onto Hunmanby Sand below.
Near Butcher Haven this brook runs to the sea from Hunmanby Moor above the beach.
Now it is roughly at this point that we spot a seagull with what appears to be a broken wing at the waters edge. Turning to a man walking his dog to ask if there was a rescue centre nearby, which there wasn't, we didn't know what to do, so sadly we had to leave the bird, but hoping someone from the area would help it. I have since learnt that if a bird has a broken wing it will not fix by itself and eventually the bird will die from starvation or get eaten by a predator. Even now I am embarrassed about not knowing what to do to help this poor animal, so having looked online, if this ever happens to you please call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 and follow their advice.
Now from striking up this conversation with a totally random man on the foreshore about the bird, we soon discover thanks to him, that there is a short cut up the sea cliffs further ahead at Black Cliff. Even more amazingly this gentleman turned out to be the owner of the Piebald Inn at Hunmanby, which we visited last night, what an amazing coincidence.
These concrete blocks at Speeton Sands where used as sea defences during world War 2.
A bulletproof machine gun pillbox, also known as an "Eared Pillbox" lies partially submerged in the Speeton Sands beach having slipped down from the cliff top above. Again these pillboxes are only found along the north-east coastline between Scarborough and Withernsea. The design was intended to house two Vickers machine guns which gave an arc of fire of 180° and consisted of a single chamber separated by a short anti-ricochet wall. Oddly the design of the pillbox exits means they point directly into the line of enemy fire.
After a short scrabble up the eroding cliffs we soon arrive at the top of Speeton Cliffs and this grass path is part of the Headland Way walk, which runs from Filey to Bridlington via Flamborough and this is basically our coastal route for the rest of the day.
The views back toward Filey are stunning from the top of Speeton Cliffs and here the 7 mile beach can be seen in all it's true glory.
Looking out from these high cliffs it's hard to imagine today that below this spot is a brick built shipping dock called Dulcey Dock, which was built in the 19th century to load chalk cut from these 400ft cliff faces. I can not imagine today ships trying to dock below these cliffs in a storm or the potential for rock falls due to chipping away at the base. However they did and this chalk was then conveyed by a Humber Keel cargo boat to the Hessle Windmill which still stands today beside the Humber Bridge.
The sea cliffs at Buckton & Bempton are some of the highest sea cliffs in England, Beachy Head in Sussex being the highest at 530ft. Interestingly they are also the only chalk sea cliffs in the north of Britain. However, they are best known as the home of the UK's greatest wildlife spectacle, when a half a million breeding seabirds gather here between March & October every year. The area attracts 100,000 visitors yearly to this 3 mile stretch and it's specially built viewing platforms, which are administered by the RSPB. It is a unique natural phenomenon and one that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. Sadly these colonies are under threat from over fishing of our waters and declining species are a big indicator of the health of our seas. There is nowhere else like this in Britain and it must be protected, it's a special place even if we are walking it out of the breeding season.
On the 24th September 1935 the Hull trawler 'SKEGNESS' was lost with 11 hands here. Originally the skipper sent a radio message saying that he did not need assistance at that stage, after running aground. However it is thought that a north-easterly gale then brought heavy seas and the crew sent up the maroons (a type of rocket which makes load bangs and flashes) and called for repeated help around 11pm. The Filey lifeboat put to sea in horrible conditions, but the search was in vain and by 11:30pm the calls for help from the trawler had stopped. It was daylight before the enormity of the disaster became apparent, when the lifeboat did eventually find the remains of the trawler there was no sign of life. All 11 men had perished and the bodies started to wash ashore later that day.
RAF Bempton has stood silent since it was abandoned in 1981, originally RAF Flamborough Head, a WW2 GCI Radar Site which opened in 1940, but was disbanded in 1945. After this it became an Air Ministry Experimental Station, and was established as a CHL/CHEL Radar station in 1949. It then transferred to Fighter Command and was rebuilt under the ROTOR program as a CEW ROTOR site with an underground R1 Bunker. It remained in this guise of the 146 Signals Unit till 1961 when it became a satellite of RAF Patrington (later RAF Holmpton). However it was not used as an active radar site after 1964 until its final closure in 1972. After being on care and maintenance for a number of years, the site was disposed of in 1981 and has been derelict since then. The site is in a very poor condition, with the underground bunker having suffered a severe fire and most of the surface buildings being in a very poor state of repair. The Guard House bungalow and emergency exit are going to be imminently demolished to seal the extensive underground areas. The concrete posts laid out in formation are part of a Cold War over-the-horizon-radar experiment, the apparatus has now gone and today just these concrete posts remain.
Standing on one of the RSPB viewing platforms at Bempton Cliffs, a head for heights is recommended.
A view of the sea arch looking south from Bempton Cliffs and Crab Rocks toward Scale Nab.
Ahead the green mound on top of the cliffs marks the start of a ditch earthworks (wall) called Danes Dyke. Its name is misleading, once believed to have been built by Danish invaders, it in fact has nothing to do with the Danes. Today archaeologists believe it dates to an earlier period roughly from the middle to late Bronze Age. The earthworks run for a distance of two and half miles north or south depending on which end you are standing, across the Flamborough peninsular. It encloses an area of about 5 square miles and archaeologists have yet to find any signs of occupation within it apart from one single round barrow. So at this time this protective dyke remains a mystery.
At Danes Dyke end sits this large carved wooden Puffin dedicated to this distinctive bird, which is considered by many to be Britain's favourite seabird and it's not hard to see why. It is believed that 4,000 pairs of Puffins return to Bempton Cliffs yearly to lay their single egg in a crevice on the rock face. The large orange striped beaks and legs on this tiny bird really make them stand out and it is easy to see why people flock here to see this normally quite illusive bird.
The constant pounding by the North Sea has eroded the soft chalk creating many sea caves and Flamborough head is dotted with them, unsurprisingly the area was thought to have been a haven for smugglers and their contraband.
I was interested to read on another well written post that the Yorkshire coast is so treacherous that it has averaged two shipwrecks a week since 1500, but I suppose in more modern times this number has now fallen and probably more pleasure craft. In the year 1869, the 100-mile stretch of coast between Spurn Head and Teesmouth accounted for 838 ships – more than two a day, with the cliffs of Flamborough Head being a notorious destroyer of shipping. Charles Dickens, touring the area’s graveyards in 1851, was moved to write: “You would imagine any man mad, from all that you see around you, who would think of trusting himself to the ocean.”
Thornwick Bay, is named after the Danish god of Thunder, Thor, here you can scramble across the rocks to visit the large sea caves including the Smugglers Cave.
The path that runs down from the North Marine Road into Thornwick Bay.
The view from High Holme over Thornwick Bay with the Thornwick Cafe to the left, which is only open during the summer months.
The North Landing Beach near Flamborough is paired with the South Landing, which are located either side of Flamborough village.
The North Landing was the site of the old Lifeboat Station (pictured here). Again famous for its smugglers' caves and panoramic views along the north coast to Filey and Scarborough. It was once the hub of Flamborough's small, but active fishing industry. On the landing / slipway a few distinctive coble fishing boats can still be seen working today.
Yet more sea caves at North Landing.
The clifftop trail from North Landing to Flamborough head is invigorating and gives you wonderful views of this scarred seascape. The tantalising names on my map read Breil Nook, Breil Head, Cradle Head, Stottle Bank Nook and Cough Hole, you wonder why and when in time they got their names.
This white (chalk) tower, is in fact the Old Lighthouse built in 1647 by John Matson, on behalf of Sir John Clayton, who had a Royal Charter to build five lighthouse along the east coast. It is the oldest complete lighthouse in England, but was never used. The deal that Clayton struck with King Charles II stipulated that he had to build all five before he could collect dues from passing ships, however he ran out of money and went bankrupt. It is octagonal in shape, made of chalk with a stone dressing, with four stages and a brick parapet and was designed to have a coal or brushwood fire lit on its top.
It has been said that before the lighthouse was built on Flamborough head in 1806, it was the noise of the birds that guided fisherman safely to the shore past these treacherous cliffs. Standing here you can see why these sea cliffs would rip any boat apart.
Another sea arch at Selwick Bay, Flamborough Head.
The earliest recorded vessel to be wrecked off the headland was in 1348 when La Katerine, a sailing boat, became stranded on the rocks during a raging storm. Between 1770 and 1806 one hundred and seventy five ships were wrecked off the headland (one every twelve weeks). In 1806 Trinity House were convinced that a lighthouse at Flamborough would help prevent numerous wrecks and the lighthouse was designed and built at a cost of £8000. On one of the three sides the reflectors were covered with red ruby glass, this was the first use of red glass in a lighthouse and represented the first use of the colour as part of a light characteristic and the idea was soon taken up elsewhere. According to a description of the lighthouse written in 1818, the red light was used to distinguish Flamborough's lighthouse from the one at Cromer. A Victorian pilot book used the mnemonic 'Two whites to one red indicates Flambro Head'. A clockwork motor revolved an oil lamp which warned shipping of the dangerous cliffs and was reportedly visible for twenty miles. In 1925 the tower was raised to its present height of 85 feet to accommodate a new 15-foot lens and it now stands at 250 feet above the waves. Finally in 1992 a 1000 watt halogen bulb was installed and the last lighthouse keepers left on the 8th May 1996 after automation.
Also here is the Headlands Family Restaurant - cafe - bar, which we can strongly recommend, very popular in the summer, it has to be on your itinerary if visiting Flamborough Head.
Sunset at Flamborough Head and it's time to get a move on, we still have a way to go to Bridlington and the light is fading fast.
In 1859 this fog station was built close to the cliffs edge, some way from the lighthouse. Initially an 18-pound gun was used as the fog signal, sounded once every 15 minutes and the cottage was built for the gunners performing this duty. Explosive rockets replaced the cannon in 1878 and were discharged every 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes from 1896. However in 1906 an engine house was built next to the cottage for a pair of 22hp Hornsby oil engines to run a compressor for the Rayleigh trumpet fog sirens mounted on the engine room roof, which sounded one long blast, one short blast every 90 seconds.
I like walking in atmospheric autumn evenings as darkness falls. the crisp air, fading light and the lights from Bridlington in the distance does not disappoint me. Although it's time for headlights and additional clothing to keep warm, it just makes the walk that more magical for me.
Brian's silhouette seen here nearing the South Landing, south of Flamborough village.
Walking these clifftops looking across the now silver waters to Bridlington, I couldn't think of a better place to be right now and I just wish more were here to see it with me.
The newer lifeboat station at the South Landing.
Another great photo of Brian near the southern end of Danes Dyke mentioned previously.
Bridlington from the Sewerby Hall grounds.
Finally we arrive at Bridlington Esplanade and it has been a wonderful walk. I can strongly recommend this walk from Filey, especially like today in the Yorkshire sunshine, it had everything for me that I would want in a days walking. For us it's time to find our B&B, to freshen up and look for our evening meal. I would like to thank Brian for his company and I am looking forward to tomorrows leg onto Great Cowden near Hornsea. 18.27 miles.