Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Walk 121 -- Bridlington to Flamborough Head

Ages: Colin was 63 years and 213 days. Rosemary was 60 years and 355 days.
Weather: Sunny. No wind. Very clear.
Location: Bridlington to Flamborough Head.
Distance: 81/2 miles.
Total distance: 9711/2 miles.
Terrain: Concrete prom and grassy paths. Flat in Bridlington, undulating on cliffs with several very deep clefts.
Tide: Out.
Rivers: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: No.95 as we left Bridlington, on the path to Flamborough Head.
Pubs: None. (There were really, but Colin was not feeling himself!)
'English Heritage' properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None. (Though we heard on the local news that Bridlington has been granted planning permission for a miniature 'London Eye'!)
Diversions: No.35 just past South Landing, where the footpath had been moved inland a few yards due to cliff erosion.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday cottage on a farm near the village of Rudston. With bikes on the back of the car, we drove to Flamborough Head where the car park was FREE at this time of year! We cycled to Bridlington on roads which were hilly at first and I had to get off and walk a couple of times. Once in Bridlington, we ignored all the 'No Cycling' notices and cycled along the flat seafront--much safer than the roads!
At the end we had our tea by the light of the flashing lighthouse whilst chatting to a lady who had lost her car keys in the undergrowth (she did have a spare set!) We drove down into Bridlington to collect the bikes, then returned to our cosy cottage.

We didn't have a very good start to the day. Colin's cough is awful, but he won't give up on the Walks--I did offer. He feels, like I do when I am unwell, that being ill is such a waste of time! We have so much living to do, we haven't time to spare to be ill. He said we have spent a lot of money getting up here and paying for the cottage, the weather and tides are perfect so we'd better get on with it. Then he got his bike out and discovered he had a puncture! That made us later and put us in the rush-hour traffic getting round Bridlington. But we didn't have far to drive, and we chatted to a very friendly local lady at Flamborough Head before we set off on our bikes. I found the going hard--and I am not ill--as had to get off and walk several times.
Despite these difficulties, we managed to start the Walk at five to eleven. First we walked along the new South Prom into Bridlington. There was a lot of art-work and poetry written in the stones--it was mostly about birds, shipwrecks and encouragement to keep fit. We didn't agree with the advice given to walk south in the Winter so that the wind is on your back--there was no wind today, but a blinding sun low in the sky. We were glad that we were not looking directly into it as we were walking north.
We passed the 'Spa Theatre' which was advertising 'Sleeping Beauty' as it's Christmas pantomime, and we were pleased that Bridlington still has an active theatre. Then we turned on to the south wall of the harbour. Bridlington is a working fishing port, and there were a number of fishing boats lining the harbour walls. We wondered how they were all faring in this day and age when the fishing industry is in recession. There were a few opportunist gulls around, and a cormorant perched on a buoy in the middle of the harbour drying out its wings. (My arms start aching if I watch a cormorant in that position for too long!)There was a memorial tablet to lost fishermen on the harbour wall with three names on it. What we found disconcerting was that they had left an awful lot of space under those names for future fatalities--I thought that was a bit pessimistic. Near it was a board which illustrated all the fish they are likely to catch in the North Sea. The blurb told us:
Fish Quay
The harbour has long been involved in the fishing trade from the yawls and smacks of last century to the present fleet of keel boats. Demands for better accommodation for fishing boats and fish buyers increased after the First World War, but it was not until the early nineteen thirties that the seaward end of the South Pier was widened to form a fish wharf with covered accommodation. Further improvements were carried out in 1950, and the present building was erected in 1974-5 with an ice plant added a few years later. The Keel boats vary in size from 20 to 65 tons, and the fish they land is packed into boxes and taken to Hull by road to be sold in the fish market there.
We walked along the South Pier through all the fishing tackle, then a notice asked us to use the upper walkway to keep us out of the way of the working boats. We had a nice view of the harbour from up there--the cormorant was still on its perch in the middle holding its wings out to dry (my arms really do ache!) We descended some steps at the end, and found a heap of ice which hadn't melted in the cold air despite the bright sunshine.
We returned to the landward end, then diverted into town where the toilets boasted loudly that they were FREE! (Unfortunately they were also closed.) I wanted to buy a 2006 tide table and Colin wanted to buy some fish'n'chips because he thought that the local fish would be extra tasty. I succeeded in getting my tide table while he waited for his fish to cook. We returned to the harbour to find a bench to sit and enjoy them--I just had a taste of his because I have lost a stone and a half in weight over the past year and I don't want to undo all that good work. Well, we were disappointed--we don't think they used local fish at all and it was a pretty tasteless meal. Far too much fat!
So we returned to our Walk to work it off. We walked along two central walkways, then out along the North Wall. We saw a boat hoist, and a couple of small boats painted like sharks. Believe it or not, that cormorant was still standing on his perch with his wings outstretched--he must have been there for over an hour! (My arms now ache so much I think they are going to fall off!)So we continued along the new prom, northwards out of town. A funfair was just packing up for the Winter, they must find it worthwhile to run late in the season. No Ferris wheels, though. However, we heard on the local news that the Council has just been granted planning permission to erect a smaller version of the 'London Eye' on that spot as part of the 'regeneration of Bridlington'. (We know all about regeneration schemes in Bognor -- improbable and expensive ideas which come to nothing after years of argument.) The local businesses were all for it, but inevitably there had also been quite a lot of opposition. I shall have to come back and ride on it, when it is built!
The prom itself was only just over ten years old and still looked very new. It is quite jolly with decorative bricks and wall sculptures. Over the red-painted railings we could see Flamborough Head -- our destination -- stretching out in the sunshine.
We took a path up through gardens and found a place to sit and eat our sarnies. Colin looked through his binoculars and claimed he could see the lighthouse at Spurn Head. I tried looking, but the sun was so bright in that direction I couldn't see anything--I didn't want to damage my eyesight so I didn't even try. It was cold in the wind at the top where we were sitting, so we moved to hide behind a bush where we sat on a low stone wall. I sat on my overtrousers as the stone was cold, and Colin got out his foam pad which he had picked up on a walk near Selbourne a couple or so years ago--someone had probably got up after their picnic and walked off without it. Colin suddenly said, "There's a weasel!" but by the time I looked round it had gone. Of course, it could have been wishful thinking on his part because he was beginning to feel really miserable with his cough, and Spurn Head may have reminded him of the weasel we had seen there.
He wasn't very hungry after his fish'n'chips, and he felt unwell but he insisted on ploughing slowly through all the food he had. I was concerned that the sun was getting low in the sky and we still had a few miles to cover. So I packed up my stuff and walked on as he always walks faster than me anyway. It wasn't until we were too far to go back that he realised he had stood up and left his foam pad behind--so I expect it has now gone on to a third owner!
We noticed there were mole heaps in the grass next to the clifftop path. We passed some steps down to the beach which told us that the foreshore is sometimes polluted and advised us not to swim or paddle just there. We wondered if there is still sewage being discharged into the sea at that point--if so it is an absolute disgrace in the 21st century! We passed a cricket ground where the benches were arranged round in a circle, but it is not the cricket season.
Soon we were out of Bridlington and into the countryside. Fortunately there was a good path along the clifftop because now we were on chalk and there was no way we could walk along the beach, even at low tide. I love chalk--I love the way it folds like a soft cloth. Perhaps it reminds me of those halcyon days I spent as a child in Arundel, tucked into the chalk downs. But what I hadn't taken into account when planning this Walk were the deep clefts we had to go down--lots of steps to beach level and even more steps to get back up the other side. The first one took us down through trees where there were wood carvings depicting the different types of tree. It was all very pleasant, but already the sun was low in the sky.
By the time we got to South Landing, another cleft where we had to descend to beach level, the sun was setting. We sat on a rock there to eat our chocolate, and then we got going. Why does there always seem to be more steps up than down? There were wooden statues by the path, a man with a fish on his head(?) and a woman wearing an old-fashioned bonnet. We wished we were not so near the Winter solstice, it was rapidly getting dark. We hadn't time to stop and look. We could see the lighthouse at Flamborough Head flashing away, and knew that our car was parked underneath it. It looked a long way away! We heard a gun exploding out at sea as if to announce the end of the day, but the visibility was too bad to see anything.
We thought we had finished with clefts by then, but there was a third one -- very small on the map so we hadn't noticed it -- and once again we had to descend to beach level. By the time we had climbed out of that it was almost too dark to see.We came across a strange ironwork sculpture which was really too dark to photograph properly. Then we happened on a stone sculpture which had the following legend on the back:
St Oswald is the patron saint of fishermen hence the fish weathervane on the tower of St Oswald's Church, Flamborough. The church also contains the tomb of Sir Marmaduke Constable who is said to have died from swallowing a toad, which ate his heart resulting in his demise.
So now you know — absolutely barking!
By now it was so dark we couldn't see our feet. There was still a warm glow in the sky over the sea behind us, and ahead we could see the lighthouse flashing away in the black sky. The path, at first, was pale gravel, but then it grassed over which made picking out our way quite difficult. "Use your night vision!" said Colin between hacking coughs -- he really was feeling rough. That is what we had to do for the next mile, but I am not a cat and my 'night-vision' isn't all that good. Fortunately we could see the edge of the cliff, but we didn't know what we were treading in.
When we got in line with the lighthouse, we could just about make out an open field gate. We decided to curtail the Walk and take a short cut directly to our shining beacon, risking any barbed wire fences we may have to scramble over/under in the dark.
But we found we were on a track leading directly to our flashing light, and breathed a sigh of relief. What is more, there was a man walking his dog towards us, so we knew we could get out OK. "Have you seen a bunch of car keys?" he asked when he drew level with us. "The lady over there, a neighbour of mine, has dropped them in the grass!" It was pitch dark! We said we couldn't possibly see them tonight, but we would be walking this way in the morning and would keep a look-out for them in daylight. "She's always doing daft things like this!" he said, "I try to keep an eye on her."
We arrived back at our car at last, under the welcome light of Flamborough Head Lighthouse -- it was twenty to five in the afternoon! There was the lady we had chatted to this morning. "Thank goodness you are back!" she said, "I've been so worried about you! When I came back to walk the dog again this afternoon and saw your car was still here, I worried that you were lost on the clifftop in the dark. I was going to stay here until you appeared!" How sweet of her to be concerned about complete strangers, and we tried to reassure her that we had been very aware of the dangers and had kept well back from the cliff edge.
"Are you the lady who has lost her car keys?" I asked. "Oh yes, I'm always doing that!" she answered. "It's all right, I've got spares, but it's such a nuisance. Last time it cost me £70 to get replacements. They fall out of my hand when I bend down to put the lead on the dog, and then I can't see them in the dark!" "What you should do," suggested Colin, "is to put them on a string round your neck!" By then the man had returned and commented, "On a ring through her nose, more like!" They went off laughing together. Lovely lady with a really kind heart, but a little intellectually challenged we thought.

That ended Walk no.121, we shall pick up Walk no.122 next time on the clifftop due south of Flamborough Head Lighthouse. We drank our tea by the flashing light, drove to Bridlington to pick up the bikes (the toilets in that car park were still open!) and then back to our cosy cottage where I made some spicy parsnip soup in an attempt to warm up Colin. But his cough is worse than ever.

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