Thursday, December 08, 2005

Walk 122 -- Flamborough Head to Bempton Cliffs

Ages: Colin was 63 years and 214 days. Rosemary was 60 years and 356 days.
Weather: Sunny. No wind. Very clear.
Location: Flamborough Head to Bempton Cliffs.
Distance: 6 miles.
Total distance: 977½ miles.
Terrain: Grassy cliff paths, some very muddy and slippery. Undulating.
Tide: Going out.
Rivers: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: None.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
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 Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve where the car park machine was closed up so we thought we could park once more for free. However, before we were ready, they came to open up the visitor centre and we had to pay £3.50! (We were a bit cheesed off about that.) We cycled to Flamborough Head, and I seemed to cope much better with the hills today — must be getting used to it. We locked our bikes to a post near the lighthouse and walked down the track to the spot where we had left the cliff path in the dark last night.
At the end, we had our tea in this expensive car park, then we drove to Flamborough Head to collect our bikes. We returned across country to our cosy cottage.

I really didn't want to get up early this morning, and Colin's cough is horrible. Today was supposed to be our 'rest' day too. I suggested to Colin that we forget about Round-Britain-Walking until he felt better and that we beetle off home early so he could nurse his cough in the comfort of his own home. But he would have none of it! He suggested instead that we forget about a ‘rest’ day and instead do two shorter Walks to Filey instead of one long one which we would almost certainly not fit into the daylight hours at this time of year. He felt it would have been a waste of time driving all the way up here from Sussex (it took us 8 hours) if we didn't make the most of our week. But he really wasn't fit, and his cough troubled him a lot today. He felt drained of all energy, and was slow and grumpy. I was afraid he was going to pass out on me on the cliff-tops, but fortunately there seemed to be a lot of people about on this lovely sunny day so we were never completely on our own.
We did look out for the missing car keys as we walked down to the clifftop from the lighthouse, but we didn't see them. There was also no sign of the couple we met last night. Flamborough Head is beautiful! Neither of us have been there before, and we were blessed with a lovely sunny day with no wind and exceptional visibility. We could hardly believe it was December! It took us an hour to walk round the Head, and were very glad we didn't attempt to do it last night in the dark -- it would have been dangerous.
The views are spectacular! There are caves, stacks and arches in the chalk cliffs, and row upon row of birds' nests. The chalk is layered with rows of flint, and the birds have made use of the narrow ledges to nest. It looked as if they were all neatly layered in apartment blocks! Looking south, Colin thought he could see Spurn Head lighthouse through his binoculars. Like yesterday, I wouldn't look through them towards the sun as it was so bright. I said I would look out for the light flashing when we returned in the dark to pick up our bikes later, but although we looked and looked then we saw nothing. Near the lighthouse was a wooden carved bird sculpture which was almost as tall as me.We sat on a nearby bench to eat some of our lunch, and contemplated the fact that Flamborough Head is equidistant from Land's End and John O'Groats — apparently it is 362 miles to each, as the crow flies. Bet we walk a lot further than 362 miles before we get to John O'Groats, we have already walked 973 miles to get us here from Bognor. But then we go the wiggly way, along the coast.
We were very near the lighthouse, which had been our flashing beacon beckoning us in the dark last night. It was built in 1806, without scaffolding apparently, and stands 85 feet tall. I read somewhere that lighthouses are built up in a spiral, which not only makes them very strong to withstand the weather but means no scaffolding has to be used to erect them. In a nearby field is an older lighthouse which was built of chalk in 1674. During recent restoration of this historic building, doubt was cast as to whether it was ever actually used because there was no sign of a fire having been lit inside it.Time was getting on and we still had quite a distance to go. Colin had been fairly OK up to that point, but then he began to feel really rough. I offered again to pack it in for the day, but he wouldn't. So we set off towards North Landing. I had to keep nagging him to keep up because he seemed drained of all energy and I didn't want to end the Walk in the dark like last night. We hadn't got a lighthouse to guide us today! There were some clefts we had to walk down and climb out of, but they were not as deep as yesterday's. It took us longer to walk than I had envisaged because I hadn't taken into account all the wiggly bits of the coastline at this point—not all of them are marked on the map. The scenery remained breath-taking and the weather remained wonderful, we felt so lucky! Then we saw a kestrel, and that cheered Colin up no end.
There is quite a little community at North Landing, there were a number of people about and we even watched a bus drive down there and turn round. There were lots of notices pinned to a fence which puzzled us. We tried to read a few and thought they were supposed to be jokes, but they weren't very funny. We didn't have time to squint at them further. It all seemed very amateurish, whatever it was. We think they were trying to raise money for a scanner at the local hospital, but we weren't sure — and even less sure how pinning so-called jokes to a fence in Winter, where they quickly become illegible due to the weather, could possibly raise money. We just found it all very puzzling.
The cliffs became even more spectacular after North Landing, but that meant there were even more inlets and wiggly bits to walk round. Time was our enemy, and Colin was so slow! Then he saw a hawk which thrilled him, and he began to feel better. We sat on a stile and ate some more lunch, and he said he now felt he had the energy to finish the Walk — good job, because we were in the middle of nowhere!
As we climbed up to higher cliffs we came across yet another wooden sculpture of a bird. It seemed to be overlooking the whole of Flamborough Head. Ahead we could see Filey (tomorrow's destination) and Scarborough, and inland the high hills of the North York Moors.
We came to Dane's Dyke, about a mile from our destination, as the sun began to set. There we ate our chocolate to give us that final flush of energy. Dane's Dyke is an Iron Age earthwork which stretches from the south to the north coasts of Flamborough Head, 'cutting off' approximately five square miles of land from the rest of England. We passed the south end of it yesterday, it was the first of the deep clefts we had to negotiate. Now we had reached the north end of it which was a large mound. Colin climbed on top of it — I knew then he was feeling better!
We were losing light rapidly as we walked the last mile along Bempton Cliffs. We really didn't have time to linger and look properly, which was a great pity. Bempton Cliffs are reputed to be the highest in England, but looking at the map they come out third at 130 metres. Golden Cap in Dorset is 191 metres, and Boulby Cliffs, between Whitby and Saltburn just a little bit further north, go up to 200 metres. I think some people confuse Bempton and Boulby Cliffs because the name is similar, and Bempton Cliffs are truly spectacular in their own right. Trouble was, it was getting too dark to appreciate them. Perhaps tomorrow when we continue this trek, if Colin is spared!These cliffs are well known for the birds that inhabit them. We were just bemoaning the fact that we hadn't seen any when we spied not one, but two short-eared owls flying off. Colin definitely felt better then! We arrived at Bempton Visitor Centre at 3.30, before it got really dark, and excitedly told the warden what we had just seen. He said there are about six short-eared owls which are frequently seen nearby. A bird-watcher was in there chatting to him when we arrived, and admitted he had never seen an owl. We told him, "Well, get out there now!" But he didn't, he just continued moaning—it takes all sorts...
That ended Walk no.122, we shall pick up Walk no.123 next time on the clifftop at Bempton Nature Reserve. We had our tea before we drove back to Flamborough Head in the dark to pick up the bikes. Then we returned to our cosy cottage in Rudston. I thoroughly enjoyed today's Walk, it has been the most spectacular piece of coast we have walked since the Seven Sisters back in Sussex. Colin would have enjoyed it too if he hadn't felt so ill. I do wish his cough would go away!

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