Friday, December 09, 2005

Walk 123 -- Bempton Cliffs to Filey

Ages: Colin was 63 years and 215 days. Rosemary was 60 years and 357 days.
Weather: Cold and foggy — what a contrast!
Location: Bempton Cliffs to Filey.
Distance: 7½ miles.
Total distance: 985 miles.
Terrain: Grassy cliff paths — undulating. Steep descent to the beach, then firm beach sand.
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. Seeing the ice this morning — and then the fog — I declared I was not going anywhere on a bicycle! We drove to Filey and parked on the seafront for free. We knew there was no bus service to Bempton Cliffs, and finding a taxi proved difficult. We eventually came across one at Filey Bus Station, and the driver agreed to take us for £10. (At least we didn't have to pay £3.50 to park the car again!)
At the end, we had our tea and then drove straight back to the cottage — no bikes to pick up, you see! The next day we returned to Bognor.

We had the most beautiful sunrise this morning at the cottage, revealing a thick frost. Then it suddenly disappeared into fog, and that was how it stayed all day. By golly it was cold — we certainly knew it was December today! Fortunately Colin's cough seemed to have abated, though it was still there, and he felt much more himself. He wasn't grumpy at all, and was encouraging me on when I got cold.
We managed to start the Walk at 10.45 which, considering the weather, wasn't too bad. We had to walk through the RSBP Visitor Centre in order to get back on to the cliff path (either that or scramble over a bank) and the staff in there were friendly and chatty. We told them about our Grand Coastal Trek, and they were very interested in what we were doing. They must have thought we were out of our minds to go walking on the clifftop in such dreadful weather but we were determined, having come so far. As we left, they asked us not to fall off the cliff on their patch as they didn't want to be responsible for clearing up the mess!
It was foggy and cold on the clifftop, and there were absolutely no views. However, we could see the edge of the cliff perfectly well so we were in no danger of falling off — besides, there was a fence between us and the edge. We tried to walk quickly in order to keep warm. We were somewhat disappointed to think that we were on one of the most scenic Walks of the Trek so far and we couldn't see a thing! It was quite silent as well, even the birds had more sense than us and were tucked up cosily somewhere out of the cold. It was pretty spooky, even more so when we thought we could hear voices way out to our left. All we could see was a murky grey, but the voices persisted intermittently, it made the hair stand up on the backs of our necks! Then we saw them, two people riding horses along a parallel path further inland — or maybe two ghosts!
We passed a trig point at 135 metres, and were under the impression we were on the highest cliffs in England. But subsequent research revealed that Boulby Cliffs, some 50 miles further north, are in fact the owners of that title. I was trying to cast my mind back to 1989 when I was at an Open University Summer School at Durham University in the final year of my degree course. We were tired, cold and fed up at the end of a long day in the field.
We were taken to the ‘highest cliffs in England’ and they were trying to kid us that the only way to tell a gritstone from a mudstone was to climb up the cliff and chew the rock! As a group of mature students we were all too old and tired for such idiocy, and when one of the lecturers asked, “...and how was this sand transported here?” one wit in the group answered, “British Rail!” I remember that this remark did not go down too well, but I cannot remember whether we were at Bempton Cliffs or Boulby Cliffs!

The bitter wind was coming from the north-west. As we approached Speeton Cliffs, the path took a turn downwards leaving hills to the north-west of us. Suddenly it was much warmer and more pleasant! The fog seemed to lift a little, as well, and we could actually see the beach at the bottom of the cliffs.
When doing my research for this Walk, I had been dismayed to see from the map that the cliff path turned away from the coast at Speeton Cliffs, and would have spat us out on the main road about a mile inland. But a recce on the one rest day we did take this week confirmed that there is a permissive path leading down to the beach. Thank goodness we have chosen a week when the tide is out! There was a seat at the top of this path, but despite the shelter from the hills it was still too cold to sit there and eat our lunch. I regretted not taking any photos the other day when we did our recce — it had been a glorious day with the sun shining off the sea, but now there was nothing to take!
So we began to pick our way down, not too bad at first. It was very steep, but it was a proper path and evened out after a while. We came across a memorial to David and Elizebeth (sic), "brother and sister, 1936-1997 & 1945-1996". It did not say how they had died, just Above the sound of the sea, beneath the cry of the birds!” We wondered what had happened to them, and why their memorial was half way down the cliff. The path degraded further down and we had to pick our way very carefully, but we reached the beach unscathed. It reminded us of the cliff descent we did near Atwick last Sunday (was it really only five days ago?) but here it was grassy and we didn't get nearly so muddy.
We were hungry by then, and fortunately there was an upturned fish box from Whitby on the beach so we sat on that to eat. We didn't linger, it was much too parky! We looked back at the soft cliff we had just scrambled down, and there was no sign of the path we had just negotiated. We were glad that we hadn’t been walking in the other direction, we would have missed the way up completely and ended up at the bottom of Bempton Cliffs. I was disconcerted to see that the beach consisted of large chalk boulders for as far as the eye could see—which, admittedly, wasn’t much in the fog. I was just thinking that walking the final four miles to Filey was going to be impossible when something almost magical happened.While we had been sitting and chewing on our sarnies, the tide had gone out a little tiny bit further revealing firm sand along the water's edge. We were saved! There was a line of defunct pill-boxes which had fallen off the cliff and other concrete rubbish left over from the War, and on the sea side of it all was lovely firm sand.
We walked very quickly because it was so cold, and there was nothing to look at anyway. Yet again we noted houses very close to the edge of these soft cliffs, and in one case a house had been built half way down. Crazy! As we proceeded, the firm sand strip widened giving us much more room. If it hadn't been so cold we would really have enjoyed it.
We stopped at Hunmanby Gap to eat some more lunch, but again not for long because it was too cold to stay still. We hurried on, and saw Filey looming in the mist almost before we knew it. So we quickly ate our chocolate (can't miss out on that!) with only half a mile to go.
We climbed some steps to walk along the prom, and were in Filey almost immediately. It isn't a very big place. It has the reputation of being a rather ‘posh’ seaside resort, but that December afternoon it looked quite gloomy and bleak. I know it was the weather, but I can't enjoy anywhere when I am cold. We walked round an empty paddling pool, and soon came to our car parked on the seafront road. It was only 3pm — is this a record for finishing a Walk?
That ended Walk no.123, we shall pick up Walk no.124 next time on the seafront at Filey. We had a cup of tea in an attempt to warm us up, and then drove to the cottage as quickly as we could and put the heating on. It was a relief that there were no bikes to pick up. We were both glad to be returning to Bognor the next day.
Abandoned Walk!
We had planned to do Walk no.124 on Tuesday, 28th February 2006. We were staying in a holiday cottage in Ripon because we were deciding whether that was the place we wanted to retire to. (We had stayed in a holiday cottage in Malvern a month before, and I think we had already decided that Malvern was to be our retirement home, but we had to make sure.) It was Colin who suggested we did the next Walk during the week we were there, since we were in the area — sort of.
We got up early that morning and drove to Scarborough. It was fine but cold in Ripon, but as we drove East we passed more and more cars covered in snow. The sky clouded over, and before we reached Scarborough we were engulfed in snow! We found the ‘long-term’ car park round the back of the station, and discovered that half of it was under cover — so that was good. The weather was very unpredictable — for about five minutes it would be sunny, then we would be in a maelstrom of snow and hail! We went to the station and decided to go to Filey anyway, but we bought return tickets. As we walked down to the beach in Filey, another snowstorm hit us and we both knew that there was no way we were going to do any ‘Round-Britain’ walking today!We walked along the prom and came across a school party having lunch in the only covered seating area. We had a chat with one of the teachers —they were on a week’s ‘activity’ holiday nearby. I commiserated with their predicament, but inside I (the ex-teacher) was chortling! We walked along the beach in sunshine, then up to a nearby playing field where we got caught in a maelstrom that left us looking like snowmen! So we returned to the beach shelter — now vacated by the children — and had our lunch. We found a café to warm up with hot chocolate, and caught the train back to Scarborough.There were groups of teenagers hanging about in the car park which was hidden away behind the station, and I didn't feel happy about that. The reason they weren’t in school was because it was Shrove Tuesday, which is ‘Skipping Day’ in Scarborough. All schools in the town have a half day so that everyone can take part, but these teenagers were too ‘big’ to conform — stupid arrogant lumps that they are! We had a cup of tea from our flask, and they did move on, thank goodness. We walked down to the harbour to watch those who were taking part. It is an old tradition, started by fishermen, that everyone spends the afternoon of Shrove Tuesday skipping! And there they were — lots of families skipping away on the harbour road which had been specially closed for them, and doing it despite the dreadful weather. It was wonderful!

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