Yomping in Yorkshire
The week began at the fascinating Spurn Point and ended in Scarborough with a birthday celebration. In between, it’s been a demanding and hazardous walking week for me, either on roads or on extremely muddy, slippery and dangerously eroded paths, often groping through a blanket of fog.
Favourable tides at Spurn Point gave me a chance to visit this iconic Yorkshire landmark. Following the severe storm and tidal surge of 2013, the 3.5 mile peninsula was breached, and Britain’s newest tidal island was formed. Just walking the central ‘washover’ section makes one realise the importance and vulnerability of this spit of land. Regular signs warn visitors to check tide times, and for those that miscalculate a ‘safe hut’ is provided.
Militarily, Spurn has been a vital point of defence for centuries and many of the WWII coastal artillery remains are still visible. For birdwatchers, Spurn is famed for the vast number of migrating birds passing through each spring and autumn. Commercially, the Vessel Traffic Services navigational system has operated from here for many years, but with access to the Point becoming increasingly difficult, the facility is being relocated to a new Humber Maritime Control Centre in Grimsby.
Until the 1940s an entire maritime community lived at the Point, served by its own school, pub and full-time RNLI crew. Today, only the isolated lifeboat station and quarters remain operational, but I wonder how much longer this can be sustained.
Back on the mainland, badly eroded cliffs forced me onto nearby roads, where I was only able to hear the roar and tumble of the sea in the distance. Wherever possible I weaved a route in, out, and around the many static caravan parks, but even this proved precarious at times. When at sea level, I walked some of the beaches, many littered with rubbish brought in during severe winter storms. Therefore, it was good to meet a group of local volunteers at Barmston Sands doing sterling work clearing their beach for summer.
At Bridlington, before climbing onto the Headland Way, I noted a plaque stating that in 1890 two Hawaiian princes introduced riding the waves (surfing) to Bridlington and the UK. My Headland route took me to Filey, via Flamborough Head, and its chalky cliffs used by thousands of sea birds. I’d been eagerly looking forward to this walking leg but was let down by very foggy weather.
By now the path regularly rose up and down, and all I could hear was the frequent blasts of the fog horn at Flamborough Lighthouse accompanied by the eerie cry and call of sea birds. Such was the poor visibility, I almost bumped into the fog horn station before realising I’d arrived! Later the fog cleared a little and at Bempton Cliffs it was refreshing to see so many young families making use of the excellent RSPB viewing galleries, puffin watching.
Filey provided the over hungry walker with an excellent fish and chip supper! Next morning I encountered ‘Finlay’, the striking steel sculpture which serves as a reminder that Filey was once one of Yorkshire’s primary fishing ports. Above the town, I joined the Cleveland Way which would lead me to Scarborough, again through very thick fog and along menacingly muddy paths. With conditions hampering progress, I was late for a rendezvous with some veteran Wrens, some of whom were to be found taking refuge in the aptly named ‘Mutiny’ pub! Together, we made our way out onto Lighthouse Pier to the SS Aquila memorial bench. This bench commemorates twelve Scarborough based Wrens who were killed on 19 August 1941 when their ship transporting them (and nine other Wrens) to Gibraltar was torpedoed. My walking conditions had not been good, but the veterans’ drive from York and Cleveland had been much more taxing in the fog, and yet they still reported for duty on time in true WRNS tradition. Well done ladies!
Finally, this walking week has aged me considerably: I began aged 60, but by the end of it was 61. I blame the Yorkshire Yomping!