The lighthouse on Flamborough Head
The lighthouse on Flamborough Head

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Route No. 295 - Saturday 6 June 2009
Bempton RSPB reserve,
to Flamborough South Landing,
via Flamborough Head - 13km
Yorkshire Coast . . . .

Ordnance Survey route map on the Landranger series map base.
View the route in Google Earth

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 301 Scarborough, Bridlington & Flamborough Head at 1:25000


A fulmar over Bempton Cliffs
A fulmar over Bempton Cliffs

The RSPB shop at their Bempton reserve
The RSPB shop at their Bempton reserve

There we met the group of friends that we walk with at the beginning of each month. Today we are planning a linear walk to Flamborough South Landing along the cliff top coastal path.

This morning my wife and I drove to the South Landing car park at Flamborough to meet my sister & brother-in-law. We parked our car there and went with my sister & brother-in-law to the car park at the RSPB reserve at Bempton.

Non breeding gannets - last year's brood
Non breeding gannets - last year's brood

Rock arch over the sea at Bempton cliffs
Rock arch over the sea at Bempton cliffs

Gannet sitting on the wind to look for a landing spot
Gannet sitting on the wind to look for a landing spot

Non-breeding gannets on the cliff top
Non-breeding gannets on the cliff top

When all the cars arrive everyone can go home. I hope it all works out. We set off at about 10.40 am in fine weather with broken cloud, despite a horrific weather forecast for wall to wall rain.

At the end of the walk I can drive the drivers back to Bempton for their cars. The rest of the group can have a pleasant stop at the South Landing Cafe until the cars arrive.

Gannet sitting on the wind to look for a landing spot
Gannet sitting on the wind to look for a landing spot

Part of the Bempton gannet colony
Part of the Bempton gannet colony

Prime sites in the Bempton gannet colony
Prime sites in the Bempton gannet colony

A fulmar hanging on the wind over the cliffs
A fulmar hanging on the wind over the cliffs

Puffin on the chalk cliff ledges
Puffin on the chalk cliff ledges

There are thousands of gannets all nesting just out of pecking range of their neighbours, and thousands of kittiwakes crammed onto the cliff ledges with large numbers of guillimots and razorbills.

From the RSPB shop we walked down to the cliff top path and spent quite a long time watching the many sea birds nesting on the cliffs and soaring above and below them. It's quite a spectacle at this time of year.

A Razorbill returning to its ledge
A Razorbill returning to its ledge

Kittiwakes on their nest ledges
Kittiwakes on their nest ledges

 

Puffin on the chalk cliff ledges

Above & Below: Puffin on the chalk cliff ledges

Puffin on the chalk cliff ledges

So much activity with comings and goings to and from the thousands of nest sites on the cliffs.

There are quite a lot of puffins using burrows in clefts in the chalk cliffs and in the soil overlying the rock and there are some fulmars.

Twitchers at the ready
Twitchers at the ready

Heading for Thornwick Bay along the cliff top path
Heading for Thornwick Bay along the cliff top path

Looking East along the North Cliff of Flamborough Head
Looking East along the North Cliff of Flamborough Head

Cliff top path approaching Thornwick Bay
Cliff top path approaching Thornwick Bay

We slowly progressed along the coast from one observation spot to the next heading for Flamborough Head.

To add to the scene there was a stiff breeze and the waves were crashing on to the foot of the cliffs about one hundred metres below.

Part of a huge field of broad beans just coming into flower
Part of a huge field of broad beans just coming into flower

Sea caves near Flamborough North Landing
Sea caves near Flamborough North Landing

Flamborough North Landing
Flamborough North Landing

A painted lady butterfly
A painted lady butterfly - one of several we saw today

Climbing out of one of the steep sided gullies the cliff path crosses
Climbing out of one of the steep sided gullies the cliff path crosses

We stopped there for a mug of coffee and then continued round the headland to North Landing.

After about 4km we reached Thornwick Bay where there is a cafe in a large wooden hut on the cliff top.

The underwing of a painted lady butterfly
The underwing of a painted lady butterfly

One of several milepost sculptures along the cliff path
One of several milepost sculptures along the cliff path

One of the many inlets on the North side of Flamborough Head
One of the many inlets on the North side of Flamborough Head

A puffin & a razorbill on the chalk cliffs
A puffin & a razorbill on the chalk cliffs

At North Landing there were plenty of comfortable benches overlooking the inlet where we sat for our lunch.

Two of a group of Pyramidal Orchids by the path
Two of a group of Pyramidal Orchids by the path

An inlet on the North side of Flamborough Head with a tall rock pinnaclein the middle
Above: An inlet on the North side of Flamborough Head with a tall rock pinnacle

Below: A devil statue sitting in an old tyre on top of the rock pinnacle
A devil statue sitting in an old tyre on top of the rock pinnacle

Red campion in large drifts by the path
Red campion in large drifts by the path

Cliff top path just North of Flamborough Lighthouse
Cliff top path just North of Flamborough Lighthouse

Flamborough Lighthouse
Flamborough Lighthouse

The jokes are quite funny and we stopped to read most of them before continuing along the coast to Selwicks Bay where there is the Flamborough lighthouse on the end of Flamborough Head.

After our break we set off again and just as the path leaves North Landing the resident of a bungalow by the path has set up an array of music hall style jokes with a donation box for cancer research.

Cliff top path just North of Flamborough Lighthouse
Cliff top path just North of Flamborough Lighthouse

Chalk cliffs North of Flamborough Lighthouse
Chalk cliffs North of Flamborough Lighthouse

Selwicks Bay just north of Flamborough Lighthouse
Selwicks Bay just North of Flamborough Lighthouse

Gannet sculpture at Flamborough Head
Gannet sculpture at Flamborough Head

Start of the sculptre trail at Flamborough South Landing
Start of the sculptre trail at South Landing

There is a pleasant little nature trail there with sculpture which we followed to the cafe at the car park.

From the lighthouse we followed the cliff top path around the southern side of Flamborough Head for about 4km to South Landing.

Cliff top path on the south side of Flamborough Head
Cliff top path on the south side of Flamborough Head

On the sculpture trail at Flamborough South Landing
On the sculpture trail at Flamborough South Landing

Recycled horse shoe sculpture
Recycled horse shoe sculpture

We all had a coffee before I drove the car drivers to Bempton to collect their cars. We all met up again in the evening to celebrate one of the group's sixtieth birthday. An excellent way to round off a very pleasant day and not a drop of rain to be seen.

On the sculpture trail at Flamborough South Landing
On the sculpture trail at Flamborough South Landing

On the sculpture trail at Flamborough South Landing
On the sculpture trail at Flamborough South Landing

The cafe at Flamborough South Landing
The cafe at Flamborough South Landing

Background Notes:
This is a linear walk of 13km or 8.5 miles from the RSPB bird sanctuary at Bempton Cliffs along the coast path to Flamborough South Landing. So to do this walk you need to be in a small group and leave one car at South Landing and all go in another car to Bempton. It's not as complicated as I'm making it sound. What a treat it is at Bempton Cliffs at this time of year. Don't forget your binoculars! All the sea birds are returning and claiming their nest sites. The RSPB web site reports that there are ganets, guillimots, razor bills, kittiwakes and fulmars on the cliffs, puffins in their burrows and a whole range of small songbirds on the cliff tops that have all been seen there last week. There are several purpose built view points, one overlooking a huge gannet colony as the cliff top path leaves the bird sanctuary. The cliffs along this coast were used by smugglers in the 1700's and early 1800's with numerous sea caves, that you can see from the path, where contriband could be landed and hauled up the remote cliffs. Our route passes the northerly end of Danes Dyke. This is an ancient defensive earthwork that goes all the way across Flamborough head from north to south. No-one knows who built it, it's probably late stone age, but definelty not the Danish vikings. We soon come to a cliff top cafe at Thornwick Bay and beyond that we reach Flamborough North Landing where the old lifeboat station used to be. North Landing is a narrow inlet between the cliffs that provided a safe harbour for the fishing vessels but with the decline of the fishing industry there are only a few fishing cobbles left now. As the path leaves north landing it goes by the end of the garden of a bingalow where the owner has set up a novel fund raising display of jokes written on tiles set out by the path with a donation box - it's for cancer research. The jokes are sea-side postcard style but quite funny and worth a look and maybe even a donation if only for the lovely querky idea. As the path continues along the cliff top there is a tall rock pinnacle just off shore in a small bay and on the very top of the pinnacle level with the cliff top path, some one, presumably a skilled rock climber, has managed to place a car tyre with a statue of the devil sitting inside it. It's been there a long time and it's so inaccessible I expect it will stay there. Next we come to the lighthouse station on the eastern end of Flamborough Head. The old 'Chalk Tower' was built in the 1670's and the newer lighthouse was built in the early 1800's and made taller in the 1920's. We've come across a couple of querky things already but this next thing I find just fascinating. Off Flamborough Head in September 1779 there was a fierce naval battle that was part of the American War of Independance. A flottilla of 5 warships provided by the French and commanded by an American, attacked a convoy of merchant ships escorted by 2 British frigates. The British ships managed to manoever between the attackers and the convoy which then escaped into harbours along the coast but in the ensuing battle one frigate and the American flagship became locked together and there was a very gory hand to hand battle which the Americans won, although afterwards the American flagship sank. The action was celebrated as a great victory in America and the American officer commanding the flottilla, John Paul Jones, is now credited with founding the United States Navy with his little fleet. All the way around Flamborough Head there are sculptures by the path some of them acting as elaborate mile posts. They depict various seabirds such as gannets and the fisher folk characters from the past. As we reach Flamborough South Landing where the present lifeboat station is located, we end our walk along a short sculpture trail that includes a bridge that looks like a whale skeleton with whale species listed on the ribs. There used to be a very nice little cafe here but it was burnt down by vandals in 2009 destroying the owner's livelihood and a great public amenity. I believe there are plans to build a new visitor centre but it doesn't seem to have got beyond the planning stage, and that's the end of this week's walk.

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