It is Saturday, 9th July 1994. A day which, if any one were interested, would prove that man learns little from experience. It is 9.10am as the family and I climb into the car for a journey to the seaside. Yet this is no ordinary weekend away for a family of four.
One hundred miles away another family of four, like so many others on this, the hottest July Saturday for years, is preparing to go to the seaside.
That these two families should be travelling to the same resort on the same day was no coincidence. Their journeys, and eventual meeting, were first predicted a year ago in the bar of a seedy hotel near the station in the same resort.
The plans for this meeting, like the plans that resulted in the prediction in the hotel bar, came out of a haze of booze. Brian and Roger were off again. Off chasing their particular Grail, their romantic quest to walk around Britain.
Truly they had learnt little from the previous year's experiences. The blisters and sore feet; sore legs, backs and sundry other parts. The demoralising effect of climbing down gullies in the full knowledge that, when at the bottom, there was a near vertical climb back to the level they had come from. An hour's work to progress 200 yards. All this had been consigned to that junk room in the mind marked "DO NOT OPEN! FOR HERE LIE THINGS WE WISH TO FORGET". Their romantic natures had overcome these very practical matters. They were off walking again.
Not every thing had been forgotten from that first trip from Saltburn to Scarborough. Roger now had some proper walking boots and Brian had invested in a new pair. The need for plenty of drink had been dredged back from the darker recesses of the mind, as had the need to be more discriminating in the choice of accommodation; and to remember the sandwiches for Sunday lunch.
Thus armed, the plans were formulated and the dates arranged. We were to meet at Scarborough Station at midday; time to bid a tearful farewell to our concerned and caring families before setting out for the South along the coastal footpaths.
In the event the farewell fulfilled all the predictions, but for very different reasons. The families were concerned and caring - concerned that they might be delayed; and caring that they had buckets, spades and other paraphernalia for a day on the beach was to hand. The departure of the intrepid explorers was marked by such endearments as "Don't get lost again" and "Oh! still here. Thought you'd left ages ago". Tears were conspicuous by their absence.
In the event the first day's walk was quite eventful. The start from Scarborough was quiet and gave no inkling of the drama that was to come. We managed to miss our turning only once, ending up in a suburban cul-de-sac with a row of bungalows between us and the sea.
The paths to Filey provided easy walking. There are none of the steep gullies that characterised the walk from Saltburn to Scarborough. Many of the cliffs are of clay, and there are many signs warning of the dangerous cliffs. There is little to interrupt our serene progress. Scarborough looks most impressive from the South. The large Victorian town and harbour with the Medieval Castle as a dramatic backdrop is in marked contrast to the view from the North. The only thing to spoil the day is the sun's hammer blows.
Just before Filey Brigg comes the first shock! For no good reason the path suddenly swings inland. The cliff is just high and steep enough to stop us going down to the beach. We have to turn right and climb 200 feet of near vertical cliff because some civil servant decided in the dim and distant past to build some Government building right in our way! Once at the summit we get a nice view of the nearby holiday camp and promptly walk down 200 feet through a field of donkeys. Murphy has struck again.
We walk along the sweep of Cayton Bay toward the massive protuberance that is Filey Brigg. This section of the cliff path has been cleared to an impressive 100 feet wide. We are not sure why, perhaps something to do with encouraging wild flowers or spread the strain of too many walkers. According to our map the Cleveland Way cuts inland hereabouts, but there are several paths to choose. One thing is clear - the Cleveland Way does not go round Filey Brigg. We choose a likely looking one and end up in a park cum caravan site on the North end of Filey instead of Bunter's Cafe, the `official' end of the Cleveland Way.
No matter we have made good time. After stopping for a cup of tea we go down to the sea front. It is about 4.45 and we feel quite fresh. We both reckon that a half hour break will leave us fit for another hour or so's walking. The map reveals a pub right on the coast at Hunmanby about an hour away. Everything looks set fair. We will stop for a meal in Filey and get our rest. Then move on down to Hunmanby Gap where there appears to be a fair sized village; with Hunmanby about a mile inland; find some digs and wash up in time for the World Cup matches! We might miss the first few minutes of the Italy game, but no matter.
We should have known better. The pub on the coast is part of a Holiday Camp and has no accommodation. In fact all the buildings marked on the map belong to the Holiday camp - very confusing.
Time for Plan B. We are told there is a pub called the Royal Oak about a mile away and this does provide accommodation. It is not on the direct route to Hunmanby but could be a winner. When we eventually reach there after a good old fashioned country mile, mostly uphill, we receive good news and bad. There is no room at the Inn and Italy are losing. `Yes, there are B & B's in Hunmanby' and `No I don't know any phone numbers'. The bar man is marginally less than helpful.
We walk on to Hunmanby village and eventually find lodgings at the White Swan. The Italy game is over and we don't know the score. After settling down we look at the map. We have had the worst of all worlds. The road direct to Hunmanby from Filey is at least two miles less than via the coast. Also the detour via the Royal Oak added about a mile.
We settle down and see Brazil beat Holland. The White Swan has one of the longest, narrowest and deepest baths we have ever seen - a real bonus when
you're 6 feet tall.
Sunday started hot and sunny. Breakfast was plentiful if a little greasy. We make good time along the roads to the coast at Hunmanby Gap. The cliffs are low and the area to the South is occupied by a caravan park surrounded by a fence. We fill our water bottles at a beach cafe and seek advice. The general feeling is that the park fence does not have a gate at the South end so we should follow the beach to Reighton Gap and then go up to the cliff top. There is a good path from there to Flamborough Head and on to Bridlington. Bridlington would be an ambitious target, but Flamborough should be readily attainable.
Progress along the beach is fairly quick, but the Sun is fierce. The cliffs are low and offer no shade at all. Although we both have hats mine is not really adequate. I vow to replace it as soon as possible.
We eventually find some shade and take a short break near Reighton Gap, but the route to the cliff top is not at all apparent. Some Twitchers catch us up and try to find a way up. They are having quite a discussion, and it is obvious we have several things in common. We are all going the same way; and none of us know the way. Brian and I decide to let them try several places and then follow the route most of them take.
Following in their wake we scramble up a path onto a shoulder of the cliff that runs from the cliff top to the beach. The path takes us about half way up, but the twitchers we were following have disappeared. We decide go up - our first mistake - and finally realise that we are the wrong side of a gorse filled gully which to mere mortals is impassable. It's back to the beach and try again...or go round.
We decide to go round. Our second mistake. The gully is fairly deep and filled with bushes and trees and heads inland for about three-quarters of a mile before becoming shallow enough to cross. At its head is a narrow stream in a deep channel that is too wide to jump. We have to either scramble across here or walk even further from the coast in the hope of finding an easier crossing. We decide to scramble across here and suffer the bites of the stinging nettles that cover the banks. Then it's back to the coast. Still no sign of our twitchers. This little detour under the merciless mid-day sun has cost us at least 90 minutes and a lot of energy.
When we get back to the coast we see that our twitchers are well in front of us on the cliff path. They obviously found an easier way up and from the cliff top the route is obvious. About 100 yards beyond the point where the shoulder reaches the beach, hidden round a little corner, is a fairly steep but direct path to the cliff top. Our twitchers obviously reached the shoulder, and went back down to the beach and up this way.
We make steady progress along the cliff to Bempton RSPB site. The going is relatively easy but we are both getting concerned about the state of our water supplies. The diversion and incredible heat has resulted in us using more than we anticipated. The big lesson from last year's walk was the importance of taking on plenty of fluid. De-hydration is the major cause of distress for anyone engaged in physical exercise in the heat. Its effects are insidious because it affects one's ability to reason as well as physical performance. De-hydration is a very real possibility considering the heat and the load we are carrying. If we can't get a refill fairly soon we will run out long before we get to Flamborough, and that could prove to be very uncomfortable if not dangerous.
We have gradually overhauled our twitchers as they stop along the cliffs to indulge their hobby - watching the birds go by. I must admit there is a lot to be said for it - the birds are pretty to watch, with a variety of elegant shapes, graceful movement and colour as they soar and swoop from the cliffs. Personally though I think a bird in the hand...
There are several RSPB viewing points along this section of the coast. The RSPB provide a mass of interesting information at Buckton and Bempton. We have seen hundreds of people along this stretch of coast. We reach Bempton with water bottles and tanks dry. Both are replenished and we set off again.
Near Scale Nab the coastal path cuts through a field and comes away from the coast a little. The field is full of bulls who are chewing the cud at the sea end of the field. Nothing seems to be going for us. Apart from the self inflicted detour we have had no serious upsets, but why couldn't the bulls have been at the far end of the field? We end up taking another half mile detour to walk round the beasts.
We stop for a rest just South of Cat Nab and can see the lighthouse at Flamborough Head. The only other feature of note is a silage tower. Our
information earlier in the day was that there is no accommodation at Flamborough Head so we cut inland to Flamborough village and find digs at
Copperfields Restaurant. This turns out to be a wonderful place. We have dinner and retire to our room to watch more football. Breakfast was really
good. We also learn that our silage tower is a Warning Beacon built in 1674!
Monday dawns bright and hot. Today should be a relatively easy day. We plan to go direct to Flamborough Head rather than retrace our steps to the coast. From the Head it's along the coast into Bridlington, a distance of about 9 miles. Needless to say nothing goes quite right - we start by going in the wrong direction. Our little detour adds about 2 miles to the day's walk. The first stretch is along roads and there is surprisingly little traffic - perhaps a bit early in the season. At Flamborough Head we stop for the obligatory pot of tea, and I buy a floppy sun hat. This one is much better than the one I've been wearing. Whilst we are having our tea Brian reports that he saw a naked lady open the door to a caller as we walked through the village. We have been out in the sun too long I'm sure. Well, either that, or Brian is more selfish than I thought. We had agreed to bring to each other's attention any small (or not so small) points of interest one of us might miss.
The cliff formations at Flamborough are quite spectacular and worth the walk in themselves.
The walk into Bridlington is very steady. The whole of the coast from Scarborough to the South has been characterised by relatively flat easy walking on the cliff tops, or on firm sandy beaches. The contrast to last year's walk is very marked. The cliffs are lower so the paths go round the heads' of the gullies, rather than down and out again. We meet only the second serious break in the cliff of the whole journey about half way to Bridlington. A stream has carved a deep and wide passage to the sea. At the bottom we cross a road that ends in the sands of a small beach. There is a lifeboat station and a couple of hundred yards up the road, a cafe. Another difference strikes us. There are far more people about. Last year, apart from when we passed through the villages and towns, we saw few people until we reached Scalby Mills. This year we have passed dozens of people all along the route.
We reach Bridlington uneventfully by about 4.00pm. We consider resting up for a while and then moving on, but the map and our experiences after Filey defeat us. There is nowhere else near by to go to! We book into a guest house close to the North End of the Prom. This is another very pleasant place, but the bedroom is something to behold. As built, it was a reasonably sized double. Fitting in a single wouldn't have been unrealistic; but the room has been modernised. En-suite facilities have been fitted into the corner. And bunk beds! Brian and I perform the Excuse Me Waltz for our entire stay. With 4 people in the room it would have been impossible.
The couple who run the place are very friendly, and we spend a very pleasant evening chatting in the bar with them and some of their guests, including a German student who is working locally.
Earlier we go out to do our ET bit and phone home. Tea is Fish & Chips, and are they good or are they good? So good in fact we have some more as a
sort of mid-evening snack.
Tuesday dawns hot, but not bright. There is a thick heat haze, fog almost. The nature of the land changes dramatically South of the town. From Scarborough to Bridlington we have been walking on or alongside what you could call real cliffs. They disappear South of Bridlington. The white cliffs are replaced by brown clay with a height of only 50 feet, and that soon drops down to 20 feet or less.
Our target for today is Hornsea and we walk nearly all the way on the beach. We only come up top for lunch (to find a cafe for our daily fix of tea) and the last couple of miles because the tide is coming in. The extent of erosion along this stretch of the coast is amazing and it is obvious why.
The clay is undermined by the sea, and broken up by the alternating dry and wet weather from above. There had been little rain for weeks before our walk, so the ground was very dry. This caused the soil to shrink and long, deep cracks were in evidence everywhere. The cracks in the clay were frequently an inch wide - sometimes as much as two. When the rain does come it will channel down these cracks and run away, not having time to soak into the soil. The rain erosion will make the cracks wider and so weaken the land. We see evidence of nature's destructive force all day as we walk towards Hornsea. Caravan pitches moved back 20 yards and more; bunkers built on the cliff tops to resist war time invaders lie forlornly broken on the beach yards from the foot of the cliff.
In its way it is just as intriguing as the high cliffs further North, but the majesty and grandeur are missing. Further North, standing on the cliffs one senses Nature's power but there is also a chance to let the spirit fly loose as one stands high above the sea and dream of Camelot. On these low earth cliffs the destructive strength and persistence of Nature's forces are very apparent, but there is no grand vision to lift the spirit.
The day has its lighter moments. Just South of Bridlington we start to see naked people. We must be hallucinating - the heat getting to us. One of these visions - male and stark naked - passes us on the beach with the comment "Tha must be 'ot with all them clothes on". We are walking through a naturist beach. Most of the inhabitants are over forty and male. If we had known we would have dressed for the occasion.
The day started hot and misty which made for comfortable walking. As the morning wore on the sun began to burn off the mist until we were left with a haze and the temperature rose accordingly. Once again we are wondering about our water supplies, but two things come to our aid. We reach Barmston holiday camp about lunch time. This is a motley collection of Caravans around a cafe and shop. There is also a change in the weather. A little cloud begins to build up and the temperature drops as the breeze increases in strength. Unfortunately we can't get any water so fill up our bottles on the remains of our tea.
We have passed several Caravan camps on our trip so far and I found them a little depressing. Neat rows of caravans in large bare fields with a few buildings housing a shop, some loos etc and a bar or social club. I have seen several camp-sites in France and these had the vans arranged in rows, but with hedges to break up the parade ground atmosphere and provide some degree of shelter from the wind. Some of the French sites were well wooded, but whether trees would survive on the Yorkshire coast is another matter. The camps we passed left an impression of a military camp on a good day.
We arrive at Hornsea and complete the final mile or so on the road. The town appears to be split into two parts. On the sea front there is a collection of guest houses, pubs and sea-side things, about half a mile away is the rest of the town. There is no open country between the two parts, but there is a definite change in the feel of the place as one walks from the quiet sea-side resort with its amusement arcade, candy floss and chip shop into the small market town with its shops and pubs.
We find some nice digs and are placed in the attic. A comfortable room with a friendly landlady. We dine at the nearby pub and meet a German couple on holiday. I mention Wolfgang who lives in Aachen. The couple are from Aachen. Brian must have felt out of it as we conversed in broken English about the coincidence etc etc. It appears that these people live just round the corner from Wolfgang's first flat in Aachen.
What to do the next day? That is the question.
We study the maps; check our physical condition; find out where the next B & B's are; bus routes etc. The distances are great and the choices not very encouraging. The next place likely to have B & B, Withernsea, is 15 miles away with a similar distance on to Spurn Point, the obvious end of the line. This represents at least two days walking.
We could call it a day and go home directly; or return to Scarborough, spend the night there and then go home. We eventually decide to return to Scarborough. Our onward journeys are easier and Scarborough seems a fitting place to end our exertions. We catch the bus to Beverley where we have about 30 minutes to wait for our onward connection to Scarborough. The buses do in a little over three hours that which has taken us three and a half days. Somehow the bus ride does not feel so romantic.