Monday, September 29, 2008

The Reefs and Caves of Flamborough Head

With the North Sea so unusually calm I took the opportunity to have a look at the reefs and caves of Flamborough Head. The Yorkshire Wolds chalk foundations end abruptly here and there are frequent reminders to be seen, that the North Sea and 'god's own county' do not get on. At Flamborough the result is a spectacular headland riddled with caves, adorned by sea stacks and footed by kelp infested reefs.

On close inspection the reefs are cris-crossed with a network of narrow gullies that often lead into some of the larger caves. For once the beach at North Landing was not as tempting as on one past occasion I used this small haven to escape the ravages of a possible maritime nightmare. I find it unusual to see people angling from the edge of the 80 metre high cliffs but I suppose this high altitude technique is borne out of the necessity of keeping out of reach of the sea. We continued to the eastern end of the towering Bempton Cliffs before turning round and making our swift return to South Landing with a following flood tide.

Filey Without Fret

Several weeks ago I visited Filey and paddled along the coast from there to Scarborough and back, but there was almost nothing to be seen. The Yorkshire coast is frequently fogbound with dense sea mists locally known as 'Sea Fret' and on that particular day we were deprived of any views. This time the coastal journey was bathed in glorious sunshine, good visibility and blessed with unusually calm seas.

Leaving Filey Brigg and the North Cliff behind us we explored the reefs that extend over 500 metres offshore from Grissthorpe Cliff. In stark contrast to my last visit these reefs were eerily quiet with one lone sea angler and several seals to break the spell spun by the glassy seas.

The rock ledges form long channels and sandy bottomed lagoons infested with kelp which are surely happy hunting grounds for the seals and cormorants.

The popular broad sands of Cayton Bay with its attendant buildings break the spell of solitude and wilderness, but the coast still has its charms. The wooded cliffs around Osgodby Point and White Nab are also footed by the sandy beaches of Cornelian Bay.
The protective reefs of 'High Scar' and 'Perilous Rocks' hold names that have been earned through years of mariners fear and respect.

Once around White Nab the holiday delights of Scarborough are a little over 2km away and fish, chips and mushy peas were beckoning. The food of gods was devoured eagerly and without fuss and fully re-fuelled the return to Filey was soon underway.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Middle (north) East

North Yorkshire (Sunday)

I met with Richard at Saltburn by the Sea to investigate the surf conditions that are well thought of in the region. The messy conditions were already being endured by many so we decided to head off for quieter and cleaner conditions elsewhere. Skinningrove, where the fishing fleet are celebrated with this fine monument, looked gloomy and messy too so we decided to descend upon quieter cleaner conditions at Runswick Bay.

Teeside (Monday)

Our presence along the coasts of Redcar, Teesmouth, Seaton and Hartlepool were met with comic suspicion and a relentless supply of 'John Darwin' jocularity. I came to the conclusion that the main attraction to paddling from Saltburn to Hartlepool is avoiding the traffic chaos of Teeside. After visiting the ancient semi submerged wreck at Seaton Carew beach we went in search of enlightenment at the dockside Museum Of Hartlepool. Following our taxing day off the water we found refuge at the Crimdon Dene Caravan Park north of Hartlepool where Peter was waiting with baited breath anticipating a cunning plan for paddling.

The Durham Heritage Coast (Tuesday)

Our paddle along the Durham Heritage Coast took us from Harlepool past the famous headland where there are 3 historical sites in stark contrast. The peaceful Church of St Hilda stands dangerously close to the Heugh Gun Battery, yet close by seemingly undetterred by the proximity of bibles and battles, stands a bronze statue of Andy Capp clutching a pint of ale. A little to the north the coastline is dominated by Magnesian Limestone outcrops, caves, pinnacles and deserted shingle beaches. One landing in dumping surf was enough to keep us in our boats for the rest of the day. The only potential exception may have been amongst the relentless and disorientating clapotis ridden seas near the entrance to Seaham Harbour. Thankfully we safely crossed the harbour entrance. Bums remained firmly planted upon seats until kayaks were firmly planted upon Seaham Beach. Upon our return to the caravan we were joined by Ray and Graeme.

Sunderland (Wednesday)

The 5 of us continued in the morning with a short sunny interval but once we arrived at Sunderland dark grey clouds began to gather once more. The coast between Sunderland and South Shields is a delightful mixture of rocky coves and caves, with arches, inlets and islets. We spent over an hour marveling at this short stretch beneath Souter Lighthouse before landing close to the Marsden Grotto pub at Marsden Bay.

Back at the caravan a great feast was prepared in honour of the days fine and respectable journey, then devoured by all in minutes with less than honourable style.

The Tydal Tyne (Thursday)

In search of calmer waters we aimed to go placidly amongst the noise and haste of Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne. The paddling idea of descending the ebbing waters of the Tyne was simple but the reality of the logistics took plenty of cunning and patience. If the peace of the paddle wasn't shattered by the dumping surf landing beside South Pier then it was lost amongst the Gateshead rush hour traffic.

The North Tyne Coast (Friday)

The adorably named Seaton Sluice was to be the start and finish of the day's paddling. We headed south towards Tynemouth. Our journey took us past 'the Sluice' and beyond the desolate reefs disused lighthouse of St Mary's Island. After crossing Whitley Bay and Cullercoates we landed through the surf at Longsands for a delicious hot chocolate treat at Crusoe's beach cafe before heading back. The return was slower than anticipated as wind and tide turned against us but the final hurdle was yet to come. Surf was now breaking heavily off the headland, over the sands and across the harbour entrance at Seaton Sluice. Careful timing and questionable skills aided our return. Not so much landing but controlled washings up!

Cresswell and Newbiggin (Saturday)

Overnight rain, the forecast of strong winds and heavy swell brought about anticlimactic feelings amongst Peter Ray and me. Peter went off in search of tea shops and surf whilst Ray and I opted for a spot of bird watching amongst the flooded dune slacks of Cresswell. Twitchers had flocked in from a far to catch glimpses of various lost feathered souls. Buff Breasted Sandpiper, Black Tern and Ruff were amongst the scrutinees.

The three of us gorged ourselves on a final supper washed down with plenty of wine before sleep preceded our respective journeys home. Thanks are due to Ray, Peter, Richard and Graeme for their company through various parts of the week.