Yorkshire Walks - Coastal Filey
Paul Kirkwood describes a linear walk along the coast south to Filey
If you like to paddle on your coastal walks then make sure you do at the start of this one as the route takes you straight up onto the cliff tops and keeps you there until the end. The views over the sands of Cayton Bay are spectacular with Scarborough Castle clearly visible in the distance.
Around the corner the sands extend for only a few metres, the rest of the low tide scene consisting of streaks of black rock and seaweed. Gristhorpe Cliff has been so severely eroded that it now looks like the side of a quarry.
The next bay is a geology lesson - you can count the strata of rocks that form the cliffs above it - and then comes a surprise little sandy cove that looks impossible to get down to. Inland you soon see Filey and the square tower of St Oswalds, a Norman church dedicated to the patron saint of Northumbrian fishermen. Every few metres along the way there are short paths trampled down through the long grass to the cliff edge.
The temptation is to grab yet another coastal vista but note the warning signs, the drop is sheer. Over one edge on North Cliff you can see piratical black flags indicating that the approach is just as dangerous from below.
A white wooden pole with steps cut into each side tells the story of a response to these hazards in years gone by. Formed in 1872, the Filey Volunteer Life Saving Rocket Company used the rocket pole, as it's known, to practise rescue techniques.
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They fired a line towards one of their members positioned at the top of the pole as if they were on the sea and he was on the mast of a stricken vessel. The practice continued until the 1960s when improvements in navigational equipment rendered the company redundant. The pole was restored seven years ago.
The climax of the walk is the grassy finger of Filey Brigg (also known as Carr Naze) just beyond the pole. It was the site of a signal station dating back to 4AD from which Romans kept watch for Saxon raiders.
Located half way along the Brigg at what is now its narrowest point, the station consisted of a tower about 20 metres in height standing in the centre of a small, walled courtyard. Four large stone blocks found on the floor of the tower now stand in Crescent Gardens in Filey. The Roman buildings were probably demolished in medieval times, some of the stone possibly being used in Filey church. The Brigg was used for lookout purposes more recently - in the First World War.
You can see the concrete bases of a gun site, a bomb crater and a large hole (with steps leading down) which was a war-time observation post.
The path along the Brigg runs for about 500 metres and then drops sharply and continues for a similar distance depending on the tides. It's great fun clambering over the rocks and seeing how far you get between the waves before you become more Canute than Moses and have to turn back.
A sculpture just before the Brigg marks the finish of the Cleveland Way and Yorkshire Wolds long distance footpaths but, for my family, journey's end was heralded by the crashing of the waves, the distant calls of children playing and the smell of seaweed as we finally felt the sand between our toes.
If Yorkshire was the world in miniature then Filey Brigg would be Ayers Rock. Viewed from the beach, its redness, the crevices in its flank and long flat top mimic Australia's iconic monolith especially when illuminated by the late afternoon sunshine. Gazing at the headland with an ice cream in your hand makes for a fine Filey finale
Directions Begin at the Cayton Bay surf shop. Pass through a metal gate. At the end of a track continue ahead on a path towards the beach for a few paces then turn right at a fingerpost signed 'Filey 5 miles'. The path leads you all the way back to Filey. At the edge of a caravan park where the path is gravel and bears right continue ahead at a fingerpost for the Cleveland Way and along a grassy swathe. At a sculpture, turn right to head directly for the beach or continue ahead for Filey Brigg. At the end of the Naze the path heads sharply downwards across loose ground which is best avoided by young children or the elderly especially if wet.
Alternatively, you can descend from the Brigg via steps to the right a little earlier on. If the tide is out you can walk right to the end of the Brigg but take care as it's slippery. On your return don't go back up the Brigg but follow a clear, concrete path to the left of it to the beach.
Leave the beach via a slipway up to an area of shops called Coble Landing. Cross the road at the end and continue ahead up steps signed to the town centre just to the left of public conveniences. At the top of the first flight turn right onto Queen St, again signed to the town centre.
Pass the Foords Hotel then left onto Reynolds St. Follow the road as it bears right past The Star pub then turn left down Union St. Turn right at the crossroads to return to the bus station.
Check the tide times on www.tinyurl.com/5nzv6j) before you set off.
Start: Car park at Filey bus station (�5 for the day). You can take a taxi from the railway station next door to Cayton Bay for around �7.60. Alternatively, the 120 and 121 buses run generally twice an hour and the journey takes about 15 minutes. Distance: 6� miles (or a mile less if you leave out Filey Brigg).