Though I’d walked the North Yorkshire coastline (which forms part of the Cleveland Way, stretching from Saltburn to Filey — now itself part of the even longer England Coast Path) on a number of occasions in the past, it wasn’t until recently I first set foot on the chalk cliffs of East Yorkshire. Better late than never! Living, as I do, close to chalk land in the south-east of the country, namely the South Downs, it is a terrain on which I feel very much at home. While there is no more beautiful chalk cliff view in this country in my opinion than that looking across Cuckmere Haven to the Seven Sisters along the Sussex coast, the East Yorkshire cliffs around Flamborough Head and Bempton are every bit as impressive, and indeed have a greater variety of features (caves, arches, stacks and stumps). And the small colony of kittiwakes at Seaford (in Sussex) certainly can’t compare with the numbers of seabirds here.
Coast paths usually lend themselves best to linear walks, the exception being peninsulas or headlands, which are obviously well suited to circuits. As a glance at the map will show, there’s a bit of road walking involved if you want to include both Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough Head in a circuit. But they’re country lanes, with a pathway, verge or pavement alongside for some of the distance. Conveniently enough I was staying at a cottage at Field House Farm along the road route, not far from the coast at Sewerby. ‘I hope it’s more attractive than it sounds’, commented a friend when I mentioned the name of the place. ‘Oh, it’s lovely’, I replied, referring to the cottage, going on to explain about the origin of the name Sewerby: it’s recorded in the Domesday book as Siwardbi, which means the (by) abode of Siward, a Danish name. Cyclists will know it as the starting point for the Tour de Yorkshire this year. Even well after the event I found colourful blue and yellow bikes secured to posts or strung up along the roadside (a tree in one case, a pub wall in another) as I walked towards the coast.
From here it was simply a matter of turning left and keeping the sea on my right to Bempton Cliffs. It’s fairly level most of the way, and the cliff scenery improves as you approach Flamborough Head. Having never seen puffins relatively close up before, I must say they were the highlight of the walk for me, the best views being at Bempton Cliffs. With much to look at along the way I didn’t hurry, and was rewarded with a lovely sunset at the end. Thereafter it was just a couple of miles back along the quiet lanes to my welcome abode.