Coastal Walk from Flamborough to Bempton

A newly arrived Puffin with bright plumage looking for his burrow in the cliff face

Coastal Walk from Flamborough to Bempton

This stunning coastal walk explores some of Britain’s highest chalk cliffs from Flamborough Head https://www.yorkshire.com/places/yorkshire-coast/flamborough to Bempton.  What better way to welcome the Spring than with this moderately challenging walk.  At a distance of 6 miles in the sunshine along the East Yorkshire coast, there are wonderful views… and the arrival of some our Summer sea bird visitors for company.

An image of Flamborough Head Lighthouse against a blue sky
Flamborough Head Lighthouse

Best Foot Forward

Start from Flamborough Head Lighthouse, a well-maintained and imposing beacon with a lot of history.  The original lighthouse was first built in 1669   https://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/lighthouse-visitor-centres/flamborough-lighthouse-visitor-centre This is an opportunity for refreshment and toilets at the Lighthouse Cafe, before starting out.  Take a walking-pole, you may need it and, depending on the weather, sturdy walking boots.  The walk starts off with some fairly narrow, steep, steps.  Look out for skylarks, corn buntings, stone chats, wheat ears and of course, many butterflies and an abundance of wildflowers.

Rugged cliffs, giving way to the crashing sea below
Stunning views of cliffs, sea and sky

Bright Yellow Gorse in Full Bloom

Skirt the Flamborough golf course, edged with vibrant, yellow gorse in full bloom at this time of year.  The only problem with this walk is the many stops that need to be taken in order to drink in the views and take photographs.  The North Sea is at its best along this stretch of coast.  It is surprisingly blue.  There are lots of places to just sit and stare.

Bright yellow gorse, blue sea and blue sky with whisky white clouds at Flamborough Head
Yellow gorse on the edge of Flamborough Golf Course

Follow Your Nose

It is difficult to go wrong, just follow the coast path up through Thornwick, leaving the bay down below.  There are not many opportunities for paddling.  The cliffs are steep drops to the sea below.  Sadly, there is some coastal erosion in parts.  Great care must be taken.

Dramatic and steep the cliffs are home to thousands of seabirds
A first sighting of Puffins returning to their burrows in the steep, chalk cliffs

Breathtaking

The walk ends at the visitor centre of the RSPB’s https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/bempton-cliffs Bempton Cliffs nature reserve.  Here are viewing platforms to get better sightings of the nesting birds.  And there possibility of seeing a Puffin.  Refreshments are available here too.  The cliffs are a temporary home to razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, fulmars and puffins – a cacophony of screeching seabirds.  This is one of Europe’s busiest seabird colonies.  Be prepared though, the smell of the guano can take your breath away.

The sun highlights the whiteness of the chalk cliffs tumbling down to the sea below
Another breath-taking view of the East Yorkshire coast

The Stunning East Yorkshire Coast

This has to be one of the most stunning coastal walks in Britain, it’s certainly one of my favourites.  This particular route was voted 50th in an ITV poll to find Britian’s favourite walk. If you’re even mildly interested in wildlife, Bempton Cliffs is the place to be.

The steep white cliffs of the Yorkshire coast reflect the the sunlight in contrast against the North Sea
A view of some of Britain’s steepest chalk cliffs along the East Yorkshire coast

I have news for you… Bolton Abbey is nowhere near Bolton

A black and white image of the ruins and grounds of Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey is nowhere near Bolton

I was recently taken on a surprise trip to a lovely little B&B, Throstlenest Farm, https://www.throstlenestfarmbandb.co.uk/ just outside Skipton in the the Yorkshire Dales.  A good base to stay when you want to visit Bolton Abbey.

A black and white image of the ruins and grounds of Bolton Abbey
The stark ruins of Bolton Abbey

The market town of Skipton

On a gorgeous summer’s afternoon in February (yes really!) we arrived in the lovely market town of Skipton.  Busy market stalls, independent gift and craft shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes with a canal-side walk not too far away from the town centre adds up to make a very nice place to visit.  http://welcometoskipton.com/ There’s a castle, museum, historic church and a vibrant high street.

 

As I said, Bolton Abbey really is nowhere near Bolton

Bolton Abbey is about 6 miles from Skipton in Wharfedale, North Yorkshire.  As you might expect there is an abbey in the grounds although the 12th century Augustinian monastery is now in ruins.  It fell victim to King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.  It is actually about 60 miles from Bolton in Lancashire.

A black and white dramatic image of the ruins of Bolton Abbey
Dramatic view of the ruins of Bolton Abbey

Open all day

As a rule of thumb the grounds are open from 9am to 6pm – longer in the summer.  We arrived at the Strid car park at around 10am and left at about 3.30pm.  It is dog-friendly although they must be kept on leads. https://boltonabbey.com/your-visit/admission/

An image of a view through trees from a high point along the river Wharfe
A view along the river Wharfe from a vantage point

You will need £10 to park

The park is open to visitors for most of the year and there are miles of walking routes.   We chose one that included Strid Wood.  This stretch has one of the largest remains of sessile oak trees in the Yorkshire Dales.  The cost to park is pretty steep – £10 per car which can be used at other areas in the park – but then the area is immaculately maintained with excellent paths. A lot of it is pushchair- friendly.  An easy-to-use map with discounts for the various tea rooms makes the parking fee a bit more acceptable.

A view through the leafless trees
A view through the leafless trees

 

Take your binoculars, you’ll need them

The walk follows the banks of the river Wharfe with some inclines that give way to magnificent views.   There was evidence of acres of faded snowdrops, plus the green tips of imminent bluebells and the faint aroma of new, wild garlic.  Spring must be truly stunning in these parts.  Dippers, woodpeckers, grey-wagtails and more were spotted and it seems there are kingfishers and even otters to be seen too.

An image of one of the vantage points seats
One of the vantage point seats

Part of the Cavendish Family

If you have ever visited Chatsworth House in Derbyshire you will see that Bolton Abbey clearly belongs to the Devonshire family.  There is the same immaculate attention to signage and customer service.  And the name Cavendish pops up everywhere.  The 6th Duke of Devonshire and the Rev William Carr created the walks in the early 1800s with strategically placed seats to drink in the views.

 

The Strid

The Strid, a natural wonder, where the river suddenly narrows forcing the water through at great pressure. It was formed by the wearing away of softer rock by the circular motion of small stones in hollows. Clever eh?

Big rocks worn away and shaped by smaller rocks making the unique shaping of the Strid
The unique rock formation of the Strid
A clear blue sky with an amazing view from the road at Barden
This is the magnificent view from the road at Barden in the Yorkshire Dales

A seven mile circular walk

Our walk along the riverside took us to Barden Bridge, over it and along the opposite bank.  We crossed the river Wharfe at one point to visit the Pavilion for coffee to cross back again and on to the stepping stones.  I preferred to take the bridge, only having little legs, to the abbey ruins and back along to the river bank to complete the circuit at the Strid.

An image of stepping stones spaced across the River Wharfe
The stepping stones across the river Wharfe at Bolton Abbey

A good 7 mile walk.

 

 

The Tradition of the Clayworth Plough Plays

An image of three of the main protagonists, the Clown, the Sergeant and Eezum-Squeezum

Plough Monday

Plough Monday can be traced right back to medieval times.  It traditionally saw the return to work after the break for Christmas, especially in northern and eastern England.  The traditions for Plough Monday varied from village to village.  Plough Monday was originally the first Monday after the twelfth day of Christmas, 6 January.  Epiphany.

An image of the Clown
The Clown

A unique tradition

The tradition very nearly disappeared during World War 1 and then again in the Second World War.  Credit is due to the players and the landlords of both village pubs for upholding this unique tradition.

The Sergeant in his bright red coat
Enter the Sergeant

Plough Sunday

Naturally, the day before Plough Monday is not surprisingly known as Plough Sunday.  This tradition more often than not, now takes place in Clayworth, North Nottinghamshire, on the third Sunday of January.   

An image of three of the main protagonists, the Clown, the Sergeant and Eezum-Squeezum
The Clown, the Sergeant and Old Eezum-Squeezum

The death of the earth

In medieval times and in the dead of winter it was thought that the earth ‘died’ and there was a possibility that nothing would ever grow again. It was difficult to believe that the earth would ever wake up and again provide food.. 

A battle between Light and Dark, Good and Evil, Life and Death

I am lucky enough to live in the village of Clayworth in north Nottinghamshire, England where the most well-known of these plays still takes place.  The ‘script’ is usually a bit of nonsense but has a hidden, topical message somewhere within.   A pretend battle is fought between Light and Darkness.  Darkness is killed and then brought back to life by some miracle. The death of the Old Year and the arrival of the New Year is symbolised in this tableau.

The village pubs

This year the play was performed as usual in the surrounding villages on the Friday before Plough Sunday. 

The Blacksmith’s Arms in Clayworth     https://www.blacksmithsclayworth.com/ and the Brewers Arms, also in Clayworth,  http://www.brewersarmsclayworth.co.uk/  both play host to the Plough Play on Plough Sunday.

An image of The Blacksmith’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs to host the Plough Play
The Blacksmith’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs which hosts the Plough Play

 

An image of the Brewer’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs to host the Plough Play
The Brewer’s Arms at Clayworth who also play Bost to the Plough Play

It gets very busy

The bar at the Brewers’ begins to fill from 12.15pm and by 12.45pm when the players arrive, it is absolutely heaving. Get there early, get a drink and a seat… and if you think ahead book for Sunday lunch, you won’t be disappointed.

Old Eezum-Squeezum

A fiddler and an accordionist enter the pub, followed at different times by the players: the Clown, the Plough ‘boy’, the ‘Horse’, the Soldier, Old Eezum-Squeezum (sometimes known as Beelzebub), and the Doctor.  Sounds bizarre and yes it is, but highly entertaining and amusing with rhymes and short songs which have been  passed down through the years.  There is even a sword dance! 

It was once common for those who took part in these plays to blacken their faces as a disguise.  They might also include something to associate with nature in their costumes such as a flower or feathers.

A Morris-cum-Sword dance takes place in a very confined space
A Morris/Sword dance in a confined space

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Eezum-Squeezum lies dead on the floor surrounded by all the other Plough Players
Eezum-Squeezum – dead on the floor!

It’s a miracle!

The climax of the play is the fight between Light and Dark,  Good and Evil, Life and Death.  It culminates in the slaying of Darkness (Old Eezum-Squeezum) – who is usually brought back to life by ‘the Doctor’ – and everyone lives happily ever after – with a pint in hand!

An image of Bessie singing her lament
Bessie… or Bill Oddie!

Good luck, fertility and wealth

The play brings together farmers and villagers.  The purpose of the play is to bring luck, fertility and wealth.  You need to be there in order to get your share, so put the date in your diary for 2020!

Savour a Long Walk in the Lowlands of Scotland

The Loch Leven Heritage Trail

A view across the icy blue water of Loch Leven
The view across Loch Leven, Perth and Kincross

A perfect path

Get your boots on and get ready for a long walk in the lowlands of Scotland!  Loch Leven is the perfect place for a long walk in the lowlands.  There is an excellent, all-abilities path around the perimeter – the Loch Leven Heritage Trail.  The trail can be accessed from several points around the loch where there are good car-parks.  It is a freshwater loch near Kinross in Perth and Kinross, central Scotland.  The loch is about 6km at its longest.  Kinross lies at its western end and Loch Leven Castle lies on an island just offshore.  Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there in 1567.  There are ferry trips across to it during the summer.  And it is here that we chose to take a long walk – and a bike ride!  

Part-way round Loch Leven is a surprise beach. Great for dogs!
Part-way round Loch Leven there is a small beach area

Walk it or bike it

My friend and I started the walk from Loch Leven cycles http://www.lochlevencycles.co.uk/ where our husbands were kitted up with helmets and bikes.  The lady there was extremely helpful.  I would definitely recommend a visit, especially if you are a ‘pedal-head’!  Anyway, my friend and I got a head-start on a glorious, bright, chilly morning. The path was easy to navigate and easy to walk.  Nice and flat. Just how we like it.

A glimpse of Saint Serf’s Inch Island can be seen in the middle of Loch Leven
Another stunning view of Loch Leven with a glimpse of Saint Serf’s Inch island

A view of St Serf’s Island

As we left Kinross behind us Loch Leven opened out before us.  If you are lucky, and the water level is right, several islands can be seen in the loch.  St Serf’s Inch is the largest of the islands and it was the home of a  Culdee (a Christian monastic community) and then an Augustinian monastic community,  St Serf’s Inch Priory.

Not a soul in sight, just the bronzed bracken and the icy water of Loch Leven
Not a soul in sight, just bracken and Loch Leven

There is a good choice of refreshment stops.  Take a short detour off the trail to Loch Leven’s larder, https://www.lochlevenslarder.com/  where I am reliably informed that the carrot cake was the ‘best ever’.  Then there is the RSPB Visitor Centre https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/loch-leven/ about half way round.  Again, good facilities – and cake!

The final stretch

Finally, it’s worth having a wander around ‘Todd and Duncan’, to have a look at the cashmere – some gorgeous stuff in there. https://www.todd-duncan.co.uk/ Oh and cake too!  This is where our 13 mile walk around the loch ended and we met up with our cyclist partners.  It seems they had a great day too.

The baby-blue, endless sky ove loch Leven
The endless sky over the the Loch Leven nature reserve

National Nature Reserve

Loch Leven is the main part of the Loch Leven National Nature Réserve.  It is the largest lowland loch in Scotland and an important site for waterfowl.  Over 35,000 birds can be around during the winter months.  The birds arrive at Loch Leven from some far flung places, such as Greenland, Iceland, Siberia and northern and central Europe. A bird-watcher’s – and fungi spotter’s paradise!

Red, forest fungi. All manner of wildlife can be spotted on a walk around Loch Leven
Red, forest fungi

Savour a Walk in the Highlands

Linn of Tummel Circular Walk

Linn of Tummel walk
View from Garry Bridge

Easy to park, easy to walk

It was free to park the car which was a bonus. The day was dry, slightly overcast and not too cold although the sun did peek through at points. Perfect weather for a good, long walk. After a flight of steps down to the river bank it was almost all flat. A well-worn path with a few steps here and there and a few tree roots along the way.

Pitlochry

Pitlochry https://www.pitlochry.org/index.html is world-famous for its ‘Salmon Leap’ which is a spectacle in the springtime when the salmon ‘leap’ to return to their spawning ground.  This was our stop of choice at about the half way point of the walk. It is a pretty, touristy, small town which has its own railway station, quite a few shops selling Tartan and shortbread.

Loch Faskally
Loch Faskally

This one is definitely worth a visit…

A particular shop that caught our eye was the whiskey shop http://robertsonsofpitlochry.co.uk/   This little place is a real gem. It has a phenomenal range of whiskeys… and gins, some with a phenomenal price tag too! Attached to the shop is what looks like a small restaurant but is actually a whiskey-tasting experience room. Each place is set with a wooden, glass-holder which takes about 5 small glasses. There wasn’t a ‘tasting’ when we were there but we did buy a couple of glasses. A lovely reminder of our visit to Pitlochry.

Malt glass
A souvenir of Pitlochry

‘Keep right on to the end of the road’

A quick coffee in the cafe across the road and we were off again to complete the circuit. We did this walk fairly recently and so the trees were decked out in their autumn colours. Just amazing, although my pictures don’t really do them justice.

Linn of Tummel circular walk
Linn of Tummel circular walk

If you ever take the ‘High Road’ to Scotland do yourself a favour, pack your walking boots and head for Garry Bridge.

Linn of Tummel circular walk
View of Garry Bridge

All is safely gathered in. (Winter is coming!)

 

Harvesting in the dark

Update: Harvesting in the dark

On the way home from a night out – the farmers are still harvesting.

The hubster and I went out for out for a wander yesterday afternoon.  We could hear the distant hum of the combine harvester.

You may have seen a couple of images on Twitter @SavourtheMomen1 and Instagram @Sharon28.sr. Here they are again:

Clouds of dust heading our way

Townies!

We are relatively new to this area.   It is still an absolute delight and a wonder to see the continual change in the fields around us.  This incredible summer has provided the most amazing fields of gold.  Our neighbours might well take this for granted as they have always lived in this environment – but they are far more in tune with the change in the seasons than we are.

Combine harvester up close and loud

Harvest dust gets everywhere

Our bird’s eye view was from the nearby canal towpath.  Several vehicles: combines, grain collectors and even bigger grain collectors, followed by bailers, all work together like partners in a dance.  The huge expanse of barley (yes I can recognise it now) was ‘done’ in little under an hour.  Great clouds of light-brown dust billowed up and made its way across the canal.  It left its tell-tale film on the water, to be absorbed overnight to sink to the bottom.  We took shelter behind a hawthorn hedge.  Even so everything, yes everything, inside and outside the house… and the car, has a light covering of beige dust.  I suppose it goes with the territory!

Harvesting barley

A different way of life

The machine operators certainly know what they’re doing and understand the crops, the land and the weather.  At this time of year and in this area, there is no such thing as an eight-hour working day.  The headlights of the vehicles in the fields can be seen as they work into the night.  At a guess I would say it is probably three solid weeks of working 18/20 hour days.  I could be wrong, it might be more.

Then comes the tractor.  They pull huge trailers of hay stacked so high they barely make it under the bridges.  They shower the roads and paths with yellow confetti. 

The harvest is almost finished now and the moon will soon shine on the freshly harvested fields to turn the gold into silver.

Almost done

It will always continue to fascinate.  It really is a spectacle to see.  I recommend that you take the time to go and look for yourself, before it is too late.

Hats off to the farmers.