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 Sheer Joy of a Starling Murmuration

The beginnings of a starling murmuration. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

A murmuration is a must see

Starlings swooping then breaking off into separate groups. Photo credit: Eric Richardson
Starlings swooping then breaking off into separate groups. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

I have wanted to witness a murmuration ever since I saw Bill Oddie on tv conducting starlings over the Somerset Levels about ten years ago.  Yesterday gave us the perfect opportunity.  We needed to take our two grandchildren home and it was good to share the spectacle with them.  A minor detour on the way home and a stop-off at Attenborough Nature Reserve http://www.attenboroughnaturecentre.co.uk/.  It was a cold, greyish afternoon.  Not what was forecast – crisp and clear.

Click here to see:A few moments of a starling murmuration

What is a murmuration?

A murmuration is a mass, aerial display of thousands of birds which swoop and dive in unison.  Starlings in particular, do it for a variety of reasons: they fly together to provide safety in numbers, they roost together for warmth, and of course they have  a chance to have a natter together – also predators find it hard to catch a particular bird in a flock of thousands.

The light fades as the starlings get ready to roost. Photo credit: Eric Richardson
The light fades as the starlings get ready to roost. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

Foreign starlings swell the numbers

The numbers of birds swell as the winter deepens.  The amount of starlings in one roost can rise to around 100,000.  Large numbers of starlings visit us during the winter months from overseas, to take advantage of our warmer climate!

Just as the sun sets

The optimum time to see them across the UK is around dusk in winter.  Binoculars are not usually required as, if you are in the right spot, the aerial display will take place directly above your head – although you may need an umbrella! Seaside piers, reedbeds and buildings are favourite congregating places as the sun sets.

Sadly, starling numbers are in decline

Forty years ago starlings would gather in great numbers over city rooftops but now the numbers are fewer and they are more likely to be seen in rural areas.

Starling murmurations

Flocks of starlings arrive from all around, they come together in the sky above the roosting site.  As the numbers of starlings swell the murmuration creates shapes in the sky,  the shapes grow as the flocks merge together. And then, when the light fades, they seem to decide as one that it is time to settle in for the night.  They descend and that’s it, the performance is over.

The gathering starlings in the twilight. Photo credit: Eric Richardson
The gathering starlings in the twilight. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

The children saw a banana, an avacado, a fish, a worm, a motorbike…

Check the RSPB https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/. Wildlife Trust https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/  websites to find a murmuration near you.  The murmuration season lasts until the middle/end of February. See one of the greatest shows on earth.  It’s free, it’s nature and it’s somewhere near you.

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.

GONE FISHING!

I think I may have mentioned this before but I live very near to the Chesterfield Canal http://www.chesterfield-canal-trust.org.uk/ and that I have started a new regime of jogging along the tow path.  Well, this lovely waterway is attractive in other ways too…

During the long school summer break, my four grandchildren (aged between five and nine) come to stay either in twos or altogether – like yesterday, when we spent some time making our own fishing nets.  All each of them needed was: 

Make your own fishing net
All you need to make a simple fishing net
  • A 5 ft garden cane
  • A wire coat hanger
  • A piece of netting
  • A needle and thread

There was much amusement as they put their sewing skills to the test plus a bit of help from Grommar and Poppar of course. In the end all four of them finished with a very respectable fishing net.  Naturally, they were all desperate to put them to the test so plans were made that Evie and Jack could go fishing the next day, as they were staying here with us and Josh and Harry could go the following week, when they would be staying with us.

Evie and Jack fishing
Homemade fishing nets in action

It was a golden couple of hours as Evie and Jack searched along the canal bank for the perfect spot, looking for tiddlers along the way.  Neither had ever ‘fished’ before so they soon learned that splashing around in the water and making grand swooping gestures with the net was not going to catch them any fish.  After a demonstration by Poppar they soon got the hang of it and it wasn’t long before each of them had a jar with a couple of tiddlers, some other creatures and some bits of weed.

Evie and Jack try out their fishing nets
Learning to fish

We had taken a picnic lunch with us and as we ate lunch, we saw a kestrel, heard a yellow-hammer, a buzzard, swans with signets, pondskaters, water boatmen and blackberries almost ready for picking – probably a task for next week.  It was a couple of hours very well spent and could be replicated anywhere there is a body of water – just make sure you take every safety precaution and notice of any safety warnings – or else you will have to answer to your kids!

Fishing takes patience
Fishing on the Chesterfield Canal

This is also one of the things to do on the https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/documents/50-things-activity-list.pdf

Trust me, it was a day to treasure.

A Walk with Alpacas

A very unique gift

I received a very unique gift-experience for my birthday, from a very thoughtful friend.   A walk with alpacas.  I took this opportunity to take two of my grandchildren to share the experience, to Treswell, Nottinghamshire, England.

Getting to know the alpacas
Getting to know the alpacas

A passion for alpacas

A husband and wife team, with a passion for alpacas, look after a small-holding ‘OrionTree’ https://oriontree.uk/  They are specialist breeders and keep their herd small.  Anyone who wishes to try one of their experiences is guanteed a hands-on encounter with a difference.

Me and my alpaca
A walk with alpacas

Chalk and cheese

Eight year old Evie and five year old Jack couldn’t wait to meet the alpacas.  Jack loves all kinds of animals and was eager to get stuck in.  Evie, on the other hand, is a little more reserved and preferred to ‘just help Grandma’.

An image of one of the alpacas ready for his walk
One of the alpacas ready for his walk

A calm and gentle nature

Alpacas are beautiful, friendly creatures with a very calm and gentle nature.  They make exceptionally easy walking companions and the team at Oriontree can adapt the walk to suit but they generally stick to a routine. 

Jack with James the alpaca
Confidently walking with my alpaca

Hello boys

After a short introduction the machos (alpaca boys) are brought out.  We were each paired with our alpaca and off we went.  Both children were entranced with their partners from the beginning and it wasn’t long before Grandma’s help was no longer needed. 

A confident little girl leading her alpaca
I can do this

Snack break

A short break at the half-way point provided the opportunity for Jack to ask all his questions.  He needed to know about the alpacas’ teeth and the difference between alpacas and llamas and countless other things.   All questions were patiently and knowledgeably answered by our hostess.  Meanwhile ‘the boys’  chomped their way through a box full of snacks, fed to them by the Evie and Jack.

Alpacas are beautiful, gentle creatures
Alpacas are beautiful, gentle creatures

An absolute delight

It was a very unique experience.  We all learnt a lot and it was a pleasure to be in the company of such beautiful creatures, especially in the lovely, North Nottinghamshire countryside.  https://www.innorthnotts.co.uk/

 

A walk with alpacas in the wonderful Nottinghamshire countryside?

I would highly recommend.