“So you’re going to spend a couple of days away at the seaside…. in February, in a storm?” a friend asked. “Yes that’s right” I replied. “We’ve booked it so we’re going.”
And we did. And I’m glad we did because it proved to be just the tonic.
We set off on Sunday evening in Storm Eunice and with Storm Franklin about to follow. We were going to drive from North West England to North East coast. Filey in Yorkshire to be precise. It was blustery over the Pennines on the M62 with horizontal rain lashing the windscreen but as we approached Leeds, the weather seemed to improve slightly. That Sunday night we stopped at a friend’s house in Leeds. On the Monday morning, we set off to Filey without any great expectations.
As we drove eastwards, the sun came out and the wind died down. We passed the town of Tadcaster which, unsurprisingly, had flooded again. You couldn’t tell the river from the floodplain as we drove over the A64 bridge. The flooding extended across the fields and looked really quite attractive with the water glistening in the sunshine.
As we passed York we saw further extensive flooding but the recent flood prevention measures seemed to be keeping the water from nearby housing and the park and ride car park. I believe York centre wasn’t so lucky.
Onward we drove along a quiet A64 through the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside towards Scarborough and then on to the nearby seaside town of Filey.
We hadn’t been to Filey for some years but it always struck me as a tidy, characterful and inviting place and a great family resort. As we walked through the town I was reminded that it is not a flashy place. There are no big attractions or piers, gin bars or cocktail bars (or at least we didn’t see any), and no prospect of Rick Stein opening a restaurant.
So, what makes Filey so beguiling?
Most obvious is its position, its setting….. the Brigg and the bay, the elegant architecture along the front and the long billiard table pristine green flag beach.
On the impressive headland of clay cliffs to the north of the bay (known as Carr Naze) is the country park. We walked from there along the headland but aware that there have been recent large rock slips due to constant rapid erosion, we didn’t venture close to the edge. Below jutting out further into the North Sea is a neck of rock called ‘The Brigg’ (a site of Special Scientific Interest because of its geological importance and designated as a local Nature Reserve). We walked out along the Brigg as far as the tide would allow enjoying the sea air, the rockpools, the waves, the gulls, the guillemots and oyster catchers, and the children looking for crabs in the rockpools.
In the town itself there are independent shops selling everything from antiques and local art to local handmade chocolates as well as a decent selection of restaurants, cafes, pubs and delis. The buildings were for the most part modest but tidy and well maintained.
The front, or what some would call the prom(enade) is a very pleasant place to stroll. Wooded ravines run inland and along it are gardens, a bandstand which is host to regular concerts, a sea front sculpture trail inspired by Filey’s heritage, and of course the elegant and substantial whitewashed Victorian buildings on the Crescent.
The people we came across were welcoming and it seemed like there was a genuine community spirit in the town.
Having enjoyed a snack, we walked along the beach to Cobble Landing which is a hub of family activity. Here was the R.N.L.I lifeboat station, the few remaining cobbles (small fishing boats), the amusement arcade, snack bars and seafood stalls. Unfortunately, the seafood stalls were not open but we had fun spending a few pounds in the amusement arcade.
We did more of the same on day two, at one point having to take off our coats on the beach because it got too warm! After lunch, we decided to drive to Flamborough Head and have a walk there. Flamborough Head lies a few miles south of Filey and is an 8 mile long promontory and a Special Area of Conservation. It is marked by a stretch of rugged white cliffs surrounding a nice little village which was colonised by the Vikings back then. It’s a great base for bird watching and hiking it has a scenic nature reserve, two lighthouses (one built in 1600s and one in 1800s) and a Roman signal station. It’s a pretty untamed place and not for the casual walker ( many visitors didn’t venture far from the restaurant and gift shop). We set off walking along the cliff top just as the clouds spoilt the sunshine and the wind got up. I went to put on my top coat and nearly lost it in the wind. The sight of me wrestling with it flapping about and finding the arm hole appeared to amuse a few people. We didn’t climb down to the beach as the steps were slippy and the tide was on its way in. It was exhilarating though and a place well worth seeing.
We returned to our hotel for the second night and ate in the hotel restaurant before hitting the bar for a nightcap or two. We woke up to another sunny day and, after soaking in the sea views and taking in a final breath of clean sea air with just a hint of fish and vinegar, we set off home, refreshed and uplifted. We decided that this is a place with a genuine feel good factor. A place that is just nice to spend time in. A place that seems to look after itself and which visitors seem to respect.
After a very pleasant stop at Malton – a stunning rural market town and known as Yorkshire’s food capital, we drove back over the Pennines into the rainy and blustery misery of Storm Franklin whilst listening to the increasingly depressing and scary news coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the radio.
I was tempted to turn round and go back.
Some images of Filey and Flamborogh Head ……..