Following a day off in sunny Scarborough I am feeling refreshed and ready to complete my first ever National Trail. Yesterday I did little more than potter around like a tourist. Perhaps the highlight of my rest day was walking past Scarborough cricket ground, realising the gates were open and popping in to watch the last 10 overs between two talented youth teams.
Inevitably any vitamin D accumulated under yesterday’s skies is now crawling out of my pores with the return of my own personal rain god, although for the time being I’m being treated only to a fine mizzle. This suits me fine as according to my much-abused Cleveland Way guide book it isn’t considered cheating to catch an open top tourist bus from the North Bay to the Spa in the South Bay.
I hop into the 109 bus and eagerly take my place on the top deck like some young boy on a school trip. Instead of heading down the sea-front and around the headland as expected the bus takes off up the hill through town where I get a birds-eye view of bedroom windows and offices, before eventually rejoining the promenade in South Bay. Embarrassing.
I love the ambience of the grand old Spa, especially the inappropriately named Sun Court. Elderly couples sip tea silently looking out to sea, or perhaps only as far as the rain drops sliding down the windows, as they contemplate an afternoon performance watching Howard Beaumont play “light classics”. The thought of this alone is enough to propel me with some vigour into the damp horizon.
The path sticks to the shoreline at first, barely out of reach of the highest tide which licks against my feet at one point. Not for the first time I imagine returning here to watch the sea when it is angry!
On this final day my rucksack feels almost weightless on the first climb up to higher ground. This may be partly due to the reduced water load following yesterdays leakage fiasco but there is no doubt that your body gets used to the strains put upon it over time.
The cliffs south of Scarborough exhibit plenty of signs of slippage. Will all of this rain accelerate the erosion? Perhaps on some hypothetical return journey I would find some short sections of the walk to have been redirected inland. Damp hay bales peer through the haze when only days ago their woven strands of gold sparkled brightly.
The paths here are muddier than they have been so far on the coastal leg and caution is needed to avoid any slips. Sometimes the visibility clears momentarily to reveal the rough cliff face all the way down to the sea. There must be plenty of interest here for geologists.
Despite the drizzle there is no wind and it doesn’t feel cold. The landscape though keeps dropping hints that it can get very rough up here.
So easy is the walk that the miles are flying by. The walking feels different today – less isolated – as houses are visible at many points and then a golf course keeps me me company over the distance of a few holes. Golfers in purple clad waterproofs take it in turns to hit their tee shots into the same fairway bunker, presumably unintentionally.
For the first time on the Cleveland Way I come across a large walking party of perhaps 30 people, also heading towards Filey. The path has momentarily joined a road and I storm pass in order to get ahead of them before it narrows back into the undergrowth. Only when I look over my shoulder and don’t see them do I realise I have missed the turn-off in my haste. Not only do I have to sheepishly retrace my steps and excuse my way past them all but they know I missed the turn. Embarrassing. Again.
It’s quiet from here with barely a soul on the trail. I’m wrapped up in idle thought – distance walking is good for that – when out of the haze I see a shape that I recognise. It’s a carved stone that looks similar to the one I saw in Helmsley at the start of the walk. It is inscribed with the words Cleveland Way. This must be Filey Brigg! I’m here – the walk is over!
And that’s it. There are no fireworks – it is just me, and my immediate thought is “what now?”. It feels like an anticlimax, probably because due to the limited visibility the end just snuck up on me.
Filey Brigg is a long finger of cliff that extends out to sea to form the northern end of the bay. I continue my walk south down to the beach with the intention of continuing to the end of the finger (the fingernail?) but the tide is too high, so I continue a few hundred yards to Filey and up a cobblestone slipway. The slipway is a parking lot for fishing boats once again lending evidence to my optimistic theory that small fishing businesses are at least surviving if not thriving.
There may be no marching band to herald the completion of my walk but I’m determined to immerse myself in the essence of Filey (talcum powder as it turns out) and treat my arrival as a celebration. The worst overnight accommodation of my trip (camping barn included) awaits me at a pub – a cold room where the en-suite has a bath but no shower – but once again there’s a warm welcome.
And so to a pub to make something of the evening. It’s a Friday evening and everywhere is quiet it seems except for the Imperial Vaults where a live band is setting up. I grab the only free table and prepare to be entertained, but my entertainment when it arrives is not from the band.
Sue and Frank ask if they can share the table and we end up chatting all evening. Sue is an established expert in marine biology. She exudes boundless energy and enthusiasm for her field and tells me how she is out on the exposed Brigg in all weathers collecting samples. It is wonderful when somebody has so clearly found their vocation and she is funny to boot. Frank is a well travelled session musician who seems to have played with everybody. He speaks modestly about his musical career but I’m in awe of this guy who has struck out and done so much.
We discuss all sorts of topics with shared enthusiasm but I’m captivated by a tale of treasure! John Paul Jones (no, not that one) is commonly thought of as the father of the US navy. His ship, the legendary Bonhomme Richard, was sank off these shores in 1779 and has never been found. Frank tells me about a diver here called John Adams (probably drinking in The Grapes right now) who claims to have located the wreck after decades of investigation. While all of this may be of passing interest in the UK the ship has the stature of the Mary Rose in the US and heavily funded US search teams have been trying to trace the vessel also. A National Geographic article on the subject makes compulsive reading.
An evening with Sue and Frank caps my day and it is only a shame when we have to go our separate ways. I head to my cave/room with a head full of nautical adventure and the feeling of satisfaction of a completed walk
When I planned the walk I didn’t actually book anywhere at Filey but come Saturday morning I’m glad I did. The sun is out and the skies are clear at last so this is an opportunity to take a proper look at the sea-front.
Filey Bay is huge! I hadn’t appreciated this yesterday but it must be 5 miles wide. There are no amusements here, nor indeed much at all along the front beyond a few basic hot drink stalls and a crazy golf course from the 70s. I lose myself in the moment – an endless strip of pebble dashed sand, the hypnotic rise and fall of breaking waves providing an unchallenged soundtrack, sunlight dazzling off the infinite horizon. This is sublime.
Back on the cobblestone slipway the boats are lined up following their early morning rounds. I’m too late to see the action but would love to know if this tractor still actually works. Surely not…
I’ve a bus to catch to Scarborough and then onto Helmsley where I hope my car is still parked. There’s justtime to wonder around the streets and get a feel for Filey, and I have to say – it’s joyous! I sometimes lament modern life and pine for at least some aspects of the “old days” but at Filey the old days live on – hilariously so! It’s as if father time arrived at the town boundary and said – Nah.
Several people have actually apologised to me about the time-warp that they call home. God knows I wouldn’t want to live here but I’m so glad that it exists! Everyone is ancient. Where are all the young people? OMG – what have they done with the young people?! When I do finally see a young boy and girl they are throwing a brick into a gravel patch. This place has nothing for them.
Every other shop seems to sell or hire mobility scooters. A menswear shop has me laughing out loud with its window display – a trilby hat, thermal underwear, grey cardigan and a plastic duck – which for some reason just works! I am thrilled at the thought that the the town of Filey must consistently top a sales graph at the headquarters of Izal. But I love the sense of community and the fact that, in repelling almost all of the high street chains, the streets are packed full of small family businesses. Yes!
Filey has after all served up a memorable end to a walk that has been rich in memories. And with that I board the bus to Scarborough. And boy, you should see the bus station…
Here’s today’s walk in point form…
In a nutshell
The final day and completion of my Cleveland Way walk!
Sharing my evening with Sue and Frank (plus finishing the walk of course)
Checking into a cold pub room with no shower and little hot water.
|Stage||10 – Scarborough to Filey|
|Distance||11.2 miles||Speed||3.5 mph|
…and the route taken…