Flamborough Head: A day out at the beach with a bit of rock history

Flamborough Head, glimpsed here as a father and daughter walk through the surf, is a familiar sight to those of you who have enjoyed a seaside jaunt or two over the years.

PIC: Simon Hulme
PIC: Simon Hulme

This striking promontory, with its chalk headland and sheer white cliffs, is one of our great coastal treasures and was featured on the TV programme Seven Natural Wonders as one of the gems of Yorkshire.

Nestled between the bays of Bridlington and Filey the headland is home to two standing lighthouse towers, one was built in 1806, and was Grade II listed by English Heritage back in 1952.

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The other has stood for even longer. Completed in 1674, the chalk tower at Flamborough is the oldest complete lighthouse still standing in England today.

It was the brainchild of Sir John Clayton, who had a Royal Charter to build five lighthouses along the east coast. Unfortunately, the deal he struck stipulated that he could only collect dues from passing ships when all five had been built.

Sir John ran out of money before the project was ever finished and as a result, Flamborough’s chalk tower was never lit once.

Even so, it would have certainly provided a prime viewpoint for the Battle of Flamborough Head in 1779, which saw the American Navy pitched against the British in the inhospitable North Sea during the American War of Independence.

These days it is better known as a thriving nature site which led to it becoming a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest for both geological and biological reasons.

It is also Britain’s only northern chalk sea cliff. The chalk is estimated to be between 70 and 100 million years old, which has led it to become identified as being of international importance in the Geological Conservation Review.

The cliffs that house the two lighthouses are also home to many thousands of seabirds, including puffins and gulls, adding to its rich tapestry. All of which makes Flamborough a great place to visit (if you haven’t already).

Techical details: (Fuji XE1 Camera, 18-55mm lens, 500th sec at f5.6, iso320).

Picture by Simon Hulme

Words by Chris Bond