Wednesday, May 6, 2015

North Yorkshire Day 4 – Flamborough Head & an old foe at Robin Hoods Bay

In the pre-dawn darkness I was driving north to Staithes, a perfect little fishing village perched on the coastline that curves around the headland and along the banks of the Roxby Beck, which sounds like a groovy swinger from the 70’s, but is in fact a stream that runs through the village and out to sea. I drove past the turn to the village and carried on a few hundred yards up the road, taking the little lane to Cowbar, a tiny village that sits high above Staithes and the river below.

Making my way over Cowbar Nab, a National Trust owned patch of coast that houses a large collection of seabirds, I found a spot on the point of the bluff, with a lovely view over the village. It was quite overcast but some gaps began to appear in the clouds as dawn wore on, which I hoped might prove fruitful. As it turns out, I had made a huge mistake, the colour, when it did materialise, was entirely behind me and not above the village at all, which somewhat hampered my efforts at obtaining the type of shot I had envisioned before I arrived.

A panoramic shot of the village from above, I managed to capture a a bit of colour in the sky on the far left.

The sun just peeping through a gap in the clouds.

But I made the best of it, as there wasn’t much else I could do at the time, and about 10 minutes after the sun had risen, so did the birds. Predominantly made up of gulls, these large, rambunctious birds rose into the air in their thousands, circling over the village below and the surrounding coastline, and creating an absolute racket in the process. After about 20 minutes they all settled down and things got a bit calmer in the skies above Staithes.

Even though the sunrise wasn't spectacular the light had a beautiful ethereal quality to it.
On the way back to the car I took shot of a distant factory, it's chimney adding more vapour to the
clouds above.

I headed back to Whitby for some breakfast and then drove south for about an hour, to Flamborough Head, in the hope that the now persistent rain would have time to clear. Flamborough is an 8 mile long chalk headland, the only one of its kind in Northern England, and a Site of Special Scientific Interest as well as a Special Area of Conservation, thanks to it being home to, among other things, around 200,000 nesting seabirds.

This cloud seemed to sail around the lighthouse.

A long exposure of the clouds as they blew across the sky in the high winds.

It also has a couple of lighthouses, the oldest one dating from 1669, which makes it the oldest surviving complete lighthouse in England. To be honest though, as I stepped out the car under, they weren’t at the forefront of my mind. It was the howling, clobbering, pummelling wind that had my attention, it was ferocious. If it was an animal, then this wind would have been psychotic, rampaging mongoose, the worst of all the gooses.

A little bay I managed to clamber down to get a view of.

I had a bit of a walk around the cliffs, making sure to keep a few feet between me and the edge, and the weather began to clear up a treat. It was soon wall to wall sunshine as I made my way down to Selwick Bay, which was a real beauty. An azure blue ocean and creamy white cliffs, it almost had a Caribbean feel to it, unfortunately it was quite hard to photograph as the sun was creating a nightmare of contrasts where the shadows were falling across the rock faces.

A section of the very scenic Selwick Bay.

I sweatily clambered back up the multitude of steps before plopping into the car for a spot of lunch, after which I took the short drive over to Thornwick Bay. By now the sun was very harsh, and even though the bay was fascinating, it was practically impossible to get any decent pictures, but I had fun poking about the shoreline and exploring the bays and inlets. The chalk cliffs here have a larger number and a wider range of cave habitats than at any other chalk site in Britain, the largest of which are known to extend for more than 50 metres from their entrance on the coast. There are also stacks, natural arches and blowholes aplenty, so time passed quickly as there was so much to see.

A view across to the many natural caves that mark this section of coast.

A view through a blowhole to the ocean behind.

The outer section of the rock shelf was intricately patterned with signs of extensive erosion.

This is a shot looking down into a rock pool, but it almost looks like a
view of fields and trees, like something you would see from a plane.

After scrambling back up to the car in preparation for my return journey north, I was distracted by a small field of grasses that were glowing in the early evening sunshine, so I had to get a few snaps before I left.

With the grasses backlit, they sparkled in the warm light.

A rather stylised image but I liked the atmosphere of it.

Before I arrived back in Whitby I took a detour to Robins Hoods Bay in the hope of getting some sunset images. After I’d bounced down the small, precipitous lane that runs to the bay, I arrived at the beach and saw that the tide was well and truly on its way in. Thankfully, I could walk along a handy ledge above the pulsing surf and jump down onto a section of beach not yet claimed by the waves.

The rolling cloud hovering over the horizon promised the possibility of something quite spectacular.

I set up on a slipway of rocks and pointed my hopes in the direction of a bit of sunset colour. It never really materialised, which was a shame, as the rolling bank of cloud stretching out over the ocean had an interesting shape to it. On the plus side though, I was joined on the slipway by a small seal, lounging around about 30 yards in front of me.

My wildlife photography needs a bit of polish, as the seal is slightly out of focus, and I never managed to
catch him looking round at me. I don't think Mr. Attenborough will be calling anytime soon.

He kept looking in my direction, those big, round, inky eyes checking me out to see what I was up to, but he seemed happy enough, and the presence of that dusky, spotted, plump sausage, twiddling his flippers and lolling about in the lapping tide, more than made up for a slightly subdued sunset.

Even though there was some colour, it never really got particularly dazzling.

The final shot of the day, within about 10 minutes, the rocks were
returned to the sea.

Between looking out for a bit of colour in the clouds and watching the seal, I did get somewhat preoccupied, so when it came to pack up, I realised, with no small amount of surprise, I had completely forgotten about the tide, which was now entirely surrounding the spit of rock I was on. And as I had not worn my wellingtons, that could only mean one thing.

Trudging back up the ridiculous road from the bay, which seemed to have gotten even steeper in my absence, was a slow, sad affair, my soggy shoes leaving a trail of humiliation behind me, and my thoughts preoccupied on how I had been bested yet again by that old hag, the sea.

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