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Out and About - East Riding of Yorkshire

The East Riding of Yorkshire is a local government district with unitary authority status, and is a ceremonial county of England. It is named after the historic East Riding of Yorkshire (one of three ridings alongside the North Riding and West Riding), which also constituted a ceremonial and administrative county until 1974. From 1974 to 1996 the area of the modern East Riding of Yorkshire constituted the northern part of Humberside. As a district it borders North East Lincolnshire (over the Humber estuary), North Lincolnshire (over the Humber and on land), Hull, Doncaster, Selby, York, Ryedale and Scarborough. By area, the East Riding is both the largest district and the largest unitary authority area in England.

Geologically the East Riding is split into two parts. The western part is the Yorkshire Wolds, a chalk formation which extends from the Humber at Ferriby to the coast at Flamborough Head, a chalk headland. To the north of this is Bempton cliffs (see article on this page) which has a huge seabird colony run by the RSPB. The south-east of the district is the low-lying coastal plain of Holderness, which faces east to the North Sea, and to the south drains into the Humber estuary. South of Flamborough Head is Bridlington Bay, which features a number of beaches, and at the far south-east of the district is the Spurn peninsula.

The coastline has retreated noticeably in the last 2,000 years with many former settlements now flooded, particularly Ravenser Odd and Ravenspurn, which was a major port until its destruction in the 14th century. Erosion remains a concern in the area. Works on upgrading sea-defences started in Withernsea in 2005, and village of Kilnsea is also to have defences upgrade. Visitors have been warned by the Humber Coastguard to be very careful on coastal paths near Flamborough Head.

The district is generally rural, with no towns approaching the size of Hull. There are a few market towns such as Beverley, Driffield, Goole, Market Weighton and Pocklington, and the coastal towns of Bridlington, Hornsea and Withernsea. In the south the district contains areas such as Hessle which are part of the Hull urban area but outside the city boundaries.

The East Riding originated in antiquity. Unlike most counties in Great Britain, which were divided anciently into hundreds, Yorkshire was divided first into three ridings and then into numerous wapentakes within each riding. It should be noted that the ancient wapentake system is not used in the modern day, though it is an important part of its cultural heritage. Within the East Riding of Yorkshire there were twelve wapentakes.

The East Riding's only large town is Hull, a major port. Hull's population of which rose rapidly in the late 19th century. Other towns in the riding did not have similar growth and remain small: Bridlington's permanent population remained largely static in the same period. There are some very informative websites for this area including East Riding of Yorkshire Council, About Bridlington - East Riding Online and Visit Hull and East Yorkshire, which are worth looking at for things to do and accommodation.

Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough Head

[Bempton Cliffs]The massive peninsula of Flamborough is situated on the east coast of Yorkshire, England, and forms one of the most impressive landscapes of this stretch of coastline. To the north, spectacular chalk cliffs (Bempton) stand proudly up to 400 feet high. They are home to the largest nesting sea bird colony in England. In "North Landing" are coves, sea caves and stacks where I found puffins, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes all within easy viewing. Rocky outcrops reach out into the sea and have claimed many a passing ship in the past. To the south, the cliffs become smaller, but look out across Bridlington Bay.

Flamborough has much to offer the rambler, historian, geologist, archaeologist, ornithologist, day-tripper and local. The headland is a peaceful place, full of interest and enjoyment, which can often be missed by the casual observer.

Bempton Cliffs nature reserve is run by the RSPB and is about a 10 minute drive from Flamborough. More information about the nature reserve can be found on the RSPB web site.

Bempton cliffs is easily the best place in England to see, hear and smell seabirds! All your senses are used with the sound of not only the birds but the sound of the waves crashing into the bottom of the cliffs. Watching all these birds flying and playing in the thermals I found a joy to watch. More than 200,000 birds at any one time (from April to August) make the cliffs seem alive. The reserve is 3.5 miles long and is Englands largest seabird colony. Eight species nest here and is home to the largest number of breeding gannets on the UK mainland. With huge numbers to watch, beginners can easily learn the difference between gannets, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars and the easily recognisable puffins. Specially-created clifftop viewpoints are wheelchair accessible with care.

There is adequate parking and there is an information centre, where I found the staff and volunteers very helpful and welcoming.

Word of warning - the cliffs are dangerous so stick to the paths and follow directions of the signs, I found it very easy to get distracted away from the safety of the path, 400ft is a long way down!

© Simon Thurgood 2023
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