Restful Otmoor

‘Thinking about your visit here today, what did you enjoy the most?’ asked the RSPB questionnaire in the Otmoor hide in Oxfordshire.  I could have said the bright kingfisher flying from its lakeside branch over the water and back to its perch, or the fleeting view of a marsh harrier. But my answer was the peace and tranquillity of the place; it is so restful.  I can sit watching the lagoons and listening to the chunter of the ducks, coots and moorhens for hours.

Otmoor 2

Today Otmoor was very different from my last visit, in May.  Then the vegetation was fresh and green, there were cuckoos on the treetops by the bird feeders, a turtle dove on ‘the Roman Road’ and the place was a riot of warblers and drumming snipe.

The Roman Road where I saw a turtle dove

The Roman Road where I saw a turtle dove in May

I stood for hours by the reedbeds, straining to get a glimpse of a reed warbler, while the sedge warblers in the trees emitted their scratchy songs, flaunting the red interior of their beaks.

Otmoor in May, all green

Otmoor in May, all green

Today was one of fleeting showers and fine cloudscapes.

1 wild sky



During one shower there was a rainbow, making a low arc over the lagoon.



The flowering reeds were purple against the sky.

2 flowering reeds

I walked to the second screen, following a couple from Yorkshire.  Then I returned to the first screen and they joined me again, with the news that they had seen a bittern fly in front of the hide, just after I had left.  Of course I was pretty envious.  A man with a telescope said he had heard a Cetti’s warbler just below the screen.  It’s so often the way at Otmoor, I hear about all the things I might have seen or heard if I had been there just a few minutes earlier, or stayed a little longer. But it doesn’t really matter because there is so much to enjoy—like this egret which was dancing in the water in pursuit of something I couldn’t see.

Dancing egret

Dancing egret

And so it was back to the car-park in the changing light, with a stop in the meadow to look at the fading fleabane.

The way back to the car-park

The way back to the car-park

As autumn comes there will be the migrants, and then the swarms of starlings, so I shall hope to return soon.

Posted in Birds, Natural history, RSPB | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A tribute to ‘Access’ Alexander

John Alexander, who was footpaths officer and then chairman of the Ramblers’ Winchester Group, has died aged 91.  But he was far more than a group official, important though such jobs are; he participated vigorously in the national campaign for greater access to the countryside.

His son Peter has provided me with information about his life.  John was born in Romford, Essex, in 1923.  He was the son of Winifred née Jones, secretary to a cabinet minister, and Henry Alexander, father of the chapel in the art department of the Amalgamated Press. John was 15 when World War II started.  He had just matriculated and went to work for the Sun Life Assurance Society.  At 18 he was conscripted into the Royal Signals Regiment, serving in Normandy and Germany during 1944-45 and in India after the war.

In 1949 he became a student at Southampton University where he obtained a BA (hons) in history and then a teaching certificate.  Later, in 1969, he secured an MA in education from the same university.

Ivy and John on the Dorset coast

Ivy and John on the Dorset coast

In 1951 he married Ivy Hicks and they had three children, Peter, Clare and John.  John the elder and Ivy both pursued careers in teaching, and John took early retirement at the age of 55.  They moved to Winchester where they lived for the next 16 years.  Here they helped build the Ramblers’ Association, with John taking positions as footpaths and access officer and, later, as chairman.

In 2009 they moved to Swyre in Dorset.  John was a keen member of the Dorset Socialists. He was taken into Dorset County Hospital on 9 July suffering from cellulitis and died 26 days later.  He is survived by Ivy, their three children and three grandchildren.

Forceful advocate
I recall that John was a firm believer in our cause, and one of the most forceful advocates for the right to roam in the lead-up to the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000.  He would attend our rallies and write countless letters to ministers and MPs, and articles and letters in the local press, always well argued and coherent.  We could depend on him to be there and to be our spokesman.  Indeed, he believed in much greater rights for the public and saw the limited CROW Act as the first step toward public access to all land.

In April 1996 he wrote an article, Roaming in the Gloaming, which he had intended for publication in the Hampshire Area News, but it was too long for that magazine.  I believe it was instead sent to the Hampshire Ramblers’ Groups.  This was the year before the Labour government was elected with its manifesto promise to legislate for freedom to roam, and we were preparing for this.  In the article John appeals to Ramblers’ members to help provide central office with examples of places in the county where they walked freely, and where access had been challenged.

Overdue and moderate
John wrote that he was a bit disappointed at our AGM to find not all members equally enthusiastic about the inception of this long overdue and really rather moderate campaign for something which has been on the RA agenda for 60 years.  In the article he develops the case for freedom to roam on all uncultivated land, quoting speeches made by Chris Hall to the Ramblers’ national council in 1991 (when he was president) and Derek Ratcliffe, a naturalist who believed in access, in the Ramblers’ magazine of spring 1992. Chris had criticised the payments received by landowners ‘using public concern for nature conservation as a cloak for private interest and profit’ and John goes into detail about the payments.

He concludes the article: As an association we have always claimed we are trying to recover our lost freedom to roam in our own countryside.  Now is the time to act on our promises and support our national executive in their endeavours.  I hope this article, however amateurish and hurried, has shed some light on the issues involved, and I hope you will join me in providing the information required to further our campaign.

New national parks
He argued strongly for the New Forest and South Downs to be made National Parks, long campaigns which were ultimately successful.  He was valued by the Campaign for National Parks as one of their speakers, retiring only a few years ago.

The New Forest

The New Forest

I shall always remember John with great affection and as one of the pillars of our movement.

John Arthur Alexander, 4 November 1923 – 4 August 2015

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Serendipity at Bolton Landing

We came upon Bolton Landing by chance, and it was just what we wanted.  Bolton Landing is at the southern end of Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains, New York State.

It was Sunday 21 June, the day after the wedding of my nephew Peter Casselman to Erica Hoyt in Lake Placid and, feeling fairly exhausted, we (sister Sue, her husband Fritz and I) were heading back to Boston, with friends (Paul Kaplan and Beth Sutherland) who were going to New York City.  We headed south after spending a wet day near Lake Placid, but with improving weather we were ready to stop when we saw that Bolton Landing was nearby.2 Careys' signWe arrived at about 6pm and it was all very quiet.  The first hotels we came to were pretty posh, boating places and did not appear to be taking guests.  Then we came to a motel called Carey’s, the sort that we used to stay in in the 60s and 70s, and booked two cabins with no trouble.

It was just what we needed, a fridge for the wine we had brought with us and a place to sit out—looking at our cars as happens at motels, and beyond that to the lake.  It was nostalgic, and good to know such places still exist.

Sitting out at Carey's

Sitting out at Carey’s

After sitting out on our deck we wandered down to the Algonquin Restaurant for supper on the lakeshore enjoying the long evening on the longest day.


The view from the Algonquin Restaurant

The view from the Algonquin Restaurant

The next morning was glorious and I ran down to the lake for a swim; it was quiet and the water was still and warm. Sue and Beth joined me a bit later.

Early-morning lake

Early-morning lake

Paul made a foray into town for breakfast which we ate outside the cabin, with view of car and lake.  This is the lake about which Thomas Jefferson wrote to his daughter on 31 May 1791:

Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin … finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal, and the mountain sides covered with rich groves … down to the water-edge: here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony.’

After checking out, we went almost next door to the Marcella Sembrich opera museum.  You may not have heard of her; I hadn’t.  Marcella (1858-1917) was an opera singer.  Her real name was Prakseda Marcelina Kochańska and she came from Galicia in Poland (now the Ukraine) and was taught by Franz Liszt who recognised her fine qualities as a singer.

Wings of song
Ernest Hutcheson (Australian pianist, composer and teacher), in his address to the Juillard School of Music, New York, in 1935, recorded that Liszt said to Marcella: ‘You have three pairs of wings with which to cleave the musical firmament: the piano, the violin and your voice’.  Comments Ernest: ‘And with his keen insight he counselled her to make her flight on wings of song.’

marcella Sembrich. Creative commons

Marcella Sembrich. Credit: Creative commons

Marcella met just about every well-known composer and singer of her time.  She sang with the Metropolitan Opera from 1883 to 1909 and on concert tours until 1917.  On leaving the stage she devoted her life to teaching and directed the vocal departments of the Juilliard School of Music in New York and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

She spent the summers on Lake George from 1922 to 1934.  She lived at the lakeside mansion of Bay View (which no longer exists), and her teaching studio was built in 1924.  Hilltop Cottage was built nearby, also in 1924, as a caretaker’s cottage, with a dorm for the students on the second floor.

The salmon-pink museum consists of two rooms, and you get a conducted tour for no charge (although donations are appreciated).  It is full of memorabilia, including the dress she wore to perform Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute (although this will be removed before long as it is beginning to deteriorate).  There are many photos and correspondence with famous composers and musicians.

Marcella Sembrich museum

Marcella Sembrich museum

The teaching studio has a mass of information too.  An extract from an article in 1932 by Ugo Ara, a member of the Flonzaley Quartet, tells us:

Surrounding woods and rocks that once rang with rattle of musketry and yells of savages are today echoing melodies of Mozart, Verdi, Gounod, Puccini as well as to accents of Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy and Strauss.  Despite complex professional activities, Madame Sembrich daily spends part of her time gardening, reading in Polish, English, French, German or Italian, and in going over new compositions. … One of the last callers of the season motored thousands of miles and having obtained the guidance he sought, parted from her with these simple and touching words: ‘Because we all need you so greatly, be sure to remember to live long.’

Marcella wrote on the value of summer study:

For the artist ever anxious to delve more deeply into his or her work, summer can be a season of much thoughtful reflecting. … Singers during their young years, if they expect to equip themselves for a career, should cultivate in summer the habit of doing their utmost to concentrate on the all-absorbing road before them.  Faulty diction is a frequent handicap, largely because insufficient stress is laid upon the pronouncing of strictly pure vowels, and the great importance of consonants is ignored.

The students also have recorded their memories.  Lucielle Browning fondly remembered her days in Bolton Landing, including

the luscious meals prepared by the Swedish caretakers … that first summer I gained 15 pounds!  The daily routine was up at 6.30, before breakfast climb the hills behind the cottage.  After breakfast, vocalizing, language lessons with the Italian instructor Ugo Ara, and wonderful sessions with Serguis Kagen, who coached us in the Italian, German and English repertoire, harmony lesson, etc.  Lessons with Mme Sembrich were twice a week.  During the weekend there would be hymn sings, visits to the Homers, or tea at the Ochs.  There was also time for boating, swimming and horseback riding.

Anna Hamlin recalled: ‘Mme Sembrich was a frightening personality in lessons, but an amusing and entertaining woman, socially.’

The setting, right on the lake with the wooded hills beyond is very lovely.

Lake George from the museum

Lake George from the museum

We wandered through the woods behind the museum where the students would have roamed.

Fritz, Paul, Sue and Beth relaxing

Fritz, Paul, Sue and Beth relaxing

Our next bit of serendipity was the discovery, just up the road, of Up Yonda Farm, an environmental education centre with trails through the woods.

The luxuriant woods

The luxuriant woods

We hiked to the top of the hill on the summit trail.  There was a fine view over the lake and its many islands.

View of Lake George

View of Lake George

An interpretation board at the top claims that Lake George is one of the cleanest lakes in the world.  It has a small watershed so there is a limited area from which rainwater can pick up pollution on its way to the lake.  The surrounding mountains are heavily forested, this slows the flow of water and reduces erosion and pollution.  The lake’s shore is largely undeveloped.

As we sat eating lunch a broad-winged buzzard lazily traversed the sky and on our way down we saw a tree swallow at one of the nest boxes.

It was a great way to wind down after the wedding.


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A decade of access in south-west England

Sunday 28 August 2005 was a landmark day in the south west of England. Ten years ago today the new access rights under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 came into effect.  This meant the public had the right to walk responsibly over mapped access-land—mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land.

Although Dartmoor already had its Dartmoor Commons Act 1985, giving the public the right to walk and ride over the commons, there were still many areas of open country where we could not go by right, and the CROW Act restored access to some of these places. I had spent much time in 2003 and 2004 exploring these Dartmoor  sites and making submissions for their inclusion on the access maps.  We won some and lost some.

Addressing the rally at Venford Reservoir

Addressing the rally at Venford Reservoir. Photo: John Bainbridge

The Ramblers, who had done so much work to achieve access, celebrated Access Day with a rally at Venford Reservoir on Dartmoor, in brilliant sunshine.  John Skinner, Ramblers’ Devon Area access officer and I (then Ramblers’ chairman) were among the speakers.

There were representatives from the Countryside Agency (who were in charge of the mapping), the Dartmoor National Park Authority (who had worked hard to get stiles, gates and signs up), the Country Land and Business Association and the National Audit Office who were studying the effects of the new law.

Then 60 of us set off for a walk over Holne Moor, stopping for a break at Horns Cross.

At Horns Cross

At Horns Cross

One of the highlights was the walk across Huccaby newtake, from the moor below Henroost Mine to the road above Hexworthy.  This was the first time we had walked there by right, although many had gone there before.  It makes a big difference to walkers as it’s a long way round if you cannot cross the newtake.

With Gromit at the stile into the newtake below Henroost Mine, where access was previously banned.

With Gromit at the stile into the newtake below Henroost Mine, where access was previously banned. Photo: John Bainbridge

The path claim, initiated by the late Ron Bagshaw, was the subject of two court cases and a public inquiry.  The case was lost because the land belongs to the Crown, the Duchy of Cornwall, and so the normal laws for path claims do not apply.  The tenant had locked the gates and put up private notices.  Now these had all been removed and the national park authority had put in a stile.

This was the opportunity for another celebratory speech from me!  Then we climbed the stile and had our lunch overlooking the beautiful Dart Valley.  It was a memorable day.

While we celebrated on Dartmoor, it is important to remember that many other areas of access land were opened up in the South West, for instance on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, Exmoor (Devon and Somerset) and the Quantock Hills in Somerset and on the many commons in between.

John Skinner had published a useful book, Something to CRoW about?, showing all the newly-mapped access land in Devon—I am lucky to have one; not surprisingly they proved to be extremely popular.

A spread from John's book, the page which shows Huccaby newtake

A spread from John’s book

John Skinner's book, a list of all the mapped access land in Devon

John Skinner’s book, a list of all the mapped access land in Devon


Posted in Access, commons, Dartmoor, Devon, National parks, Open country, Ramblers, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What should we tell the children?

My fighting friend Barbara MacDonald (1912-2002), aptly known as ‘the red-haired rebel’, would have been 103 today, 28 August.  Last year I celebrated her birthday by publishing her powerful poem about wilderness.  This year I have reproduced her polemic of 1974, What should we tell the children?  It was published in the Western Morning News on 4 June 1974 under the blander title Guardians of Freedom.  Bar reproduced it as a pamphlet which she circulated widely.

Bar's pamphlet2

I knew Bar as a Dartmoor campaigner, and in 1974 Dartmoor, national parks and the wider countryside were under the cosh–much as they are today.

South-west Dartmoor was threatened with china clay mining and waste tipping, there were road and reservoir proposals, the military continued to batter northern Dartmoor with shellfire, and moorland was being fenced,  ploughed and overgrazed, with severe animal-welfare problems.  But Bar’s horizons extended far more widely, she cared deeply for the future of our planet.

Her pamphlet is hard-hitting, prescient and, despite some words and phrases which now sound dated, it is  readable and relevant today.

What should we tell the children?

What indeed? And have we the courage to tell them what we should?

Barbara MacDonald

Barbara MacDonald

Perhaps we should start by telling the children something about Britain, the country they will soon inherit and be expected to manage.  This small island which is almost invisible on an ordinary map of the world, yet with all her faults and mistakes has given the world so much of its culture and has secured the freedom of so many.  Remind the children of today that their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have twice in this century streamed out of their island fortress, not on package tours in search of fun, but set on a collision course with horror, fear and death, while others, left at home, withstood the pounding and the hardship and the hell of war.

For the dead of two world wars, this epitaph could tell the children of the chance they have been given to remain free if they choose freedom:—

When you go home, tell them of us and say,  
‘For your tomorrow we gave our today’

Perhaps we should tell them that they were born free, but that it will be up to them to remain free.  Remind them that 1984 is ten short years away and that freedom and democracy are hard to govern.  With ever-increasing pressures on the governors, freedom of the governed can be hard to handle.  A policy, then, of ‘what they don’t know, they won’t grieve’ develops into a syndrome of official secrecy, of government by decree and Big Brother is born.  It can happen here.

We should warn the children against the proliferating questionnaires; the market research projects; the people who approach you in the street or on railway stations, pencils and forms at the ready and ask impertinent questions in order to record the answers for some damn fool research scheme or other.

Tell the children to beware the next national census and to answer only those questions which could conceivably be of use to future planners.  ‘Don’t know’ the answers to those which are prying and useless.  No great planning miracle has emerged as a result of previous census-taking; all the information gathered has not assisted the planners to catch up with the needs of the people.  But it may well add to the data-bank bureaucracy with which our children will have to contend.  There are those who are prepared to fight against the approach of Big Brother, right now; who are prepared to accept that Dad and Mum are sometimes right, but Big Brother never.  Tell the children that the generation gap of protest is narrow indeed.

Advise the children to question every official statement they hear and that ‘Why?’ is one of the most effective words in the English language.  That just because Mr Big says something, it is not necessarily true.  Beware the man in the official suit; he is just another person with no monopoly of good sense or good taste.

Instant pundits
Let us tell the children to beware the handful of instant pundits who appear with such mind-bending regularity in every branch of the communications media, determined to refute any criticism of themselves or their particular department of government or interest and to assure us that we only have to trust their judgement and we shall all reach the promised land.

Reject the self-appointed censor and guardian of morality, whose waking hours appear to be spent searching out smut which might well pass unnoticed but for the publicity given to their personal outrage.  Who are these people who can, apparently, remain uncorrupted and undepraved by their assiduous attention to what they regard as indecent, while claiming that the rest of the population is in moral danger?

Poverty, starvation, cruelty, disease, race-hatred, torture, warfare and greed are the obscenities of the modern world; a battered baby a more degrading national spectacle than displays of human nakedness.

Beauty and ugliness
Let us tell the children to use their eyes, their ears and their legs; to look at this much-threatened island with all its variety of beauty and ugliness and to fight for the beauty while repudiating the ugliness.  Let them use their ears that they may hear the slightest sound in the wind—the birds, the insects and the trees.  Tell them to turn off their transistors occasionally and listen to their own thoughts, before their hearing is so impaired that only high-decibel noise can penetrate the damaged delicacy of the gift of hearing.

Fur Tor, central Dartmoor

Fur Tor, central Dartmoor

Tell them to appreciate their legs and to thank God that they have them to walk, to run and to climb. To get out of the parents’ cars and off their motor-bikes and discover the earth through the soles of their feet.  Their elders, who vote for greed at every general and local election, are gobbling up the earth’s resources at such a frenzied speed that today’s car-borne children may well find that walk they must, on legs capable of carrying them further than the nearest coffee bar.

We should take our children to the eyesores, to the scrap heaps, to the slums, to the endless miles of destruction in the wake of the road-builders and the tasteless property-developers and tell them that they are looking at a throw-away society and its built-in obsolescence.  Should we tell them not to take to the streets in protest against the seven-league boots of ‘progress’ which are stamping our country flat?  Unless our governors stem the tide of greed and their own secrecy, the streets may become the only public platform where progress will be heeded.  When every constitutional means has been tried, only to be met with paternalistic stone-walling, what is left for the outraged citizen to do?

Beware of conformity
Should we tell the children to beware of conformity?  To recognise conformity for what it is—the flock instinct to huddle as protection against the encircling wolves?  Only those in the centre of the huddled group will find protection—those who can run the fastest and get their first.  Assert your individuality; be eccentric if you wish, but make it your won eccentricity, not that of the group.  The group is so often a bore and—worse—a dictator.  There can be no dictators without slaves.

Cattle on Bridestowe Common, north-west Dartmoor

Cattle on Bridestowe Common, north-west Dartmoor

We should certainly tell the children that every human being is the centre of his own world, looking out from behind his eyes and seeing the world and the people in it in his own way.  Each is as important as another; each one’s problem is important to him, though it may seem trivial compared with one’s own.

Monopoly of protest
Don’t let the children run away with the idea that they have a monopoly of protest and dissatisfaction; that they are unique in a problem-spattered world.  Ask them to give a thought to the struggling adult and the hard-pressed old, who have fought the good fight and are now past fighting; who have helped to produce the goods and services the children expect and who are so often scoffed at for failing to make a better job of things.

Time passes and the children will grow up, as we did.  We should tell them that we, too, knew so much better than our parents how to build a just and happy society, but what we built was what we have today. Our children may do better, but they should be warned that the task will not be easy.

Foal on White Tor, western Dartmoor. Bar campaigned for animal welfare.

Foal on White Tor, western Dartmoor. Bar campaigned for animal welfare.

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Llanymynech limeworks

My disappointment about the walk organised by Natural Resources Wales at Meifod, Powys, on 4 August was offset by my afternoon visit to Underhill Farm and the Llanymynech Limeworks Heritage Area.

Plan of Llanymynech limestone heritage area

Plan of Llanymynech Limeworks Heritage Area

Underhill Farm is just in Shropshire, close to the Powys border.  It is near Pant, a short distance from the A483 road between Welshpool and Oswestry.  It nestles under the limestone cliff.  Steve and Irene Evison run it as an informal venue where families and small groups can relax with nature and learn more about the natural world.  You can take your tent and camp there, or use the self-catering accommodation, which includes yurt, tepee and campbarns (large and small) or hire a room for a meeting.

Underhill Farm

The Evisons offer placements for students under the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) scheme, so that they can get experience of working on an organic farm or smallholding.

Irene, her dog Loubie and I walked up onto the limestone, on newly-surfaced paths below the massive cliffs.

1 Llanymynech cliff

The area has been transformed by a £900,00 Heritage Lottery Fund project to create the Llanymynech Limeworks Heritage Area (information here).  The industrial past of the massive limeworks has been uncovered and interpreted.

2 people


There is a useful and attractively-designed toposcope on a viewpoint with wide views of the Welsh Marches (although it wasn’t clear enough for us to see much).


Toposcope, looking south

Toposcope, looking south

Irene at the toposcope

Irene at the toposcope







Offa’s Dyke National Trail winds across the top of the ridge, dividing England and Wales.

Offa's Dyke Path on the country boundary

Offa’s Dyke Path on the country boundary

Kilns, tunnels and inclines have been uncovered and restored.  There is a new underpass for the busy A483 which makes it much easier and safer to explore the workings to the east of the road.  These include a Hoffmann kiln with its tall chimney, which was constructed to provide a particularly efficient way of burning lime.  You can see pictures of its restoration in 2003 here.

6 chimney

Restored Hoffmann kiln

Restored Hoffmann kiln









We walked back along the peaceful Montgomery Canal.  It was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

Montgomery Canal

Montgomery Canal


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Coastal access inside out

Coastal access in England was given a welcome injection of cash, following an announcement last December by the then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.  Natural England (NE), which is responsible for mapping the coastal path and adjoining access land and for producing reports for confirmation by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is getting on with the job.

Last Tuesday I joined nine members of the Ramblers East Yorkshire and Derwent Area on the Yorkshire coast, for an interview about coastal access to be broadcast next month on Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

We met the producer, Lucy Smickersgill, cameraman Mark and ‘Sherpa’ Kelvin who uncomplainingly helped carry the equipment.  Our meeting point was at the end of the coast road at Aldbrough in East Yorkshire, where the road disappears down the cliff.  This coast here is frangible and disappearing at a measurable rate.

Meeting point

Meeting point

This stretch of coastal access, (number 47 on the progress map here) is between Kilnsea in the south (near Spurn Head) to Filey Brigg (north of Flamborough Head).

Looking north along the coast to Flamborough Head

Looking north along the coast to Flamborough Head

The industrious Ramblers have already identified where the path should go, choosing options as close to the sea with the best views.  They have sent their proposals to NE and expect to discuss them before long.  (In fact this stretch was originally scheduled to be done much earlier, but East Yorkshire Council refused to participate then and so it was postponed.)

Once NE has identified the coastal path, the area of adjoining access land becomes apparent.  We have rights of access between the path and the sea, and inland to the nearest sensible boundary.  So this is more than just a path and in that sense is superior to the Wales Coast Path.

Preparing to film us

Preparing to film us

A particular advantage of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 provisions for coastal access is that they allow for roll back when the cliffs crumble into the sea.  NE identifies where the route will be aligned after erosion and this forms part of the report.  This will certainly be important here: we could see the cracks and slippage on the cliff edge.

cracks 2

cracks 3










Only three days after we did our filming we learnt from the BBC that a new crack had appeared in the cliffs at Mapperton, three miles north of Aldbrough.

We set off south from Aldbrough towards Withernsea, past a caravan park.  There is no definitive path here but the route is well used, with a broad space between the caravans and the cliff top which allows for walkers.


As always happens with filming we walked back and forth along the same stretches many times, and stopped to record Tom Halstead, vice-chairman of the Ramblers’ area, addressing the group.

Tom speaking

The route then ran alongside fields past Hill Top Farm,

cliff path

and when we came to the gap at Cliff Farm we stopped.  Here the path is likely to take an inland turn before rejoining the coast a bit further south.

Near Cliff Farm

Near Cliff Farm

Lucy interviewed Tom and me (as Ramblers’ president).

Tom being interviewed

Tom being interviewed

Mark stood on a promontory to take photos.

Mark on cliff


This part of the Yorkshire coast is a well-kept secret, yet it is truly magnificent.  The new access will benefit local people and visitors, and should bring much-needed income to this area which suffers some social deprivation.  There are plenty of studies which show the economic benefits to an area of a nearby long-distance path.

Roll on coastal access in East Yorkshire!



Posted in Access, Coastal access, Natural England, Ramblers, Ramblers' president, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment