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Bempton Cliffs RSPB Nature Reserve is situated on the East Yorkshire Coast just outside of Bridlington. The reserve is well signed posted from the main road, but beware once you leave the main road the roads then become narrow, just one car wide, and have passing places at regular intervals on alternate sides, they are also very windy and a little bumpy. But don't let this put you off visiting the place, the road to the reserve has a lovely view out to see.
Once you reach the reserve there is a pay and display car park, it was £5 per car on our recent visit, but RSPB members can park for free, and that's for as long as you want to stay there. Entrance to the reserve is free and you enter it through a small well stocked shop selling a variety of bird related items, such as stuffed puffins, key rings, magnets, hats, books and bird food, to binoculars and Bempton themed items such as a carrier bag tidy, a canvas bag, and a tea towel. There is also a small kiosk which sells drinks and snacks and icecreams. Tiolet facilites are also available at the main entrance with seperate ones for male and female.
Once you leave the shop you can walk down two well marked paths through a lovely meadow which contains numerous grass and flower species. You'll also spot various types of butterflies and other flying insects buzzing around. The paths lead you to the cliff top paths which offer breathtaking views out to sea and also of the sea birds which call Bempton Cliffs their home. The paths are well used, although they are not paved and can be muddy after rain, so they can be a bit bumpy to walk on, sturdy shoes would be adviseable, although I have seen people in flip flops, but let's just say that there are nettles about and I wouldn't wear them. There is no danger of you falling over the cliff edge as there is a wire fence running the length of the reserve and raised wooden viewing platforms have need erected at various locations to give you wonderful views of the breeding birds. On our most recent visit we were able to see puffins, gannets, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes and that was just by the cliffs. Look in and over the meadow and if you're lucky you'll be able to see and hear skylarks singing, whilst meadow pippets and linnets dart about.
The birds that you'll see will change with the seasons as will the various flowers and insects, but that's the beauty of nature, you never know what you'll see.
Bempton is a great place to visit throughout the year, but just be prepared for the weather whilst you're there, as although it might be quite warm and dry inland, up on the cliffs is can be cold and wet and windy. And for £5 for a car full of people it's a cheap day out.
As a long time nature lover and someone with a genuine enthusiasm for birdwatching, there is very little that I enjoy more than a day out on a nature reserve. But even in my slightly puzzling view of 'fun', sitting solo in a hide on a freezing cold day with only a thermos flask for company isn't the ultimate in winter entertainment, and I am therefore doing my very best to infect all of my housemates with my birding addiction. However, birdwatching is an activity that to your average student ranks somewhere between lawn bowls and doing the times crossword: so to try and keep everyone happy, we all piled into my friend's little green Fiat Panta and beetled off along the motorway for a combined day of birding and beach. Being close to such resorts as Filey, Whitby and Scarborough, our chosen reserve was RSPB Bempton Cliffs.
Bempton Cliffs is located on the 10km stretch of chalk cliffs that run from Flamborough Head to Filey in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The size of these cliffs is utterly staggering - they can reach over 100m at points, and looking over them down at the shivering sea will give even the steadiest stomached person butterflies. But geological grandeur is secondary on the priorities list of the RSPB. The reason behind the founding of the bird reserve is that during Spring and Summer Bempton Cliffs plays host to more than 200,000 breeding sea birds.
We had taken a look at the gloomy skies over Sheffield earlier that morning and optimistically predicted that the weather would clear towards the coast - and to a certain extent it did. However, just at the edge of the country where the farmland rapidly dropped into the North Sea, a thick sea mist had rolled in and blanketed the Bempton site. Not ideal for a birdwatcher, you might say, as the whole watching business is slightly impeded by an impenetrable curtain of white. But that discounts the ethereal, incredible feeling of standing on the edge of a cliff with mist swirling all around, being able to hear and (unfortunately!) smell the seabird colony below but only occasionally glimpsing a white shape gliding out of the fog. It was like standing at the very edge of the world, and beyond? Who could say.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. This seems a good place to describe the practicalities of Bempton Cliffs. The easiest way to get to the reserve is definitely by car (for directions see the RSPB website) and there is a good car park, although I can imagine that it would get packed on sunny days at it was almost full when we were there. Those restricted to public transport can take the train as far as the village of Bempton and then face a 40 minute walk along country lanes to reach the reserve itself. It is not an easy trip - but then, I would argue that its position of splendid isolation is part of the appeal of Bempton Cliffs.
There is no actual entrance charge to the reserve, only the £3.50 per car parking ticket for non-members of the RSPB, which I would argue is a very reasonable price given all that the reserve has to offer. Members can leave a membership card on the dashboard and will not be charged. You then walk through the small visitor centre which has information about the site as well as a very friendly set of reception staff who will be happy to direct you, and out on to the main reserve. The visitor centre stocks souvenirs and is also where you will find the toilets (the only down point of the reserve - slightly limited in number and not the world's cleanest, but that's a small quibble) and a kiosk where you can get drinks and ice cream.
From the visitor centre you can take either the left or right fork in the path. We were sadly limited in time, having to be back in Sheffield by six o'clock, and so only had time to fully explore the left hand route, but we were told that the other direction had a similar layout of a path along the cliff's edge (fenced, obviously) with frequent view points where it was possible to see down to birds. These paths were a little lumpy, but would probably be just about accessible to those in wheelchairs or with pushchairs.
Practicalities done, it is time to talk about the birds. And dear lord, they were flipping brilliant.
My birdwatching experience is pretty good when it comes to inland, and I've seen birds in spectacular numbers before - overwintering waterfowl and waders at RSPB Arne is a sight in itself. But I had never seen a colony of seabirds before. It is something that no one should miss.
The first things were saw were the kittiwakes, which are one of the many birds often condemned as 'just a gull'. But when you take a closer look they are truly beautiful. They have a slightly cool, sardonic expression to their faces, almost as though irritated by the people staring at them through scopes and binoculars, but then they take flight and glide overhead flashing their black wingtips and giving their extraordinary mewing calls, and you know you'll never say anything is just a gull ever again. Then there are the huge, swooping gannets, which have heads of a gorgeous pale apricot colour and blue eyes thickly ringed in black like a burlesque dancer. Among all of these white birds you find comical black-and-white guillemots, which drop from the cliff and fly by flapping madly in an attempt to stay airborne, and brilliant razorbills, which have a call like running your finger along a comb. Interspersed between the adult birds are the babies, tiny speckled kittiwake chicks and giant white young gannets, screeching and flopping about like a understuffed cuddly toy. And of course, the poster species and the one that everyone comes looking for: the puffins, tiny, bright beaked and bright eyed birds which epitomise the idea of (I'm sorry, there's no other word) cute.
It was such a mess of sounds and smells and ornithological chaos: birds flying everywhere against the backdrop of precipitous cliffs and the open sea.
You may get the feeling that I enjoyed myself - and I have to say, the two hours I had to spend at Bempton Cliffs were two of my favourite hours of birding ever. The birds obviously made it, with such a staggering display a treat not just for dedicated birdwatchers but for all the families and day trippers who were sharing the cliffs with us. If you want to get children interested in wildlife, but you don't fancy a day at the zoo, then Bempton is a brilliant place to start. If our experience is anything to go by, you will also find both the staff and the other birdwatchers very friendly and always willing to give you a hand with what you are looking at.
And did I manage to convert my friends? To be fair to my two biology student housemates, they didn't take much persuasion - the sight of a cliff peppered with gannets is pretty hard to resist. My chemistry studying housemate was only vaguely curious to start with, but even a chemist cannot resist the charismatic little face of a puffin peeping at them around the edge of a cliff. Whether the interest will persist when the rain is pouring down or the temperature hits minus two - well, I suppose we'll wait and see. But a big 'thank you!' is owed to RSPB Bempton Cliffs, for a lovely few hours, a beautiful setting and some wonderfully spooky weather. The facilities are perhaps a little basic compared to some of the larger RSPB reserves, but for a pure wildlife experience I can't award Bempton Cliffs anything other than five big green Dooyoo stars.
A few minutes off the main road between Filey and Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast is the RSPB reserve of Bempton Cliffs, home to thousands of sea birds.
We visited recently on a week away in the area, in fact the holiday was planned around visiting this reserve as my 21 month old son loves watching birds so I thought he would enjoy it here.
The reserve is easy to find as it is signposted from the main road, there is a fairly large car park which costs £3.50 to park in for as long as you want. A word of warning here, you have to pay at a meter and it does not accept notes, cards or payment by mobile phones so make sure you have some change with you, although there is a shop and a cafe which I'm sure would help you out.
As I just mentioned, next to the car park there is the RSPB shop which sells all manner of bird related gifts, cards and novelty items and where friendly staff try to get you to join the RSPB, it wasn't a very hard-sell though. You can also pick up a leaflet which will help novices to identify some different type of birds, and you can hire binoculars for £2.50. We didn't hire binoculars and to be honest, personally I'm not that bothered about looking at the birds close up, but if I'd realised that you could hire them for such a small price I would have done. There is also a small cafe which we didn't use, selling drinks and snacks.
What people come for is the walk along the cliffs teeming with birds. From the RSPB website I found that the shop is open between 10 and 5 (4 in winter), however the path is public access and open at all times. This is a really beautiful place, you are high up on top of the cliffs, surrounded by grass, flowers and numerous large insects, looking out at the sea and thousands upon thousands of sea birds. There is a chalk path along the cliffs with viewing points wherever the cliffs jut out into the sea. Between 10 and 11 on a warm, sunny May weekday morning there were quite a few people there but plenty of space for everyone to see the birds. There is a sturdy fence alongside the path and even with quite a fear of heights I didn't feel at all worried up there. I was concerned before we went about my toddler's safety on a cliff edge but as it was he was more in danger of being stung by nettles than falling off the cliff. We did of course keep a very close eye on him and carry him much of the time.
It is truly amazing to see all of these birds clinging to the side of the cliffs and flying out over the water, all three of us had a fantastic time there, and at £3.50 for the car park it was fantastic value. We were only there for an hour as my son was getting a bit bored of sticking to the path so we decided to go back before any full scale tantrums erupted atop the cliffs but you could easily spend longer, especially if you took a flask and some eleveses for sustenance along the path.
Bempton Cliffs can be found on the east coast of Yorkshire just outside the small village of Bempton, which is off the Bridlington to Flamborough road. This whole area is now a nature reserve that is owned and managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
There can be few people that have been here that can deny that Bempton Cliffs are a spectacular sight. They are characterised by their chalk-white appearance and they rise vertically from the sea to the cliff tops. They are just as impressive from the top of the cliffs looking downwards as they are from below looking upwards.
These limestone sea cliffs stretch for over 3 miles (5 kilometres) and have an average height of 86 metres above sea level. They are the highest sea cliffs in England and they are home to one of the largest sea bird colonies in the British Isles.
I have been coming to Bempton Cliffs since I was a young child and I usually manage to visit here at least once every year. Even now as an adult I am still in awe at the natural wonder of this place. Access to the shoreline here is difficult so if you are wanting to view these cliffs from below then it is necessary to book one of the regular boat trips from Bridlington.
On the top of the cliff there is the small village of Bempton, which seems to edge perilously closer to this rapidly eroding coast each time that I come here and there is also a small railway station. About 200 metres away from the railway station in the direction of the sea there is a car park and visitors centre.
This visitor centre is owned by the RSPB and this is where non members have to pay their entrance fee to visit the reserve. Entry for RSPB members is free but for others the current charges are £3.50 per car.
The visitor centre is open daily throughout the year, except during Christmas week when it is closed. Between March and October it is open from 10am until 5pm. Between November and February it is open from 9.30am until 4pm.
There is a footpath that leads from the visitor centre along the top of the cliffs and all along this path there are specially created viewpoints where you can stop and view the birds and be sheltered from the elements at the same time. It has to be said that one of the downsides of this place is that it is somewhat exposed and is therefore much better fun when the weather is good.
There are a total of five different view points along the cliff top and each of these has a name. The first viewpoint is called Grandstand and is approximately 200 metres from the visitor centre. The second is called Bartlett Nab (400m) and the third Jubilee Corner (900m). From here the path continues but the other two viewing points are located in the opposite direction of the visitor centre so most visitors turn around here and walk back to the visitor centre. The first of these view points in the other direction is called New Roll (500m from the visitor centre) and the other one is called Staple Newk (900m).
Bempton Cliffs contain one of the largest breeding seabird colonies in the British isles. The best time to visit is between April and August as during this period the birds are crammed tightly onto the rock faces. There are tens of thousands of pairs of Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmars and smaller numbers of Puffins. It is the Puffins that many of the visitors come to see and they are quite a comical sight. With there thick, multi-coloured bills they are sometimes called Sea Parrots. Unlike the majority of the other breeding seabirds here the Puffins do not nest on the vertical cliff faces. Instead they nest in burrows (often disused rabbit holes) at the top of the cliffs and they are often not fearful of people enabling the visitors to get almost within touching distance of them.
The other star breeding bird here is the Gannet, this huge white gull-like bird can be seen plunging vertically into the sea and emerging with fish.
In addition to the seabirds at Bempton there are other interesting birds here and its location makes it a favourable place for scarce migrants to turn up. There is a list of all of the bird species that have been seen here in the visitor centre. There are also some other interesting wildlife here too and I have seen Foxes, Weasels and Stoats quite regularly on the cliff tops and Dolphins, Basking Sharks and Porpoises in the water.
I recall once seeing a Weasel here climb down the cliffs to try and get to the birds eggs on the ledges but the Guillemots and Razorbills successfully fought it off. Looking at some of the places where these birds lay there eggs I often wondered why the eggs didn't fall off the narrow ledges. It was in the visitor's centre here that I learned the reason why - Guillemots and Razorbills lay square eggs!
After a good stroll along the cliff top the visitor centre is an excellent place to learn about the wildlife of this area. It is packed full of useful information and the staff are always on hand to answer any questions that you might have. This visitor centre is fully accessible by disabled visitors and there are toilets here which are equipped for disabled visitors too.
The visitor centre also doubles up as a viewing hide and there are binoculars and telescopes here which can be used to look at the closer in closer detail. This is perfect for visitors in wheelchairs as the path along the cliff top is not really suitable for wheelchair users, although the first viewing point can be reached with a wheelchair. The visitor centre also has a book shop and a gift shop and a small café that provides refreshments.
In summary I think that Bempton Cliffs are a fantastic place and makes for a wonderful day out.
RSPB Bempton Cliffs
The white cliffs of the Yorkshire coast are home to almost a quarter of a million seabirds. This beautiful conservation area is not only for keen birdwatchers, but for everyone to enjoy. Guided tours are also available.