WALKING is normally such a straightforward pastime.

Choosing a location, making some sandwiches, filling a flask and putting one foot in front of the other is usually about as complicated as it gets.

The last couple of months, however, have been slightly more tricky and walks have needed a touch more planning.

The relentless rainfall of December and early January has thrust Yorkshire into the national spotlight for scenes of flooding not seen in a generation.

The knock-on effect is that many favourite walking destinations have been submerged or cut off.

Rivers have burst their banks, roads have been closed, fields and paths have been flooded.

Even if your chosen walk wasn't under water or a total mudbath, there was a chance that your means of getting there was.

So this month I decided to opt for a stroll on the beach, where you can guarantee a decent strip of dry land - as long as tide doesn't catch you out.

Having been born on the Channel Island of Guernsey, I always feel drawn to the seaside. Even on a deserted beach, there is plenty to catch the eye and keep the mind occupied.

The five miles of Filey Bay are no exception. It is a glorious leg-stretch from the imposing Filey Brigg at one end, past the historic fishing 'port' of Coble Landing and thriving promenade, beneath Primrose Valley, Hunmanby Gap and Reighton Sands, all the way to Speeton Cliffs, where you run out of sand to stroll on.

If you make the full five miles, you can relive it on the return journey. But the beauty of the beach is that the mileage is in your hands.

If the weather turns, as it did quite spectacularly midway through my Christmas Day visit, you can turn back. My collie companion Barney would have turned tail when the heavens opened at Hunmanby, but he was cajoled along to Speeton.

There is something strangely satisfying about pushing on against the coastal elements, with the wind and rain combining in an attempt to batter you into submission.

The beach here is littered with evidence of an ongoing battle between land and sea. And the sea appears to be winning in many places.

The coast at Filey is reported to be eroding at a rate of about 25cm a year, not just due to the ravages of the sea, but also from rain water.

The cliffs are largely made up of boulder clay - a mix of sand, stones and soil - which softens when wet, leading to a series of landslips the length of the bay.

It was a classic winter's day on my latest visit, on Sunday, the temperature hovering above freezing beneath a cloud free, sunny sky.

But, this being my fourth Filey trip in six weeks, there were signs that the wet weather had taken its toll with several slips even since Christmas Day.

The scale of the damage is starkly shown by a stranded Second World War pillbox. Designed as a defence against German invasion, it was no match for elements, having long since tumbled down the cliff and onto the beach.

An incongruous corner of a red brick structure marooned mid-beach is another sign of erosion, as are the ever-shrinking gardens of properties left exposed perilously close to the edge at Primrose Valley.

The sea has not only laid claim to the land, but its devastating power is borne out by the wreck of the Laura, which marks the extremity of the bay.

The 2,000 tonne Austrian steam ship ran aground in 1897 and broke up, with the remains still visible at low tide.

Talking of the tide, it is always wise to check the high and low water times before setting off. In particular, there are a series of warnings to observe if you are tackling Filey Brigg.

Once you've done that, the only thing left to decide is how far to walk...


Distance: up to 10 miles.

Parking: Church Ravine, or any town centre car parks.

Refreshments: A host of cafes at Coble Landing, many open all year round.

Maps: OS Explorer 301 Scarborough, Bridlington & Flamborough Head.


* Route finding is straightforward on this "out and back" walk, with staging posts at Coble Landing (1), Primrose Valley (2), Hunmanby Gap (3), Reighton Gap (4) and Speeton Cliffs (5).