Home to the Yorkshire Nature Triangle, there are year-round experiences to discover
Best-kept wildlife secrets
Don’t shout it too loudly, but here in Hull & East Yorkshire we have some of the best-kept nature and wildlife secrets in the country. Where else can you spot the colourful puffin, catch a glimpse of the secretive otter or come eye-to-eye with wild deer amongst wind-swept sand dunes? Did we mention the occasional whale too? And that’s just the beginning.
The action kicks off in January and February as gannets – our largest seabird with a six-foot wingspan – are the first to arrive back at the famous RSPB Bempton Cliffs to select the best location for a nest. By March and April, they’re joined by dinner-suited puffins also looking for a home, with a supporting cast of 250,000 other seabirds like razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes. An array of fully-accessible trails, stunning clifftop viewing areas and live cameras in the Seabird Centre make this an unrivalled location in Europe for immersing yourself in the sights, sounds and yes, smells of a bustling ‘seabird city’.
As spring turns into summer, East Yorkshire’s unique shoreline really comes alive. The turquoise blue of Thornwick Bay offers caves to explore, whilst the rugged coastal paths of the Flamborough Outer Headland echo with a soundtrack of skylarks, yet more puffins and bursts of purple orchids and pink sea thrift. If you feel like you’re being watched then you might be right – the peregrine falcon also makes the crags here a home to hunt from.
The clifftop vistas are only one way to get a seat at the show, however, and a boat trip can bring a completely new perspective. Sailing from Bridlington and at more than 70 years young, the Yorkshire Belle is an old hand at getting visitors close to the action, including curious Atlantic grey seals who can’t resist having a look at who’s on board. For a real taste of coastal life you can hop aboard straight from the beach itself at North Landing, with a chance to ride a traditional Yorkshire fishing ‘coble’ during the summer months to nearby coves where smugglers tales abound.
As spring turns into summer, East Yorkshire’s unique shoreline really comes alive. The turquoise blue of Thornwick Bay offers caves to explore, whilst the rugged coastal paths of the Flamborough Outer Headland echo with a soundtrack of skylarks
Nestled above the more sheltered South Landing and its local nature reserve, lies ’s Living Seas Centre. A five minute walk from the crisp, white-pebbled beach, at low tide a completely new world is revealed – the perfect location for a bit of rock pooling with the family. Along with top tips on what to discover beneath the shimmering seaweed and a regularly updated sightings board of wildlife along the coast, there’s a range of interactive activities and wet-weather crafts for all ages too. Further along the headland you’ll find Danes Dyke, a fascinating mix of history and nature, wrapped up in a series of winding woodland trails that belie its proximity to the shore.
But it’s not just along the coast where the lazy days of summer bring a fresh wildlife bonanza. Beside the River Hull near Driffield lies Tophill Low, an extensive wetland nature reserve with an impressive list of stars. Kingfishers are perhaps the headline act, with dedicated viewing areas offering superb photographic opportunities, and the tantalising chance of an otter – a regular visitor – also enough to tempt plenty of visitors. The summer carpets of orchids are another huge draw, and the cosy new visitor hub with its log burner and vast viewing windows mean an autumn or winter visit for the resident barn owls is no hardship either.
When it comes to summer wildlife, it’s also boom time along the Humber – quite literally. The unmistakable resonating call of the rare bittern can be heard at RSPB Blacktoft Sands, whilst flitting amongst the reeds are exquisite bearded tits, and in the skies above the majestic marsh harrier patrols the largest inland reedbed in England. A winter visit can bring other of birds of prey, including the ghostly hen harrier or a short-eared owl. Also developing a growing reputation amongst wildlife lovers is North Cave Wetlands, a remarkable Yorkshire Wildlife Trust site that has been developed from the ground up alongside an active quarry. Close-up views of the delicate black-and-white avocet are a must, and specially created pools find the footpaths buzzing with plenty of dragonflies and butterflies.
A five minute walk from the crisp, white-pebbled beach, at low tide a completely new world is revealed – the perfect location for a bit of rock pooling with the family
During May and June, the blue carpet is rolled out across vibrant green woodland glades across the region, as the native English bluebell reaches all its glory. Meandering footpaths take you amongst this quintessential scene in Millington Wood in the Yorkshire Wolds and North Cliffe Wood near Brough to name two of the best displays, and the dawn chorus flows down from the leafy canopy.
In the clouds above, another real treat could be in store in the fork-tailed shape of the red kite. Now a year-round patroller of the Yorkshire Wolds skyline, these large birds of prey make their presence known with a whistling call. Although they can be spotted almost anywhere in the area, a winter visit to the village of Nunburnholme may be rewarded as dozens of birds gather before heading off to roost in nearby woodlands.
Autumn brings additional wildlife treats in East Yorkshire. Minke whales, at 30ft in length, can sometimes be spotted from Bempton and Flamborough Cliffs as they venture from feeding areas further north, and easterly winds deliver surprises in the shape of rare feathered visitors like shrikes or short-eared owls.
At this time of year there’s no better place to get amongst the miracle of migration than at Spurn Point. A truly iconic Yorkshire landscape, more than three miles of wilderness-like sand dunes now include a tidal island, whilst the views from the recently restored Spurn Lighthouse can be enjoyed on a 4×4 ‘Spurn Safari’ with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. This method of transport harks back to a rich military history on the site, and the unusual vantage point offers great views of deer and seabirds along the varied habitats. A new Discovery Centre opening in spring 2018 will provide new accessible views and a perfect refuge at this end-of-the-world location.
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