BEMPTON CLIFFS, YORKSHIRE (26th-29th May 2018) and
BUXTON COUNTRY PARK, DERBYSHIRE (25th-27th July 2018
Amelia and Gran first spent three nights in the campervan at Wold Farm campsite close to Bempton Cliffs and the RSPB reserve in Yorkshire.
It was sunny for much of the time although there was a very strong wind. We were booked to go on an RSPB boat trip from Bridlington on Saturday afternoon to see the birds, but it was cancelled because the wind was too strong.
We had three walks along the cliff tops and were able to watch the seabirds on the cliffs. On Monday, we also went to the harbour and beach at Bridlington and then went to Flamborough Head, but by then, it was too foggy to see anything and the fog horn was sounding to warn ships.
Bempton Cliffs are north of Bridlington, but we first went to Bridlington. We walked round the harbour because we couldn’t go on the boat trip. It was high tide, so the harbour was full of water.
We watched Herring Gulls – sitting on boats, the water and the harbour wall and railings. They were hoping to be fed, but it’s not good to feed them because our food is bad for them and they can become a nuisance.
On the campsite, our campervan ‘bedroom’ window looked out onto a field of sheep and lambs. Bempton Cliffs and the sea were just over the horizon.
We were able to walk along a path from the campervan direct to the cliff-top path.
The first birds we saw on the cliffs were Guillemots and Razorbills, which belong to a group of seabirds called Auks. At first, it was difficult to distinguish them as they are very similar, but Amelia soon got very good at it.
What differences can you see between the Guillemots and the Razorbills? What are the two birds in the red circle?
Below: Are these birds Guillemots (or Razorbills)? (There’s a clue in the question!)
And are the birds below Razorbills (or Guillemots)?
What are the birds (below)? They are all the same. Gran likes their shiny black feathers.
Auks spend nearly all their lives far out at sea, only coming to cliffs and islands to breed in the summer. Their wings are specially adapted so that they can “fly” underwater to catch little fish.
Unlike Razorbills and Guillemots, which nest on little rock ledges on the cliffs, Puffins nest in crevices, holes and little tunnels in the cliffs.
When we see Puffins on cliffs in the summer, they have amazing large, stripey orange beaks which match their orange feet. But when they go back to live at sea for the rest of the year, their feet and legs lose the orange colour and the large, brightly coloured outer cases on their beaks drop off – and grow again the following year for breeding!
We found a broken egg (either a Guillemot’s or a Razorbill’s) by the path near the cliff. It had obviously been stolen from the nest by a predator, such as a Herring Gull, Rook or Jackdaw, broken open and eaten. Their eggs have ‘pointed’ ends to make the shells very strong and stop them rolling off the cliff ledges.
For hundreds of years, cliff climbers, or climmers as they were called, used ropes to abseil down the cliffs to collect hundreds of eggs to eat and sell. It was made illegal in 1954.
We also saw Kittiwakes, which are a small kind of Gull, nesting on the cliffs amongst the Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins.
Most of the seabirds on the cliffs lay their eggs and raise their young on tiny ledges. Their babies must be very well behaved not to fall off the cliff face into the sea hundreds of feet below!
The views were spectacular as we walked along the cliff tops. There was a strong wind, but it was hot and sunny.
These are some of the other things we saw……..
We walked all the way to Thornwick Bay where we explored the beach and rocks. We got very hot and tired and Amelia wanted a lift back to the campsite. She suggested calling 999 for help!
The rock pools were small, strangely shaped little depressions in the rocks with not much life in them – only a few limpets. We saw some marks in the rocks where limpets had once been living. (See our Second Nature Book for information about limpets.)
The rocks and cliffs are hard chalk, formed from squashed sedimentary layers of tiny sea shells millions of years ago. There were some flint nodules embedded in the chalk rocks (below). Over time, the hard chalk has cracked, split and been eroded in places by the sea. In places along the coast, the sea has eroded away the softer chalk to make caves and archways.
Our favourite birds were the Gannets. They are so beautiful and graceful, and the breeding pairs are very affectionate with each other.
Like the other seabirds, Gannets build nests on small ledges on the chalky cliff faces.
Gannets build their nests from seaweed. The male collects the seaweed and brings it back, presenting it with apparent affection as a gift to its partner who then adds it to the nest (see the sequence of photos below).
Gannets spend most of their lives at sea and are elegant flyers. They spot fish from high up, fold their wings and plummet into the sea like a bullet hitting its target.
They take five years to grow their full adult plumage.
We thought the Gannets looked as though they were kissing and hugging – what do you think? They usually pair for life and this behaviour strengthens the bonds between each other.
On our last day, we went to the beach at Bridlington where we collected shells and watched a man digging in the sand for lugworms which are used as bait for fishing. You know where the lugworms are because they leave coils of sand on the surface (see behind the man).
Later we went up onto Flamborough Head to see the lighthouse, but the sun had gone and there was a heavy sea mist so we couldn’t see much, not even the top of the lighthouse. But we heard the fog horn booming out to warn ships about the dangerous cliffs which they couldn’t see in the fog, nor could they see the warning light from the lighthouse.
DERBYSHIRE – BUXTON COUNTRY PARK
We spent another two nights (25th-27th July 2018) in the campervan, this time in Derbyshire. We stayed on Staden Grange campsite near Buxton so that Amelia could go riding for the very first time. Although it felt really scary to begin with, Amelia was so brave and actually enjoyed it very much when she had got used to being on the horse. The campsite had about 10 different kinds of animals which we spent time with.
We spent a day in Buxton Country Park, first visiting Poole’s Cavern and then walking in the beech wood and the dry open grassland of Grin Low, high above the caves.
The rock in Derbyshire’s Peak District is mostly limestone formed during the Carboniferous geological period about 340 million years ago when Britain was close to the equator. The sea was teeming with primitive fish, molluscs and coral reefs. Over millions of years, the calcium in their shells combined with silt to form many layers of calcium carbonate sediments hundreds of metres thick. The fossil remains of these ancient plants and animals can be found in the limestone of Derbyshire.
These limestone layers were lifted, fractured and folded by massive earth movements as the continental plates drifted apart.
Poole’s Caverns are thought to be at least 2 million years old. Carboniferous limestone is a non-porous rock and therefore water is unable to soak through. However, the fractures, cracks and joints in the rock due to earth movements allow water to penetrate limestone and can be enlarged to form cave systems.
Rainwater dissolves some carbon dioxide gas from the air to form weak carbonic acid. On reaching limestone (calcium carbonate or calcite), the acid water begins to dissolve the cracks and fissures. The solution of calcium bicarbonate drips into the caves where calcite crystals are deposited, growing into amazing new rock formations, such as stalagmites (growing upwards), stalactites (downwards), flowstone and ‘curtains’. Remember, “the ‘mites’ go up and the ‘tights’ come down”! There is usually a river flowing through the caverns, but it was completely dry because of the drought.
The study of rocks and fossils, crystals and minerals is called Geology. We both love crystals, rocks and fossils.
The dry calcite deposits were so white and sparkly and looked like snow.
The dark marks you can see in the picture below are made by bats which hibernate and roost in the caves. Five species have been seen in the cavern.
We loved all the carvings along the path through the beech woods up to Grin Low.
Below: A little gnome in the tree? Amelia asked Gran to help her move these logs to make a boat.
There were lovely views from the sandy hill above Buxton. Amelia identified flowers using her I-Spy book.
We had lunch in the old Grin Low quarry on the other side of Buxton Country Park.
Amelia discovered what fun it is to climb rocks, finding her own routes up six large rocks.