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Filey - the coastal town is all about welcoming families, generation after generation

PUBLISHED: 08:52 14 March 2017

Walkers on  Filey beach

Walkers on Filey beach

Tony Bartholomew

Does Filey really make you smiley? Jo Haywood heads to the coast to find out

Filey town mayor, Susan Bosomworth  with the Brigg and beach in the backgroundFiley town mayor, Susan Bosomworth with the Brigg and beach in the background

Like many Yorkshire families, mine has crossed the great divide from the wild west (Leeds to be precise) to Filey for generations. As a toddler, I ate quite a lot of sand on its six-mile stretch of beach while Grandad Jack snoozed in his deckchair after one pint too many in The Three Tuns and Grandma Madge topped up her tan (she looked like a mahogany wardrobe from March until September).

My mum and dad liked the place so much they bought a caravan on Seadale, where I spent many happy weekends with friends and cousins crammed into bunk beds trying not to laugh at the sight of Jack nipping across the field in a bracing early morning dash to the loo with his long johns on his head in lieu of a hat.

That original van has been replaced twice in the intervening years (brag alert: shower room and flushing loo now included!), but mum can still be found trundling her case up the hill to the top field most weekends to see the many friends she’s made, to visit Auntie Dot and Uncle Brian, who left Leeds behind to live near the Brigg Country Park, to host numerous girls’ weekends (the youngest of the ‘girls’ is in her sixties) and to entertain her grandchildren – my kids – who, even as teenagers, still haven’t had their fill of Filey.

‘Filey is all about families,’ said Jeannie Williams, chair of Filey & District Tourism Association. ‘I walk round town and see all these families having a lovely time. Grandparents, parents, teenagers and little kids. I hear them all chattering away happily and it makes me smile. They come back again and again, generation after generation.’

Bird carvings in Glen GardensBird carvings in Glen Gardens

But what is it about this unflashy seaside town that makes it so beguiling?

‘The elements that make Filey what it is have stayed the same for years,’ said town mayor Susan Bosomworth. ‘The Brigg and the bay, the architecture along the front that entices you to simply sit and look, and the incredible community spirit are the very essence of the town.

‘But that doesn’t mean we can just sit back and expect visitors to keep flocking in. We’re a strong community that works hard. There are numerous groups tirelessly beavering away behind the scenes to make every day special.’

When counting down Filey’s numerous attributes, you have to start with the beach; a long sweep of flat, clean sand – perfect for castle-building, kite-flying, donkey-riding and game-playing. But, while it’s vital to the town’s family-friendly appeal, the bay is not all that’s on offer.

Fisherman sculpture in 
Crescent GardensFisherman sculpture in Crescent Gardens

There’s the Brigg, the Country Park, Glen and Crescent Gardens, which both proudly wave the Green Flag that puts them amongst the very best green spaces in the UK and, for the more adventurous, paragliding, sailing and surfing.

There are independent shops selling everything from antiques and local art to handmade chocolates and vintage games, as well as a growing number of restaurants, cafes, pubs and delis.

There’s canoeing and pedal-boating, golf (crazy and otherwise), trampolining, bouncy castles, carousels and tennis on new all-weather, floodlit courts.

And then there’s Coble Landing, a bustling family-magnet at the northern end of the promenade where you’ll find Funland amusement arcade (the only real arcade in town) alongside the RNLI lifeboat station, seaside food stalls (candyfloss, waffles, fresh donuts, prawns, crabs, cockles and whelks) and the few remaining cobles (open fishing boats).

The sculpture  High Tide in Short Wellies   by Ray Lonsdale looks out across the bayThe sculpture High Tide in Short Wellies by Ray Lonsdale looks out across the bay

Sadly, the town’s once vibrant fishing industry is now reduced to just three salmon cobles, a decline which has also had an unavoidably detrimental effect on Filey Fishermen’s Choir which, as we went to print, was facing disbandment after almost 200 tuneful years because of a chronic shortage of singers.

The depletion of the choir which, in its heyday, performed 26 times a year and appeared on Gareth Malone’s BBC series Last Choir Standing, is a bleak reminder of what the town has lost, but it could be argued that it was the collapse of the fishing industry that actually led to Filey’s renaissance. No one wanted the cobles to stop landing but, once they did, they opted to look for the silver lining rather than be weighed down by the cloud.

‘Filey has always been lovely but it had to change to survive,’ said Jeannie. ‘When we lost the fishing, we also lost all the money it generated. It was a case of needs must. Once we set our minds to it, it was surprisingly easy to turn the ship around. We asked ourselves, what new things can we bring to Filey that we haven’t already got? One of the first events in our renaissance was the food festival. It started slowly but, in recent years, has really taken off. The folk festival is now massive too, as is the fishing festival and our regular bandstand concerts. These events work because we all work together – the whole town does its bit.’

Filey & District Tourism Association has around 60 members, all working to boost the local economy, fill guest bedrooms and increase footfall. And they’re not alone in their quest. Ably assisting them are the good people of the Rotary Club, Lions, Friends of Filey Parks, Keep Filey Tidy and Filey in Bloom, who all give their time and undiluted energy for the good of their beloved town.

A paraglider flies silently across Filey BayA paraglider flies silently across Filey Bay

‘For a little place with 7,000 residents we do our damnedest to keep the town vibrant and welcoming,’ said Susan, whose year as mayor is almost at an end. ‘I have absolutely loved every minute of my time as mayor and couldn’t be more proud of Filey if I tried. It’s an honour to represent the town and tell everyone I meet what a truly beautiful place it is.’

There are, inevitably, one or two little wrinkles in Filey’s fabric that still need ironing out. The coastal bus service stops at about 7pm and access to the beach can be tricky if you’re not half mountain goat and struggle with steep hills, but these are both in the process of being sorted.

‘We’re not perfect, but we’re heading in the right direction,’ said Jeannie. ‘And anyway, perfection is overrated. What most people want is a small, friendly place that makes them feel at home.

‘With the Brigg on one side and Flamborough Head on the other, Filey wraps itself around you as soon as you arrive and never really lets you go.’

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