Call of the coast - Yorkshire writers give their reflections on the county's coastline
PUBLISHED: 15:48 12 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:58 20 February 2013
The country's leading writers reflect on our seashores in a series of extracts from a new book called Edge of Heaven The Yorkshire Coast Photographs by Rod Slater and the David Joy Collection
Martin Wainwright, journalist, author and broadcaster: My first really vivid glimpse of the Yorkshire coast was through the broken mouth of Slam Gutter, derelict alum works drain between Ravenscar and Boggle Hole. My brothers, sisters and I squeezed into it, encouraged by a glimmer of light at the far end. To our amused delight, this turned out to be an airy ledge where the narrow passages stonework crumbled away completely, halfway down the cliff.
We had bucketed and spaded before that on the beaches at Redcar and Sandsend, and collected pebbles at Spurn for an aunt to polish in a curious, rumbling machine which she left on when she wasnt at home, to deter burglars. But the wriggle and perch at Slam Gutter was my introduction to something different from sunny afternoons beside the sea. It began a life-long relish of the drama, excitement and secrecy behind our countys mighty but unstable seashore.
Dame Margaret Drabble, award-winning novelist, biographer and critic: Filey for me is the most numinous place on earth. It was once a little fishing village and is now a small seaside resort, a few miles south of Scarborough and north of Bridlington. The fishermen still go out to fish, but their haul today consists mainly of crabs and lobsters, not the codling and haddock and whiting we used to catch and eat for our high tea.
My childhood memories of Filey, reinforced by rare visits in adult life, have a peculiar intensity, for this is a place that imprints itself deeply in the hearts affections. It survives astonishingly, and its mood is much as it was when I first saw it.
R J Ellroy, celebrated thriller writer from Birmingham who fell in love with Whitby on a book tour: I am a stranger, but I am familiar. I smell the sea. I smell the salt air. I breathe in the place and I feel it breathing back. It is cold, and as I turn my collar against the wind, as I bury my hands in my pockets and watch the sails vanish over the horizon, I think of those who have stood before me, here in these self-same hills, and I am in awe.
There is a quiet and resolute strength in the faces of these people, a strength that has perhaps passed from generation to generation through the centuries. We have been here all along, those faces say, and we will always be here.
Roy Hattersley, politician, author and journalist: In the years before two weeks on the Costa Brava was a holiday aspiration within the reach of working families, the holiday resorts of the East Riding known collectively in pre-war Yorkshire as the sea-side all knew their place in the hierarchy of summer esteem. Scarborough with two bays and as many big hotels claimed top place. Filey came a good second, tying with Whitby, which had less refinement but more charm.
In bottom place, Bridlington, the wholly justified reputation for being usually cheap and invariably cheerful was enough to keep its landladies content. But Hornsea and Withernsea did not figure in the social league table.
Ian Clayton, author and broadcaster: Now think on this then, if you had a magic surfboard that allowed you to surf the Greenwich line of longitude down from the North Pole, over the Arctic, into the North Sea, clip the tip of Filey Brig and Flamborough Head, the first time you would have to jump off to walk on dry land would be on the Holderness coast near Withernsea.
To be precise, just outside the village of Tunstall. Even more precisely near to the Sand Le Mere caravan site.
David Joy MBE, author: Still staring out to sea, I thought also of the small boats that would once slip into Port Mulgrave under cover of darkness in the hope they would be noticed by no one and especially not by excise men. Smuggling was rife along this stretch of coast for 150 infamous years beginning around 1700.
It was all too tempting at a time when tea bought in Holland at seven pence a pound undercut the English retail price by almost two-thirds. And there were similar margins on tobacco and gin.
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Edge of Heaven The Yorkshire Coast is published by Great Northern Books.
Visit greatnorthernbooks.co.uk for more information.
The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Yorkshire Life
We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here