The coastline between Spurn Head and Teesmouth is scattered with wrecks and rich in marine lore. With a careful eye on the tides, Kevin Rushby explores its secret history
Standing in broad sunshine on the beach at North Landing, Flamborough, and watching the fishing boats come in, you would think there was nowhere more blissful and peaceful. People in shorts are strolling along the clifftop path, while the cliffs below are dotted with puffins and razorbills, most of them dozing in the warmth. Mike Emmerson, captain of the Summer Rose, is smiling. “We haven’t been out for two weeks because of the easterlies. Even today, you’d think it was flat calm from here, but there’s a swell. I wouldn’t take passengers in it.”
It is a reminder of how treacherous the Yorkshire coast can be. By one estimate, it has averaged two shipwrecks a week since 1500. In 1869, the 100-mile stretch of coast between Spurn Head and Teesmouth accounted for 838 ships – more than two a day. What few people realise is that many wrecks still survive, in some battered form, and can be visited. The coastal path is often walked, but few are aware of the lost and secret history that lies among the rocks and caves.