Watching the wildlife

The Dams Nature Reserve at Filey ... peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle.
The Dams Nature Reserve at Filey ... peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle.

Filey offers good all year round bird watching. However, the best times to visit, especially for the more unusual migrants, are the months of April and May in spring, and September and October in autumn.

Later summer brings in waders returning from their breeding grounds in the north. A visit to Filey Brigg or the Dams Nature Reserve from mid July to early September may reward patient observers with views of waders still retaining their colourful summer plumage.

Try viewing from Filey’s Country Park too. If it’s a high tide many waders leave the shore-line to feed on moist ground in the vicinity of the Country Car Park Cafe. Using your car as a “bird hide” enables you to view many species at close quarters, and with the aid of binoculars, permits time to identify them!

This week, visit Filey’s Country Park and the Dams Nature Reserve, by taking the A165 Filey Road, bearing left on the A1039 as signed to Filey. Entering Filey, at a roundabout bear left briefly, as signed to ‘Beach and Coble Landing’, and sharp left along Church Cliff Drive, to enter a large area known as the Country Park to the northern boundary. Covering 48 acres, it has been developed as a leisure and environmental project, with spaces for 1,000 vehicles to park. There are many facilities, along with a cafe, and public conveniences. Spectacular views from the cliff top extend to the north of the coastline, to Scarborough with its castle in the distance. To the south, Filey Bay reaches out towards Flamborough Head and its lighthouse.

Parking near the cliff edge provides views in all directions, and visiting parties of oyster-catchers and flocks of herring gulls and starlings are usually present, along with other waders.

Leaving the Country Park you pass the Cafe and Country Park Stores to your right – just the place for a cuppa in season. A children’s recreation area opposite will allow the youngsters to ‘let off steam’ before more serious bird watching ahead! Next, make your way to the Dams Nature Reserve.

Proceed along Church Cliff Drive, and turn left down the beautiful Church Ravine.

In Church Ravine, below the footbridge, is a well to your right. Such wells were a source of fresh water used by local people and visitors. This well was renovated by Filey Town Council in 1989.

The tree-lined ravine is resplendent in golden daffodils in springtime, forming a carpet beneath the fresh green canopy.

At the foot of Church Ravine, turn right from the public toilets along the beach. Reaching apartments, seek Finlay the fisherman to your left. He’s a 12ft tall sculpture, depicting days when Filey was a fishing community. 
Created by Ray Lonsdale in 2011, he’s made from corten steel such as Gormley used for his Angel of the North. Do take time to examine the detail in Ray’s public art, and read his plaques at the foot of the sculpture.

Continue along the beach, passing the bandstand, and the road swings right at the far end, up Crescent Hill.

At the top, go right along the Crescent, passing a wishing well. Turning left along Belle Vue Street, meet crossroads and keep straight forward via Belle Vue Crescent to meet Station Avenue (see map). Passing shops etc, cross the railway line, and beyond Gardeners’ Court off right, take the next right turning off Muston Road.

This is Cawthorn Crescent. Turn almost immediately left along Wharfedale, heading south and keeping to Wharfedale as it swings north-west to the Dams car park and 
information board.

There are hides to the left, and also to your right, which provide excellent views over the marshy fringes of this interesting expanse of water. Please maintain silence 
during time spent on this reserve, and take care to keep any dogs within the confines of your car (with window open for ventilation!).

The Dams Nature Reserve is free and presents a welcome change for one and all. If you’re a loner, just take a flask and a snack, and go for the day to escape the relatives! Peace prevails as you relax to the sounds of dabbling ducks and the chorus of bird song.

From the car park it’s a very short walk to the main pool hide. Bird feeders give close-up views of tree sparrows, tits and finches. The reed-bed to the left supports breeding warblers through summer, and you can expect anything around the main pool. Waders are attracted to the muddy edges when water levels fall. There’s quite a good chance of glimpsing fox or roe deer if you go early or late in the day.

Leaving the hide, walk through the wood and on to the boardwalk at the eastern end. Discover a pond-dipping platform and maybe catch sight of dragonflies skimming the rush-fringed pool. 
Yellow flag iris stands sentinel in June, and a floating raft of deep pink amphibious bistort helps give cover for young 
water birds.

If you’re very lucky you may glimpse a water vole, a mammal which is sadly decreasing in numbers these days.

Further along the boardwalk is the East Pool hide, 
providing views of wading birds, or maybe a little grebe.

Filey Dams is leased to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust by Scarborough Council. It is managed by the local Filey Brigg ornithological group, a friendly, knowledgeable group who are only too pleased to 
impart information should you happen to meet a member.

Enjoy your day, and don’t forget binoculars!

Distance: About 10 miles from Scarborough to the Dams via Country Park.

Refreshment: Plenty of facilities in Filey, and also the cafe and Country Park Stores in the Country Park, open in season.