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Danes Dyke Trail
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Danes Dyke Trail
You start the walk in the car park, which is the site of Danes Dyke House, built in 1873.
The moist, shady sheltered gullies that you cross offer ideal conditions for a host of lush ferns - easiest to recognise is the Hart's Tongue Fern, which looks, as the name suggests, like a bunch of leathery green tongues!
As you descend the steps to the beach, you enter the ravine that was used by the ancient builders of Danes Dyke as a natural feature on which to base their ditch and bank earthwork that stretches 2½ miles (4 kilometres) to the coast on the north of Flamborough Head.
Exposed to strong winds from the sea, the bushes here experience stunted growth, but still provide an important resting area for birds on migration in spring and autumn, as well as feeding and nesting areas for resident birds.
After climbing the other side of the ravine, you stroll through peaceful woodland under a canopy of tall beech and sycamore trees.
You also cross the valley of a small stream where the chalk, which underlies the boulder clay on which the woodland grows, is exposed.
As you climb up the bank to the access road and onto the other side of it, you move up onto the start of the enormous earthwork known as Danes Dyke, and follow it along to where the path crosses the access road again.
Distance in Miles 2
Distance in Kilometres 3.2
Features of Interest
The Danes Dyke car park is the former site of Danes Dyke House, built in 1873 for Frances Elizabeth Cotterell Dormer, lady of the Manor at Flamborough. Early pictures of the house show that the area was much more open at the time, so woodland has only developed on much of the site in the last century or so. Although the house was demolished in the 1950s the stables and outhouses remain, and are now used as a snack bar.
Some of the steps from the old garden layout still prosper; as you follow the circular trail you will notice a mixture of plants from the old gardens (e.g. specimen trees, snowberry and currant bushes, London Pride), species suggesting a long history of woodland (e.g. sanicle, wood sorrell) and recent tree colonisers (e.g. blackthorn and red champion).
The only 'natural' grassland on the trail, with its own particular community of plants and animals, is found on the cliff edges.
The origin of Danes Dyke is mysterious; the only fact widely accepted is that it was not built by the Danes. Some say that it was built in the Dark Ages, between 1200 and 1600 years ago, whilst others date it from prehistoric times, a 1000 years earlier, and Iron Age people. Though the southern end follows the eastern side of a natural ravine, the northern two-mile stretch is manmade. A vast ditch was excavated some 60-feet (20-metres) wide and 20-feet (6-metres) deep.
The spoil was thrown up on the eastern side to form a rampart 16-18 feet high. Why was the rampart so important to the builders who put so much effort into it, and what sort of society did they live in? Was it worth all the work expended on it? No answers in this brief guide, but interesting questions to ponder on your return to your starting point, through what were once the formal gardens of the old Victorian house. It kept the invaders out but even up to fifty years ago, any person who ventured into Flamborough was viewed with suspicion. Flamborough folk were insular and clannish and some never ventured past the "big ditch". Today the road bisects it and it is easily missed, but again, it's part of Flamborough's heritage and its secrets remain.