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24 September 2014

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Eastern England - Robin Hoods Bay to The Wash


The Inventive Coast

map of the programme's journey

This is a coast of two halves, divided by the broad Humber. We start on the craggy grandeur of the Yorkshire coast and finish by wading through the vast salt marshes and mudflats of the Wash.

Ravenscar, North Yorks - Britain's First Chemical Industry

Producing alum crystalsThe Yorkshire coast is scarred by the remains of Britain's first chemical industry. For 250 years sites like the one Alice Roberts visits at Ravenscar produced the vital ingredient that allowed cloth to form the backbone of the British economy. With the help of some intrepid chemists we once again produce alum crystals, which were used to fix colour in cloth, on the site.

Scarborough, North Yorks - Britain's First Seaside Resort

ScarboroughHistorian Neil Oliver makes acquaintance with the 'Queen of the Yorkshire Coast' and finds out how, and why, Scarborough can claim the accolade of being Britain's first seaside resort. Neil also discovers how the town continues to keep ahead of the tourist game. His investigation takes him to the elegant Scarborough Spa and leads him to discover more about a slightly more unusual pastime - big game fishing.

Ferriby, on the Humber, near Hull - Bronze Age Boat

In 1937 an ancient boat was revealed by the shifting silt of the River Humber near the village of Ferriby. A second was found in 1940 and a third in 1963. Subsequent carbon dating revealed them to be nearly 4,000 years old - Europe's oldest sea-worthy boats. Archaeologist Mark Horton takes to the Humber in a replica of this Bronze Age wonder to test its sea-faring capability.

The Ferriby foreshore is freely accessible at low-tide.

Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head juts out 6 miles into the North Sea. 174 ships were wrecked here in just 36 years. In 1674 in the reign of King Charles II, the authorities took action. The result was Britain's oldest lighthouse. It's the only known example of a beacon lighthouse in England, where a huge brazier would be lit on top. There is no evidence it was ever used, and a new lighthouse was built on the cliffs in 1806.

Spurn Head

Spurn Head sticks out into the mouth of the Humber estuary and is the site of the country's only permanently-manned lifeboat station. The whole of this stretch of coast is the fastest-eroding shoreline in Europe – losing about two metres a year. And Spurn is gradually moving up the Humber. Stabilising a naturally-moving spit like this when the land it's attached to is being eaten away is a tricky task, and with more frequent storms forecast for the coming years, Spurn’s future looks decidedly shaky.

Grimsby, North Lincolnshire - What's next for the fish finger?

fish fingersGrimsby was once the world's number one fishing port, with over 600 registered vessels. That mighty fleet is now reduced to just 12, but Grimsby is still a major player in the fish business.

Nick Crane looks back at the birth of the fish finger, and finds out from Young's Head Chef what will be reaching our supermarket shelves in the future.

Sites featured are not open to the public.

Skegness, Lincolnshire - The First Butlins

ButlinsBilly Butlin exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of this coast. His first holiday resort was built at Skegness and was the start of an empire that has been running for 70 years. Neil Oliver follows on from his Scarborough adventures and finds out how Butlins has consistently reinvented itself to attract visitors in their millions.

Butlins has resorts at Skegness, Minehead and Bognor Regis.

The Wash & The Fens, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire - Draining the Fens

No other part of the UK coastline has been as extensively altered by human intervention. In 1216 King John's baggage train was caught out by the tide as it crossed the Wash and his treasure was sucked down into the quicksand. Where they crossed now lies about 10 miles inland. Nick Crane gets to the bottom of this puzzle, and finds out how the draining of the fens inland influenced the shape of our coast.

Wash Waders – The Wash

The WashThe Wash is the largest expanse of mud flats in the UK which makes this estuary a mecca for over 300,000 migrating wading birds and also for the Wash Wader Ringing team. Miranda Krestovnikoff went there to find out why The Wash is so important, and what the team have learnt from 45 years of research.


Coast Series 1

Dover to Exmouth
The Frontline

Exmouth to Bristol
The Wild West

Bristol to Cardigan Bay
Times and Tides

Cardigan Bay to the Dee
The Travellers Coast

Liverpool to Solway Firth
Shifting Sands

The Northern Ireland Coast
The Troubled Coast

West Coast of Scotland and Western Isles
Islands and Inlets

Cape Wrath to Orkney
Life on the Edge

John O'Groats to Berwick
The Working Coast

Berwick to Robins Hood's Bay
The Pioneering Coast

Robins Hood's Bay to The Wash
The Inventive Coast

The Wash to Dover
The Vanishing Coast

Highlights Programme
What have we learned and where to now?

See Also

Meet your Coast experts:

Neil Oliver
Alice Roberts
Mark Horton
Miranda Krestovnikoff
Nicholas Crane
Hermione Cockburn
Dick Strawbridge


The Victorian Seaside
The Rise of the Victorian Middle Class
Coastal Habitats
Coastal Plants
The UK's Coastal Wildlife Hotspots
Coastal Birds
Finding Coastal Wildlife
Kids Guide to the Seaside

On the rest of the web

Ravenscar Stories
Scarborough Borough Council
Ferriby Boats
Wetland Archaeology & Environments Research Centre
History of Skegness
Wikipedia: The Fens
Wikipedia: The Wash

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

Discover Your Coast

Try these great online walks from this stretch of coastline

North Yorkshire

Tel: 0870 900 7788

for a free Open University “Discover Your Coast” pack - or visit

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external links.

The Vanishing Coast - The Wash to Dover

Nick investigates the freak floods of 1953; Alice explores the landbridge which joined us to the continent; whilst Nick meets Peter Boggis, a man trying to save his home from the sea; and Neil celebrates Trafalgar 200 examining an eye witness account of the battle.


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