East Yorkshire – Ducks and Puffins

We arrived at Skipsea Sands Holiday Park at the scheduled time of four o’clock, located our accommodation and began to unload the car.

Within seconds a family of ducks arrived at the caravan door.

These birds must be really smart, they know that four o’clock on Monday is new arrivals time and they hung around looking for food.  I imagine mother duck gets the baby ducks ready, tells them to look cute and do a bit of begging and they will be set for the week,

We didn’t have any suitable duck food (bread is not good for them apparently) so we had no offerings.  Five minutes later a car pulled up opposite and started to unload and they waddled off to try their luck there instead.  In five days we never saw them again.

Which brings me to Puffins.

Every summer Puffins arrive for the breeding season at nearby Bempton Cliffs and this year some bright spark at the Yorkshire Tourist Board came up with the idea of a Puffin trail in Hull and East Riding.

There are forty-three of them but we only found six…

I can only imagine it is quite a chore to try and find all forty-three, rather like searching for the Holy Grail.

Later a family arrived at the next door caravan, they moved in with what seemed enough supplies to last a whole month and an inflatable paddling pool.  After they went out some aquatic birds arrived and in view of the hot weather and the adjacent  dry stream were more (t)hen happy to jump in…

After evening meal we went for a walk along  the coastal path…

… and reflected on a very, very good day.

East Yorkshire – Withernsea, Erosion, a Pier and a Lighthouse

Leaving Spurn Head we travelled north along a road with more curves than Marilyn Monroe towards the seaside town of Withernsea.

On the way we drove through the unfortunate village of Easington and I say unfortunate because in the local Coastal Management Plan Easington is identified as a place not worth defending against the advancing sea and one day it will be gone.  It is called ‘managed retreat’.  I don’t know how long this will take but I noticed that the pubs were shut and there were no shops.

The advance of the sea is relentless.  The coastline here is the fastest area of erosion in the UK.  Every year six foot of land is swept away, an estimated average of two million tonnes which is moved south on the tides towards the Humber estuary and builds land there whilst it takes it away here.

On a previous visit I once came across an official looking man in a hard hat and a high visibility jacket who was taking photographs and making notes.  His name was Brian and I asked him about the erosion.  He explained to me that the problem is that this coastline really shouldn’t be here at all because it is made up of unconsolidated soft clay and small stones called glacial till that were scooped up from the sea bed by a glacier as it advanced south during the last ice age and dumped here as the ice eventually melted and receded north about ten thousand years ago.  It is just soft clay with the consistency and the look of a crumbly Christmas Cake that simply cannot resist the power of the waves.  In that time an area of land twelve miles wide has been eroded away and returned to the sea bed where it came from.

I didn’t have high expectations of Withernsea, I can’t explain why but I liked it immediately and we walked to the sea front and the Pier Tower entrance.  I say pier but there is no pier here anymore.   Built in 1877 it didn’t last very long as ships and boats kept running into it and by 1900 it had gone.

No one in England lives more than seventy miles* or so from the sea but when they get to the coast they have a curious compulsion to get even closer to the water and as far away from the shore as possible without taking to a boat. The Victorians especially liked piers and by the time of the First-World-War there were nearly two hundred sticking out all around the coastline.  If there had been satellite photography a hundred years ago then England would have looked like a giant pin-cushion.

English piers you see are rather fragile structures and over the years have had an alarming tendency to catch fire – Weston-Super-Mare, Brighton, Blackpool, Eastbourne, and Great Yarmouth have all suffered this fate but Southend-on-Sea is probably the most unfortunate of all because it has burned down four times which seems rather careless.

The problem with a pier of course is that they are generally constructed of wood and are highly combustible and a quarter of a mile or so out to sea they are also rather inaccessible to the fire service so once they go up in flames little can be done but to watch the blazing inferno from the safety of the promenade until the fire goes out by itself and all that is left is a tangle of twisted metal girders and beams.

There was once a railway line to Withernsea out of Hull which made it a busy seaside resort bringing visitors from South Yorkshire but it is long gone, swept away as part of the railway reforms of the 1960s, visitors stopped coming and today, tucked away on the far east coast it is too remote to attract holiday makers, they go to Bridlington a few miles further north which still has its railway line.

Pictures from the website https://withernsea1.co.uk/index.html

I always like to see how far a name has travelled and my research tells me that there is a Withernsea in Maryland USA, close to Washington DC and in British Columbia, Canada.

After a bag of proper Yorkshire chips and a Belgian lager we made our way now to the top visitor attraction in Withernsea – the lighthouse.  It is no longer used for its intended purpose, everything in Withernsea is redundant it seems but is now a museum with an energy sapping climb to the very top with some good views over the town and the North Sea.

* Based on a direct line drawn on an Ordnance Survey map from location to the first coast with tidal water, the village that is further from the sea than any other human settlement in the UK is Coton in the Elms in Derbyshire at exactly seventy miles in all directions…

Geography Quiz – The Answers

1  What is the most northerly capital city in the World?

Reykjavik in Iceland

2  What is the most southerly capital city in the World?

Wellington in New Zealand

3  Which country is regarded as the centre of the Earth?

Turkey

4  What is the Highest capital city in the World?

La Paz in Bolivia

5  What is the Lowest capital city in the World?

Baku in Ajerbaijan

6  Which country is closest to the South Pole?

Argentina

7  Which country is closest to the Moon?

Ecuador

To be fair, Mt. Everest is one of the highest points on Earth, with its peak ascending to an altitude of 29,029 ftabove sea level. However, due to its location within the Himalayan Mountain Chain in Nepal, some 27° and 59 minutes north of the equator, it is actually lower than mountains located in Ecuador.

8  Which is the most easterly US state?

Alaska

The Aleutian Islands are in the Eastern Hemisphere

East Yorkshire – Holderness and Spurn Point

18th July 2022 was predicted to be the hottest day ever, EVER, in the UK and we were setting off for a four night caravan break in East Yorkshire.  I generally associate caravans with rain and cold, not unbearable heat waves.  Luckily we have an electric fan so we packed that first.

We were heading to the Holderness Coast which stretches from Flamborough Head near Bridlington in the north to Spurn Head in the extreme south east of the County.  

As we listened to the radio it seemed as though the whole country was in heat panic, trains cancelled, airports shut, schools closed, people advised not to travel, drawer the curtains and retreat Gollum like into the shelter of a basement.    The sort of heat that melts steel, fries people’s brains and turns pigs into  bacon crisps.  It all seemed like a massive and ridiculous overreaction to me.  There have been hot spells before and everyone knows that in the UK these temperature blips are only ever temporary and rarely last more than a day or two.  For some reason the Government declared a National Emergency.

And what are people complaining about?  Many Brits spend a fortune every year to go to Southern Europe for exactly the sort of temperatures that they were moaning about today, We shouldn’t have to go to work in temperatures like this they complained in TV news interviews but they would be a bit miffed if Spanish waiters said the same.

We left early to stay ahead of the predicted ‘danger’ temperatures and the risk of melting road surfaces and crossed the Humber Bridge, negotiated the traffic queues through the city of Hull and eventually found ourselves in the south Yorkshire countryside, quite unlike anything in the North or the West.

Holderness is an area of the East Riding of Yorkshire, an area of rich agricultural land that was once marshland until it was drained for agriculture in the Middle Ages and as we journeyed East we  drove through miles and miles of wheat and barley fields all shining proudly gold and standing erect in the unexpected July sunshine.

Arriving at Yorkshire Wildlife Spurn Head visitor centre we paid the £5 parking fee and set off on the three mile walk to Yorkshire’s Land’s End.  I immediately wished I hadn’t been so foolish to pay the fee because there was free parking all along the side of the road.  It used to be possible to drive all the way to the end but a mighty Winter storm in 2013 washed away the road and created an island which is now cut off by high tides.

At the point that the road ended we found ourselves walking on a beach flanked by sand dunes and periodic derelict buildings also victims of the storm.  Out in the North Sea just a few miles away we could see the seventy-three off-shore wind turbines of the Humber Gateway Windfarm gleaming in the sunshine  like an army of Viking invaders in shining armour waiting to come ashore.

If temperatures were approaching 40 degrees inland that wasn’t the case here on the sand spit and a pleasant sea breeze kept things down around a very manageable 30 or so.  At the end of the walk we came to the Spurn lighthouse, redundant now for several years, the remains of the demolished lighthouse keepers cottage, a military parade ground and what was once an army gun emplacement protecting the entrance to the Humber Estuary. 

A short way out to sea is  a sea fort, one of two built during the First World War, one here and one on the South side near Cleethorpes near Grimsby.  Construction began in 1914 but they were not completed until 1919 after the war had ended,  Luckily the Germans didn’t attempt to invade via the Humber.  In the Second World War a chain net was strung between the two to  prevent enemy submarines entering the estuary.  A distance of about five miles.  

I found it a rather wild and eerie sort of place, voices of the old sea, abandoned history in every grain of sand and ghostly whispers in the breeze.    We were now at the most easterly point of Yorkshire and we stared out into the vast expanse of the North Sea and Scandinavia beyond.

Not the most easterly place in the UK because that is Lowestoft in East Anglia,

There is nothing to stay for once we had reached the end so we turned around and set off on the three mile trek back to the visitor centre and hoped that the tide hadn’t come in and cut us off from the mainland.

Geography Quiz

1  What is the most northerly capital city in the World?

2  What is the most southerly capital city in the World?

3  Which country is regarded as the centre of the Earth?

4  What is the Highest capital city in the World?

5  What is the Lowest capital city in the World?

6  Which country is closest to the South Pole?

7  Which country is closest to the Moon?

8  Which is the most easterly US state?

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

 

 

A to Z of Cathedrals – Z is for Zadar in Croatia

My A to Z of Cathedrals finishes today with Z for Zadar in Croatia…

We flew to Zadar because the air fares were absurdly cheap, our plan was to drive south so we didn’t stay long which in retrospect was rather rude.

Zadar was pleasant but the weather was poor and a couple of hours were just enough to see all of the things that needed to be seen.  In the centre were the ruins of the old Roman Forum and just as in Pula the previous year old bits of Roman buildings, columns and artefacts were strewn about the main square and the adjacent streets and there was an area of what looked like very important excavation work that was completely accessible to the public to go and make their own important archaeological discoveries.

A to Z of Cathedrals – Y is for Beverley Minster in Yorkshire

OK, not technically a Cathedral but still, in my opinion, grand enough to be included.

Minster is an honorific title given to particular churches in England most usually those that have been associated with monastic life sometime in the past.

Church hierarchy is a complicated matter because a Minster falls somewhere between Church and Cathedral but can confusingly stray either way.  Beverley Mister is a Church but thirty miles away York Minster is a Cathedral.  Beverley has a Bishop but he is based in York.  In London, Westminster is a Cathedral and an Abbey and a Minster and down the road there is a Roman Catholic Cathedral of the same name.

Read the full story Here…

This, by the way, is York Minster (Cathedral) obscured a bit behind the statue of Roman Emperor Constantine…

 

A to Z of Cathedrals – X is for Xwekjia in Gozo

When it comes to the letter X then thank goodness for Malta where the language does’t shy away from the 23rd letter of the alphabet.

The village of Xewkija on the island of Gozo is a modest place but has an enormous church with what is claimed to be the fourth or perhaps even the third largest unsupported church dome in the World.

To put that into some sort of perspective the largest is St Peter’s in Rome (fourth largest city in Western Europe) and the second largest is St Paul’s in London (population 7.5 million, give or take a thousand).  Xewkija is a village in rural Gozo with a population of about three thousand, three hundred people.  They didn’t have Christopher Wren to design it or Michelangelo to do the interior decoration – they built it themselves!

A to Z of Cathedrals – W is for Wroclaw in Poland

In Polish Poland is called “Polska”. It literally means “The Land of Fields” and it comes from the word “pole” meaning “a plain/a field”. However, the story behind the country’s name is  more complicated than that.  “Polska” derives from the name of one of the main tribes which established Poland in the 10th century.

In a recent survey 75% of the population of Poland said that they were practising Catholics.  Nearby Italy (where the Pope lives) only registered 74%.  Malta had the largest positive response at 95%. The least religious countries were all in the north where 80% of respondents in Estonia, Norway, Denmark and Sweden all said that religion isn’t important.

Rather odd that bearing in mind that they believe in Elves and Fairies and Goblins.

Interestingly this survey didn’t seem to include the Vatican State where there is a population of only about five hundred official citizens and three-quarters of these are clergy so I imagine the response would surely have been no less than 100%.

I wasn’t surprised by this high response in Poland because there are twenty churches on the map of the old town area of Wroclaw and three of them have towers to climb and I do like climbing towers and we set about tackling them in a sort of church tower triathlon.

Read the full story Here…

 

 

A to Z of Cathedrals – V is for Valletta in Malta

“Valletta equals in its noble architecture, if it does not excel, any capital in Europe. The city is one of the most beautiful, for its architecture and the splendour of its streets that I know: something between Venice and Cadiz.”  Benjamin Disraeli

After walking around the city and the Grand Harbour it was time to visit a church and although Kim wasn’t too keen, on account of the fact that the exterior was dull and uninteresting, we bought tickets to visit the Cathedral of St John and even Kim was pleased that we did because inside was a complete contrast with an opulent Baroque interior and a floor of headstones each commemorating one of the Knights of St John.

Read the full story Here…

Moon Quiz – The Answers

1  Who saw a Bad Moon Rising?

Creedence Clearwater Revival

2  Who said it was a marvellous night for a Moondance?

Van Morrisson

3  Who was wired to the Moon?

Chris Rea

4  Who had a Moonage Daydream

David Bowie

5  Who was in Love on a Harvest Moon

Neil Young