Category Archives: United Kingdom

The Queen – A Personal Memory

I never met the Queen of course but one day in 2008 I attended a Buckingham Palace Garden Party.  What a day to remember that was…

Read the Full Story Here…

East Yorkshire – Skipsea Walks

I like going on holiday in England but as I get older and fuel gets more expensive I find driving tedious and frustrating.  East Yorkshire has everything I need, the roads aren’t busy and it is only fifty miles away.

I have written about it before so just pictures this time.

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East Yorkshire – Hornsea and a Litter Pick

On arrival I was immediately impressed.  I live near the resort town of Cleethorpes but although it is a popular holiday resort it has to be said that it is just a muddy estuary where the sea is barely visible for long periods of the day but this was real North Sea coast with a raging sea, barnacled groynes, pounding surf, churning water and a pebble beach clattering away as it was constantly rearranged by the tidal surge.

 

Read the full story Here…

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…

A to Z of Cathedrals – R is for Ripon in Yorkshire

The website Britain Express awards Ripon Cathedral a Heritage rating of four out of five and we entered through the main doors and waited for a few minutes while prayers were being said and then made a rapid tour of one of the smallest cathedrals in England.

Ripon is the Cathedral of the Bishop of Leeds for the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.  This is a new Diocese created by a Church reorganisation in 2014 and as well as Ripon the Diocese has two more cathedrals at Wakefield and Bradford.

Read the full story Here…

 

The Fear of Dogs

Yesterday I raised the subject of fear of dogs.  It is called cynophobia.

I don’t like dogs because I see no redeeming features in them. They sweat, they are greasy, they smell, they have bad breath, they shit on the pavements and they urinate up my garden wall.  What is there possibly to like about them?  If I was Prime Minister I would have them all rounded up and destroyed!

And I have to say that I agree with Bill Bryson:

“It wouldn’t bother me in the least…if all the dogs in the world were placed in a sack and taken to some distant island… where they could romp around and sniff each other’s anuses to their hearts’ content and never bother or terrorise me again.” 

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From the Archives – Angling/Fishing

These days I can’t really understand the point of catching fish unless you are going to eat them but I used to go fishing for about three years between ten and thirteen years old.

These days the only fishing I do is at the supermarket.

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From The Archives – Hillmorton County School

The Hillmorton County Junior School was an old Victorian building with high ceilings that soared into the sky and partitioned classrooms with rows of old fashioned wooden desks with years of scratched graffiti  and attached lift up seats on squeaking hinges.

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East Anglia – Bury St Edmunds and The Patron Saint of Pandemics

Bury St Edmunds was another town that I had never visited. A few years ago I drove through it and was struck by the elegant market place with a tall cathedral and fine Georgian buildings and I made a note to self to pay a proper visit one day.
This was it.
In terms of the weather we had unfortunately picked a very bad week to be on an English staycation and we weren’t too disappointed to be leaving the holiday home (caravan) so we packed up early and headed away from the coast and into rural Suffolk and drove through villages which had seen significant overnight snowfall. I thought that I was in Alaska. Contrary to popular folklore March had roared in like a lion and instead of going out like a lamb was going out the same way.
Fortunately the further west that we drove the weather began to incrementally improve and there were even some glimpses of elusive blue sky. We arrived in late morning which was too early to book into our chosen hotel so we made instead for the centre of the town. Local folk call the town Bury but being from the North I always think of Bury as being in Manchester so I prefer to think of this place as Bury St Edmunds. It sounds posher.

After Ipswich and Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds is the third largest place in Suffolk and we liked it immediately. After tea and biscuits in the Cathedral coffee shop Kim and Mum made directly for the High Street shops and I went off to investigate the Abbey Gardens and the Cathedral.
The Abbey of St Edmund was once one of the richest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in all of England. In 869, Edmund, King of the East Angles was murdered by invading Danes when he refused to renounce Christianity. For his stubbornness he was tied to a tree and shot through with arrows and had his head cut off to make sure. No half measures in those days. I wonder sometimes about medieval torture, surely the victim was well and truly dead before the torturers had finished. Vladamir Putin would have been a medieval torturer I am sure.

His death led to the building of the Abbey to house his remains and his shrine quickly became a place of pilgrimage. The Cult of Edmund flourished during the Middle Ages and he was temporarily revered as the patron Saint of medieval England until at some point he was replaced by Saint George.
Today he has the unlikely title of the Patron Saint of Pandemics so I imagine that he has been rather busy listening to prayers for the past couple of years or so. He is said to have been given this title after the French city of Toulouse (who claimed to have some important relics of his) became ravaged by plague in the seventeenth century. Residents of the prayed to Edmund after which the plague came to an abrupt end. As Michael Caine might have said “Not a lot of people know that”.

Maybe if more people had known this the World could have saved a fortune on developing Covid vaccinations and going into expensive lockdown. I wish that I had known that because if I had I would have said a prayer to St Edmund because a few days after returning home from East Anglia both Kim and I both tested positive for Covid.

After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s the Abbey naturally began to fall into disrepair and lots of stone was taken for alternative building projects around the town. I was quite surprised therefore to discover that so much of it remained in a vast well maintained town centre park.
Near the Cathedral there are houses built into the walls which reminded of Antoni Gaudi creations in Barcelona. I don’t suppose that Gaudi ever visited Bury St Edmunds but if he had he may have got inspiration here,

I spent some time in the Gardens, walked every path and read each and every information board.

Towards the end of the afternoon I made my visit to the Cathedral. Free admission by the way. Up to 1914 Suffolk didn’t have a Cathedral and was part of a wider diocese of East Anglia with the Cathedral in Norwich in Norfolk but it was then decided that it required one of its own. This presented the Church with a dilemma.

Ipswich is the biggest town in the County but Bury St Edmunds had the most famous church thanks to the St Edmund connection. The Church came to a compromise, Ipswich would get the Bishop’s House and be the base of the diocese and Bury St Edmunds would get the Cathedral and everyone agreed that that was a good idea except perhaps for the Bishop who has a hundred mile round trip every week to get to Sunday service which would have been much more of an inconvenience over a hundred years ago than it is today.

Ipswich is not unique, it is not the only County town without an Anglican Cathedral and there are others – Warwick, Cambridge (I mentioned that before), Northampton (I mentioned that before as well), Nottingham, Aylesbury and Shrewesbury are other examples. At the same time that Suffolk became a diocese so too did Essex with its own Cathedral in Chelmsford.

Not a brilliant Cathedral I have to say but it provided me with a pleasant fifteen minute visit, especially as the choir was practising which was very nice, before I left and rejoined the others at the agreed time.

I had enjoyed my afternoon in Bury St Edmunds and I was forced to concede that this was a town where half a day it isn’t long enough so I will have to make another note to self to return one day and stay longer.

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