In February 2017 my Grandchildren came to stay for a few days at school half term holiday.
I took them to the Yorkshire seaside town of Hornsea.
I live close to the sea myself, near the resort town of Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire 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.
By contrast, Hornsea ia a real North Sea coast town 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.
Growing weary of the tedium of the lock-down and with holiday plans to Sicily in tatters we decided to meet with our friends and spend an evening together for a meal in a nearby pub. Kim tracked down an excellent deal of only £50 each for bed, breakfast and evening meal at a well recommended place with a two star AA rosette. Unlikely as it sounds owned by chef Colin McGurran who was a winner one time on ‘Great British Menu’.
It turned out to be a very good deal, placed on the south bank of the Humber Estuary, comfortable rooms, good views and an excellent meal. Kim had posh burger and I had East coast mussels.
The Hope and Anchor (above) is in the unfortunately named hamlet of Ferriby Sluice and is at the point where the River Ancholme drains into the Humber Estuary via a sluice gate and a set of locks. A hundred years or so ago it was a busy marina and a departure and return point for the leisure and packet boats that regularly used the Humber.
Boats have always left Ferriby (the clue is in the name). The Romans stopped here in Lincolnshire at the end of their great road, Ermine Street which linked London and Lincoln before continuing to the Humber and then crossed the river to the north bank to continue into Yorkshire. The Romans were famous for straight roads and the section from Lincoln to the Humber, a distance of thirty-five miles is one of the straightest in England.
Ferries on the Humber continued to be important until the construction of the Humber Bridge in 1981.
After breakfast we walked for a while along the banks of the River Ancholme butI have to say that it is not an especially thrilling or picturesque sort of place, a carpet of smelly algae on the river (thank goodness for coronavirus masks), a redundant cement works and a marine breakers yard. It does however have a National Historic Ship – The Amy Howson, a sloop that once worked the Humber and the Rivers and tributaries along the way to towns and cities as far apart as Grimsby and Sheffield.
It was rather chilly so we didn’t stay long this morning before driving across the River Ancholme and away along the south bank of the Humber.
This was a day for crossing rivers and driving west we crossed the Trent and then turning north the Ouse, the third and fourth longest rivers in England (after the Severn and the Thames). We were more or less at the point where they converge to form the River Humber. Other rivers contribute as well, principally the Don and the Aire and we crossed those as well.
Actually, the Humber isn’t really a river at all because for its entire length of only forty miles or so it is tidal so technically it is an estuary (I only mention this here in case someone challenges me on this important point of detail).
It may be one of the shortest rivers in England but it is also one of the most important as it deals with natural drainage from everything on the east side of the Pennines, the North Midlands and the Yorkshire Moors.
We rather rudely passed through Goole, Britain’s furthest inland port without stopping, I must go back and visit one day, but today we continued to the market town of Howden, a place that I have wanted to visit for some time.
Howden is a small historic market town lying in the Vale of York in the East Riding of Yorkshire, three miles north of the port town of Goole, it regularly features in lists of desirable places to live and is high up on a standard of living index. I liked it immediately and not just for the fact that it has free car parking.
All roads in Howden lead to the attractive Market Place next to the ruins of the sixteenth century Abbey and Minster, one of thirteen in the county of Yorkshire. Here is a curious fact, Howden was granted to the Bishop of Durham by William the Conqueror in 1080 and the town remained an enclave of Durham until 1846.
I imagine the Minster was once a fine building but it lost its status during the Reformation, was vandalised by Parliamentary soldiers in the English Civil War, the roof collapsed in 1696 and over the next hundred years or so the site was looted for its stone for alternative construction projects in and about the town and whilst the Minster lies in ruins the town has a network of streets with very fine Georgian buildings.
The Minster is currently undergoing restoration and we found it closed today which may have been due to the work or alternatively the dreaded coronavirus.
We found the town very agreeable and liked it very much so we walked the streets of the historic centre before stopping for coffee and cake at a town centre tea shop. We left in mid-afternoon and followed a route along the north bank of the estuary before crossing over the Humber Bridge back to North Lincolnshire which completed our quest of crossing all major rivers of the area.
The weather continued to improve. Not enough to go to the beach which disappointed the children but enough to go for a walk which disappointed them even more. I don’t know why I should be surprised by that, sixty years or so ago I expect I was just as reluctant to walk when on holiday with my parents.
From the cottage we walked down into the picturesque fishing village with its sash-windowed stone cottages with hanging gates and quirky names some bright with buoys and boat-shaped planters, seagulls squawking an unruly chorus on the rain shiny bird stained tiled roofs.
Staithes owes its existence to the fishing industry which, in its heyday, employed three hundred men and supported over one hundred boats. The whole village played an active part in the work, helping with repairing nets, baiting hooks and launching boats. When the railway opened in 1885, three trains per week transported Staithes fish to British cities. At the turn of the twentieth century steam trawlers from larger ports killed the locals’ livelihood, until only one full-time fisherman remained in the village.
At the Cod & Lobster pub, we turned on to Church Street and walked the steep uphill climb to join the Cleveland Way. I closed my ears to the complaints and offered the bribe of an ice cream upon our return. Our legwork was amply rewarded at the top by breath-taking views of the coast and countryside and a spectacular view of the village and the harbour.
From there we continued along to Port Mulgrave, the path drifting dramatically close to the edge of the cliff top revealing continuous evidence of coastal erosion. 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 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.
At Port Mulgrave the cliffs have been scraped away not by erosion but by industrial processes. There’s a different reason for the existence of Port Mulgrave – ironstone mining, which transformed this part of the coast in the mid-nineteenth century. There were ironstone seams in the coastal rocks laid down between 206 and 150 Million Years ago and the sheltered bay made a good harbour for boats coming to ship the ironstone out to Jarrow. The industry is long gone and little remains of the harbour, but the shoreline at Port Mulgrave stands as a reminder of the industry that once characterised this coast, one hundred years ago there were almost one hundred mines in North Yorkshire.
Rows of domestic properties and individual houses exist on the top of the cliff but Port Mulgrave is now derelict and the port itself is completely gone, destroyed by Royal Engineers during the Second World War to prevent it being used as a landing base for an invading army.
We had walked for just over two miles and I was happy to carry on but the constant complaining was beginning to wear me down so eventually I gave in and we returned by a shorter alternative route back to Staithes where the children remembered my promise of an ice cream.
Later on it started to rain again so we were confined once more to the cottage. During the night the rain continued and became heavier so I wasn’t too disappointed when morning came, we could pack the suitcases and begin the long drive home.
As you can see,, I have perfected the art of standing on higher ground than my granddaughter…
While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.
On 26th July 2019 I was in Skipsea in Yorkshire just a few miles north of where I live…
Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…
The advance of the sea is relentless.
Every year along the Holderness coast nearly two metres of coastline 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 where they don’t want it whilst it takes it away from here where they do.
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After a slow start to the year we finally got started in…
Once a year I generally take a holiday in the UK with my daughter and grandchildren. In previous years I have been to East Anglia, Yorkshire and Wales but on account of the distance never to Cornwall in the extreme South West. An Australian motorist would no doubt consider four hundred miles to be a drive to the mini-market to get a loaf of bread but in England this is generally considered to be a long way and an arduous journey that requires rather a lot of meticulous planning
I like Valencia and this was my second visit, it is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona and just ahead of Bilbao and Malaga and after we had got our bearings we set off to explore the heart of the old city and started first at a tapas bar in the “Plaza de la Vergen” in a gloriously sunny spot overlooking the east door of the Cathedral.
I had considered visiting Berlin several times over the last ten years, there are nearly always cheap flights available but for some reason I have never made it there. I had often come very close to booking flights but then somewhere more appealing has nicked in ahead of the German capital at the last minute and I have made alternative plans. Berlin would always have to wait.
This time I had no excuse not to go because I was invited to a gentlemen’s weekend away (ok, a stag party) so together with my brother Richard a party of boys several years younger than me, I left East Midlands Airport early one morning and two hours later was drinking beer at Schoenefeld Flughafen.
According to official statistics, after London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona, Madrid is the fifth most visited city in Europe (in that order) but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Compared to London, Paris and Rome it only achieved capital status relatively recently, and there is no iconic building to define it, no Eiffel Tower, no Colosseum and no Westminster Abbey and no famous cathedral or castle either so I was curious about what we were likely to see. Hemingway liked it so I was sure that I would too.
School holidays mean visiting grandchildren so to save the house and garden from being trashed I booked a few days away in a holiday home (caravan) in a part of Yorkshire that I have so far never felt inclined to visit. Tucked away in the south east of the county is a stretch of coastline between the city of Hull and the town of Bridlington and this was our destination. A holiday park at Skipsea Sands
We generally take our main annual holiday in September. Sometimes we go to the sea, usually the Greek Islands which are our favourites and sometimes we travel. This year we decided to travel and we chose to go to Portugal.
In 2017 we travelled through Northern Portugal using the trains but this time we planned to go South where the railway network is difficult or practically non-existent, so this time we were driving. Our plan was to visit the Algarve region and visit the towns and beaches of the south and west and then head inland to the historic towns of Beja, Evora, Estremoz and Elvas and also to spend a few days in Extremadura in Spain.
I have been to the Greek Island of Corfu several times, I have stayed at the village of Kalami several times but this didn’t stop me going again and we travelled on this occasion with our good friends Mike and Margaret.
I first visited Corfu thirty-five years previously and spent a couple of days driving around the island and secretively I had a plan to do so again this time and see what changes there have been over the years.
I visited Berlin six months ago and came away disappointed. After a short period of reflection I came to the conclusion that this was an unfair assessment, I was on a stag party weekend and it is difficult to fully appreciate a city when you only see it through the bottom of a beer glass. This time I liked it a whole lot better – I was right to go back.
I have mentioned before that when I was a boy I used to collect I-Spy books which were small paperback volumes that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Each book covered a subject such as I-SPY Cars, I-SPY on the Pavement, I-SPY on a Train Journey, and so on and so on.
The object was to be vigilant and spot objects such as animals, trees, policemen, fire engines, sea shells etc. etc. and they were recorded in the relevant book, and this gained points. More points were available for the more difficult spots. Once you had spotted everything and the book was complete, it could be sent to Big Chief I-SPY for a feather and an order of merit.
Why do I mention this here you ask? Well, I-Spy books may well have been a bit of trivial pastime but I actually think that they were useful in developing an enquiring mind and even now I am always looking to I-Spy something interesting or different.
I spotted this at Flamborough Head – the face of a lady in the white chalk cliffs. Can you see her?
I mentioned previously that there was no direct access to the beach from the caravan park at Skipsea Sands because coastal erosion has washed away the cliffs and the road and the pathways so the only way to get to the sand and the water was down a set of muddy steps that local residents have helpfully cut into the clay.
It is unlikely that these will be there next year because the village of Skipsea sits precariously on Yorkshire’s East Riding coast which is said to be the fastest eroding coastline in Europe. Since the Doomsday Book was completed in 1086 twenty-six villages along this stretch of coast have been lost to the sea. Cutting new steps to the beach is an annual job.
The advance of the sea is relentless. Every year along the Holderness coast nearly two metres of coastline 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.
Local residents persistently call for the local authorities to erect and maintain sea defences but this is just not financially viable (after all, it isn’t in the south of England), the area is officially designated as a zone of ‘no active intervention’ and it is inevitable that another twenty houses and a fish and chip shop will soon be lost to the waves. The Local Council is like King Canute and cannot control the sea.
These are houses that were built as recently as 1985 and at that time had long gardens and a road running the front but that seems rather foolish now. There were once houses on the other side of the road too but they had already gone which should perhaps have acted as a warning to the people who bought these properties as holiday homes. An especially violent storm in the winter of 2008 took the road away and the waves have gnawed away at the soft clay cliffs every year since.
Erosion is a problem along the east coast of England. When I was a boy we used to have family holidays in a chalet at a place called Walcott-on-Sea in the county of Norfolk. Every year that we went there were a few cottages missing as they had fallen over the cliff into the sea during the winter storms. Luckily ours, which was owned by a man called Mr Bean was furthest away from the cliff edge so each year before we left mum and dad could always book a week there the following year with some degree of confidence that it would still be there and they wouldn’t lose their deposit.
This is Walcott-on-Sea…
I 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 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 that time an area of land twelve miles wide has been eroded away and returned to the sea bed where it came from.
He pointed north to Flamborough Head about fifteen miles away where there is an exposed coastline of white chalk cliffs and explained that that was the real coastline of East Yorkshire but where we were standing it was buried under several feet of the boulder clay.
At the bottom of the steps were the remains of Second-World-War coastal defences, concrete pill-boxes that seventy years ago were on top of the cliffs but are now on the shore-line.
As we walked along the beach we searched the base of the cliffs for any fossils and the children were delighted to discover a rock which easily split in two and revealed the remains of sea shells that had been left here by the glacier all of those years ago. I couldn’t help wondering what this beach might look like in another fifty years time and I suggested to the children that they remember to come back at that time to see how different it might be then. One thing for sure the caravan that was our temporary home this week is most unlikely to still be there.
Skipsea is only a small village in East Yorkshire but there is more to it than just the beach so after we had tidied ourselves up and shaken the sand from our sandals we walked out now towards the village with a promise to the girls of some ice cream. Funny how a simple incentive like that can convince them to go for a long walk!
We didn’t take the direct route but instead took a coastal path through a cornfield and dangerously close to the severely eroded cliffs.
Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…
After a rather circuitous route we made our way into the village and after some helpful advice from local children found the church and the castle.
The church was closed of course. I remember when I was a boy on holiday with my family that churches were always open and my Dad would stop and visit them all, but it is a sad state of affairs now and a reflection on modern society that churches are mostly locked to protect themselves against theft and vandalism.
The children were beginning to nag now about when they would get their ice cream so after a quick circumnavigation of the churchyard we carried on to the castle.
Not much of a castle it has to be said, just a huge grassy mound in a farmer’s field because it was demolished over seven hundred years ago on account of having no strategic or military value. The children were not impressed and neither I suspect was Kim.
Close by was the village shop where the girls got their ice cream and next door was a pub where I got a glass of beer.