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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Walak 53 Hessle to the east of Kingston Upon Hull

Walk 53   Hessle to the east of Kingston Upon Hull

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 107
Distance: about 8 miles
Difficulty:  easy, flat
Terrain: paths and pavements
Access: Parking at Hessle Park and Ride.
Public transport:  Buses from the Park and Ride or from Hessle

The walk starts eastwards along the north of the Humber near Hessle following the Yorkshire Wolds Way to start with then on to the Trans Pennine Trail. On the way into Hull there are a number of derelict buildings by the river side (which may have been cleared by now) – one of them belonged to The Seafish Industry Authority now located in Edinburgh and Grimsby.

Hull is an interesting place and does not deserve the sneer I get when I mention it as a place to visit. Along the river front is the sculpture of some characters looking out to sea. It depicts a family from northern Europe having temporarily left ship here before going to Liverpool then by ship to America. From 1836-1914 over 2.2 million people passed through Hull en route to a new life in the USA, Canada, South America and Australia. The Wilson Shipping Line leased a separate landing wharf at Hull to cope with the numbers passing through. The outbreak of the First World War and immigration acts in the Americas almost ended the migrations overnight.

Further along near the harbour a inch anti-submarine gun points out to sea. It was recovered from the wreck of the SS Gretorria sunk in action on 27th September 1917. The large wheel of a superbly preserved horizontal steam engine is a short walk from here at the Humber Dock Promenade. The single cylinder winding engine was originally sited at the Victorian Dock Basin further to the east. It was made in 1866 and was used to draw vessels up from the Humber for repairs and refitting. It was relocated here in 1987.

The Humber Dock promenade goes inland and a walk into the city is convenient from here. The modernised space with fountains is attractively laid out.

Hull City Centre has some impressive buildings. There has been a settlement here for at least 800 years. As a port it predates Liverpool and has maintained links with the major Baltic and Scandinavian trading centres. The city is famous for William Wilberforce (anti slavery campaigner) whose birthplace can be found in the Old Town. Other famous people include Philip Larkin the poet (a Larkin trail was set up around the city soon after I walked there), John Prescott, John Venn (of Venn diagram fame), David Whitfield (the singer), Andrew Marvell, Andrew Motion and Stevie Smith (all poets), John Alderton, Ian Charmichael (actors) and the flying pioneer Amy Johnson.

Returning to the promenade and walking eastwards are the Victorian Pier and part of the old Victorian Dock. A statue of a man leaning out towards the sea is called Voyage. There is a sister sculpture in Vik on the south coast of Iceland and they symbolise 1000 years of trading with Iceland. It was erected after the 30 year dispute with Iceland - the ‘Cod Wars’.

Further along is ‘The Deep’ an aquarium praised for its architecture. It houses an impressive collection of fish – over 3500 types. A sculpture of a Grey Reef Shark stands on the riverside of the building. From here there is a swing footbridge which I was fortunate enough to see open and let shipping through.

The walk from here is a pleasant one with very helpful information boards detailing the history of each section. These include: a foreign cattle depot which once imported cattle from the continent – in 1887 52,000 sheep 2000 pigs and 9000 cattle were brought in and slaughtered on shore - refrigeration in ships stopped this trade. Several timber ponds used to store and handle wood – these were completely drained in 1991 and houses built and old flood gates which were superseded in 1987 by a new flood defence to protect the houses built on the old Victorian Docks.

Part of this new part of Hull is celebrated by a sculpture on the promenade commissioned by local residents to depict the movement of the sea and sky.

When I walked this stretch the remains of broken down buildings on the foreshore made a rather sorry sight. I spoke to a local man who told me that there were plans to turn this area into a 24 hour container port. Local people were vigorously fighting these proposals. I wonder if they succeeded?

It is worth a stroll along to the Port of Hull which is one of the leading trade ports in the UK. There are regular short crossings to Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. It is the UKs foremost port for handling timber and related products. It is also the only passenger port on The Humber – one million passengers a year use the P&O super cruise ferries from Hull to Rotterdam. These large ships can be seen at close proximity.

This marks the end of the walk and a return to Hull centre.

Photos show: Horizontal steam engine on  Hull dock promenade, swing footbridge for shipping near The Deep, old floodgates and a ship in the Port of Hull dock.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Walk 52 Goxhill Haven to Hessle near Hull

Walk 52   Goxhill Haven to Hessle across the River Humber into Yorkshire

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 107
Distance: about 11 miles
Difficulty:  quite easy, mostly flat
Terrain: paths and road
Access: Parking at Hessle or New Holland (there is a return walk to Goxhill Haven from New Holland).
Public transport:  The 350 bus leaves Humber Bridge north for Barton Upon Humber at 8:40 and 1:40 and trains leave Barton for New Holland every two hours or so. Always check as the bus services especially are in danger of being reduced or possibly removed.

Starting at New Holland walk eastwards to Coxhill Haven and then the short distance to Skitter Ness. The path does continue south towards North Killinghome but I decided that the view down there was sufficient. This is a bleak area with the large oil terminal of North Killinghome visible in the distance. It was near to this point that in 1607 the Pilgrim Fathers made their second successful illegal emigration to Holland. Near Goxhill Haven I spotted a rusty old boat tipped on its side – I wonder if it is still there?

The walk back westwards through Goxhill Haven provides good views across the Humber. This busy stretch of water has about 40,000 ship movements a year – the most in the UK. It is the UKs largest port complex and handles 14% of our international trade. A view across the river is dominated by Hull or Kingston Upon Hull to give it the correct name.

The next settlement is New Holland. The railway and pier here once served as a ferry to Hull (up to when the bridge was built). Oddly, cars using the ferry drove on and off along the station platform.

Further along is Barrow Haven the site of a pre 1848 ferry. The settlement has a station and is renowned for brick making using clay from the edges of The Humber. The impressive Humber Bridge dominates the view westwards. 

The path passes past the old clay pits before ending up alongside Waters Edge Country Park. Most of the clay pits have been turned into wildlife refuges. The path turns inwards alongside a busy quayside and then on to a road which leads to Barton Upon Humber. The Roman Ermine Street crossed the Humber near this point - it was possible to use a ford and a ferry was used later on. Not all were impressed by Barton, Daniel Defoe writing in 1725 said: Barton is a town noted for nothing that I know but an ill favoured dangerous ferry. It has to be said that his judgement might have been clouded as the open ferry took 4 hours to get to the other side and was carrying 15 horses and 12 cows!

The walk continues back northwards to the riverside next to the Humber Bridge. Follow the signs to the pedestrian walkway. Good views of the river can be appreciated especially to the east. The bridge is 1 and  1/3 miles long. It was opened by the Queen in 1981 and connects Hull with the south bank which was previously served by a ferry. At the time it was built it was the longest span suspension bridge in the world. As far as I can tell it is now the fifth longest having been passed by bridges in Denmark and the Far East. If you cross the bridge by car it is quite expensive – around £3 when I went.

On the northern bank of the Humber is an area of Hessle which dates form Anglo Saxon times and for a long time was an important ship building centre. The Ferry Boat Inn can be spotted not far from the bridge and is evidence of the arrival point of the old ferry from New Holland on the opposite bank; this closed when the bridge was built. The walking route into Hessle is marked - it passes through a car park then on to a main road and access to buses into Hull.

Photos show the quayside at Barton upon Humber and the wreck mentioned above.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Walk 51 Cleethorpes to Immingham

Walk 51   Cleethorpes to Immingham (Lincs)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: 113
Distance: 10 miles, a couple of miles longer if using public transport
Difficulty:  quite easy, mostly flat
Terrain: paths and road
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport:  Bus and train service at Cleethorpes - the 46 bus runs from Immingham to Grimsby and Cleethorpes every hour.

Start near the car park at the Discovery Centre to the south of Cleethorpes or walk there from the town. Looking south the Humberston Fitties can be seen in the distance – this is a large conservation area. Also near here is one of the largest caravan sites in the country. Haile Sandfort built in 1918 can be reached by walking across the sands, it was reused as a defence housing soldiers in World War 2. However, be careful if you try this as the tide goes out about a mile and can rush in quickly and dangerously. A large theme park is behind the trees on the shore side.

Walking northwards there is an attractive area of small inland lakes. It is worth walking along the coastal road to appreciate some of the modern art adjacent to the road - this includes a deck chair called ‘forty winks’. The attractive front along this stretch includes a flower bed advertising the Grimsby Telegraph. This reflects the fact that Grimsby and Cleethorpes were merged in 1996. The Greenwich meridian passes through the town and there is allegedly a signpost showing various long distances e.g. New York. I don’t think this is too near the coast edge as I failed to spot it.

Cleethorpes was originally a fishing village and in 1801 had a population of just 264. Clee means clay and thorpe village. In the 1840s it became popular because of the medicinal qualities of the water. In the 1870s day trippers from industrial Yorkshire formed a large group of visitors. Cleethorpes is known locally as Meggie possible because a Meg (an old halfpenny) was the cost of a tram from nearby Grimsby.

Further along the promenade the pier comes into view. It was built in 1873 by the rail companies to encourage more visitors. It suffered badly from fire in 1903 and was rebuilt in 1905 – showing that fires on piers are not just a modern day problem. The current pier is a modernised version. The walk continues past Ross Castle on the left. This too was built by a railway company which was very keen to develop Cleethorpes as a resort. It is named after the secretary of the rail company - Edmund Ross. It was an attraction from 1885 when it was built together with nearby gardens. In later years it became less used and needed restoration in 2007. Now a listed building, many local people refer to it as a folly.

Follow the sea wall to the north out of Cleethorpes. Near to the coast are the floodlights of Grimsby FC who play at Blundell Park. Strangely the ground is actually within the boundaries of Cleethorpes. Past this point roads have to be navigated before entering Grimsby. It is worth a walk to the fishing docks. The town was founded by the Danes in the 9th century and became a fishing and trading port in the 12th century. There is an impressive tower rising out of the docks. This was built in 1852 and is 350 feet high – it provided water for the hydraulically operated dock gates. A stroll along some of the roads in the docks leaves you in doubt that you are in a modern fishing port - with both your eyes and nose! It is the UKs most advanced fishing port but some impressive older buildings remain in the docks. The fishing heritage centre in the town is informative and includes information about what constitutes bad luck on a fishing vessel – a bird tapping on a window is a sign of impending death – to say egg, pig, clergyman or rabbit aboard a trawler could all mean bad luck! During the Second World War a number of Danish fishing boats sailed to Grimsby to escape the German invasion.

After navigating some roads rejoin the coastal walk to the north of Grimsby. I can’t pretend this is a pretty walk with evidence of much industry all the way to Immingham docks. There is a path inland before reaching the docks. I was glad there was as not far from this exit is large chemical works with a public notice warning about the dangers of chemical escapes warning you to leave the area immediately if the sirens and flashing lights start. I noticed a sinister cloud billowing out of here and unbelievably the warning sounds went off. I have rarely walked as fast. On the walk inland to Immingham two fire engines sped past!

Photos show: lakeside area to the south of Cleethorpes; Ross Castle on Cleethorpes promenade; a view to Grimsby from Cleethorpes (Grimsby FC ground is in the picture); the tower at Grimsby fishing dock; the notice outside the chemical factory and finally the smoke billowing from the works which made reading the notice important (as described above).

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Walk 50 Theddlethorpe St Helen to Saltfleet and back

Walk 50   Theddlethorpe St Helen to Saltfleet and back (Lincs)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: 113
Distance: about 8 miles return
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths alongside dunes and some road
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport:  There was an infrequent bus service but it is not clear on the website whether this is still running (you could walk to and from Mablethorpe adding another 6 miles or so).

Coastal walking from here to Cleethorpes is difficult with much of the sand dangerous due to unexploded shells and other ordnance. The walk is possible, but there are lengthy diversions inland and I only walked the section described here. I also drove to Donna Nook to have a look around.

The area around Theddlethorpe St Helen is part of a national nature reserve. The sands and saltmarshes are home to an array of birds and wildlife. It is one of the few remaining habitats for the Natterjack toad recognised by the pale stripe along its back and its way of running instead of hopping. At low tide the sea seems to disappear along this stretch of coast.

The walk along the edge of the sands to Saltfleet is 3 to 4 miles. Care needs to be taken on this stretch – keep to the path to avoid possible dangers of explosives. A notice at Saltfleet shore warns walkers not to veer from the path because of unexploded ammunition. The area was used as an RAF bombing range.

Saltfleet Haven is a quiet place dotted with boats. There is a lot of samphire or glasswort growing around here. It was once burnt to provide ash for use in the glass making industry. It was also known as poor mans asparagus – washed and soaked to remove salt, boiled for a few minutes and served with a knob of butter and lemon juice.

Saltfleet village has some interesting old buildings. These include a manor house, St Botolph’s church (not used now) and two pubs. In Roman times Saltfleet was a port.

I drove up to Donna Nook to look around. This is now a national nature reserve on the Humber estuary and an important site for wintering waders, ducks and geese. The mudflats are rich in bird food e.g. worms and crustaceans. The area is named after the ‘Donna’ a ship from the Spanish Armada which sailed off the ‘nook’ (a corner). A notice says that the nature reserve lives in harmony with the military planes.

Photos show: Saltfleet Haven; Saltfleet Shore; the sands at Theddlethorpe St Helen; Donna Nook with warning notice.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Walk 49 Chapel St Leonards to Mablethorpe

Walk 49   Chapel St Leonards to Mablethorpe (Lincs)

(First leg of English Coastal Walk - Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland)

Map: L/R 122
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty: easy to moderate depending on the amount of sand walking
Terrain: pavement/road/sand
Access: parking at both ends
Public transport: buses at both ends

Rejoin the walk at Chapel Point and walk either along the beach or on the road - once you have made the choice you will need to stick to it for a couple of miles or so as I wouldn't recommend crossing the marsh!

At Anderby Creek there is a unique 'Cloud Bar' on the foreshore which is well worth a visit (free). It was constructed by the Cloud Appreciation Society and is Britain's only cloud spotting platform. An information panel gives guidance on how to spot the different types of clouds with comprehensive guidance on how they are formed and where to go for further information. Looking along the beach you may well see horses ridden along the soft sands.

Further up the beach either by sand or road is Moggs Eye/Huttoft Beach. This beach is recommended by surfers as being particularly good in the winter when the wind is usually from the west. (It is also featured in the Good Beach Guide). John Betjeman loved Lincolnshire and the nearby village of Huttoft provided the inspiration for his poem 'A Lincolnshire Church'.

A few miles further north is Sutton on Sea. A handsome new Edwardian resort was once planned for here but the plans were scuppered by the outbreak of the First World War. The names of the  beach huts along this stretch reflect the usual bracing weather here -  a few examples of those I spotted: Goosebumps, Wind Rush and Chill Out.

At Mablethorpe there are gated flood defences. The sea walls have regularly been breached right back to the time of the Romans. In the 1953 great floods 43 of the 307 people killed lived between here and Skegness. Three further floods have hit since then and several projects including dumping millions of tons of sand to create higher beaches have been tried.

I do hope the strange looking beach huts are still there - they are odd but fascinating. In 2007 there was a contest to explore different designs of beach huts and over 100 exhibits were entered. Some of them were left in situ and provide a great talking point.

Lord Tennyson used to rent a cottage in Mablethorpe for his summer holidays. He often returned to the town sometimes to see the spring and high tides and at other times when he was feeling despondent. However, it is said that he was disappointed when he found the area colder than his childhood memories.

It is worth exploring the northern part of Mablethorpe, first on the cliffs from some odd, but surprisingly comfortable, concrete seats, and then on  the sands. The sand train runs along the beach to the north and has being running in season since 1952. It was still doing good business when I went in October - a trip to the end on the train and a walk back along the delightful sands are a pleasant way to end the walk.

Photos show: the beach at Chapel St Leonards; the centre of Chapel; the cloud bar at Anderby Bank; one of the strange beach huts at Mablethorpe and the sand train at Mablethrorpe beach.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Walk 48 Skegness to Chapel St Leonards

Walk 48          Skegness to Chapel St Leonards (Lincolnshire)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: 122
Distance: about 11 miles
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths and some road/pavement/sand
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport:  No 1 and No 3 buses go regularly between the two points.
It is probably worth walking a mile or so to the south of Skegness to enjoy the views of the extensive sands which continue to Gibraltar Point. Most of this area, from which the sea has been retreating for 300 years, is part of a national nature reserve.

Retracing the journey back to Skegness two wind farms form a prominent part of the seascape. Skegness comes from the Scandinavian word ‘Sheggi’ meaning the bearded one. It is likely that Sheggi was a Viking leader whose force invaded and settled here although the original settlement was washed away some time later.

Skegness has impressive wide sands with a typical British resort seafront; fast food, outlets, amusements and holiday parks feature strongly. In fact the town is home to the first Butlins Holiday Camp built in 1936. The camp (which is near to the coast walk north of the town) has been updated to meet modern needs with one of the original chalets preserved as a listed building.  One of the original slogans for Butlins was ‘A week’s holiday for a week’s wage’.

Once the railway arrived in Skegness in 1863 visitors arrived in ever increasing numbers. Watch out for pictures of the iconic ‘Skegness is SO bracing’ railway posters – reflecting a time when this would have been an attraction! There are well tended flower beds adjacent to Skegness sea front, one of them contains a sculpture of The Jolly Fisherman - the character used on the railway posters.

The road from the beach into the centre of Skegness features the clock tower - a significant local landmark. It is 50 feet high and was built in 1898 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. In 1998 a time capsule was buried under the traffic island beneath the tower to celebrate 100 years of laying the foundation stone.

Further along the front is Skegness Pier. It was opened in 1881 and was originally 1845 feet long, one of the longest in England. There were kiosks, seating, refreshment rooms and a concert area. Paddle steamers also crossed The Wash from here to connect with Hunstanton via Kings Lynn and Boston. Unfortunately, they stopped operating in 1910 when sand banks built up making it unsafe. In 1978 the pier was badly damaged in a storm and the end was removed in 1985. It is now much shorter but is still an attraction.

The walk along the promenade leaves Skegness then there is a choice between walking on the sands or going by road around the golf course before returning to the coast at Winthorpe. From here there is an almost continuous concrete barrier built after the devastating floods that hit the east of England in 1953. The path eventually arrives at Ingoldmells, not an attractive place unless you are a fan of massive holiday parks, caravans, amusement arcades, fast food outlets etc.

The walk into Chapel St Leonards is a pleasant one which passes alongside large stretches of sand. Continue to Chapel Point to the north which was once part of a major coastal defence during the Second World War. The gun structure and surroundings have been restored here to capture the views of the east coast. Walk back to Chapel St Leonards. The town became popular in the twentieth century with the advent of the car. Visitors used to pitch tents on the beach until chalets were built along the sand dunes in the 1930s. It is known locally as ‘Chapel’ and is named after a chapel dedicated to St Leonard built in ancient times. The church was rebuilt in 1572 then amended periodically and is the only one with a red steeple in Lincolnshire. A modern bell structure on a well kept green near the front provides an attractive oasis compared to the nearby modern buildings.

Photos show: Skegness sands, the clocktower at Skegness, Jolly Fisherman and flower beds, Skegness front and Imgoldmells.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Walk 47 Boston to Wrangle (Lincs)

Walk 47          Boston to Wrangle (Lincolnshire)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 131 and 122
Distance: about 14 miles
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths, some pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular weekday service to and from Boston bus station to Wrangle (carries on to Skegness) check boards at the bus station.

This stretch is quite popular with people strolling along the north side of the river as it progresses towards The Wash. When I went it became more of a solitary experience on the northward stretch alongside Boston Deeps.

The walk out of Boston along The Haven is varied taking in views as diverse as a sewage works and a country park. About three miles along, just before Hobbhole Drain, there is an interesting memorial to the Pilgrim Fathers. They set sail from this point, now known as Scotia Creek, in September 1607. Unfortunately, they did not get very far on their first attempt. The small community from Scrooby (just over the Lincs. border in Nottinghamshire) bribed a Dutch captain to take them to religious freedom overseas; however he informed the authorities of their plans and the whole lot were returned to Boston – several ending up in the cells of the guildhall. A second attempt was more successful and after living in the Netherlands for several years the group set sail to join the Mayflower at Southampton.

At the end of the estuary, near where it meets The Wash, is a brick built ‘hide’ where you could spend a little time looking at the nearby sea-life. The marshes of The Scalp can be seen to the south and Black Buoy sand (and Mud) straight ahead and to the north. A couple of eastern European girls asked me how far it was to ‘the beach on the ocean’ – I think their expectations may have been dashed when they got there!

A diversion to the path was in place when I went - this may be permanent and the latest OS map may have changed as a result. The walk passes close to North Sea Camp (about half a mile inland). This has been a prison since 1988 and prior to that was a borstal. A cone type brick built structure near to the coast celebrates the work begun manually by the boys of North Sea Camp in 1936 which resulted in 500 acres of land being claimed back from the sea.

A couple of miles further up the coast is Freiston Shore with its RSPB nature reserve and lagoon. The walk from hereon alongside the marshes of Wrangle Flats is rather bleak. Inland there is productive arable farmland and cows often blocked the path resulting in a muddy diversion!

The end of the walk is at Wrangle. The name comes from the Scandinavian ‘Urangr’ meaning bent or crooked – a reference to a stream long since gone. Centuries ago there was a harbour here but it silted up. The accumulation of seaward marsh and enclosure of pasture land means that the village is now well inland. St Mary and St Nicholas Church dates back to the fourteenth century and will be of interest to those who enjoy visiting old churches.

Photos show: the estuary of The Haven, part of the marshy walk described above and a view of the village of Wrangle.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Walk 46 Spalding to Boston (Lincolnshire)

Walk 46          Spalding to Boston (Lincolnshire)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 131
Distance: about 16 miles
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths, some pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Rail and bus services at both ends

There is a stretch of walking omitted here. I initially started walking the stretch that starts at Sutton Bridge goes around The Wash and ends at Spalding. However, the military had the red flag flying and I decided to turn back. The part that I did walk was featureless and a glance at the map suggested it may well remain that way. Let me know if you know better! The River Nene (opposite bank done in the last walk) looks like a canal and was the result of large scale drainage of the Fens in the 17th century.

The main walk is bit longer than I usually attempt but it is flat and easily done within a ‘summer time’ day. Spalding is an attractive town with Georgian houses and river walks nestled along the Welland. Look out for the thatched White Horse pub, the medieval church and Ayscoughfee Hall. The latter is a fifteenth century manor house with attractive gardens. It is now a museum which includes a section on local explorer Matthew Flinders – he surveyed the coast of Australia in the eighteenth century. Spalding is famous for its annual flower festival.

The walk out of Spalding starts on the east bank of the River Welland and continues north for a few miles past Surfleet Seas End on the opposite bank. The whole of this area battled against floods until 1739 when a sluice was built. At Fosdyke Bridge, a few miles to the north, there is a crossing to the opposite bank to join the Macmillan Way around The Wash and into Boston.

Much of this area is a National Nature Reserve especially around Frampton Marsh. The many enthusiasts with their binoculars underline what a fantastic place it is to spot sea birds and birds of prey. Barn owls, kestrels and sparrow hawks are among the regular visitors. The saltmarsh here is regularly flooded by the sea and this is vital to maintain its variety of wildlife.

The path turns left to follow the banks of The Haven into Boston. The river bank changes from a rural outlook to an industrial one. Boston is a busy port which exports cattle, coal and vegetables and imports timber, fruit and fertiliser. Boats come the 5 miles inland up the Haven from The Wash. On the walk into Boston a railway appears to drop straight into the river but further examination shows it to be connected with a swing bridge on the opposite bank.

The river near the centre of Boston was low and muddy when I went – look out for The Pilgrim House near the river bank. In the 18th century several Boston men took part in the exploration of Australia and it was around this time that floods and the silting up of the river channels reduced the town’s importance. However, the construction of the docks and deepening of the river revived the town in the 19th century.

It is almost impossible to miss St Botolph’s Church with its famous tower known as ‘The Stump’. This is the tallest church tower in the country (272 feet high) and was begun in 1309. It can be seen for many miles in all directions across the marshes. The large church reflects the past wealth of the wool producing merchants in the town. The Market Place is well worth visiting with its variety of architecture. The impressive statue is of Sir Herbert Ingram who was born in Boston and became the MP. The classical figure of a water carrier beneath the statue refers to his influence in bringing piped water to the town. Unfortunately, Sir Herbert drowned in Lake Michigan in 1856.

Photos show the River Welland at Spalding, Fosdyke Bridge, view in the centre of Boston with Pilgrim's House and The Stump alongside the river at Boston.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Walk 45 Kings Lynn to Sutton Bridge (Norfolk and Lincolnshire)

Walk 45          Kings Lynn to Sutton Bridge (Norfolk and Lincolnshire)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 132 and 131
Distance: about 12 miles
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths, some pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: 505 bus between Kings Lynn and Sutton Bridge every 20 minutes Mon-Sat and once an hour on Sunday.

If you are going by car you could take a quick diversion to Snettisham Scalp. A pleasant enough beach – a scalp is an oyster or mussel bed. A German prisoner of war camp was near here in World War 2.

The walk starts on the north east side of Kings Lynn (or Lynn as it is called by locals) on the bank of the Great Ouse. The town was an important port from the eleventh century. It continues to receive shipping although pilots are necessary to navigate the hazardous channels and sandbanks of The Wash. You can’t walk too far up this bank before encountering light industry so retrace the walk back into Kings Lynn.

The Tuesday Market area of the town (originally a thriving trading market) is surrounded by some impressive buildings. For two weeks, starting on February 14th each year, there is a fair and music. Traditionally this is the first fun fair of the year in the showmen’s calendar. The town was named ‘Kings’ Lynn when it became the property of Henry V111. Further along the quayside is the old customs house fronted by a statue of Captain Vancouver. In 1792 this Kings Lynn resident landed on the north west coast of America to declare the land British Columbia. Vancouver is now the largest port in Canada and the birthplace of container shipping.

Further along the quayside going inland is an impressive sculpture of a seaman. A further area of interest is the Green Quay with its old buildings. An 800 year old cod skeleton found in Lynn shows that they grew up to 51 inches! The Campbell Food factory is in the town.

The path continues until it meets the bridge which crosses over to West Lynn and progresses northwards up the Great Ouse; the edge of The Wash is on one side and Terrington Marshes on the other. It is a bleak walk which should have at least the merit of being peaceful. However, there is the regular scream of low flying jets practising manoeuvres in The Wash - a bit scary and sinister.

The path around to Sutton Bridge is called the Peter Scott Walk as a tribute to the famous naturalist. It progresses several miles before turning inwards down the River Nene. A short way along is a lighthouse attached to living accommodation. It was opened in 1831 and was meant as a grand entrance to the new Nene Channel which had just been been dug out. There is a similar building on the opposite bank. Neither of the lighthouses was ever lit. Sir Peter Scott lived in this eastern lighthouse from 1933 to 1939. It was from here that a number of his wildlife studies and paintings were undertaken.

Further down the path Port Sutton Bridge, a successful trading area, dominates the opposite bank. At the end of the path is the impressive Cross Keys Swing Bridge. There have been three bridges on this sight including one designed by Robert Stevenson son of George Stevenson who designed the 'Rocket'. The current bridge was opened in 1897 as a road (and at that period rail) swing bridge. It is hydraulically operated and in its heyday would open about 900 times a year. It now opens no more than 2 or 3 times a week to let shipping up the river to Wisbech.

Snaps show: The Peter Scott Walk and lighthouse; Captain Vancouver statue at Kings Lynn; Cross Keys Swing Bridge at Sutton Bridge; Kings Lynn buildings and Tuesday Market.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Walk 44 Thornham to Heacham (NW Norfolk)

Walk 44          Thornham to Heacham (North West Norfolk)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 132
Distance: about 9 miles or 14 km.
Difficulty:  quite easy, mostly flat
Terrain: paths partly following the Peddars Way and some sand dune walking
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Coasthopper buses go to Thornham and Heacham – there is a mile walk or so from the sands at Heacham to the bus stop at Heacham Lavender on the A149.

 Follow the Peddars Way out of Thornham and on to the edge of the marsh and sands that lead to Holme next the Sea. The dunes and salt-marshes form a protected nature reserve - special plants grow here that can survive in salt water when the area is flooded. The coast along here is known as Shingle Bay and is a refuge for many birds. Near here and at Gore Point the tide evidently reveals the birds’ food stores. Strange zig-zag fences have been placed near to the sand dunes presumably as some sort of protection. I witnessed a glorious sunset near here and according to locals the evening sky is different and equally attractive most days.
The coast near Holme next the Sea is the site of the fairly recent discovery of ‘Seahenge’. Evidence of a circle of Bronze Age trees uncovered by the tide has resulted in discussion about its purpose. I understand a reconstruction of the site can be seen in Kings Lynn museum.

A choice can be made for the next part of the walk into Hunstanton. Either take the path through the dunes (which I did as I prefer to keep as near to the sea as possible) or follow the Peddars Way. Either way, do not miss the lighthouse just past Old Hunstanton. The lighthouse, which is now a private residence, was used from 1665 until 1921. In its early days the lights were called Chapel Lights after nearby St Edmunds Chapel. In 1776 it had the World’s first parabolic reflector - the current building was erected in 1840.

The former coastguard lookout which is next to the lighthouse was originally a Marconi listening post in both World Wars. It was instrumental in plotting the position of the German fleet prior to the Battle of Jutland in World War 1.

A little further along are the remains of St Edmund’s memorial chapel. Edmund of East Anglia was king of this area from 855 until 877. Legend has it that the chapel was constructed on this spot in 1272 to commemorate the Anglo-Saxon Edmund landing here in 855. After reigning peacefully for several years he had to defend his kingdom against the invading Danes. He was beaten in a battle at Thetford, taken prisoner and died a martyr’s death when being tied to a tree and killed with arrows. Later, his shrine at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk became a place of pilgrimage and he became the first patron saint of England. The chapel in Hunstanton was used by monks for about 400 years before falling into neglect.

Be sure to look at the ‘hedge’ sculpture of a wolf and a nearby representation of a severed head. This recalls the local legend of Edmund’s beheading after he was killed and it being subsequently guarded by a wolf. The animal held the skull between his paws until it was claimed by locals and laid to rest. Near to this point is a bench remembering Edith Cavell (the First World War hero) who was a Norfolk nurse. 

The seafront buildings in this part of Hunstanton give it a more gentile appearance than some of the parts further along. Very attractive gardens have been laid out here for over a century and a nearby memorial remembers 31 victims of the floods in 1953.

The walk down the hill takes you into the livelier part of the resort with its numerous amusements, fairground type attractions and fast food outlets. ‘Sunny Hunny’s’ claim to fame is that it’s the only east coast resort where you can watch the sun setting over the sea (because it faces west over The Wash).

Leaving Hunstanton the hubbub dies down and there is a flat walk to Heacham alongside beach huts, caravans, bungalows and a few amusement parks. Heacham’s origins stretch back many years and there is a 13th century church to admire. Thomas Rolfe (mentioned in the Gravesend walk) the husband of Pocahontas came from here.

Snaps show: St Edmund's Memorial Chapel, Hunstanton; the sculpture of the wolf near the chapel at Hunstanton; Hunstanton front; Holme Marshes

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Walk 43 Burnham Overy Staithe to Brancaster (Norfolk)

Walk 43    Burnham Overy Staithe to Brancaster (Norfolk)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 132
Distance: about 6 miles or 10 km.
Difficulty:  easy, flat
Terrain: paths mainly following the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coastal Path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Coasthopper bus runs in the summer to both ends.

Rejoin the walk at Burnham Overy Staithe. The path goes north for a bit before turning westwards alongside Trowland Creek. To the right, across the marshes is Scott Head Island a National Trust reserve. As the walk continues, to the left, inland, the village of Burnham Norton, birthplace of Nelson, can be seen in the distance. The track along this stretch is reputed to be a route used by smugglers.

Before reaching Burnham Deepdale I saw a derelict houseboat which looked as though it would be still OK for restoration – would be interested to know if it is still there. The Domesday Book listed seven Burnhams in this area, of which five remain - the three mentioned so far plus Burnham Thorpe and Burnham Market. All of these are small unspoilt villages typical of North Norfolk.

It is only a short distance to Brancaster Staithe. Two hundred years ago this village would have been surrounded by industry and activity. There are a number of dilapidated buildings to look out for on the walk through. The calm, quiet quayside was once occupied by an enormous malthouse built in the 1700s. In his 1929 History of Norfolk, John Chambers described it as one of the most remarkable curiosities in the county. The building was 100 metres long and stretched into the village, it was demolished between 1850 and 1870. Up to 120 tons of grain were processed into malt here each week but no malting takes place now. The quay was used by fishing and cargo boats until the 1900s. Fishermen now use a newly constructed quay which can be seen on the walk through – their catch includes mussels. The mudflats and saltmarshes around this area are protected by the National Trust. In Roman times a fort existed here garrisoned by troops from Dalmatia (now Croatia and Montenegro).

Further along reeds can be spotted growing near to the footpath. There is a history of reed cutting going back centuries in this part of Norfolk. It played an important part in the local economy providing much needed employment at harvest time especially when seas were rough and dangerous for fishermen. Most of the reeds are used for thatching.

The path continues to Brancaster. I feel it is worth breaking from the coastal path here to walk along to Brancaster Beach – a path follows the road for most of its length (I would not recommend the narrow road in busy times!) The vast expanse of sands becomes more impressive at low tide when the sea goes out a mile or so. To the west of the beach crabs can be found living in the fossilised remains of an ancient forest. About 1800 years ago the area was a Roman naval base. At that time the soldiers mainly collected oysters whereas local fishermen now mainly catch whelks and mussels.

The walk back to the village of Brancaster could finish with a welcome pint in The Ship Inn – named after the Victory and local hero Nelson.

Snaps show: Burnham Overy Staithe; Brancaster Staithe; Old boat and dilapidated buildings.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Wak 42 Stiffkey to Burnham Overy Staithe (Norfolk)

Walk 42     Stiffkey to Burnham Overy Staithe (Norfolk)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 132
Distance:  about 11 miles or 17km
Difficulty:  fairly easy, mainly flat with some sand walking which can be tiring
Terrain: paths following the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coastal Path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Coasthopper bus runs in the summer to both ends.

Take the path north out of Stiffkey to rejoin the Peddars Way/Norfolk Coastal Path. The path follows along the edge of the marshes but is rather exposed as I found out to my cost when a violent thunderstorm erupted.

It is about 6 miles to the outskirts of Wells-next-the-Sea. This attractive resort with a bustling front is known locally as Wells. It derives its name from the spring wells which rise through the chalk. The North Sea is over a mile away because of the silting up of the harbour. Nearly all the whelks sold in Britain originate here. The attractive quay was much used in the past to load up with malt, corn and barley. The granary store is a prominent landmark on the quayside it retains the original exterior but has mostly been converted into flats. The extended top floor allowed sacks to be loaded directly on to the boats. There were once three brewers and four maltsters in the town satisfying the demands of the (then) forty local inns. It is recorded that some of the workers in the maltings were occasionally paid in beer. The area around here was regularly used for locations in the TV series Kingdom starring Stephen Fry.

On the west side of Wells the path goes northwards out towards Bob Hall’s Sand (could not find out why it is called this). However, during the season when the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway is functioning, it is well worth catching the train for an enjoyable ride alongside the path. Purists might say this is cheating. The 10.25” gauge railway was completed in 1982 due to the enthusiasm of one local man – Lt Cdr Roy Francis.

The sands along this section of coast are extensive - the tide goes out for over a mile. Beware – I was warned that the water comes in very quickly and there is a serious danger of getting stranded. Check the tides before going as much of the walk is along the shore. The walk heads inland from here to Holkham Gap and passes among a large number of pine trees. These trees were planted at the end of the nineteenth century in an attempt to stabilise the sand dunes (once these were sandy islands called 'meals') and protect reclaimed agricultural land. In later years, birch, oak and willow have been planted to provide a better environment for birds including the rare yellow browned bunting.

At Holkham Gap the walk continues along the sands – it is a matter of guess work where the path goes and I walked some time before finding the correct track inland to the east of Gun Hill. There appears to be no path markers on or near to the beach. I understand that the walk along the sands is particularly attractive in autumn as the dunes turn red with samphire – a plant which can be eaten and is sold in local shops as a delicacy.

The walk now goes inland alongside the River Burn towards Burnham Overy Staithe. The Staithe (a loading wharf) was probably established at the end of the middle ages when it was no longer possible for ships navigate the river into what is now Burnham Overy town. Look out for signs of Lord Nelson including a pub called The Hero. It is likely that Nelson took his first sail near here having been born in nearby Burnham Thorpe.

Snaps show: The sands near Wells; Stiffkey Marshes; Wells sea front; the small train to Wells Beach.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Walk 41 Sheringham to Stiffkey (Norfolk)

Walk 41          Sheringham to Stiffkey (Norfolk)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 133 and 132
Distance: about 12 miles
Difficulty:  easy with a small amount of fairly easy cliff walking.
Terrain: paths following the Peddars Way
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Coasthopper bus runs in the summer to both ends.
Start the walk at Sheringham following the Peddars Way in a westerly direction. The Peddars Way gets its name from the Latin 'pedester' meaning on foot. The path is about 46 miles long and follows the route of an old Roman road.
From the coast it is possible to see the steam trains of the North Norfolk Steam Railway chugging in and out of Sheringham. The path passes alongside a golf course and goes precariously close to the cliff edge – a diversion may be in place now. Good views along the coast can be had near Deadman’s Hill – an area owned by the National Trust.

The path descends in to Weybourne Hope, a number of small boats were being launched here when I visited. The area offers seaborne traffic both the shelter of the cliffs and deep water close to the shore. It was feared that this could be used by an attacking force especially during the time of the Spanish Armada. A verse of the time said:
            He who would old England win
            Must at Weybourne Hope begin.

The stretch of coast between Weybourne and Salthouse has a series of, what I assume are, military buildings tucked up a small cliff behind barbed wire and ‘Keep out’ notices. They emit rather sinister beeping noises and nearby graffiti has obscene comments about the military.

Salthouse is an attractive village which can be seen across the marshes. The stone cottages are dwarfed by a prominent church. The marshes have gradually spread since the 17th century silting up the old port and cutting Salthouse off from the sea.

The path follows is alongside coast and marshes until cutting inland towards Cley-next-the-sea (Cley rhymes with eye). The area around here is Cley Eye (‘eye’ is old English for island) and the surrounding marshes are very popular with bird watchers. A system of dykes ensures an essential supply of fresh, clean water. Avocets and bittern are just two of the 275 species that have been recorded here. The village is now separated from the sea by half a mile of marshland disguising the fact that it was a flourishing port 400 years ago. A significant landmark is the windmill which was built in 1713 and is open to the public. Walking northwards from Cley is a long beach, owned by the National Trust, which stretches to Blakeney Point– seals can often be seen here if you fancy a bit of shingle-beach walking. If not you could catch a boat from the small harbour at Morston to Blakeney Point – Morston is a couple of miles further down the coast from Blakeney.

Follow the Peddars Way into Blakeney village. Flint or red brick cottages and large elegant houses overlook the creek with its sandy beaches. Floods overwhelmed the village in 1953. Continue through Morston and alongside Stiffkey (pronounced Stewkey) Marshes. The area is famous for its cockles known as ‘Stewkey Blues’. Nearby Stiffkey Hall which is partly in ruins was built by Sir Nicholas Bacon father of philosopher Francis Bacon. Stiffkey had an interesting rector in the 1930s. The Reverend Harold Davidson became known as the prostitutes’ parson – he spent much of his time reclaiming souls in Soho, London. Subsequently he was defrocked and ended up in a barrel on Blackpool sea front as a one man show berating the church. He then moved to a Skegness amusement park where he sat among lions until one ate him! 

Snaps show: across the marshes to Salthouse; Windmill at Cley next the sea; path out of Sheringham next to the golf course; a steam train on its way to Sheringham. Bottom group: Sheringham front; Cley marshes; Sheringham beach huts; wall art on Sheringham front; Weybourne looking towards Cley next the sea.


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Walk 40 Overstrand to Sheringham (NE Norfolk)

Walk 40          Overstrand to Sheringham (NE Norfolk)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 133
Distance: about 8 miles
Difficulty:  easy to moderate – some walking on sand - fairly easy cliff walking.
Terrain: paths, pavement, beach
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular service from Overstrand to Cromer (5) and Coasthopper service runs in the summer from Cromer to Sheringham. Check before going.
The stretch between Mundesley can be walked on the beach providing .there are no erosion problems near the cliffs.

Overstrand has suffered badly from erosion and continues to do so. A submerged village out at sea has become known as Understrand and a hotel that was once on the cliffs fell into the sea in 1950. This was originally a small fishing village but in the late  nineteenth century became known as the village of millionaires. A London journalist, Clement Scott, came here and nicknamed the area Poppyland. Many of his pals from London society moved up here and bought property.

When I was here the cliff path was closed and I had to walk out of the village to take the path across the golf course which joins up with the cliff top path (see OS map). Another option may be to walk along the beach. Look out for the octagonal lighthouse on the cliff top. It was built in 1833 and is a classical reference to the lighthouse at Alexandria. Approaching Cromer you walk through an area called Happy Valley which is treasured for its wildlife.

Cromer is an attractive place. On the walk into the town along the promenade there is a memorial to Henry Bloggs a local life boat hero - his exploits can be read about on the plaque. In the near distance is the church of St Peter and St Paul which has the tallest church tower in Norfolk. The area around the church is surrounded by fishermen’s cottages and quaint streets. The pier sticks prominently into the sea. It has been rebuilt twice after damage in the Second World War and then after flood damage in 1953. There has been entertainment on the pier since 1901. A newly refurbished pier was opened in 2004 by Stephen Fry who recalled working as a waiter at a local hotel called the Hotel de Paris. Past guests in include Oscar Wilde and the then Prince of Wales.

Cromer Lifeboat station has been of huge importance in the area because of the proximity of sandbanks. They were so feared by sailors that they became known as The Devil’s Throat. Horses and carts carrying coal were once pulled up the gangway that leads to the lifeboat station. Later on, bathing machines were pulled up the same route to be stored during the winter months.

The walk along Cromer promenade is very pleasant. If you have time stop off to try the world famous Cromer crabs. Originally, these were caught off Cromer all year round along with lobsters and herring; today the focus is on crab and lobster. The crabs were caught in hoop nets until the 1870s when the crab pot was introduced. These could be left out overnight and greatly improved the catch.

The walk continues to the West Cliffs which have been planted with wild buckthorn to prevent slippage. Further along are attractive gardens, a bowling green and public open space. Continue along to East and West Runton – I chose to walk along the road but it looked possible to go via the beach instead.

A famous fictitious resident of the area is 'Thee of Thieves' who is a mythical character from local folk tales. Bizarrely, there is a true tale of a local blacksmith who chopped off his own infected toe and cauterised the wound with a red hot poker! A plaque at a pub in West Runton recalls a concert once given there by the Sex Pistols. A nearby shire-horse centre is popular with visitors.

The path cuts into Sheringham from the road and onto the coast - the start of The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. Colourful beach huts are on the east promenade and a mural produced by local secondary school children adorns the wall. No graffiti was evident in the area.

There are two distinct historical divisions in the town. The top part was agricultural and the lower thrived on the fishing industry. Sheringham is now a bustling holiday resort. Since 1780 the town has had a reputation for lobsters and a small amount of fishing still takes place. The North Norfolk Steam railway terminates in the town. It runs frequently during the summer (check website for time and events), covers 10.5 miles through country side and is run mainly by volunteers.

Snaps show: a view of Overstrand; Cromer Pier; another view of Overstrand beach; Cromer lifeboat station.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Walk 39 Sea Palling to Mundesley

Walk 39          Sea Palling to Mundesley (Norfolk)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 134 and 133
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty:  moderate – some of the walking on sand dunes can be very tiring.
Terrain: paths, pavement, beach
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Very few buses - best done by car/taxi
I did not walk the section between Winterton-on-Sea and Sea Palling. It looked fairly featureless to me and would involve a lot of walking on the sand. However, if you are interested in seal spotting speak to the National Trust warden at Horsey Windmill who told me where you can find them on this stretch. The mill is interesting in itself and there may be some written information about the seals at Horsey Common.

At Sea Palling a lane from the village leads on to the sandy dunes. Offshore reefs can be seen here – they have been built to help prevent the regular threat of floods. The walk to Eccles on Sea can be along the road and cycle route or along the sands depending on the tide. Holiday homes and caravan parks are very common in this area.

Eccles comes from ‘ecclesia’ meaning church and this indicates that it was an early Anglo Saxon Burial site.It is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a thriving fishing village. Today it is mostly occupied by an estate of bungalows. From here it is only a short walk to Happisburgh which is probably best reached along the cliff top via road and paths.

It is useful to know that this settlement is pronounced ‘Haisboro’ rather than Happysborough which had a local nearly wetting himself with laughter when I asked for directions to the lighthouse. A look over the edge of the cliff reveals clear results of erosion and failing sea defences which have been worn away. Many students were here when I went, they were busily studying the changing coastline. The formidable sands have caused many shipwrecks on and off shore. In 1904 there were so many that Trinity House (responsible for coastal safety) blew them up. The local church yard has many graves of sailors including the 119 men of HMS Invincible which was wrecked here when sailing to join Nelson’s fleet at Copenhagen. The area is renowned for its ghosts including a decapitated smuggler – you have been warned!

The lighthouse, which is a little inland, was built in 1791 and operates automatically now. It was built after a ferocious storm claimed 70 ships and 600 men. The lighthouse is a popular film location including for the TV series Jonathan Creek and Kingdom.

A cliff path leads to Walcott (beware some of these paths may well be diverted or closed now due to erosion). The area has been populated for hundreds of years and has a 13th century church. The front is a popular stopping place for cars – some are out on the beach, others looking out to sea with a Thermos of tea. From Walcott it is beach or road walking through Bacton and on up to Mundesley.

A few red brick hotels at Mundesley are testimony to the efforts made to develop the town as a fashionable watering place after the railway was built here in 1898. Unfortunately, this never took off but it is still a pleasant spot. It was once an important port on this bit of coast. Look out for the small maritime museum topped by a coastguard station. Alongside this is a (presumably) replica green bomb which tops a memorial to the many Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal personnel killed while clearing British landmines from the Norfolk coast between 1944 and 1953.

Snaps show: maritime museum at Happisburgh; memorial for bomb disposal engineers at Happisburgh; sands at Sea Palling; Happisburgh lighthouse; example of cliff erosion in this area.