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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Walk 56 Withernsea, Aldbrough, Mappleton, Hornsea and Skipsea

Walk 56   Withernsea, Aldbrough, Mappleton, Hornsea and Skipsea. (Yorks)

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

Parts of this section of the Yorkshire coast are difficult to access without long diversions inland. Erosion has made some of the beach walking dangerous. I visited the places mentioned above in my car and walked around them but, apart from Withernsea and Hornsea, public transport for such short visits is not really viable.

Map: L/R 107
Distance: about 6 miles or 4 if visiting Hornsea and Withernsea only.
Difficulty:  quite easy, some inclines.
Terrain: paths and pavements
Access: see above
Public transport: see above

Withernsea has an attractive seafront with its wide promenade, sandy beaches and striking inland lighthouse. No longer active, it was built in1892 and would have originally had just mudflats and sand dunes in front of it. The lighthouse now houses a museum for Kay Kendall, the actress, who was born in the town.  Another major landmark is a replica of part of Conway Castle (in Wales) and is known as Pier Towers. It was built in 1875 to form the entrance to a new pier, unfortunately the pier was destroyed by a storm in 1882. A plaque near here shows that one mile offshore lies the site of the 13th century church of St Mary the Virgin – lost due to erosion in the 15th century. 

The next stop is Aldbrough and a drive down from the village to the coast. St Bartholomew’s Church in the village is a listed building and has a 13th century tower. Near to the coast the settlement has bungalows and some temporary looking buildings. If you want evidence of erosion look no further. The remains of buildings, recent victims to the wind and sea, were clear when I visited. Access to the beach appeared difficult for the same reason.

From Mappleton there is a good view of the sand in both directions. Again there is clear evidence of erosion – this is one of the fastest eroding coastlines in  the UK.

Hornsea has another attractive seafront. As you walk along the promenade look out for the post that marks the end of the Trans Pennine Trial which goes from Southport on the west coast of England to here. At the back of the town is Hornsea Mere which is Yorkshire’s largest natural freshwater lake. It has 170 bird species. The town is also well known for its pottery.

The area has been ravaged by storms over the years including one in 1871. In 1880 a pier was built for £10,000 (about one million pounds today). The structure was about half a kilometre long and boasted a 600-seater pavilion. During the autumn of the same year it was severely damaged by a gale then a ship hit it. It was sold in 1893 for scrap. A sad story about a pier - similar disasters carried up to modern times.

The last stop is Skipsea. The end of the road to the beach is blocked off due to erosion. The shore here has retreated 2 miles since Roman times and up to 23 nearby villages have disappeared. There was a cold war observation post here for some time and this was restored by an enthusiast in 2008.

Phtos show: a view of Withernsea, Hornsea, Ulmore Sands and the erosion at Aldbrough getting ever nearer.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Walk 55 Kilnsea to Spurn Head and back (near Hull)

Walk 55   Kilnsea to Spurn Head and back (near Hull)

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

Map: L/R 107
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty:  easy, flat
Terrain: grass paths
Access: Parking near Kilnsea
Public transport: The 73 bus runs 4 times day but only on Sundays during the summer (goes to and from Withernsea).  At other times the 71 bus runs from Withernsea to Easington but this will involve an additional 2/3 mile walk each way along roads to Kilnsea.

Kilnsea is a small settlement that has been of strategic importance in defending the country. A sound mirror from the First World War can still be seen in a field near the village. This was a device that magnified sound so that the military could hear aircraft before they could be seen. During this war a military railway ran from Spurn Head to Kilnsea. The wagons were usually run by wind power – they had no brakes so were stopped by throwing sleepers on the line. The whole area was badly hit by floods in 1953 and erosion has meant the loss of a number of buildings including the original church.

The walk down Spurn Head passes by the bird observatory. You can park at various points along Spurn Head and although it is quite expensive the money goes to maintaining the nationally important nature reserve. This is a peaceful walk with a feeling of remoteness - it passes areas of coast with the odd names of ‘Greedy Gut’ and ‘Old Den’. The spit is only about 150 metres wide but 3 miles long and is constantly changing due to the shifting sands and erosion.

Near the southern tip are the two Spurn Head lighthouses. The first reference to a lighthouse here dates back to 1427 when a hermit, William Reedbarrow, was granted the right to collect money from passing ships in return for completing and operating a lighthouse. John Smeaton built these two newer lighthouses, one in 1852, and the higher one in 1895. The old one was not used after the new one was built and was used to store explosives. It was then topped with a water storage tank which can still be seen. Modern technology meant that the newer one also became redundant in 1985.   

Spurn Head was an important military base in World War 2 and some of the buildings near the lifeboat station date from this period.. At the most southerly point near a small beach there are spikes sticking out of the sand – presumably fortifications used during war time. A pier projects out into the sea from which pilot boats leave to guide shipping along the Humber.

Humber Lifeboat Station with its impressive wall paintings is, (according to a local man), the only residential lifeboat station in the country. In years gone by there was a school here for the children of lifeboatmen and boat pilots.

On the return walk it is worth looking over the dunes to admire the scenery and observe a few keen fishermen – the only real blots on the landscape are the gas terminals at Easington.   

Photos: a view along the western side of Spurn Head, the two lighthouses at Spurn Head, Spurn Head lifeboat station wall and the pier at the end of Spurn Head.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Walk 54 Hedon to Thorngumbald via Paull (near Hull)

Walk 54   Hedon to Thorngumbald via Paull (near Hull)

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

Map: L/R 107
Distance: about 7 miles
Difficulty:  easy, flat
Terrain: paths and pavements
Access: Parking in the road at both places or you could go to the car park in Paull and just walk the coastal stretch.
Public transport:  78/79/80/277 run from Hull to Hedon every hour or so, less frequent at weekends. 75/77 run from Hull to Thorngumbald every half hour or so Mon – Fri, less frequent at weekends.

It is worth spending a little time looking around Hedon especially the church and the town hall. The latter was built in 1693 and the church was started in 1190. St Augustine’s Church dominates the landscape and is consequently known as the King of Holderness (the name for the area of land in this part of East Yorkshire). The town was at its busiest in the 12th and 13th centuries and was once the 11th busiest port in England but declined as Hull grew..  

A path goes west out of the town and follows Hedon Haven along to the coast. Marsh is on one side, factory buildings, chimneys and terminals on the other. A short way along the coast is the village of Paull with good views of The Humber. This is as good a place as any to mention a few facts about this stretch of water: the Humber is formed by the meeting of the Ouse and Trent; it is not really a river but an estuary about 40 miles long; it forms the border between Yorkshire and Lincolnshire; it has easy access to canals allowing easy access to east and west across the county of Yorkshire; it is brown in colour but not dirty.

The road along the front of Paull has a building which was originally a lighthouse built in 1830 but is no longer in use. Further along is Paull Battery. The first recorded defences here go back to Tudor times. The current listed building (which can be visited) was built in 1864 as part of the coastal defence against Napoleon. It was low lying so enemy ships could be taken by surprise. During World War 2 it was used for the storage of anti-aircraft ammunition. From the coastal side you can walk a little way inland to see the outer walls with their barbed wire and what looks like an air raid shelter nestling in a grassy bank.

A little further along Fairholme Sands, Stone Creek and Hawkins Point can be seen in the distance. A path passes along the edge of Thorngumbald Drain and, via roads, leads into the village of Thorngumbald. The name of this village comes from a thorn bush and the name of the lord of the manor in the thirteenth century – Gumbaud. The village church, St Mary’s, dates back 800 years and is a listed building.

Photos: Main street in Paull, looking back to the industry to the east of Hull from Paull sea front and an old World War 2 battery near the beach at Paull Point Battery.