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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.

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