Friday, 30 September 2011


It may be a little known fact that Whitburn has something in common with Thurlestone in South Devon. In my Thurlestone post on 19 February I mentioned that one of the ships of the Spanish Armada had been wrecked nearby, and that timbers thought to be from that ship can be found in the local pub. After the defeat of the fleet off the coast of France the surviving vessels headed up through the North Sea. However two Spanish galleons came to a sticky end when they ran aground on Whitburn Rocks. The galleons were plundered by the locals and a bell from one of them ended up in Whitburn Church.

The village lies to the north of a sandy bay, Whitburn Bay, and there is a clifftop path heading north towards Lizard Point. Souter Lighthouse, owned by the National Trust, stands on Lizard Point. The lighthouse was the first lighthouse to use electricity and though it ceased operation in 1988, it remains open to visitors, with the machinery still in working order. Souter Lighthouse has gained a reputation for hauntings, with people reporting the sensation of being grabbed by something, of spoons levitating and unexplained tobacco odours. Also to the north, Whitburn Coastal Park is looked after by the National Trust, and is a popular spot for birdwatchers, while fans of cetaceans have the chance to view them in late summer. Whitburn Windmill is a Grade II listed building dating from 1790, considered to be of special architectural and historical importance. The writer Lewis Carroll is thought to have written The Walrus And The Carpenter while staying at his cousin’s house in Whitburn.

Map of the area.

'Souter Lighthouse 2' photo (c) 2008, firmatography - license:

Thursday, 29 September 2011


A quick search under Google News for “Sunderland” reveals just what the big obsession is in this city in Tyne and Wear: football. The city’s football club is in the Premier League, and its headquarters is the ethereally named Stadium of Light, widely regarded as one of the best stadiums in Europe. But we mustn’t forget the women: Sunderland’s female football team is also in the top tier of the game, and is the top women’s football team in the north-east. Sunderland were the champions several times during the early years of the Football League, and their first FA Cup win was in 1937. Their second FA Cup win came in 1973, against Leeds United.

Sunderland’s history goes back to at least the 7th century, with the building of a monastery known as St Peter’s Church in 674. The year before, the Venerable Bede was born in the area, and there is a memorial to him in the seaside suburb of Roker. It subsequently became an important glass-making centre, and this industry is showcased today at the National Glass Centre on the River Wear. The city’s history is told at the Sunderland Museum and Winter GardensHylton Castle, dating from the 15th century, is run by English Heritage, and has displays of medieval heraldry.

For a list of events in Sunderland see here.

Map of the area.

'Sunderland Stadium of Light' photo (c) 2011, vagueonthehow - license:

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


The harbour at Seaham was built in the early 19th century as an outlet for the local mining industry, and the modern town grew around it, while to the north is the old village with its Saxon Church of St Mary with a 13th-century font and a 16th-century pulpit. The church is reckoned to be one of the oldest surviving churches in the country. The beach at Seaham is wide and sandy, and there is a clifftop promenade. The harbour has an intricate design, with a series of interconnecting locks and a lighthouse at its entrance, the whole enclosing the Seaham Harbour MarinaSeaham Hall was home to Anne Isabella Milbanke, who no doubt shattered the dreams of many a young woman when she managed to bag Lord Byron. Their nuptials took place in 1815 in the Hall’s drawing-room. The Hall is now a luxury hotel. There were three collieries at Seaham, but they went the way of the other collieries in the area, due to the twin evils of the Conservative Party’s vendetta against the mines and their unions and cheap competition from Eastern Europe. The local economy was devastated as a result. However, there have been valiant attempts at regeneration, with the Turning The Tide programme leading to this coastline being designated a Heritage Coast. In 2002 the project won an award jointly with Cornwall’s Eden Project.

Map of the area.

'DSC01927' photo (c) 2010, Colin - license:

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


One feature of this part of the north-east coast is the ‘dene’, a steep-sided wooded valley with a ‘burn’ or stream running through it. Castle Eden Dene near the town of Peterlee is a National Nature Reserve, its jumble of trees, rocky outcrops and steep cliffs providing a habitat for many species of birds, over 450 varieties of plants including yew trees, oak and ash, and mammals such as roe deer and fox. The Eden part of the name derives from the Saxon name Yoden, meaning ‘Yew Dene’, while the castle which was built here was established in the 12th century. The dene borders on the town of Peterlee, a New Town established in 1948, providing housing mainly for mining families. In fact, the town is named after the miners’ trade unionist Peter Lee. Nearby Blackhall Colliery was an early casualty of the rape of the British mining industry during the Thatcher years, closing in 1981. A bit further north, the village of Easington gained notoriety during Elizabethan times when two men were hanged on the village green for their involvement in a bid to replace Elizabeth I with Mary Queen of Scots. The adjacent mining settlement of Easington Colliery lasted somewhat longer than Blackhall Colliery, closing in 1993. In 1951 an event occurred there which served as a grim reminder of the dangers of mining, when no less than 83 men died following an explosion in the mine.

of the area.

'Easington Beach' photo (c) 2006, Delmonti - license:

Monday, 26 September 2011


The County Durham coast starts at the mouth of the River Tees, where there is a National Nature Reserve.  The reserve stretches as far as the southern edge of the small resort of Seaton Carew and its Golf Club.  The A178 follows the shore from here to the larger town of Hartlepool.

Hartlepool once had a thriving shipbuilding industry, and the docks where this industry took place are now an attraction called Historic Quay, which is a reproduction of an 18th century seaport whose attractions include The HMS Trincomalee, Britain’s oldest floating warship. A museum tells the story of Harlepool from Saxon times. The Quay is also home to shops and restaurants. The Headland Museum in Northgate is an interactive science and technology museum. Nearby is the 12th century church of St Hilda, Abbess of Hartlepool. St Hilda came to Hartlepool around 648 AD and later moved on to Whitby. Hartlepool has an Art Gallery housed in a 100-foot high clock tower offering views over the town along with the artworks.

The importance of Hartlepool as a shipbuilding center unfortunately made the town a target during the First World War, and during a raid on the towns of Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough on the morning of 16 December 1914, 117 people were killed in the town when it was hit by 1150 shells. The town hit back, damaging three German ships. Between the wars, Hartlepool suffered badly during the Great Depression, but the town’s shipbuilding and steelmaking industries gained a new lease of life during the Second World War, the downside being that German bombers raided the town 43 times. The last ship to be constructed in Hartlepool, the Blanchland, was launched in 1961.

For a list of events in Hartlepool, see here.

Map of the area.

© 2006 Steve Daniels, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, 25 September 2011


On the way to Redcar, we reach Maersk-by-the-sea, where Captain Cook’s father was buried prior to the news of his son’s murder in Hawaii reaching England. On reaching The Teesside resort of Redcar, film buffs might find the beachfront slightly familiar. This is because the seafront in Redcar was used in the film of the Ian McEwan novel Atonement for harrowing scenes depicting wartime Dunkirk, with local people brought in to play the soldiers. The town’s use in the film caused much local excitement, prompting one local to comment “I wish we could put a price on what this is worth to the town”. Visitor numbers jumped by some 70% during the making of the film. Today’s Redcar is a seaside resort whose attractions include a popular racecourse. Redcar had a pier, but like the one at Saltburn it suffered a series of mishaps. Discussions are currently under way about the possibility of a 21st century “vertical” pier with a viewing platform, a studio, galleries and a cafe. It was reported just a few days ago that plans for the pier had been approved. Before tourism reached the town the main industries were steelworks, although Redcar keeps its fishing trade going with a fishing fleet catching lobster, crab and fish as well as offering day trips to tourists. The Zetland Lifeboat Museum on the esplanade houses the world’s oldest surviving lifeboat, built in 1802.

of the area.

'Beach at Redcar in January' photo (c) 2006, Ian Parkes - license:


This stretch of the north-east coast of England was once a hive of smuggling activity, and Saltburn-By-The-Sea became a particular focal point for smuggling largely courtesy of a Scotsman called John Andrew who moved to Saltburn in the 18th century and became landlord of the Ship Inn in 1780, which he turned into a ‘command centre’ for the area’s smuggling trade in partnership with a local brewer. He must have made an impression on his granddaughter, because it was she who christened him “King of the Smugglers”. So devious was he that he managed to infiltrate the local militia who were occasionally roped in to help catch the smugglers at the same time as carrying on his illicit activities!

Saltburn-By-The-Sea, like so many other resorts, made the transition from fishing village to resort thanks to the coming of the railway. The town’s website has some fascinating old images of its early days as a resort. Among the attractions built in Saltburn for the benefit of visitors is Britain’s oldest hydraulic cliff lift, built in 1844. The lift continues to operate today, as does the pier, opened in May 1869. The pier managed to attract 50,000 paying visitors during the first six months after its opening. The nation’s seaside piers have always proved vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather and other disasters, and Saltburn’s pier is no exception. In October 1875 300 feet of the pier was washed away during a savage storm and the missing section was never replaced. However, this calamity does not seem to have done the pier too much harm: in 2009 it was the recipient of the National Piers Society’s Pier of the Year award. Another attraction is the Saltburn Miniature Railway, and on the same side of town is the Hunt Cliff nature reserve, with fulmar, cormorant and kittiwake among the birds frequenting it.

For a list of events in the town, see here.

Map of the area.

'Saltburn by the Sea' photo (c) 2009, Sian - license:

Saturday, 24 September 2011


Much of the east coast of England is characterised by low-lying land and gently rising shores and cliffs, but by the time we reach North Yorkshire the coastline starts to take on a more dramatic character. This reaches a climax at Boulby Cliffs which, at 666 feet high, are the highest point on the east coast of England. The footpath at the highest point offers an amazing view of the surrounding coastline. The cliffs attract nesting birds in spring such as kittiwakes, fulmars and house martins. Boulby used to be a source of alum, jet and ironstone, while today potash is mined inland from here, with workings extending for up to 2 miles under the seabed. Ironstone was also mined at nearby Skinningrove following its discovery in 1848, leading to the existing fishing activities being supplemented by iron and steel-making. There is a mining museum here which tells the story of the Cleveland mining industry, while nearby there is still a steelmaking works making specialised products which include sculptures which can be found on the Cleveland Way footpath. The legacy of the now closed ironstone pits lives on in the form of the rust colouring in the small stream running through the village.

Map of the area.

'Staithes and Boulby Cliffs' photo (c) 2010, Wipeout Dave - license:

Thursday, 22 September 2011


James Cook got to spend his formative years in all the best places. Two years before he started his apprenticeship in Whitby, he spent some time in the charming little fishing village of Staithes, where he worked in a shop. In fact, his birthplace was only 25 miles south of Staithes, in Marton. Like Whitby, Staithes makes the most of its connection with the great Captain in the form of the Staithes Heritage Centre and Captain Cook Museum, housed in a building in the main street leading down through the village. The museum is a must for anyone who, like me, loves old photographs as it contains a veritable treasure trove of images of Staithes’ past, especially with regard to its fishing activities. The town even lent its name to a type of headgear called the Staithes Bonnet, worn by women who had to carry baskets of mussels and other loads on their heads. Not surprisingly, given the picturesque nature of this small town, Staithes has long been a magnet for artists, and like Newlyn in Cornwall, it gave its name to a group of artists: the “Staithes Group of Artists” some 25 in number, who came together around the year 1900. As with so many things, it was the arrival of the now disappeared railway which led to the initial trickle of artists turning into a flood, since before the railway was built Staithes was remote, with overland travel proving so difficult that many preferred to access it from the sea. The Staithes Group was best known for being at the forefront of British Impressionist painting. Two of the artists, Laura Knight and her husband Harold, used a tiny cottage in Staithes as a studio, and this cottage, one of the oldest in the town, is now available for rent as a holiday cottage.

Map of the area.

'Staithes Harbour' photo (c) 2007, Bay Photographic - license:

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Would-be fossil hunters visiting the North Yorkshire coast should head for Runswick Bay, where finds to look out for include ammonites and ichthyosaurs. It has been said that the entire dinosaur era is represented on this stretch of coast. Even if fossils don’t float your boat, a few years ago this location was voted the best place in Britain for beachcombing, as fossils aside there are also shells and rare stones to look out for. As for the picturesque village itself, it clings precariously to the cliffs with the perils of the sea never far away. Many of the village’s cottages have been lost to the sea over the years due to erosion, and it was also the fragile state of this coast which contributed to the closure of the railway which used to run through here. On the plus side, it is the erosion which has led to the abundance of the aforementioned fossils. Runswick Bay used to have its own lifeboat, but now the nearest lifeboat station is at Staithes up the coast. In March 1901 the lifeboat men of the village were caught out at sea in their fishing cobles – open fishing boats typical of the North East – when a storm was moving in, and the womenfolk found themselves in the position of having to launch the lifeboat to rescue their other halves.

Map of the area.

'Runswick Bay' photo (c) 2005, Ian Parkes - license:

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


In my Whitby post I mentioned the mineral jet, which is found for sale in many of the town’s shops. Sandsend was one of the places on the North Yorkshire coast where jet was mined. The cliffs at Sandsend Ness to the north of the village also reveal some of the oldest alum workings in the area, dating from 1607. The sandy beach stretches all the way to Whitby, and there are pools for the kids to go crabbing in. There used to be a station here when Sandsend was served by the Loftus to Whitby railway line, but this has now been turned into a private house. The line, however, can be partially followed by walking the Cleveland Way walking trail. There used to be viaducts crossing two streams here, Mickleby Beck and East Row Beck, but all that remains of them now are the foundation pillars. Just outside the village are Mulgrave Woods, where the ruins of the 13th century Mulgrave Castle can be found. Kettleness was another stop along the railway, and the former railway station is now a Scouts’ activity centre. The original village of Kettleness was literally washed away into the sea on the night of 17 December 1829 after torrential rain caused the cliff to subside. The alum works also succumbed to the deluge, but fortunately there was an alum ship called Little Henry just offshore which managed to rescue the villagers. Near the former station is a half-ruined chapel, and in nearby Goldsborough is the site of a Roman military post. Excavations in 1919 revealed the skeletons of three men and a dog, along with Roman coins.

Map of the area.

'Sandsend 15' photo (c) 2011, - license:

Monday, 19 September 2011


When James Cook landed in Botany Bay in April 1770, dodging angry aborigines and lethal funnelweb spiders, he must have thought wistfully back to the picturesque town of Whitby, with its friendly natives and non-threatening wildlife. He must have ached for the romantic sight of Whitby Abbey, hovering spookily over the old harbourside, with its narrow ginnels separating sturdy old houses with their jumble of pan-tiled roofs tumbling down towards the water. For it was in Whitby that the young James began his seaman’s training. The house where he lodged during his apprenticeship is now a fascinating museum.

The first time we visited Whitby we were bemused by the number of people wandering around the town in strange clothing. It was the month of April, and unbeknownst to us Whitby was hosting one of two annual Goth festivals. Thanks to its association with Dracula, whose story was set in the town, Whitby has developed into a major draw for people who style themselves as “Goths”. The bigger of the two Goth weekends takes place around the time of Halloween in October, but the event in April is also very well attended. During the weekend we were treated to some memorable sights, including a pair of dogs dressed in matching black cloaks. In spite of their often scary appearance, the Goths are actually really nice people, and our visit to Whitby on this occasion was made all the more enjoyable by this event.  Dracula enthusiasts should also head for the Dracula Experience.

Whitby is famous for the quality of its fish and chips, and the most famous fish and chip restaurant in the town is The Magpie, although it has become something of a victim of its own success, with queues often stretching out into the street. Those who don’t like having to queue, however, have plenty of other alternatives to choose from, as there are several other exceptionally good fish and chip venues in the town. Best to ask a local for advice on where to go, although you’ll probably get as many different answers as people you ask. Apart from the aforementioned Abbey and Captain Cook Memorial Museum, another activity not to be missed is to take one of boat trips which leave from the harbour, including sailings on a replica of Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour. One of the commercial activities which used to take place out of Whitby was whaling, and there is a relic of that time in the form of the whale jaw bone arch on the West Cliff. Another product of the area is jet, a lustrous black mineral formed from the fossilized remains of trees from the Jurassic period, which can be found for sale in many of the shops mainly as jewellery.

For a list of events in Whitby, see here.

Map of the area.

'Whitby 09-08-2007 13-04-51' photo (c) 2007, Glen Bowman - license:

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Robin Hood’s Bay is more than just a bay, it is a charming red-roofed village which tumbles down a very steep incline to a small beach and fishing harbour, overlooked by the Bay Hotel. The village calls to mind the North Devon village of Clovelly, although unlike Clovelly, there is no turnstile at the enrance to the village demanding payment from visitors! The last time we went there we walked along the cliff tops from Whitby, and settled into the Bay Hotel for a well-earned lunch. Then we realised that we would have to haul ourselves up to the top of the village to catch the bus back to Whitby, which was no small undertaking given the gradient involved. There is a bar in the Bay Hotel called the Wainwright Bar after the much loved walking enthusiast Alfred Wainwright, who came up with the Coast To Coast long-distance walking route, which starts in St Bees and ends right here in Robin Hood’s Bay. It is customary for people doing the walk to take a pebble from the starting point and cast it into the sea on arrival at Robin Hood’s Bay.

There is plenty to divert visitors to the village, from paying a visit to one of the pubs and tea rooms to pottering in the little shops lining the steep hill. The Old Coastguard Station is run by the National Trust, and contains a museum explaining the natural history of the area. The Robin Hood’s Bay Museum has displays about the local geology, history, fishing and shipping.

Map of the area.

'Robin Hood's Bay' photo (c) 2009, Lee Bailey - license:

Saturday, 17 September 2011


Raven Hall Hotel at Ravenscar has an interesting history. The hotel was built in 1774 as a private house by the owner of the Alum Works at Ravenscar Captain Childs, whose daughter Ann Willis took ownership on his death. The family made a fortune from providing medical treatment to assorted sickly royals from around Europe, one of whom was George III, who visited the property during his bouts of ill health. One particularly eccentric member of the Willis family used the proceeds of this medical venture to construct a series of hanging terraced gardens and battlements by blowing them out of the cliff face.

Later on, in the 1890s, the owner of the hotel hatched a grand plan to turn the village of Ravenscar into a fashionable seaside resort, to which end the estate was sold to the Peak Estate Company. Raven Hall became a hotel during this time, and a golf links was opened. As for the resort itself, although the planners got as far as laying out a street plan, houses were built and sewers laid, the resort never got off the ground, largely due to its elevation necessitating a long trek down to the beach, plus the unstable geology of the cliffs around there.

As for the Alum Works, or Peak Alum Works to give them their full name, they now lie abandoned, but there is a path leading to the site from the National Trust Coastal Centre for those wanting to view what remains of the works. Going much further back in time, there was a 4th century Roman signal station here, part of a chain of signal stations along the Yorkshire coast.

of the area.

'Ravenscar, Yorkshire, Autumn 2005' photo (c) 2005, JP - license:

Friday, 16 September 2011


Scarborough is the premier resort on the Yorkshire coast, consisting of two bays, North Bay and South Bay, divided by the Castle Headland. Its future as a holiday resort was probably secured in 1845 with the opening of the railway station, but its history goes way back to the Bronze Age; relics of Bronze Age man have been found in the locality. Later on, Romans, Vikings and successive English Kings all left their mark. A fascinating timeline of the town’s history can be found on the resort’s website. One of the most impressive relics of this history is Scarborough Castle, which was first built in 1136. Scarborough was an important trading centre in the late Middle Ages, and there was an annual Fair, immortalised by Simon and Garfunkel in their song Scarborough Fair, which was 45 days long and was held each year from mid-August. The Fair attracted merchants from all over Northern Europe and from the Byzantine Empire. Moving forward in time, Scarborough became a target of the Germans during World War I when victims of attacks by German warships included both cargo ships and smaller fishing vessels.

Not surprisingly, a town with such a long history has its share of ghosts, and the many attractions on offer to visitors include guided ghost walks. Other attractions include the miniature North Bay Railway, the Sea Life Centre and the Open Air Theatre, which is the largest in Europe. One of the most unusual activities to be found in the resort is at Peasholm Park, where naval battles are reenacted, enlivened by special effects which include bombs, gunfire and wire-guided aircraft. As a prelude to this surreal experience, an organist does a turn on a floating pagoda. As is to be expected in a seaside town, especially in Yorkshire, fish and chips loom large in the resort’s gastronomic delights. In fact there is one type of fish, which I have tried and can recommend, which takes one of its names from the town: Scarborough woof. Bizarrely, in spite of its doggy name, it is actually a type of catfish.

For a list of events in Scarborough, see here.

Webcam view of North Bay.

Map of the area.

'Scarborough Castle' photo (c) 2011, Ingy The Wingy - license:

Thursday, 15 September 2011


The novelist Margaret Drabble recently wrote an affectionate piece about Filey in the Sunday Times, recalling her childhood holidays there. In the piece, she admitted that Filey is the inspiration for her novel The Sea Lady, although the place in the novel is called something else. Filey is a traditional seaside resort, with all the usual features such as amusements and so forth. The beach is 6 miles long and sandy, fringed by a long promenade with a sculpture trail, and there are beach chalets for rent. This is overlooked by Victorian terraces and gardens. The British Pathe website has some footage from 1923 showing horse racing taking place on the beach at Filey watched by large crowds.

The history of the town goes much further back than Victorian times, as seen in St Oswald’s Church, which has Norman features. One intriguing sight in the church is that of a stone effigy believed to be that of a Boy Bishop who died while in office. Filey has until recently enjoyed a thriving fishing trade, and the history of this time is told in the Filey Museum, which also pays tribute to the lifeboat service. For amateur fishermen, the mile-long promontory of Filey Brigg is popular with anglers, although care should be taken, because this spot is notoriously dangerous, and the advice is to go there with someone who has fished there before and knows the risks. Filey Brigg also marks the end points of two long-distance paths: the Cleveland Way and the Yorkshire Wolds Way. For the birdwatchers, Filey Dams Nature Reserve offers the chance to view birds such as greenshanks, pochards and ruffs.

For a list of events in Filey, see here.

Webcam view of Filey Bay

of the area.

'Filey Seafront' photo (c) 2010, John Cooke - license:

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


Flamborough Head is shaped like an arrow head, which may explain the supposed origin of the name, which is believed to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word for arrow head, “flaen”. There is evidence of settlement here dating back at least to the Bronze Age, or possibly even the Stone Age. The rock which forms the headland is chalk, and nearby there is a chalk tower built in 1674, which is the oldest surviving complete lighthouse in England. There is a second, newer lighthouse which was built in 1806. In 1779 the American Revolutionary War reached this coastline with the Battle of Flamborough head, in which Royal Navy frigates engaged with a Franco-American squadron.

This stretch of coast is a magnet for nature-lovers, and recently a new visitor centre was opened called the Living Seas Centre, which offers information and events relating to the local wildlife on land and in the sea.  Aside from the wildlife, there is a golf club on the headland.  Near Flamborough Head is the RSPB reserve of Bempton Cliffs where the birdlife, which numbers some 200,000, includes gannets and puffins.

Map of the area.

'Flambrough head (5)' photo (c) 2009, jooliargh - license:

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


The resort and fishing port of Bridlington goes back a long way. Traces of a Roman road and discoveries of Roman coins in the town point to a past going back at least to Roman times. Bridlington Priory was founded around 1113 by Walter de Gant as an Augustinian house and continued until Henry VIII did his worst in 1538 by dissolving it as part his Dissolution of the Monasteries campaign. One product of this institution was St John of Bridlington, who was deemed to be responsible for a number of miracles, including bringing five people back to life, restoring sight to a blind woman and pulling a group of stricken sailors safely to shore. The Bayle Museum is located in what was once the entrance to the Priory, which lies in the Old Town, around 1 mile from the coast.

Bridlington enjoys the reputation of having one of the finest railway stations in the country. The station buffet is one of only three remaining original station buffets in the country, and it is known for putting on a spectacular floral display each summer. Attractions in the town include boat trips up the coast to Flamborough Head, the Spa Theatre and Leisure World with its indoor pool. A short distance from Bridlington, Sewerby Hall houses an art gallery and museum where mementoes of female aviator Amy Johnson, who was born in Hull, can be viewed.

Map of the area.

'Bridlington' photo (c) 2005, Matthew Wilkinson - license:


There is a long straight stretch of coast heading north-west from Withernsea, passing through several small communities, after which we come to the small seaside resort of Hornsea. Despite the town’s best efforts to keep the sea at bay, it suffers from severe coastal erosion, with one of the fastest eroding shorelines in Europe. The town used to be known for its pottery, but sadly the pottery works is now closed, but examples of Hornsea pottery can be seen in the Folk Museum. Across the way from the museum is the Bettison Folly, dating from the 19th century and adorned with local “treacle bricks”. Another attraction in the town is the Designer Village of Hornsea Freeport. Just inland from the town itself is Hornsea Mere, the largest inland natural body of water in Yorkshire, with facilities for anglers and boating enthusiasts including a Sailing Club. The Meer is a Special Protection Area due to its shallow waters being an ideal environment for a variety of swamp and fen plants. The Meer also attracts many birds. A short distance to the north of Hornsea is Skipsea, where a grassy mound near the church is all that remains of a Norman castle which belonged to Drogo de Bevrere, who married a relative of William The Conqueror.

Hornsea is the eastern terminus of a long-distance trail for walkers, cyclists and horse riders called the Trans Pennine Trail.  The trail ends on the west coast at Southport.

Map of the area.

'Hornsea Beach' photo (c) 2008, histman - license:

Monday, 12 September 2011


The lighthouse in the small seaside town of Withernsea has something in common with the one in Southwold, in that it was built inland, and stands among the houses of the town. The lighthouse is open to visitors as a museum dedicated to the 1950s actress Kay Kendall, who was born very nearby. The resort used to have a pier, but after a succession of collisions with sundry errant sea vessels it was finally closed in the 1930s during the building of sea defences. All that remains now is the strangely medieval looking former entrance to the pier, known as Pier Towers. However, there are other traditional seaside activities in the form of amusement arcades and the Pavilion Leisure Centre which offers a variety of sports and an indoor pool complete with water slide. In 2010, Withernsea was declared the most affordable seaside address in Britain for house prices, at the other end of the spectrum from Cornish glamourpusses Padstow, Fowey and Rock.

Map of the area.

'Rope and posts' photo (c) 2008, ashley BALSAM baz - license:

Saturday, 10 September 2011


Moving back out towards the open sea, we come to the mouth of the Humber, where a very distinctive geological phenomenon awaits us: the long, thin Spurn Point, aka Spurn Head. The Point is 3 ½ miles long and in places only 50 metres wide, and amounts to little more than a sand spit, but it manages to pack in a nature reserve with mudflats for wading birds, a bird observatory for migrating birds, the opportunity to view seals, and a disused black and white lighthouse which closed in 1986. In 2008 a family were strolling along the beach here when the children of the family noticed something sticking out of the sand, at first thinking it was just a bit of old wood. However, the object turned out to be a woolly mammoth tusk which had become partially exposed. The children extricated the object and took it to the warden, and it was confirmed by a palaeontologist at Hull University as being the tusk of a woolly mammoth.

The small community of Kilnsea teeters precariously on this spit of land, with a shore on each side: the sandy eastern shore facing the North Sea, and the muddy western shore facing the Humber Estuary. This is where the nature reserve's Discovery Centre can be found.  As an example of the shifting geology of this spot, there is a plaque on the former Blue Bell Inn here informing the visitor that the inn used to be 488 metres from the sea, but is now only 174 metres from the sea. Near Kilnsey there is a "listed building" which is not really a building at all but a "sound mirror", a World War One precursor to the radar which consisted of a concrete half-hexagon with a concave circular disc which would have had a trumpet-shaped microphone installed in front of it. The idea was to amplify the sound of approaching German Zeppelins, providing a warning to a Listener stationed in a nearby trench. Further north from Kilnsey, the village of Easington shares its portion of the by now widening peninsula with a large natural gas terminal.

of the area.

'Spurn Head' photo (c) 2009, Martyn Wright - license:

Friday, 9 September 2011


Having walked, cycled or driven across the Humber Bridge, we find ourselves suddenly in Yorkshire, or more precisely the East Riding of Yorkshire – the term ‘riding’ denoting an administrative jurisdiction or electoral district – at the western end of an urban sprawl which starts with the town of Hessle and continues along the north bank of the Humber to Hull, or Kingston Upon Hull to give it its full name.

The origins of the city date from the 11th century when a settlement called Wyke grew up on the banks of the River Hull, an offshoot of the Humber. In the centre of the city are a set of gardens on different levels called Queen’s Gardens, with a statue of champion of the abolition of slavery William Wilberforce on top of a Doric column; Wilberforce was born in Hull in the building bearing the unsurprising name Wilberforce House which is open to the public as a museum. The gardens are on the site of what used to be the largest dock in Britain, opened in 1778. During the 19th century, in the days before whaling became a dirty word, Hull had the largest whaling fleet in Britain with over 60 whalers. In 1820 the fleet was responsible for the demise of 688 whales – inconceivable in these times of hand-wringing over the fate of these magnificent creatures. The last whaler went out in 1869.

There is a pub in the old part of Hull called Ye Olde Black Boy, the oldest licensed premises in Hull, which is one of the places featured in the city’s popular ghost walks, since it has a reputation for hauntings. Drinkers here have reputedly succeeded in capturing ghostly apparitions on film, while one was allegedly grabbed round the neck by a phantom pair of hands appearing from the bar wall. But before you rush to blame the strength of the drinks served at the bar for these claims, it is not only humans who have been affected: rumour has it that a landlord’s dog had to be put down as a result of the trauma suffered by the poor mutt after spending a night in the bar downstairs.  Back in the real world, the city's aquarium, The Deep, styles itself as one of the most spectacular aquariums in the world.

For a list of events in Hull follow this link.

Map of the area.

'Hull 2008 305' photo (c) 2008, Tony Young - license:

Thursday, 8 September 2011


Moving up the Humber from Immingham, we come to New Holland, a village from where it used to be possible to cross to Hull in a ferry. Further on again, at one end of the mighty Humber Bridge, is the town of Barton Upon Humber. The town’s church of St Peters has a Norman tower, and Saxon finds have been made in the locality. In the late 70s and early 80s a large number of bones was unearthed in the church and removed for research into diseases. The research revealed that polio and arthritis were common diseases in Barton. The Hopper Building is where Hopper’s Cycles was established in 1880, in the days when the town was an important centre for the manufacture of bicycles. There is an interesting website about the town with old photographs and stories submitted by local people.

So it is that we bid farewell to Lincolnshire as we cross the Humber Bridge, since Hessle on the opposite bank of the river is in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The Humber Bridge was the longest single-span bridge in the world when it was completed in 1981. The construction of the bridge took eight years, using 44,120 miles of wire for the cables and 480,000 tonnes of concrete for the two towers and the roadway. The bridge is 4,626 feet in length and the towers stand 510 feet above their supporting platforms. Motorised traffic has to go through a toll, but walkers and cyclists can cross for free, enjoying magnificent views up and down the Humber as they go.

Map of the area.

'Humber Bridge' photo (c) 2008, David Wright - license:

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Just yesterday, there was a good news story coming out of Immingham about a baby minke whale which had become stranded on mudflats in the Humber estuary on the edge of Immingham, which houses one of the UK’s largest docks. Firefighters braved torrential rain to dig a trench around the 30-foot 15-tonne whale and with the help of marine specialists managed to heave it loose and refloat it, although it seems to have taken a liking to Immingham, because it loitered in the area for a while before disappearing from view. In 1965 there was another whale story about two whales being transported from Canada to Immingham docks from where they were to be moved to a zoo; the whales had become sick en route and it was thought they would die, but according to the Montreal Gazette it was sea-sickness the whales were suffering from, and as they approached Immingham they were showing signs of recovery. So there we are: two good news stories for the price of one, something which is badly needed in present times.

Immingham is not all about modern docks: there is a medieval village on the outskirts of the present-day town with the church of St Andrews. It was from Immingham that the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for Holland in 1608 for the start of their journey to the New World, and there is a 20-foot monument to the pilgrims opposite the church. Today the town, which is sometimes referred to locally as ‘Ming-Ming’ or ‘Ming’, is dominated by a huge docks and industrial complex including the nearby Humber Refinery.

Map of the area.

'immingham' photo (c) 2005, mitch - license:

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


The resort of Cleethorpes blends seamlessly into the port of Grimsby. There are many placenames in the east and north-east of England ending in –by. This dates from the time of the Viking invasions: the word ‘by’ is an Old Norse word meaning ‘village’. Thus Grimsby was Grim’s village, Grim being the Danish king who is thought to have founded the town in the 9th century AD, although there is evidence of Roman occupation prior to this. Grimsby is an important fishing port, in fact during the 1950s, Grimsby was the largest fishing port in the world, and it is still the centre of the UK’s fish processing industry today, although in 2006 the town was delivered a blow when Unilever decided to shut its Birds Eye factory in Grimsby, with the loss of 600 jobs. There is an old building in the Docks which belonged to the Grimsby Ice Company, which used Norwegian ice to keep fish fresh, which had its moment of Hollywood fame when it was used for the Dunkirk street scenes in the film Atonement starring Keira Knightley. The Fishing Heritage Centre in Alexandra Dock tells the story of Grimsby’s maritime history, and the Time Trap Museum at the Town Hall has displays on the history of the area.

In May 1915, several trawlers from Grimsby found themselves unexpectedly caught up in the First World War when they were among eleven trawlers sunk by a German submarine which suddenly appeared in their midst. The crew members just had time to gather their belongings and make their escape in small boats before the trawlers were sunk; some of the Grimsby crew members were picked up by another trawler. During the Second World War, the main threat to the town came from the air, Grimsby’s importance as a fishing port making it a major target for the Luftwaffe. The town was the first place in Britain to have the Luftwaffe’s Butterfly Bomb used against it, causing major destruction. The distinctive Grimsby Dock Tower, whose Italianate appearance is based on the tower of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, acted as a useful landmark for the invaders.

For a list of events in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, follow this link.

Map of the area.

'Grimsby Dock Tower and Fish Dock' photo (c) 2010, robef - license:

Monday, 5 September 2011


The stretch of coast between Mablethorpe and Cleethorpes is a bird and wildlife watcher’s paradise. At Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes National Nature Reserve birds, insects, amphibians and mammals share the dunes and salt and freshwater marshes along with a variety of flowers and grasses. The village of Saltfleet has a grade II listed 19th century windmill in red brick with a fetching white ‘hat’, while the nearby Manor House dating from 1673 is thought to have been visited by Oliver Cromwell prior to the Battle of Winceby. Donna Nook, a short distance to the north, has a seal colony whose inhabitants delight visitors by coming close enough to the shoreline to be photographed easily; the best time to see them is from October to December. Other creatures to be found here include red-legged partridges and skylarks. However, care must be taken when wandering around here because the area is also used by the RAF as a bombing target range. Look out for red flags! Continuing north again, just inland from a distinctive spit of land called Horse Shoe Point, the Tetney Marshes Nature Reserve forms part of the Humber Estuary, which is one of the top five estuaries for birds in the UK.

Cleethorpes is yet another example of a resort which became popular thanks to the arrival of the railway, all the more so because the station is right on the Promenade. It has a pier dating from 1873 which was largely financed by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Another attraction on the Promenade which was built by the Railway is a 19th century folly called Ross Castle, which has a viewing platform overlooking the Humber estuary. The castle was closed for a time due to safety concerns, then reopened in 2008 after renovation work. However, that did not prevent an unfortunate woman from falling to her death from the castle in January 2009.  Also on the seafront, next to the boating lake, is The Jungle Zoo.

Cleethorpes has had its share of UFO sightings over the years. On the afternoon of 22 September 1956 a large spherical object was observed off the coast, and was also picked up by the radar at RAF Manby. The phenomenon lasted for over an hour. Another sighting, reported in the local news on Halloween, took place at the end of October 2008. A local mother and her young son witnessed “two silver cigar shaped objects” – a sighting shared by several other people who submitted comments on the newspaper report. Earlier this year, a witness reported seeing a “rotating black shape” flying towards Grimsby.

For a list of events in Cleethorpes follow this link.

Map of the area.

'Cleethorpes view' photo (c) 2011, Andy king - license:

Sunday, 4 September 2011


The neighbouring resorts of Sutton On Sea and Mablethorpe were two of the many casualties of the catastrophic 1953 floods. In Sutton On Sea, the sea opened a gap 900 feet wide in the seafront, and caused the land to flood for miles inland. A new, high promenade has since been built to prevent such a calamity from recurring. In Mablethorpe, the RAF and Army came to the rescue, evacuating people in amphibious vehicles. There is old film footage on the British Pathe website showing scenes of the evacuation. But for Mablethorpe, the 1953 floods were not the first time the town had submitted to the force of the sea. In the 1540s, a whole section of the town disappeared under the sea. At spring tides it is occasionally possible to see the original shoreline and tree stumps.

The poet Alfred Lord Tennyson was taken to Mablethorpe on holiday as a boy in the early 1800s, where the lodgings used by the family included Ingoldby House on Quebec Road. Later in life, Tennyson stayed at Marine Villa in the High Street. Another literary connection is that D. H. Lawrence was a frequent visitor to the town, and it gets a mention in his book “Sons and Lovers”. Attractions in the modern-day resort include a Seal Sanctuary and Wildlife Centre and Ye Olde Curiosity Museum, which displays thousands of everyday items such as old toys, kitchen utensils and furniture.

Mablethorpe surfcam.

Map of the area.

'Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire' photo (c) 2010, Dave Catchpole - license:

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Looking at Google Earth, one is struck by one particular feature of the coast heading north from Skegness: acres and acres of what can only be caravan sites. It really is quite an extraordinary sight viewed from above. No doubt the appeal for caravanners is the presence of a continuous stretch of sandy beach along this coast. Nestling among this sea of caravans is the village of Chapel St Leonards which, as well as being a popular resort, offers a reminder of the Second World War, having formed part of a major coastal defence line. The Gun Structure and Viewing Platform that were used during this period have been restored. Chapel Point, where bunkers dating from the war are still to be found among the sand dunes, has become a favourite haunt of birdwatchers, being a frequent haunt of overseas feathered visitors. The chapel referred to in the town’s name was the Chapel of Mumby which was dedicated to St Leonard. The original chapel succumbed to a flood, but was rebuilt in the year 1572, with various add-ons thereafter. The village green has recently been revamped, and now sports an unusual ship’s bell which strikes on the hour. Apart from the beach, the village offers Lakeside Leisure, with fishing and other activities, and the Club Tropicana for evening shows.

Map of the area.

'Beach Huts, Chapel Point, Lincolnshire' photo (c) 2008, Brian - license:

Friday, 2 September 2011


The shore between Boston and Skegness is largely empty and unspoilt. It is protected by 22 miles of sea wall, with marshes on the seaward side and houses on the landward side. In 1949, the wall was the victim of one of the many storms to have battered this coast over the years, when it crumbled under 20-foot waves. On the way to Skegness, we pass the village of Wrangle, with its 14th century church of St Mary and St Nicholas, and the town of Wainfleet All Saints, home to Bateman’s Brewery, which puts on tours for visitors. Wainfleet is said to be on the site of the Roman town of Vainona. The other notable building here is the 15th century Magdalen College School built by the Bishop of Winchester to prepare students for Magdalen College in Oxford.

I love old railway posters, and one of the posters which sticks in my mind is the one of Skegness, which features a fisherman skipping along the sandy beach under the slogan “Skegness is SO bracing”. Probably a fitting description, given its position halfway up the North Sea coast of England. “Skeggy”, as it is fondly referred to by many, came about largely thanks to the railways, and its reputation as a seaside resort is helped by the huge 6-mile stretch of sandy beach, which has been given the seal of approval by the Blue Flag awards. The beach is complemented by the traditional seaside embellishments of formal gardens and boating lakes, with attractions including the Aquarium, the Embassy Theatre, the Pier and the Natureland Seal Sanctuary. Church Farm Museum looks back at the locality’s agricultural past, with reconstructed buildings including a Lincolnshire “mud and stud” thatched cottage. Skegness also has a Model Village. There is a branch of Butlins in Skegness which each year holds a Folk Festival. For other events in the resort, see here.

Webcam view from the RNLI observation tower.

Map of the area.

'Skegness beach' photo (c) 2005, Ben Sutherland - license:

Thursday, 1 September 2011


Heading along the shores of the Wash from King’s Lynn, we bid a fond farewell to Norfolk, as the Peter Scott Walk takes us towards the border with Lincolnshire. This walk is named after the famous naturalist, who lived for many years at the lighthouse on the East Bank of the River Nene. The walk follows the old sea bank along the Wash, and offers great views of both the Wash and the north Fens. Further along the shore still, the RSPB reserve of Frampton Marsh lies near The Haven, a tidal arm of The Wash which forms the port of Boston’s link to the sea. On the opposite shore of The Haven is Havenside Country Park where the Pilgrim Fathers’ Memorial commemorates the seizure of 13 Puritans as they attempted to flee to Holland in 1607. Some of them subsequently sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620. Another wave of migrants from Boston, who left in 1630, were to found Boston, Massachusetts.

The skyline of Boston is dominated by the church tower known as the Stump, which is the tower of St Botolph’s Church. Those who are feeling energetic can negotiate the 360-plus steps to the top of the tower, where they will be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The church contains misericords dating from 1390 with intricately carved satirical scenes. The 15th century St Mary’s Guildhall houses a museum where the cells which housed the aforementioned Puritans can be viewed. Had the Puritans succeeded in starting a new life in Holland, they would have felt quite at home, because there is a Dutch feel to this part of England, both in the flatness of the countryside criss-crossed with water channels or drains, and in the presence of picturesque windmills. In Boston, the seven-storey five-sailed Maud Foster Windmill is said to be Britain’s tallest mill in working order. It is open to visitors at weekends and on Wednesdays. The Grand Sluice was built in 1766 to control flooding, but it was not enough to prevent two major flooding events: one in November 1810, when a day of heavy rain and building winds culminated in a tidal surge overwhelming the town; and the second in 1953, when Boston was one of many towns on the east coast to be affected by flooding, although Boston, unlike other localities affected, was spared fatalities on this occasion.

The Pescod Square Shopping Centre in Boston was built on the site of a medieval hall of the same name.  The original plan was to knock down Pescod Hall, built in 1450, and rebuild it or recreate it from scratch, but the locals were up in arms at this idea, and the hall was picked up on trailers and transported 70 feet to a new position on the square.  Incredibly this venerable old building survived the move unscathed.

Map of the area.

'St Botolph's Church & Grand Sluice Bridge' photo (c) 2011, Paul King - license: