Riding on the beach doesn’t just have to be for horses.
How can you tell a happy cyclist? By the flies on his teeth. Sorry to start with such a corny joke – but it was going through my mind as I made a gentle descent at the beginning of this month’s ride. My mouth stayed firmly shut as insects pinged off my sunglasses. Through them the fields of rape appeared even more unnaturally vivid and I could see the village of Rudston shimmering below in a haze. I was on my way to the coast but not until I’d checked out some alternative seaside attractions.
The last hymn of the morning service seeped through the walls of All Saints Church and the clock struck noon as I found the first of them among the gravestones: the Rudston monolith. This 25-foot high block of stone consists of a slab of moor grit conglomerate though to have come from Cayton Bay near Scarborough which was brought here in about 2000 BC. Why? For some religious or ritual purpose, it is thought. The name of the village derives from the monolith: in Old English a “rood” was a cross (suggesting the monolith may have had a cross-head fixed to it) and a “stan” was a stone. As well as boasting Britain’s tallest Bronze Age monument, Rudston is believed to be the oldest inhabited village in England – but I expect that claim is about as hard to substantiate as all those stories about kings hiding in ancient oaks.
There are several clumps of woodland hereabouts which exist primarily to provide cover for shooting activities. A short period of pedalling beside some trees next brought me to Boynton, a village dominated by Boynton Hall built in the 16th century by William Strickland. A descendent of the same name introduced the turkey to this country. The only specimen to be seen in the vicinity these days, however, is a commemorative brass model of the bird that forms the base of a lectern in the adjacent St Andrews Church. Sadly the front door was locked so my view was limited to peering through the keyhole.
The Strickland’s other main legacy is much easier to spot: the fine folly tower, Carnaby Temple, sited atop of a nearby hill. A copy of the Temple of the Winds in Athens, it was used as a look-out by the Home Guard in the Second World War and before that as a vantage point from which to note where contraband was ditched by boats approaching Bridlington. The spotters must have had a darned good telescope. The sea is fully three miles away – as I found out completing the final stretch of the ride’s outbound section.
As I passed over Wilsthorpe roundabout I thought I’d lost the ocean for a moment. The only prompts of its proximity were some distant mobile homes. ‘No parking’ declared the signs at the end of the lane – which, of course, didn’t bother me. Standing up on the pedals for stability I edged my way down a short path to ‘park’ right on the sand. This bit of the beach was mine. My only company were those harnessing the wind. A chap recumbent on what looked like a giant skateboard was being tugged around by and tugging a kite. A statuesque sand-yachter who whizzed by had a much easier time of it while on the shoreline a colourful row of yachts prepared to set sail. To my left as I lunched I could see the white cliffs curving round beyond Bridlington towards Flamborough Head where the lighthouse was just visible.
With reluctance I set off again. A sign in Lowthorpe to “Monastery ruins” caught my eye and the diversion was well worthwhile. Partially hidden in the trees is the wonderfully peaceful St Martin’s Church, a curious building that has the front of a church and the back of a former monastery. Dating from the 14th century, it became home for six chaplains and three clerks before its dissolution. The contents were subsequently legally looted by Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI.
This place apart, the interest level of the ride back from the beach is as flat as the terrain. But who cares if, like me, you’re a hungry horse heading for home?
Distance: 27 miles.
Time: 2½ hours excluding stops.
Tip: If you have time you could visit Burton Agnes Hall or the Cruckley Animal Farm for children just off the route at Foston-on-the-Wolds.
Parking: At Bracey Bridge picnic site in a layby off the A166 just past the turn for Ruston Parva.
Directions: R out of layby and then R at crossroads to Harpham. At another crossroads in village continue onwards through fieldgate with the sign “No through road” and “Dogs on lead” and over level-crossing. At t-junction L to Burton Agnes. R on main road then second L up very minor road opposite the PO. At top the lane R signed Rudston. In village R down Eastgate and up to the church and monolith. Opposite war memorial R along B1253. Soon after starting a descent R signed “Boynton – village south only”. Just before the church R signed Public Bridleway. Over bridge then bear R in front a farm and up hill on a broad, well-surfaced track. L after barrier then after 200m R along bridleway to Carnaby Temple. Descend into Carnaby village. Cross main road and continue over down Moor Lane signed “No through road”. At level crossing push bike along footpath on R then L on road past former station. At Wilsthorpe roundabout straight over down a bridleway signed Wilsthorpe village. R along the sands until just after four large concrete blocks at which point lift your bike up and off the beach and follow the road out. L in Fraisthorpe in front of The Hollies. L at t-junction on main road. After 1½ miles R signed “Rudston, Burton Agnes Hall and Rudston Monolith” and immediately over bridge. Just past Gransmoor L signed Kelk. A t junction R signed Lowthorpe. Pass through village then R on main road back to car park.