For East Riding read easy riding on this flat route on the coast which includes an old railway line.
‘Hidden Holderness’ is the banner under which a local history group promotes its region today. Tucked away round the corner from Hull and not quite as accessible for holidaymakers from the industrial north as the North Yorkshire coast, Holderness has been left to flounder but, from what I saw of it from my bike, it has bags of potential for rejuvenation particularly as a cycling region.
There are lots of very quiet, narrow, blissfully flat country lanes. I barely used the large cog on my gears all day. The scenery may not be spectacular but the sheer joy of such easy pootling more than makes up for it and there are many spots of curiosity along the way.
Holderness is hidden – and rapidly disappearing. In fact, it’s the fastest eroding coastline in Europe as I observed by nipping down to the sea in Aldbrough before starting the ride proper. Signs warn of sunbathing at the foot of the cliffs for fear of cliff collapse and a bunch of flowers was poignantly tied to a sign at the end of the road saying “Warning. Cliff collapse. Road closure”. Hard-standings where caravans once stood are now used as car parks for owners of caravans next in line for removal. The landlady of my B&B told me that the current rate of erosion is running at around one coast road cottage every five years. House no. 228 even calls itself Cliff Top Cottage To Be.
At this point it seemed prudent to head inland – which is what I did by following a narrow, winding road east from Aldbrough to Burton Constable Hall. After such rural thoroughfares the village of Skirlaugh on the main road seemed like a metropolis. Trees, unusual in these parts, shroud the smaller settlement of Rise and, with All Saints’ Church, give it the feel of an estate village in the Home Counties. I passed the gates to Rise Hall which Channel 4 property developer Sarah Beeny is currently redeveloping into a wedding venue having bought the former convent as a home 10 years ago.
From here it was full steam ahead – almost literally as I joined the Hornsea Rail Trail. It runs along the trackbed of the railway that operated between Hull and Hornsea for exactly a century from 1864. The railway had a dramatic effect on the development of Hornsea. Families moved here from Hull or set up businesses in the holiday trade or commuted back to the city for work. New roads and houses were built on the seaward side of the old town and many Victorian properties of various types can still be seen today.
There’s plenty to see of natural as well as historic interest on the Trail. In summer look out for the common spotted orchid, reed bunting and orange tip butterly and, in autumn, the shaggy ink cap fungi (also known as lawyer’s wig). The apple trees along the line are ordinary enough but their origin is unusual. They grew from the pips of apples that train passengers cast from windows. They had plenty of time to munch as, in the line’s hey-day, there were no less than seven stations on the eight miles of track between Skirlaugh and Hornsea.
I came up from the trail before it entered the town to include a loop around Hornsea Mere, the largest freshwater lake in Yorkshire. An off-road section of my route took me into some trees and through a rapid succession of bridlegates that would tax even the keenest horserider then onto a glorious avenue of maple trees forming the approach to Wassand Hall, an early 19th century villa. I turned right on the road towards Hornsea soon passing Mushroom Cottage, a quirky circular building that forms part of the Wassand estate. It has pointed Gothic windows and rustic wooden pillars which once supported a thatched roof.
Despite cycling just yards from the northern bank of the mere I was frustratingly restricted to just occasional glimpses of the water through the trees. Soon enough, though, I finally entered Hornsea and headed straight to the main viewpoint for the mere. It’s a pleasant ice cream and ducks sort of spot with views towards Swan Island, the only island in the Yorkshire (if you exclude one in the river in Sheffield).
My favourite place in the town, though, is Bettison’s Folly, a tower incongruously tucked away in a modern housing estate just behind the road to the beach. Curiosities like this make a ride for me. It was erected by a Mr Bettison for carriage watching. The idea was that his servants should try to sight their master’s gig coming up the Hull road so that they could serve dinner the moment he burst into the house. The cafes in the town weren’t quite so concerned about my sustenance but did provide plenty of lunchtime options before I hit the beach. I stood beside my bike beneath the sculpture marking the end of the Trans Pennine Route and Rail Trail feeling somewhat fraudulent. The total length of the long distance route that starts in Southport is 215 miles and includes many yards of punishing Pennine ascents but I had reached the end in just a few gentle hours. I neither sought nor deserved a certificate. The end of the old railway line is marked by a beautifully restored station which is now – given its Trail signifiance – more of a terminus than it ever was.
I left Hornsea to the south along the most bracing section of the route. The road is open here and the North Sea is only a few hundred yards away but, thankfully, the wind wasn’t blowing and I made quick progress to Mapleton. The beach is much quieter here than in Hornsea and was the perfect spot for an ice cream before the final leg of the journey. A finger of rock defences extends into the sea, another indication of the power of erosion in these parts. To my relief when I got back to Aldbrough it was all still there.
Distance: 28 miles.
In Aldbrough, opposite the Country Stores on the B1242, turn down Carlton Lane signed to Carlton and West Newton Cemetary. Follow the winding road past farms to a t-junction. Turn right (signed to Marton and Ellerby) to pass the main entrance to Burton Constable. Take the first left to Old Ellerby and then, in the village, turn right. At the next t-junction turn left to reach the busy A165. Turn right into Skirlaugh. Turn right at the mini-roundabout beside the Duke of York pub heading towards Rise on the B1243. Keep ahead (leaving the B road) as you approach the church in the village and follow the road as it bears right.
Soon the road crosses the old railway line. Turn left onto the line towards Hornsea. After 3½ miles as you approach a bridge fork left at the sign for ‘Loop via Hornsea Mere’. Turn left when you reach the road then, after 200 yards, turn left again down Southorpe Rd. At the end of the road pass around a double gate and keep ahead along a track.
At signs for ‘no entry’ turn right onto a bridleway, pass through a wood and through a bridlegate, across a field and through a second bridlegate. Bear left keeping a barbed wire-topped fence on your left. Pass through a third bridlegate and keep ahead probably needing to walk for a short distance. Pass through two more bridlegates to reach a stony track. Pass through a final bridlegate beside a five-bar wooden gate. This section of the route is well signed with blue waymarkers. Continue ahead down an avenue of maple trees to the junction with the B1244.
Turn right towards and into Hornsea. Follow the road as it bears right then, at the church, turn left down Newbegin to reach the sea – or continue a little further for access to Hornsea Mere on the right. At the seafront turn right then follow the road as it bears sharp right and up to the B1242. Turn left onto this road and follow it through Mapleton back to Aldbrough.
To find Bettison’s Folly: Just after the Hornsea Museum on Newbegin turn right down Willows Drive signed ‘School’. Bear right down The Willows and you will see the tower in the corner of a grassed area.
The George & Dragon, Aldbrough, Hu11 4RP. Tel 01964 527 698.
The Elm Tree Inn, Aldbrough, HU11 4RP. Tel 01964 527 568.
The Duke of York, Skirlaugh, HU11 5ET. Tel 01964 500 093.
The Railway Inn, New Ellerby, HU11 5LP. Tel 01964 563 770.
The Wrygarth Inn, Great Hatfield, HU11 4UY 01964 533 300.
Lots of choice in Hornsea including a café at the Mere (tel 01964 533277).