Plain sailing

A tank wall, cow’s ghost and railway carriage used by Elvis are among the many quirky features of this varied ride in the Holderness region near Hull.

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Lighthouses at Paull Holme

To describe this terrain as a plain is to misrepresent it. Throughout the entire route I didn’t cross a single contour line. If you aspire to be king of the mountains then you should not be heading to Hedon. Fittingly I rode such a flat route in the same week as pancake day. The weather was gloriously warm and sunny but the wet winter hadn’t long past as I was reminded at the start of my journey by puddles on the track. I swerved from side to side to miss them, accumulating clods of mud under my mudguards which made a repetitive steam engine-like sound as my wheels turned.

IMG_4511There’s nothing new about that rhythm here as I was cycling along the former trackbed of the Hull to Withernsea rail line. It was built in 1854 by an entrepreneur with ambitions of making what was then a village at the terminus into a northern Brighton and closed in 1965 courtesy of Dr Beeching, of course. The flatness of the land next to the Humber meant that construction only took 11 months and, for the same reason, today’s cyclists make similarly swift progress. The only relic of the railway is the former Ryehill & Burstwick station now a private dwelling. On the old platform there was an unsettling mannequin torso wearing a t-shirt which made my head turn every time it caught the breeze while I was taking a picture.

Ryton & Birstwick station

Ryehill & Burstwick station

A problem with rail trails is that it’s hard to know exactly where you are because there’s no signage. Church towers were my landmarks as they were for mariners of old navigating the Humber. I mistook the church in Ottringham for one which I’d already past in Keyingham. Fortuitously, I came across a notice with map showing my location and explaining that the next stretch of the old trackbed is the subject of an application for conversion from footpath into bridleway. This was where I wanted to alight anyway.

Old tank wall in Ottringham

Old tank wall in Ottringham

Ottringham has two unlikely Second World War connections. To the side of 2 Station Road you can see the ruins of an anti-tank wall about two yards thick. I don’t expect this homeowner gets any issues with property boundaries. Such walls were built in staggered fashion on either side of and encroaching onto the road so that vehicles had to slow almost to a stop in order to weave through the gap. Large concrete cylinders were kept nearby to be rolled into the gaps in the event of an invasion. A mile to the east of the village is the site of the once top secret BBC Otteringham from which medium and long wave services as well as propaganda were transmitted as far as the heart of occupied Europe. Today it’s the premises of a modular buildings company.

I began my westward return along the A1033, the modern day link between Hull and the far east and a route which carries far more traffic than the old railway can ever have dreamt of. It’s not too busy, though, and a couple of windmills in Keyingham maintained the interest with their modern counterparts in the distance to the north. There was enough breeze to turn the turbines but not to impair a bike ride. Spring was in the air and the lawnmowers of Holderness were humming.

Flat as a pancake!

Flat as a pancake!

At Thorngumbald I left the main road and took a quiet lane. To my right were the distant cooling towers of a chemical works in Hull and ever further away to my left was the hazy outline of similar industry in Immingham with, in front of it, the slightest sliver of silver denoting the Humber. The more immediate outlook, though, was much more scenic and this part of the route proved to be my favourite.

Nearing the river I passed Boreas Hill Farm. A hill? Here? Well, yes, relatively speaking. Courtesy of a bank of glacial moraine the relief hits the giddy heights of 14 metres above sea level. I slipped into the big cog to mark the occasion. Through the trees to my left I spotted a curious square stone tower. Grade I listed and dating back to the 15th century, Paull Holme Tower was originally the great hall of a house and is all that remains of the structure. It’s reputedly haunted by the ghost of a cow which, in 1840, somehow climbed up the narrow staircase to the battlements and, unable to get back down, fell to its death. Mooooh!

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Old lighthouse at Paull

Round the corner two more towers next to one another – lighthouses, actually – beckoned. On my woefully out of date Ordnance Survey map (which shows a ferry as the means of crossing the Humber) there is terra firma between the lighthouses and the road but when the Paull Holme Strays were created as a flood prevention measure in 2003 the land was scooped out and the coast realigned to form a lagoon and nature reserve in the shape of a dock. The lighthouses are now perched on the end of a spit, the red one looking like a giant firework. By lining up this lighthouse directly above the white one mariners could guide themselves along the deep water channel from Hull. Where does an estuary end and the sea start? The poser is no better considered than when standing on the banks of the Humber. The smoothness of the water belies the strength of the currents. The path led around Fort Paull, a Napoleonic fortress that is now a local history museum. I’d earlier spotted the giant camouflaged tail of its Blackburn Beverley aircraft protruding above the fort’s walls. Other exhibits include a railway carriage once used by Elvis in Cold War Germany.

IMG_4611The old lighthouse in Paull – superceded by the pair I’d seen earlier – with adjoining coastguard’s cottages could’ve belonged in Cornwall. Only the white telephone boxes told me that I was actually only seven miles from Hull. Also in the village the Humber Tavern is the sort of place where you imagine many yards of ale have been downed and salty sea shanties sung. I half-expected Captain Pugwash to emerge from the bar.

Back in Hedon with a little time to spare I had a quick zip around the town and was glad I did. The trim green with a beacon brazier is surrounded by lovely old houses and the huge St Augustine’s Church (so that was the mini-minster I spotted earlier) It was the perfect place for a final swig and to reflect on the journey. My cycling season started in style.

Fact file

Distance: 17.5 miles.

Time: 2 hours.

Directions:

Park at the free rail trail car park on the northern edge of Hedon to the left of the road. Cross the road and proceed eastwards along the rail trail. At Keyingham the trail diverts to the left (signed) to avoid Station House and then continues immediately right (signed only as a dead end) and left to rejoin the old railway line. (For a shorter route leave the trail at Keyingham and turn right to the A1033 then right again). Leave the rail trail in Ottringham (by The Coach House) and turn right. Turn right again at the t-junction onto the A1033. Pass through Keyingham and Camerton then, just before Thorngumbald, fork left down Hooks Lane signed to Fort Paull and a bird reserve. Enter the reserve car park then push your bike towards an embankment and lift it up steps to the top. Turn right along the embankment. The first 500m or so is a footpath only but after that you reach a “multi-user” gravel path towards the church. Bear sharp left and left again to visit the lighthouses then back to continue beside the Humber to Paull. Pass through the village, bear right and continue over the A1033 to Hedon. At an offset crossroads in the village continue ahead along the main street back to the car park.

Map: here

Eating:

The Watts Arms, Ottringham. 01964 622034.
The White Horse and Ottringham Tandoori, Ottringham. 01964 625883.
The Ship, Keyingham. 01964 603132.
The Blue Bell, Keyingham. 01964 622286.
The Crooked Billet, Ryhill. 01964 622303.
The Humber Tavern, Paull. 014828 99347
The Royal Oak, Paull. 01482 897678.
Lots of choice in Hedon including the Chatty Couch Coffee House, 01482 891311.

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Hull bound – from Paull

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The island that isn’t

Paul Kirkwood ventures to the far-flung corner of Sunk Island in Holderness.

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An ornate old wrought iron gate stands about 200 yards west of the church in Sunk Island. It was erected over a century ago by Charles Lambert exclusively for his use to provide a more direct walking route to the church from his farm avoiding the road. The path has gone, the bridge over the dyke beside the gate has gone and the hedge either side of it has gone too so the gate now stands oddly alone. Sunk Island itself is also isolated, leads nowhere and has more to it than meets the eye but is far from purposeless, as I was to find out on a day’s exploration by bike.

Sunk Island hasn’t actually been an island for about 150 years and far from sinking actually rose from the Humber. It’s origins go back to the mid-16th century when a sandbank known as Sonke Sand began to form in the estuary as a result of deposits from the eroded cliffs of Holderness around the corner. The sandbank became an island and got its first resident in the 17th century, Colonel Anthony Gilby. Gradually it grew in size as more land was reclaimed from the sea and by the mid-19th century Sunk was an island no more and became part of Holderness.

Gate to nowhere

Gate to nowhere

Today, viewed from above on Google Earth, Sunk seems to comprise lots of islands in the form of clumps of trees surrounding its 13 farmhouses as if trying to keep them warm in the wind. The capital (if you can call it that) is a village around a crossroads consisting of no more than a farm, few houses, church, school and village hall. The influence of the sea is as strong as it’s ever been. When I visited a sign outside the hall advertised a meeting about flood protection.

Wherever you are on Sunk the church spire beckons you towards it like the viewing tower in the middle of a maze. The highest point in the area is a mere four metres above sea level – that’s if you exclude the spire and it’s little brother, the school bell tower. Views extends towards Hull docks to the west and the Italianate Grimsby dock tower way over the Humber to the south.

IMG_0115_1_1_1Geographical cues are confusing. Some liken Sunk to Holland but the flatness, constant breeze and quiet roads with passing places reminded me of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. On Sunk in May rape took the the place of machair and the view had just two colours and two layers, blue and yellow. I rarely needed to change gear and every road looked like a farm track which, in a way, it is.

Farm plaque

Farm plaque

Most of the farmhouses bear a plaque, often proudly painted, with a ‘VR AR 1855’ or 1857 motif. The initials belong to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, who took a particular interest in the island. As land reclaimed from the sea bed, Sunk had been under Crown ownership sink its emergence and remains so today. Albert commissioned Samuel Teulon who had designed cottages on the royal estate at Windsor, to design 30 or so farmhouses and cottages on Sunk. As a result, tenants had a much better standard of accommodation that was customary at the time. Teulon later designed the school and began a new church for the island which was completed in 1877 after his death by his friend Ewan Christian who’s achievements included the National Portrait Gallery in London. The school closed in 1969 and the church in 1983.

Houses without plaques – such as those on East Bank Lane – have a story too. Some were built in 1917 to house soldiers returning from the first world war. The idea was the they would form a Crown Island Colony each farming a small plot of land previously leased to five farmers who were evicted. Guidance was provided by a director working for the Board of Agriculture and based at Channel Farm. Few tenants arrived nor were they all ex-soldiers and the grand plan was abandoned within a decade with only 24 of the intended 44 cottages built. Life in the colony was an inspiration for Winifred Holtby’s novel South Riding dramatised by Yorkshire Television in 1974.

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First World War battery

The Sunk Island area played a part in both world wars. The holiday park at Patrington Haven lies on the site of the camp of the RAF radar station where former poet laureate Ted Hughes did his national service as a ground wireless mechanic in between 1949 and 1952 three years before the station ceased operations. He professed to have nothing to do except watch the grass grow and read Shakespeare. The former guardhouse was reclad as the gatehouse to the park.  A mile or so south I also passed the remains of the brick radar station called a happidrome which was used to guide night fighters onto attacking bombers.

I found another intriguing war relic on the opposite side of the island, hidden in the trees at the end of a track and tucked just behind the estuary embankment. The ruins belong to a first world war battery built of concrete to protect the entrance to the Humber while more substantial forts were under construction on sandbanks offshore. Soldiers at the battery – there were 200 of them – were under instruction to fire at any passing vessel that’s passage had not been authorised by the signal station at Spurn Head. In the event, guns were never fired in anger. It’s unusually secluded for these parts. After so much openness I almost felt claustrophobic as I padded around, only the rustling of the dry fallen leaves and cracking of branches underfoot breaking the silence.

Stone Creek

Stone Creek

Supplies were brought in a mile or so away at Stone Creek, a wonderfully peaceful spot which sounds and looks like a place from an Arthur Ransome novel. The stone in its name refers to the stones which were brought through the port on their way for use in churches at Patrington and elsewhere in Holderness. The port had wharves and a coastguard station and you can still see its little weighbridge house today. It’s also been a chapel and, allegedly, a morgue for bodies of drowned sailors washed up on the shore. The creek’s importance grew following the silting up of the former port at Patrington Haven in the mid-19th century. Fishermen worked out of the Creek until the 1950s but today the only maritime activity comes from members of the Stone Creek Boat Club housed in a shipping container and licensed to the Crown, of course.

I finished my journey at the eastern tip of Sunk. I cycled beside what would once have been the island’s northern shore but which now is reduced to a drainage channel. Where the road ended at a pumping station I dismounted and walked the last few yards towards the sea – or is the river? My map showed a footpath continuing south around the island but the sea appeared to have demolished parts of the embankment on which the path was built and what I expected to be terra firma was a lagoon of grass, mud, sand and water. I ventured no further. Sunk isn’t as remote as it feels – the “sunset smudge” of Hull, as Ted Hughes described it, is so near but yet so far – but there are few places in the county which seem so empty and on the edge. This is as close as you get to an island of your own – especially in Yorkshire.

Further reading: Sunk Island: the land that rose from the Humber by John Whitehead (Highgate Publications, 1991). Also see www.hiddenholderness.org.

First World War battery

First World War battery

Coast of curiosity

Paul Kirkwood comes across a mausoleum, an urban lighthouse, the outfits of a 50s filmstar and crumbling roads on a journey to the far east of Yorkshire.

Withernsea

Withernsea

‘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 during a weekend break, 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.

Constable mausoleum

Constable mausoleum

Take the Constable mausoleum, for instance, the first of many reasons to pause on my route south from Aldbrough. Built by Edward Constable of Constable Burton Hall around the turn of the 18th century, it stands, domed and pristine white, at the end of an avenue of yew trees. Halsham House, on the other side of the road, is even older having been built as an Elizabethan school, its current occupant came out to tell me. Later it became almshouses and then a hospital. Sir John Constable used to live in a house at the bottom of the garden which was demolished in the 16th century.

Unassuming Ottringham was packed with interest. I past the villages’s former station which lay on the Hull-Withernsea line closed to passengers in 1964 courtesy of Dr Beeching. A few yards further on were the ruins of an anti-tank wall dating back to the second world war. Walls were built in staggered fashion on either side of and encroaching onto the road so that vehicles had to slow almost to a stop in order to weave through the gap. Large concrete cylinders were kept nearby to be rolled into the gaps in the event of an invasion.

Just outside the village I past the site of the once top secret BBC Otteringham, now the premises of a modular buildings company. From here during the war medium and long wave services as well as propaganda was transmitted as far as the heart of occupied Europe.

Withernsea lighthouse

Withernsea lighthouse

Withernea was much more important in the olden days too. I had my sandwiches on the beach beside the former gateway to the pier. Completed in 1877 and originally nearly a quarter of a mile long, it was thought to have been based on Conwy Castle in north Wales. The pier was sadly a magnetic attraction for ships. Four vessels crashed into it over a 13-year period and this, combined with storm damage, reduced the pier to a pitiful 50ft stub in 1903 when the final remains were demolished. The gateway couldn’t be in finer condition today, though. A new scale model of the complete pier is sited in front of it as smart and proud as a sandcastle.

Withernsea’s other main feature is its lighthouse which is just as quirky as the gateway on account of being the only lighthouse in the UK with a town separating it from the sea. The proximity of such a towering structure to terraced housing brought to mind old football grounds. It was built in 1894 and its beam last shone in 1976. I plodded up the steps to check out the light at close quarters and enjoy the fine view. Down below I looked around a museum which recalls how the wonderfully named Lewis Cole and his Monarchs of Melody performed at the Grand Pavillion, now a leisure centre. Among the ecletic exhibits are an ostrich egg, whale’s tooth and display about the town’s most famous daughter, actress Kay Kendall. You can see the dress she wore in the film Les Girls in which she co-starred with Gene Kelly. Married to Rex Harrison, she appeared in 28 films, most famously, Genevieve. She died of leukaemia aged 52 in 1959.

Rimswell gravestone

Rimswell gravestone

I left Withernsea passing Owthorne, the majority of which – including its church – was washed away by the sea about 200 years ago. For 15 days men laboured at the grisly task of moving bodies and bones from the stricken churchyard to the yard at Rimswell. I cycled in their footsteps to find the two remaining transferred graves – of brothers, Matthew and Henry Webster. The adjacent St Mary the Virgin church was built on foundation stones believed to have come from the Owthorne church or collected from the beach after its spectacular fall into the sea.

The story set the scene for an unexpected finale to my ride. After Tunstall I came to an abrupt halt. “Road closed expect to cyclists” said the sign. “Wonder what that’s all about”, I thought as I lifted my bike around the concrete blocks barring the way. A few yards further on – but some miles from my destination – I stopped in my tracks. I had reached the end of the road, quite literally. It had fallen away and down the crumbling cliff towards the sea.

End of the road - at Tunstall

End of the road – at Tunstall

There have been many occasions on my cycle travels when I’ve swore blind that there should be a road at a particular point and that the map simply must be wrong and, for once, I was right. My map had been published in 2005 and a couple passing in the opposite direction told me that the minor road from Tunstall to Hilton had existed on their last walk here two years ago. This was about as close as I’ve ever come to an earthquake in Yorkshire. Cracks in the tarmac made it clear which sections of the carriageway were due to go next. I looked gingerly over the edge, remarked at the spectacle and continued on foot along the grass on the landward side of the former road. Closed except to cyclists? Only just – and to those who don’t mind walking a bit.

Back in Aldbrough I saw further evidence of erosion. 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 are now used as car parks for owners of caravans next in line for removal. The landlady of my guesthouse 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. Holderness is hidden – and disappearing fast.

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Former gateway to Withernsea pier

 

Fact file

Cycle route in brief:

Admiral Storr's Tower

Admiral Storr’s Tower

Aldbrough – Fitling – Roos – Halsham – Ottringham – Winstead – Withernsea – Rimswell – Tunstall – Hilston – Aldbrough. Distance: 40 miles. Other points of interest to look out include two follies: Admiral Storr’s Tower (visible to the right as you pass through Hilston) and the castellated Grimston Garth (visible shortly afterwards to the right of the B1242 to Aldbrough).

Weblink: http://www.hidden-holderness.org.uk. You can download a series of interesting leaflets about different aspects of the region.

Tunstall church

Tunstall church

The far east

For East Riding read easy riding on this flat route on the coast which includes an old railway line.

The Hornsea Rail Trail at New Ellerby station_9_1‘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.

End of the road - at Aldbrough

End of the road – at Aldbrough

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.

Burton Constable Hall

Burton Constable Hall

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.

Hornsea Mere

Hornsea Mere

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).

Bettison's Tower

Bettison’s Tower

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.

Hornsea beach

Hornsea beach

Fact file

Distance: 28 miles.

Directions:

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.

Aldbrough church

Aldbrough church

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.

Map: here

Eating:

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).

Old Hornsea station

Old Hornsea station

Castle and caves

Head east into Yorkshire for a varied bike ride that includes attractive villages, a stretch of the Humber estuary and a wildlife reserve.

Brantingham pond

Brantingham pond

The unlikely inspiration for this bike ride was the Hull City manager Phil Brown. “As far as I’m concerned, Hull is one of the best-kept secrets in the country,” he said in a press interview. “The city is full of tourist attractions and there’s beautiful countryside. We train in Cottingham, one of the oldest villages in the country. I live in North Ferriby. Then there’s Swanland, Brough, Elloughton, West Ella. Fantastic places.”

You get a feel for the sort of place the manager was talking about as you pass through one of the first villages on this trail, North Newbald. The picturesque green is criss-crossed by all manner of routes and also had a stream running across it until the 19th century. A steep swoop down from Cave Wold through North Ellerker Wood brings you to All Saints Church attractively set above a stream and backed by trees. It’s some distance away from the Brantingham suggesting this location may have been the centre of the Saxon village which is assumed to have preceded the later settlement.

North Newbald green and old school house

North Newbald green and old school house

Other quirks in the estate village are the village hall which has unusual loopy Dutch gables, the timber porches of some cottages and a particularly stout-looking war memorial with pillars on each corner. The pond makes a perfect place for sandwiches – providing you don’t mind sharing it with the ducks. A white phone box next to it looks surreal in such a traditional English scene but, of course, denotes that the phone system in the region is operated by Kingston Communications and not BT.

Elloughton is another village with some very desirable properties. Security gates are de rigeur down leafy Mill Lane and at the end of it is an unusual stuccoed and castellated villa called Castle House which dates back to 1886.

Yachts on the Humber at Brough

Yachts on the Humber at Brough

There’s no hint of the Humber despite it’s proximity until you reach the shifting mud and sandflats between Brough and Broomfleet which merge imperceptibly into the churning brown torrent of the river. The flats provide a winter home for many thousands of ducks and wading birds such as lapwings, wigeon, pink-footed geese and peewits travelling south in the autumn from the breeding grounds of the Arctic tundra and taking advantage of the abundant worms and shellfish.

The architectural highlight of the route is North Cave. The village boasts two unlikely if somewhat tenuous connections with two of the leading figures of the 18th century. Teavil Leason, who lived in The Hermitage, was the officer in charge of Napoleon in captivity on St Helena while Henry Washington, who owned East Hall Manor, was reputed to be a distant relative of the first US president George Washington.

Cave Castle gatehouse

Cave Castle gatehouse

East Hall was rebuilt as Cave Castle between 1797 and 1804 and today is a country house hotel with lake. Flanking the main road through the village are the town hall (built at the same time) and the arched gatehouse for Cave Castle which now leads to a housing estate and is flanked by two bears gardant. Both are worth the diversion.

If wildlife rather than buildings is your thing then you can catch up with some of the birds you may have missed earlier on the flats at the North Cave Wetlands. Originally a sand and gravel quarry, the 96-acre site was turned into a freshwater reserve five years ago by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and now attracts 170 species of birds along with 20 species of butterfly and 200 different types of wildflower.

So. It’ll have to be North Ferriby, Swanland and West Ella next time. I’ll be more than happy to give Hull another promotion.

Town Hall, South Cave

Town Hall, South Cave

Fact file

Distance: 23 miles.

Time: 2½ hours excluding stops.

Directions:

North Cave Wetlands
Turn right out of the car park then left signed to Hotham. After a mile turn right down Dean Lane then left at crossroads up Main St to and through Hotham. At junction with the A1034 cross over and continue ahead up South Newbald Rd. Just after St Nicholas’ Church on your left in North Newbald turn right at a t-junction, pass between The Gnu pub and Tiger Inn. Turn immediately right up Burgate to pass to the right of Bob’s Shop. After 2½ miles and after an aerial cross over the B1230 then soon fork right signed to Riplingham and Welton. At the next crossroads turn right signed to Brantingham and follow the same sign to the left shortly afterwards.

Sign at Brantingham

Sign at Brantingham

Brantingham
Descend to and through Brantingham. Turn left a junction in front of The Triton Inn, cross over the A63 then follows road as it bears left into Elloughton. Pass The Half Moon pub then, at a crossroads, continue ahead down Main St. Turn right up Mill Lane to view Castle House. After the house continue ahead as the road become a track for 50m then turn left up Sands Lane. Turn right at the end back onto Main St. Keep ahead at traffic lights, cross over the level crossing then follow road as it bears sharp right to pass BAE Systems. Just after the road bears sharp right again fork left to pass the Boat House. In front of the Humber Yawl Club turn right and push your bike along a narrow fenced path for 100m signed Trans Pennine Trail. The path brings leads into a gravel track. Pass through a metal gate and continue ahead along the track, now grassy and uneven.

Village pump, Brantingham

Village pump, Brantingham

Crabley Farm
After 2 miles at Crabley Farm follow the track as it bears right, through a metal gate and along a short concreted section to reach a level crossing. Cross over and continue ahead along a minor road. At an unsigned t-junction turn right then at a crossroads turn left up Ellerker Lane. At a t-junction in West End turn right up Church Hill. At the A1034 turn left to view the town hall and Cave Castle Gatehouse (500m up on the left). Retrace route to Church Hill but this time keep ahead rather than returning to Ellerker. After 2 miles in North Cave turn right at the t-junction beside the war memorial then right again at the next t-junction in front of the Londis store. Turn left just before the church and over a bridge. At a crossroads continue ahead and, as the road bears right, keep ahead and back to the car park.

Parking: North Cave Wetlands (free) just to the north-west of North Cave.
Public transport: The route passes within 200m of Brough railway station on the line connecting Hull to Leeds and Doncaster.

Eating: The Triton Inn, Brantingham, is the pick of the pubs. The Courtyard at Cave Castle in North Cave also serves coffees and teas (every day but only until 3pm on Sundays).

Estate work

Cycle in the tracks of the great and the good around the Yorkshire Wolds villages near Market Weighton.

Estate cottages, South Dalton

Estate cottages, South Dalton

My old geography and history teachers would like Market Weighton. It’s a case study of evolving transport patterns. Fifty years ago you could travel by train from the town in four directions and by road directly in five. The railways had all closed by 1965 and the Beverley line is now one of two cycle routes into town. More recently, the bypass to the south and the A614 to the west have shifted the primary crossroads out of the town centre to Shiptonthorpe. A minor road still extends unfettered to the north-east, though, and this spoke in the wheel was the first stretch of a fascinating and scenic bike ride.

After Goodmanham, the views opened up for mile after mile of easy cycling. I was so glad that cars have other roads to travel on these days. Below me to my left seagulls speckled a rolling field as if basking on the swelling sea. To the right the spike of the church in South Dalton (more of which later) was silhouetted above the trees in the morning mist, as pronounced as an upturned nail in a bed of moss.

Lund

Lund

My first village of the day – Lund – was just as glorious. The only sounds to interrupt the peace were the “hellos” between dog walkers and gardeners and the cackle of geese from the farm next to the church. Not surprisingly, this place has been a film location. Lease of Life – an Ealing film starring Robert Donat of Goodbye Mr Chips fame – was shot here in 1954. The focal point of the village is The Wellington Arms. On the green opposite is an ancient cross (dating back to the days when Lund had a market) and an old pump.

They were pumping water out rather than in at the next village, Lockington, back in June 2007 when the stream that runs beside the main street burst its banks flooding the area to a depth of more than four feet in places. The scene was hard to imagine on such a fine autumn morning. The front doors of many houses are blue which denotes that they owned and let by Lord Hotham of South Dalton, my next port of call.

 St Marys Church, South Dalton

St Marys Church, South Dalton

St Mary’s Church in the village exudes superiority. Gothic in style but actually Victorian, it has a slender tower and sharp steeple that look like they’ve been broken off from the Palace of Westminster and stretched. Beside the church is a sweet little row of almshouses that share a roofed well within their walled gardens and, a few yards further down the estate village, is another tidy terrace – also with blue doors, of course.

From a minor road I could see Dalton Hall, the Hotham family seat, from a distance. The predominant colour here was the red of the dying leaves clinging to the exterior. In keeping with all the high life is the village pub, The Pipe and Glass. Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts and with some distance still to cover, I sought humbler fare on this occasion and headed to Etton.

As I lent my bike up against the post office I saw a plaque explaining that a Thomas Carling lived in the village in the early 19th century. He emigrated to Canada to found the Carling Brewing and Malting Company, brewing beer using his father’s Yorkshire recipe. A pint of the local ale then, I thought, as I bowled into The Light Dragoon opposite. Well, not quite. There was none. I made do instead with Black Bull bitter from Theakstons, a brewery with a rather more contemporary connection with the county.

The church in Etton is in stark contrast to St Mary’s. Its tower is as stout and square-topped as they come. Defiantly different, in fact. The ruinous 18th century windmill just outside the village couldn’t compete with its lofty neighbour either but was a good waymark for the cycle route back to where I started. It follows the track bed of the old Market Weighton-Beverley railway line. Initially I cycled in a cutting. A group of ramblers picking berries had good reason to ask me if I’d passed a windmill even though it was literally just over the bank. I was missing the views and villages of the morning session but being off-road and travelling as the crow flies – or train went – made for a nice change. I soon came out into the open and rested on a bench to enjoy a Wolds vista again.

Kiplingcotes station

Kiplingcotes station

Suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, I came across Kiplingcotes Station. It owes its curious location to a stipulation by Lord Hotham (him again) who allowed George Hudson, York’s notorious ‘Railway King’, to route the line across his land only on the proviso that Hudson included a station to serve the Hotham estate. On another local line Hudson ensured that there was a halt at Londesborough where he lived. These were clearly powerful men. The platform at Kiplingscotes is still very much in tact. On it stands an old bench in front of a station name sign partly obscured by an overgrown bush. The former goods shed is now an antiques shop while the signal box looks like it has recently been restored and appears to be some sort of study centre.

After steaming down the line for a few more miles I was back at Market Weighton. There’s no trace of the old station here. It was located where Aspen Close is today, facing towards the town and close to the cattle market, also gone. My bike loaded into the car, I wandered around the town to the peel of church bells. Some things never change.

Ford in Lockington

Ford in Lockington

Fact file

Time: 3 hours excluding stops.

Distance: 23 miles.

Directions:

Milepost, Lund

Milepost, Lund

Leave Market Weighton to the north via Londesborough Road. Take first right signed to Goodmanham. Pass through the village and continue ahead for three miles. At t-junction beside a little green turn left signed to Middleton and then almost immediately right signed to Lund. Continue ahead at crossroads into village centre. In front of the Wellington Arms turn right signed to Lockington. Turn right at t-junction then soon left into Lockington. Pass along the main street then, beside The Rockingham, turn right and over a brick bridge. At t-junction with B1248 turn right then immediately left signed to Holme on the Wolds. Pass through the village and follow road as it bears left towards and through South Dalton. (For the Pipe and Glass and a view of Dalton Hall turn right after the church). Pass over a crossroads then turn left at a t-junction into Etton. Turn right at the Light Dragoon. After 500 yards cross the former railway bridge then immediately turn right to leave the road and follow a track that leads down to the Hudson Way cycle path which leads all the way back to Market Weighton. The Way ends in an open grassed area. Where the path splits fork left and continue ahead onto Hall Road briefly to reach the Londesborough Road. Turn left back to the car park.

Note: The Hudson Way crosses roads and farm tracks so take care with children. It is also well used by walkers and narrow in places so you will need a bell.

Map: here

Eating:

The Goodmanham Arms, Goodmanham, YO43 3JA. Tel 01430 873849.
The Wellington Arms, Lund, YO25 9TE. Tel 01377 217394.
The Rockingham Arms (upmarket restaurant), Lockington, YO25 9SH. Tel 01423 810607.
The Pipe and Glass, South Dalton, HU17 7PN. Tel 01423 830246
The Light Dragoon, Etton, HU17 7PQ. Tel 01423 810282.
Lots of choice in Market Weighton.

Saddle up for sandy sojourn

Riding on the beach doesn’t just have to be for horses.

Funfair, Bridlington

Funfair, Bridlington

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.

Rudston monolith

Rudston monolith

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.

Carnaby Tower

Carnaby Tower

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?

Pirate ship enters Bridlington harbour_2_1

Pirate ship enters Bridlington harbour

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.

IMG_0332_1_1Directions: 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.