Stage 202, 15th October: Kilnsea to Paull
When I had dropped into Bridlington two days before it hadn’t really dawned on me how flat things would become. With three days to get around the Humber estuary it would become very clear that my cliff top days were pretty much history and that I would be unlikely to see another proper cliff till I reached Kent. Much though cliffs would be absent, sea-walls, flood-banks, levees and dykes would become all too common. With the boredom these can sometimes bring I worried whether I would give them the correct terminology. Little things worry little minds when one gets bored.
The first six miles of the day took me along a grass topped flood-bank until a fenced off sluice gate blocked my path and forced me inland across farmland and, I had no doubt, a bit of minor trespassing. I picked up bone straight lanes passing through places with glum Dickensian names such as Sunk Island, Bleak House Farm and Stone Creek. All morning I saw only twitchers out in their usual non-breeding all male pairs laden with long lenses and all wearing green. Though I did manage to spot a Marsh Harrier too.
I didn’t know, but apparently a clough is a steep valley or ravine. My afternoon consisted of passing several cloughs and I wouldn’t have called any of them steep valleys even in the furthest recesses of anyone’s imagination. Nonetheless I passed Firtholme, Ireland’s, Easington, Winsetts and Skeffling Cloughs. To confuse matters more Weeton Clough was marked as disused on my map. With a leaden sky and heavy industrial backdrop over the other side of the river, all remained fairly glum. It was iPod time.
The evening lightened my mood considerably as Kate and I met up with Chris, Gwyndra and old friend Rik for a chinese meal in Hull. Not having had much chinese food, two inside a few days felt a bit of an indulgence but I wasn’t complaining. The company was grand.
Stage 203, 16th October: Paull to Goxhill Haven
From the old riverside village of Paull it was briefly back onto the flood-bank before rounding the large heavy chemical works at Salt End. I then had to find my way back to the waterfront as the working docks of Hull took control of access to the water.
After a couple of miles along the A1033 I found a path back through the docks and on to one end of the Trans Pennine Trail, which then stuck religiously to the waterfront. Indeed, it stuck so well to the edge that at one point it even took me up and over the roof of one old wharf. Old quays and rotting wooden structures abounded and I had a suspicion that the disused West Wharf would be the next candidate for a makeover.
Redevelopment was again prevalent as I approached the city centre. Neat apartment blocks modelled on old-fashioned wharves and dockside businesses took precedence before they merged with the obligatory water based attraction of ‘The Deep’ and were quickly followed by the even more obligatory out-of-town shopping complex and leisure facilities. I sadly missed the originality in design and individual identity that towns and cities across Britain once had. Yes they may have been run down, but I would have thought the planners could have chosen more than one now extremely wealthy firm of architects to remodel the landscape.
Once I had escaped the anonymous facade of Makro, the vast span of the Humber Bridge came into view properly. Getting up onto it to walk across was a puzzle, but once up I had one and a half miles of tarmac clad steel across what was once the largest single-span suspension bridge in the world, holding the record for sixteen years. It is now only seventh.
I was now in Lincolnshire and in a land I had some familiarity with, having worked and lived here for a few years in the late 1990s. I had a pleasant riverside path to follow and stayed with it until a timber yard at Barrow Haven decided to close it for some reason. I wasn’t going to argue and couldn’t sneak through unseen, so I marched the lanes and cloying muddy fields inland to find Kate parked up in a very remote spot having had an adventurous day with a fallen horse rider, a cowardly truck driver, an ambulance crew and her nursing skills. I think she won the interesting day competition.
Stage 204, 17th October: Goxhill Haven to Cleethorpes
I set out at dawn for an early start back on a dew laden flood-bank and an appointment with former colleagues and friends at one of the oil refineries on the South bank of the Humber. Ships were unloading at North Killingholme and the noise level gradually grew as I drew close.
I diverted a little inland and the refineries were, in comparison, quiet places even if their presence seemed more awe-inspiring and a little threatening with their large flare stacks, massive tank farms, miles of twisting pipework and gently smouldering chimneys.
I arrived at reception to be met by some old friends who added the now accepted sarcastic remarks about my lack of girth and enjoyed an hour in familiar surroundings with the huge and much added bonus of a very generous donation to my chosen charities. Time and time again donations have proven to be my psychological fuel and every one – large or small – has undoubtedly given me a real lift, particularly when the walking part is a little dull or lacking in “wow” moments.
Saying my thanks and goodbyes, I reluctantly moved on. The pathless roads around Immingham weren’t so welcoming and I had to keep to grubby unkempt verges to escape the huge number of trucks exiting the port for the motorways of Britain. Eventually I rediscovered the riverside which had now become a very long narrow concrete road and sea-wall which took me alongside further heavy industry all the way to the outskirts of Grimsby with its dock entrance tower dominating the horizon and looking a bit like the “Eye of Sauron” overlooking any who enter or leave the Humber.
The back streets of Grimsby brought a semi-welcome replacement to the smell of heavy industry as fish replaced chemicals in my nostrils. Grimsby soon gave way to rows of amusements arcades and the seaside town of Cleethorpes, a place that always raises a smile in my heart as a traditional old-fashioned and ever so slightly tacky yet charming resort. The end of another week was nigh as I found Kate parked up in a campsite on the South side of town. Our third chinese of the week was probably an overindulgence this time, but at least I managed a good ice cream for dessert.