Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Walk 115 -- Stone Creek to Skeffling

Ages: Colin was 63 years and 66 days. Rosemary was 60 years and 208 days.
Weather: Warm and muggy, but a refreshing breeze when we were in open country.
Location: Stone Creek to Skeffling.
Distance: 10½ miles.
Total distance: 915 miles.
Terrain: After yesterday’s difficulties, we planned an inland Walk when we realised today would be the same only more so. We also made up a new rule about taking the shortest route to the next access point. Two-thirds of the Walk was straight country lanes (1.7miles without a bend in one place!) Then we walked a pleasant track which was quasi-legal, and finally seabank which was a bit overgrown but passable.
Tide: Out.
Rivers: No.48, Stone Creek. No.49, Winestead Drain.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: None.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: No.33, which was nearly the whole Walk because the seabank was impassable—I’m talking eyebrow-high thistles here!
How we got there and back: We were camping at Skipsea. With bikes on the back of the car, we drove to Skeffling where we parked at the beach. Then we cycled along country lanes to Stone Creek.
At the end, we had our tea, and then drove the country lanes back to Stone Creek where we picked up our bikes. Again we got back to camp early enough for me to cook in daylight.

It was lunchtime before we got to Stone Creek on our bikes, so we sat on the grass and ate some of our sarnies. A travelling salesman came along in his car, undoubtedly lost, and we chatted to him for a bit. He needed to get to Hull, so we sent him across the creek on a track, assuring him that it turned into a proper road after about fifty yards—this would save him miles. He thought about it for a while, then he did it. Otherwise there was absolutely no one about.
We had reccied the seabank path at the end of the last Walk, and we were not happy about it. On the map a path is marked all the way to Skeffling, but most of it is not public footpath. When planning this Walk at home I had hoped that we would still be able to walk it because it is right out in the sticks miles from anywhere, and we wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. But after our experiences on the seabank from Paull—which was a public footpath—I was not so confident. Sure enough, it was eyebrow-deep in grass and thistles, absolutely impossible to walk along. A notice told us:
Winestead Pumping Station to Stone Creek
The path along the bank is not a public right of way but a courtesy path. The Commissioners may close the path without notice and in particular this will be necessary from time to time for bank maintenance.
There are no intermediate access points from Sunk Island. No access from Outstray Farm. Please keep to the path. No guns allowed.
We were quite happy about leaving our guns at home(!) but how could we keep to the path when it was so overgrown? We didn’t fancy walking in the marsh either—we’d had enough of that on the last Walk. So we resigned ourselves to taking a more inland route.
It was then that we made up a new ‘rule’. The route nearest to the coast along country lanes was all wiggly, zigzaggy, a long way and above all—BORING! We decided that if we had to go inland from the coast, then we could take the shortest route to the next access point even if it wasn’t the nearest path to the sea. That would save us a couple of miles at least on today’s Walk. Just before we left I could smell aniseed. I looked down, and we were treading on plants of wild fennel!
So we started marching along a nearby lane. I use the word ‘marching’ deliberately because it was straight, flat and BORING, and we wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. The only interest was the occasional beetle or caterpillar crossing the road. Really, it was that bad!
After a couple of miles we came to a crossroads called ‘Sunk Island’ which, I think, indicates the bogginess of the area. We turned left, and there we were mildly amused to see two local farmers bailing the hay they had cut from the grass verge. Not a bit was being wasted, so even overgrown grass verges have their uses. (Wish they had turned their attentions to the seabank.)
We turned right at the next junction, and there began the worst bit of the Walk. We had to trek one and a half miles of lane in a dead straight line! Having nothing better to do, we decided to ‘power-walk’ it instead of our usual bimble. We did it in half an hour, which we worked out was a pace of three miles an hour—not bad for a couple of wrinklies! A slight bend, then there was a further three quarters of a mile in a straight line. There was very little traffic because these roads don’t really go anywhere, but all cars and vans which passed us were going much too fast. None of them slowed down when they saw us, expecting us to leap into the nearest ditch to get out of their way. That’s the trouble with straight roads.
We crossed Winestead Drain on a little bridge, admiring the wild flowers on the bank, and came to the edge of the hamlet of Patrington Haven. On the grass verge was an old hay-cart full of flowers—it looked very rustic. Immediately we turned right along a track which was public bridleway for about half a mile. After that it was not marked as public access on the map, but we were hoping that we would be able to walk another mile to where it joined up with another public footpath—saving us miles of walking out of our way. We had reccied it earlier when on our bikes, and there was a notice which said, “NO MOTORBIKES” and another which read, “DOGS MUST BE KEPT ON A LEAD”. It seemed as if we were permitted to walk through, so we were quite relieved.
This mile across ‘private’ land proved to be the most pleasant part of the whole Walk. It was a wide mown track between lines of bushes. Colin was chasing butterflies, rabbits were bobbing about and on one of the pools we passed we saw a mother moorhen with her chicks.
It was when we were on this path that we crossed the Greenwich Meridian for the umpteenth time. We crossed from west to east again, and continued walking in the eastern hemisphere. There was no marker on the path, but when we had cycled along the road earlier in the day we had passed a signpost and taken photos of each other. We must have been due north of Cleethorpes, because that is where we last crossed the Meridian.
At the end of this track it got rather confusing. We couldn’t see where the path continued, and we veered round too much to the South. We could see the seabank in the distance and knew we had to join up with it pretty soon, but we came to a field and couldn’t see our way on. So we back-tracked a little, then Colin found the stile hidden behind a bush! It was very hot, and I had a small towel tucked under the strap of my rucksack so I could wipe the sweat off my brow every time it threatened to blind me. It was one of those tiny towels that are very absorbent, and was coloured yellow—my friends in the B.L.I.S.T.E.R.S. used to call it my duster! Anyway, I think it was on that stile that I lost it, the overhanging bushes pulled at me and I didn’t notice it was gone until I wanted to use it about a mile further on. It wasn’t worth going back for—I just had to use my sleeve to wipe away the sweat after that!
We approached the seabank and noted that it was still nose-high in weeds. We were on a public footpath by then, and it actually humped over the bank and went alongside it on the shore side for a bit. It was impossible to walk on the bank, it was too overgrown. Then the path climbed up and continued along the top of the bank which, from there on, was fairly clear of weeds. We sat down and ate our chocolate.
For the last mile or so it was fairly easy walking along the seabank. This morning, when we had parked the car, I had looked at the condition of the path and it looked quite promising. A couple of women on horses had trotted along it and I had thought, “That will knock the weeds down!” Well they couldn’t have gone very far—I had hoped that more of the footpath would be clear of weeds. We knew we were nearly back when we saw signs of the horses on the path. Across the marshes we could see Spurn Head snaking its way round. Across the Humber we could just make out the port of Immingham, and could hear an industrial ‘hum’ when we stood still. We finished the Walk at the beach car park at Skeffling.

That ended Walk no.115, we shall pick up Walk no.116 next time at Skeffling. We had a couple of cups of tea from our flask, and then drove the country lanes back to Stone Creek where we picked up our bikes. After that it was back to camp in plenty of time for me to cook in daylight.

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