Ages: Colin was 63 years and 210 days. Rosemary was 60 years and 352 days.
Weather: Quite mild. Little wind and lots of sunshine.
Location: Aldbrough to Atwick, via Hornsea.
Distance: 8½ miles.
Total distance: 954 miles.
Terrain: Some grassy paths, but mostly firm beach sand. Concrete prom through Hornsea.
Kissing gates: None.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: No.34, north of Hornsea because of cliff erosion.
How we got there and back: We rented a cottage for a week on a farm near the village of Rudston—we drove up from Bognor the day before. With bikes on the back of the car, we drove to Atwick where we parked at the top of the cliff just before the road fell over the edge! We cycled to Aldbrough along rather hilly roads, and I never got off to walk despite my advanced age!
At the end, we had our tea, by which time it was quite dark despite it not yet being 4pm. We drove back to Aldbrough to pick up the bikes, then north again to Rudston to our cosy cottage.
It took us nearly five months to get back to East Yorkshire. We went to Canada in late August / early September to visit my cousins and explore a little of rural Québec. In October we hired a narrowboat for two weeks and took it over the spectacular Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Wales four times because it was such fun!—(like flying in a barge). Then there was an annual reunion with friends (“Ladies who Lunch”) in Southampton, my niece’s wedding in Arundel Cathedral, a return visit to Hopton-on-Sea with Cecilia and Jay to walk with Kate, visits to Everton to see Maria & Steve, a visit to Isleham to see Paul & Caroline, and numerous day-outings I organised for myself (Isle of Wight, London, etc) whenever Colin went off on CAMRA ‘business’. Phew! Life in retirement is so full of frolics, mirth and merriment—how did we ever have time to go to work?
I looked in a book of tide tables, and picked a week when the tide would definitely be out in East Yorkshire during daylight hours. Then I booked a cottage nearby and planned the Walks with military precision before we came. It paid off, so I will always do that in future. We took a chance with the weather, and won! On Walk days we have to get up at 5.30am and drive in the dark to where we plan to leave the car. That is so we can start the cycle ride the moment it is light enough to do so—not a moment of daylight must be wasted.
We started the actual Walk at 10.30am—is this a record? We stood on the clifftop at Aldbrough where the road fell over the edge. How were we going to get down to that nice firm sandy beach? We considered going back to the rough-cut steps we had come up last time (there were fishermen on the beach who had obviously used them), but we decided against that. Surely there would be another way down in the direction we were going? There wasn’t! Avoiding all the dog-muck, we walked about half a mile along a good path (which was not marked on the map) to an old Army range, yes another one. It was somewhat overgrown and didn’t look as if it was used any more, but the path petered out, the ground was rough and warning notices were still up. It just wasn’t worth the risk of treading on something nasty in the undergrowth.
So down the cliff we had to go. It took ages to find a spot where this was feasible, Colin tried several possibilities until he found a way he thought I could manage. It took about half an hour as we inched our way down slowly and steadily. The clay was extremely soft and gooey. It clung to our boots like a thick gelatinous sludge, but we descended without mishap. We were triumphant! Our boots weighed a ton, but we were able to wash them off in the sea. The beach sand was firm, the tide was right out, the sun was shining and it was absolutely glorious marching along next to the rolling surf.
It struck us just how soft the cliffs are in this part of Yorkshire. No wonder there is so much erosion—I wouldn’t buy a house within five miles of this shore! There were pinnacles and ‘trolls’ carved in the cliff by water and wind which reminded us of Iceland where people actually believe in these things. Occasionally we came across an area where the cliff had caved in underneath—I wouldn’t like to walk along the top at those spots. The clods of clay which had fallen off seemed to have been carved in the most beautiful shapes. Sometimes it was hard to believe it was not a manmade sculpture.
There were lumps of chalk in the clay, showing up bright against the dark colour of the cliff. On the beach a lot of the rocks were also white chalk. Looking at the solid geology map of Britain, I found this whole area is marked as chalk. The clay must be a drift deposit, probably a moraine left by the last Ice Age. Colin kept spying fossils in the stones. He would really like to have loitered for several hours with a geological hammer, splitting open stones until he found the ‘perfect’ fossil—such are dreams! We sat on a rock to eat the first part of our lunch. It was just so wonderful to be within sight, sound and smell of the surf on such a glorious day in December! We did spare a thought for all those poor souls who still have to go to work to earn our pensions, but we didn’t think about them for long. After all, we did it—and then some—for our parents and grandparents in our day. We are now reaping the rewards!
We passed Mappleton where a concrete road came down through the cliff to the beach. That was the first beach access we passed, and we had already walked three and a half miles. A few people were on the beach there, but otherwise we hadn’t met anybody. We kept coming across pieces of brickwork on the shore, smoothed by the action of the sea. They must have come from buildings which had toppled over the cliff.Some pieces of concrete we came across were the remains of ‘pill-boxes’ left over from the War, but they were hardly recognisable because they were so eroded. We looked up the cliff at one point to see a fully stacked hay-barn teetering on the edge, bales of hay strewn down the cliff face. Also a caravan next to the remains of a building which was all mashed up—make that ten miles, the distance from this shore in which I wouldn’t ever consider buying a house! We sat on another rock nearby and had some more lunch.By then we were nearly in Hornsea which has a lovely beach. We climbed some steps and walked along the prom into town. There were a lot of people about taking the air because it was such a nice day, and it was a Sunday of course.
The only real feature was a post to mark the end—or the beginning, depending on which way you look at it—of the Trans-Pennine Trail. This fairly new way-marked walking trail wends its way across the country from east to west coasts. It takes in Hull (where we came across it in one of the docks), Selby, Barnsley, Stockport, Warrington, and ends (or begins) in Southport. It also has branches linking it to Chesterfield, Sheffield, Rotherham, Leeds and Liverpool. We have no idea what it is like to walk as we had never heard of it before we came across it in Hull. This area of Britain has the reputation of being run-down and depressed, being ex-industrial, but all the towns are feverishly reinventing themselves. There could be some pleasant surprises—for instance Liverpool has been chosen as a ‘European Capital of Culture’, and has to get its act together by 2008.
As we left Hornsea to the north of the town, we made the decision to stay on top of the cliff rather than the beach. We would rather have been down there, but we didn’t want to come unstuck at Atwick and have to climb another cliff. We were already losing daylight fast, and the thought of scrambling up a soft cliff in the dark did not appeal! Almost immediately the path became too eroded to walk, and we had to divert round some fairly new houses to walk along a road. Why build houses just there? The residents must be confident that the sea defences will hold—I wouldn’t be, having experienced the weakness of the cliffs and knowing the power of the sea when the wind gets up. When we reached a boat club, we went through a gate and returned to the clifftop path. But the boat club had illegally blocked it off in order to have ‘water-frontage’, so we had to turn round and return to the road. That was a PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY they had blocked off. I expect their excuse, like that of a golf club we passed near Lowestoft, would be that the actual path has fallen into the sea so the public right of way is now on the beach—blow the impossibility of getting down there and getting up again!
On the other side of the boat club we found there was a cleft in the cliffs with a concrete road running up it. This was so the boat club could get its boats up and down, and we realised we could have walked along the beach from Hornsea and come up there. This wasn’t clear from the map at all.
Only another half mile across fields high up on the edge of the cliffs. There were mole heaps in the grass—I wonder if any mole has ever dug himself out seawards and tumbled down on to the beach! Through a caravan site, and we were there—at Atwick. We arrived back at the car just as the sun was setting in a blaze of glory in the western sky—it was 3.40pm. Colin had to have his few moments of silliness on the ‘road to oblivion’, but never mind him. It had been a lovely day, and the Walk had been a great success. Meticulous pre-planning is the key!
That ended Walk no.119, we shall pick up Walk no.120 next time at the end of the sea road leading out of Atwick. By the time we had de-booted and had our tea it was quite dark despite it being not yet 4pm. It was a bit of a bind having to drive back to Aldbrough to pick up the bikes. Colin didn’t feel very well, he had developed a nasty cough. But it was still early, despite the darkness, and I had plenty of time to cook a sumptuous meal once we had returned to our cosy cottage in Rudston. I made some minestrone-type soup using fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, and we followed it with big chunks of fresh salmon served in a mustard sauce. That’s the beauty of a holiday cottage, you can cook properly if you want to. After demolishing a bottle of wine with this repast, we both felt very good indeed.