‘Riding’ Into Yorkshire
An extended mixed week of anticipation, apprehension and aggravation.
Just north of Skegness I chalked up my first 1,000 miles since leaving Portsmouth - it was celebration time. At Cleethorpes I treated myself to my first ice cream since the walk began and crossed the Greenwich Meridian for the fourth time. Later, looking seaward, I saw the mouth of the River Humber encircled by the arm of Spurn Point – my distant goal.
Reality soon returned as I began to think about navigating round the large dock and industrial areas ahead of me – Grimsby, Immingham, Killingholme, New Holland and Hull. And there was also the Humber Bridge crossing to be tackled.
Grimsby proved to be straight forward. A town still proud of its fishing heritage, with Young’s Seafood remaining a key employer, rather like the presence of Bird’s Eye in Lowestoft. However, Grimsby has diversified: leaving the town I saw acres of vehicle storage facilities where thousands of new cars are stored.
Heading north, with coastline access restricted, I weaved in and out of industrial estates passing everything from gas terminals, oil storage depots, power stations and sewage works, to chemical factories and yet more new cars. Incredibly, footpaths still cross some very busy dock areas, where containers pulled by tractors charge up and down, and freight rail lines are still in use. I needed to keep my wits about me and was very relieved to get through this part of the walk.
Hull docks proved to be a different story, where having followed a public footpath, I found myself tangled up in dockland on Easter Sunday on the wrong side of the security perimeter fencing. Resisting the urge to climb over and risk arrest, I phoned the Emergency Security number. I was eventually released by Mr Security who said, ‘Don’t worry lass, this is always happening’!
I eagerly awaited my first sighting of the Humber Bridge – it took a long time owing to heavy rain and swirling low mist. It seemed to take forever before I was standing alongside the strikingly graceful single span suspension bridge. At the time of its opening in 1981 it was the longest of its type in the world – a record retained for 17 years.
I soon discovered I was not the only one crossing the bridge that day: I met hundreds of people taking part in the Hell on the Humber (HOTH) endurance challenge (www.hellonthehumber.com). The lack of views was disappointing, but it was good to ‘tick off’ another county (Lincolnshire) and arrive in Hull, the 2017 City of Culture.
Hull’s strong maritime history is apparent everywhere. Docks have opened and closed. Over the centuries imports have changed; timber for coal mining props has stopped but has now been replaced by components for the offshore windfarm industry. Coal is no longer exported but agricultural machinery exports continue: I noticed a large consignment of John Deere tractors waiting to be shipped out.
The city is also famous for its close-knit fishing community. In this, the 50th anniversary year of the Hull triple trawler tragedy, I was moved to see all the floral tributes that have been placed at the Hull’s Lost Trawlermen Memorial. This is a striking 9ft steel sculpture that commemorates over 6,000 fishermen from Hull who have been lost at sea over the years.
The generation of off-shore energy is increasingly evident around the UK coastline and Hull is a major contributor to this new industry. At Alexandra Dock, the Siemens factory manufactures the massive wind-turbine blades and stores other components. One blade is as long as the entire wingspan of an A380 Airbus aircraft, while the height of a wind-turbine equals one of the Humber Bridge support towers. Given their colossal size, it’s no surprise that one of these ‘windmills’ can generate enough power for 5,000 homes.