A half term trip to my parents in Lincolnshire – and a corresponding spot of fantastic sunny weather – gave me the opportunity to visit Spurn, the strip of land which loops out over the Humber Estuary, at the very edge of Yorkshire, and ends in Spurn Point. I don’t know why I’ve left it so long (the parents moved there about 25 years ago) but I had managed to push it to the back of my mind. Reading Katherine Norbury’s ‘The Fish Ladder‘ last year. Her account of a visit there in the early morning, after a night drive from Lancashire, lodged it in my head, and I’ve felt the pull of it ever since.
Spurn is one of the most fascinating pieces of landscape I’ve ever been to. It’s up there with Yosemite Valley and the Rockies, Chania Gorge on Crete, the Highlands of Scotland…really, this spit of sandy land in East Yorkshire is just as fascinating. We drove, me, my Mum and Alex, over the Humber Bridge and through the outskirts of Hull. Past Hedon, through some very pretty little Lincolnshire villages with huge parish churches (the result of the once lucrative wool trade I expect) until the landscape became even flatter than ever. We stopped to have a look at the bird reserve at Kilnsea with its World War 1 sound mirror, which looms almost menacingly up out of a field:
Driving on to Spurn we pass a couple of small caravan sites, and a number of posters protesting the building of a new visitor centre and car park on the headland. I guess if I lived there I’d want to keep it as it is.But this really is a place in a state of constant change, it’s a bit of a difficult one. As it was we had to park on the grass verge outside the current very tiny car park, as it was already full at 11am.
Spurn feels extremely remote despite being less than an hour from Hull and having the aforementioned caravan sites and the odd farm sitting on it. The sky is huge here; from the top of the dunes you can look out and see the North Sea wind turbine farm out on one horizon, and Grimsby on the other – the Victorian Hydraulic Accumulator Tower on the docks looking almost like an Italian church in the haze. But mostly you see and feel the large sky, the empty beach. This is not bucket and spade territory (that’s to be found in Cleethorpes or Skegness)
The whole place has a feeling of impermanence, the sands are ever shifting. We are warned about High Tide when we arrive – it wouldn’t have inundated the sand bar on this particular day, but watching the sea creeping up is enough to make you aware that it can happen. As is the little wooden refuge about a mile or so further on from the car park. We walked along the beach – a treasure trove of pebbles and all sorts of other washed up items, including some fairly intact fishy victims – a pipe fish, a dog fish – of something was it fishermen or the sea?
As we head along the beach we encounter ever larger lumps of building, a single brick here, a corner of a wall there. A weird tangle of concrete tiles and nylon rope prove to be the road. Or what was the road until it was destroyed by the tidal surge in December 2013. Now there are sections of it scattered over the beach and no vehicular access to the Point at all unless you take the Spurn Safari ‘Unimog’ trip (one for next time, as we didn’t make it to the lighthouse, nine and seventy-five year old legs being what they are).
Whole villages have disappeared from this piece of land, as is the case with much of the East Coast. As we get towards lunchtime we arrive at a huge collection of rubble tumbled into the sea. I believe this is the remains of a WW1 artillery post – maybe the Godwin post – there’s not much of it left, and I can’t identify it from pictures I’ve found online. The rubble has formed a kind of sea cave, much as natural rocks would do over time, water sucking in and out.
Climbing to the top of the dune we can see the humbug striped lighthouse at Spurn Point. if we look very, very carefully we can see this lighthouse’s forerunner, now stuck on the beach rather than the Point, and with a water tank attached to the top. Down there, where we don’t reach on this particular trip. There’s also the Humber RNLI Lifeboat Station, the only one in the country with a full-time crew living on site, the estuary and the sea beyond are hugely treacherous. But as I say, we’ll save that for next time, as here will be many more next times, I hope. I’d like to wander it in many weathers, see the wildlife properly, explore the area thoroughly. I was captivated by this place.