Spurn Return

February 2017

S24O  - 198km - 997m

Untitled photo

Spurn Point: one of my favourite places in the North. Constantly changing. Unpredictable. Captivating. I last rode to Spurn in the summer of 2015, there and back in a day from my base in York. Once past the Wolds it’s a remarkably flat part of the country so after some drunken-pub-based decision making, a plan was formed to take Jack on his first overnight bike packing trip. A simple itinerary of depart York mid morning, roll east to the North Sea then follow the coast south until we run out of land. Camp up somewhere on the point and return to York the following morning.

Meeting at the Minster for the obligatory bike shoot around 10am we zigzagged  our way through deserted Yorkshire back roads, tackling the only major climb of the trip at the appropriately named village of Painsthorpe, after which we were treated with intermittent glimpses of the coast and huge tankers seemingly hovering across the horizon. At this early stage a tone had been set for this ride, a theme of searching was emerging.

Jack recited a tale passed through generations of his family. Information bestowed upon him by his marathon running grandmother. Information I had never heard of. Information which seemed plausible. But ultimately wrong.

“If ever you find yourself short of water, seek out a church. They ALL have outside taps”

This was potentially groundbreaking. Jokes are still made at my expense after getting e.coli poisoning from drinking welsh river water last summer. I could’ve just rolled up to a church, wandered around it and hydrated?!

Bidons became dry. Shops were ignored and steeples and towers spotted. Rocking up to St. John the Evangelist with a wistful hope, it’s almost secret-passage-like grassy path leading to a petite church dating back to the 12th century. Wild flowers bloomed in every direction, the sun cut crisply through the air and an old rope swing swayed pleasingly in the morning breeze. Jack dismounted, cheerfully greeted a passing dog walker, and embarked on a tour of the grounds. Appearing from the far side of the this ecclesiastical oasis I noted a look of concern. As Jack got nearer I sensed an aura of disappointment and thirst. No tap*.

St. John had set a precedent. Three further churches were visited and found to be dry. Church number five, St. Mary’s of Huggate furnished us with bottles of Yorkshires finest from its outside tap located conveniently by the entrance gate . Stocked up with water and motivation we left this spired bastion of hydration and continued eastward.

Arriving by the coast at Skipsea in good time, a hunger had set in and part two of our ‘search theme’ reared it’s head.

Baited into Mr. Moos by an ‘all day Yorkshire breakfast’ sign our stop was a disappointing one. Dreaming of fried goods. A really greasy, fatty, mountain of fried goods… We were duly informed the kitchen was closed. A brief (but tasty) sausage roll and coffee and on we went, vowing to gorge on fish and chips at the earliest opportunity.

Hornsea has that classic British romanticism associated with small seaside resorts. Hornsea had chippy written all over it. The road into town built hopes and destroyed them just as quickly, two restaurants were spotted in quick succession only for both to be closed until 4.30pm. That wasn’t too far away, but the hunger was rife. A detour from the route towards the beach induced further concerns. The houses faded away as the sea drew closer, the road opening up to a beautiful coastal horizon and to our right the classically illustrated Sullivan’s Fish and Chips beckoned us in only to find that they’d sadly been flooded and were closed until further notice.

The search continued. Hornsea’s beach was heavily fortified during World War Two, these defences loomed with an ominous greyness and our hearts grew heavy. Caffeine will restore joviality to the most distraught of hungry cyclists and harnessing this knowledge we parked up on the sea wall and busted out the Aeropress. Coffee in hand and cameras suitably utilised a discovery was made. Tucked away amongst the bland terraces the failing light had offered an opportunity for the faint neon glow from ‘The Seafront Chippy’ to catch our eye, we were drawn to the tiny ‘Fish and Chips’ lightbox in moth-like fashion. It was open. There was no queue. Great success. Our coastal delicacy was consumed while taking in the view and no seagulls were fed. Our journey continued.

The path from Hornsea south was pleasant but fairly dull with only a few points of interest worth noting. Firstly a very convenient trail which leads from the road to the cliff edge; a mere fifty meters away but predominantly cut off by fenced farmland, this trail offers a sublime view of the erosion currently eating away at the east of Humberside. Countless villages of continuously smaller proportions pass before reaching Easington, a village dwarfed by the incredibly intimidating chemical and energy sites that neighbour it. Possibly the most secure industrial sites i’ve ever seen, their desolate and humanity less nature, constant rumbling hum and visceral amount light pollution was very unnerving, an uncomfortable sense which was increased by the discovery of a vintage Winnebago, parked up in the middle of nowhere, curtains drawn and looking very much like the infamous mobile ‘meth lab’ of Breaking Bad fame.

Arriving at spurn in darkness was unintentional but actually very enjoyable. To the east complete blackness, an occasion blink of light from a ship or wind turbine the only visual noise to interrupt the absolute darkest of dark. Looking west the eerie glow from Easington and Hull illuminated the Humber Estuary.

Tidal information at the entrance suggested we had time to make the trip out to the point but also that there had been recent warnings and getting cut off may be realistic. The sandy section of the walk was quite an effort with a loaded bike but the crashing sound of the waves soothed the inconvenience, unsure of the legality of this section of our plan we made the walk in darkness for fear of alerting the nearby lifeboat station to our trespass.

We spent the closing hours of the day exploring the lighthouse and photographing beneath the night sky, cloudy with the occasional star-filled break. Camp was made a little further back on ourselves, a ‘high tide shelter’ giving us a reassuring knowledge that we wouldn’t be swept away in our sleep, somewhere out of the breeze to cook and drink, and a flat section of sand upon which we rolled out our bivvies.

I slept well, through till about 4am, and I woke to a beautiful clear sky which held my attention with hopes of shooting stars, until a light flashed across the side of the shelter. A figure approached from the black, a head torch bobbing with ever nearing crunchy footsteps. Who else could be out here at this time? Surely we’re about to be told to move, or worse. The figure got closer, a trench coat and waders could be seen. Closer still I could now see he was carrying a pitchfork. A little drunk, tired and in the middle of nowhere my mind ran away with itself, were we about to be murdered? Robbed and left to float away, our bodies descending into the silty estuary? I pity the crabs who’d have to eat me! The figure was upon us, I closed my eyes and braced myself, allowing a peek as I heard him pass, nothing. Silence, no words or acknowledgement. He disappeared into the darkness from whence he came, perhaps a bait digger? A fisherman? Or maybe he wasn’t there at all.

Morning peace was broken by the sound of my 0630 alarm, set in order to catch the sunrise and pack up before anyone found us. The sunrise didn’t disappoint, although cloudy the air was fresh and watching the underside of the clouds catch the light bouncing up from the sea was almost as beautiful as the lone seal, playfully bouncing along the shore, i’m pretty sure it waved.

The lifeboat team seemed to change shift at 0700, a Land Rover came in from the mainland and despite a frantic rush, caught us not quite fully packed up. No shits were given and they smiled and waved as the drove past.

Jack had already accomplished his longest ever ride with the previous days 155km. His decision to undertake this in jeans will never make sense to me and i’m sure his arse will never forgive him. We opted to roll into Hull and get a train back to York, cutting about 60km from the planned route. Hull is awful, avoid it.

*Amusingly, ‘achurchnearyou‘ notes that St John the Evangelist “is always open to provide that real haven for rest and refreshment”.

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