I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Yorkshire Wolds Way: The Humber Bridge To North Ferriby

Almost a year ago I finished walking the Viking Way, a 147 mile footpath tracing a country route from Oakham in Rutland to the Humber Bridge. Now it was time to continue — for every ending is just another beginning. 

On the far side of the Humber lies the start of the Yorkshire Wolds Way, an 80 mile route across chalk hills and dales to Filey Brigg on the North Sea; and this is a prelude to the 110 mile Cleveland Way, which follows the cliff edge to Saltburn, then curls round to Helmsley over the North York Moors. (Britain's enviable network of paths and trails is intricately connected — for example, the 192 mile Coast to Coast Walk from St Bees to Robin's Hood Bay twice intersects the Cleveland Way.) 

So yesterday I stood once again at the foot of the Humber Bridge, at one time the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world, now the seventh-longest. Like before, the day was dull, grey and misty. I did wonder for a moment what on earth I was doing there, when I could have been sitting at home by the fireside with a good book. However, pushing such thoughts aside, I left the car at Waters' Edge Country Park in Barton-upon-Humber and resolutely set off. It was cold, but I was wearing a merino wool base layer, technical long-sleeved top, two fleeces, hat, gloves and neck warmer, so I was well protected. From the bridge this is the view of the south bank of the river . . . 

. . . and this is the view of Hessle on the north bank. The eastern horizon, where sky and water meet, was barely discernible through the murk.

Three grindstones lie in front of a whiting mill next to the Humber Bridge Country Park. The tower, built in 1806 from brick coated with tar, would originally have had five sails. Wind drove the sails which drove the stones which crushed the chalk from a nearby quarry. The crushed chalk slurry was settled and dried and then used in paint, ink and putty. Larger pieces of chalk from the nearby hills (or wolds) were used for housebuilding. 

The embankment trail led west for two and a half miles to North Ferriby (opposite South Ferriby on the other side of the river; there was once a ferry between the two). The setting was quite bleak. Colours were muted and spring seemed far off. A string of waders fed by the water's edge and a long sandbank paralleled the shore.

As I approached North Ferriby I came upon this memorial: an outline of an ancient wooden boat. Between the 1930s and the 1960s three boats were excavated here which proved to date from the Bronze Age — one of them the oldest seagoing boat that has ever been discovered (c. 2030 BC). They are now housed in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

I would have to have waited fifty minutes on a draughty platform for a train back to Hessle, so I walked instead. As the Humber Bridge emerged from the gloom, I watched a flock of geese fly over and a solitary oystercatcher probe the shoreline. Spears of teasel, scrubby clumps of buddleia, a single flowering gorse and a line of stunted ash trees — their branches tipped with sooty buds — bordered the path. The railway ran alongside, and my train overtook me. Unsightly scraps of litter — presumably thrown by rail passengers — strewed the no man's land between track and path.  

Despite the dismal weather I had enjoyed the walk — in the end it had been around nine miles, including the bridge crossing. But I felt weary, and was aching in various muscles and joints. Clearly the winter had made me too soft and housebound. A recent virus plus a tooth infection had also curtailed my usual walking, and I felt rusty and out of practice. Driving home I found myself wishing fervently for a warm springtime day.

13 comments:

Jean said...

Wow so beautiful, though, on such a day. I really love austere land- and seascapes.

Bouncing Bertie said...

Well done Robert for making the most of somewhat unpromising weather and landscape!

The Weaver of Grass said...

I love this area Robert. I remember as a child going over from New Holland to Hull on the ferry - always such an exciting thing.
Now I love going over on the bridge just as much Hope you were walking again today when the weather was much better.

George said...

Every report of one of your walks is interesting, and this one is no exception. I commend you for braving what appears to be rather bleak and cold weather. Here in South Carolina, where the winters are shorter and milder than those in Maryland, spring has already come, and, with the exception of bad weather yesterday, most of our days are now in the seventies (F). I've already walked about fifty miles this month, and I'm looking forward to more. The fireside reading of winter is wonderful, of course, but nothing beats the draw of the pathways in spring.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for commenting — Jean, Gail (Bouncing Bertie) and Pat (Weaver of Grass).

In the seventies, George! Wow. This morning it was 3 deg C here (but rose to 13 later).

Martin said...

Hurrah! A hiking post! It's been too long, looking forward to more of these : )

The Solitary Walker said...

Cheers, Martin!

sackerson said...

Took some similar photos of the Humber Bridge from a grotty little car park on the shore, on the Scunthorpe side.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, that must have been where I left my own car — in Barton-upon-Humber, Dominic.

dritanje said...

'for every ending is just another beginning.'
I do feel that very much right now. And this is a lovely post, with subtle misty shades of colour.

'I found myself wishing fervently for a spring day' - yes I echo that heartfelt feeling.

The Solitary Walker said...

Every ending is just another beginning. Yes! No matter how painful the ending is, something else always begins — painful again, perhaps, but usually a mixture of sorrow and joy, as life is!

Grandmother said...

I enjoyed reading about your walk --as its a segment of a walk that you want to do -- will you then drive to where you left off and walk from there next time?

Jean in winnipeg

The Solitary Walker said...

Will probably do this, Jean — and perhaps utilise buses where possible.