This is part of Yorkshire's East Riding, its coast running down from Flamborough Head to the north shore of the Humber Estuary. It is renowned for suffering the worst coastal erosion of anywhere in Europe. It's crumbly chalk geology and the battering North Sea have meant as much as a metre per year has gone from some stretches of this coast.
I drove here from Hull through pretty, sleepy villages – Patrington, Welwick and Easington (also home to some vast, shining gas terminals). Marshland until the Middle Ages this is rich agricultural land. I drove aimlessly south off the 'main' road to see Sunk Island (now attached to the mainland), which hangs down into the Humber and is said to be some of the best farmland in Britain. It's very quiet, with endless swathes of arable and a few smart farmhouses with stabling and expensive horseboxes.
Further east Spurn Point (as far east as you can go) is a three-mile sandbar, created by the longshore drift, which curls down into the Humber and is now a nature reserve. It feels miles from anywhere (though it's less than an hour from Hull) and is incredibly bleak. At the Point there is a lighthouse station, some crumbling sea defences, a couple of cottages, and a now defunct black and white lighthouse. I met birdwatchers – this is a haven for migratory birds - who'd seen wood sandpipers, a subalpine warbler and a red-backed shrike.
|The edge of the caravan park|
A lady who runs the Sandy Beaches Holiday Village at Kilnsea told me about the tidal surge in early December last year when they were flooded out and lost 12 caravans. Others are now perilously close to the edge.
On past the holiday resorts of Withernsea and Hornsea and to Bridlington. I bought crab at the harbour and the lady in the shop was bemoaning the fact that we British don't eat enough shellfish – most of it goes to Europe. She said “Now the Chinese, they eat a lot of whelks.” “You export whelks to china?” I was amazed. “No,” she said, “but when they're here they'll buy the whole lot.”I liked Bridlington and it was a sunny day. I looked for a cafe with wifi (but that's another story; one lady said “I don't think you'll get wifi in Brid, Dook!”) so I made a cup of tea in Baa. I had the door open and Lee Majors, the parking enforcement officer, stuck his head in to check I wasn't planning to stay overnight. I wasn't. And it turned out that though born in Bridlington, he had lived at Spurn Point for a couple of years as a boy when his father was a mechanic on the Lifeboat.
|Remembering a childhood at Spurn Point|
Lee said it was a great place to live if you were 9; there were underground tunnels and guns left over from defending the Humber from the Germans. He had gone on to spend 25 years in the army and had recently returned to Bridlington.
I asked him where David Hockney lived. “He's got a house over there,” he said, pointing. “But he's honestly not here much. He's always saying he'd like the town to be like it used to be... but things change.” I asked what had changed in the time that he had been away. He thought for a moment, laughed, and said “Nowt!”