The land that aesthetics forgot

Bleak. If ever there was a place that was so out of the way, unloved and forgotten, then this part of Yorkshire’s coast is it. Look at it, it’s so full of self-pity, it’s throwing itself into the sea! Here, large chunks of land and everything attached are falling into the sea before your very eyes. Is this one of those areas where the government has given up and the local council just doesn’t have the money to stop the inevitable? What of the people and their property? Perhaps there isn’t enough collective will or funds to mount their own defence.

We were retreating south from Northumberland after the weather looked like it was going to turn nasty. By the time we got to Woodstock, no sorry wrong song. By the time we got to the Wetherby Services on the A1M, we remembered that we we going to replace the mattress sometime soon. It is about 20 years old after all and a bit shagged. Perhaps the wrong word to use there. As the South has fewer motorhome and caravan-friendly accessory stores, we thought we’d try a few local suppliers to see if we could have a mattress cut to size. If you’re wondering, an over-cab drop-down bed in a motorhome doesn’t have a standard sized mattress. It is also curved on one edge.

Of course, it was already Saturday afternoon so why would anywhere be open long enough for us to make it before closing time. One day we’ll be grown ups and plan things, and know what we’re doing in 5 years time, or a weeks time. Maybe not.

After an internet search, we found a suitable store we could visit the following Monday. Well, we’re in the area, let’s go and see Spurn Head out on the coast. Let’s not go to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales or North York Moors, no let’s go to the land that aesthetics forgot. Well we’ve been to those inspiring and ever so pretty parts of Yorkshire before and Spurn Head looks so interesting on the map.

The drive east was flat. Not flat and interesting like East Anglia, more flat and tedious punctuated by huge power stations. More coal-fired power stations than you could poke a wind turbine at. Seeing all these power stations got me thinking about the Nimby (Not In My Back Yard). It makes me angry of no-fixed-abode if I hear of the hoity-toity parish of High Sniffington-Upon-Piddle starting a “ban the wind farm” campaign because it will ruin their rose tinted locked-in-a-specific-period view of the countryside. Thatched barns, dry stone walls, water mills and wind mills are all just machines and tools that happen to be old. They were the most efficient and cutting-edge technology of their day and they had a job to do. Shelter stuff, fence things, mash stuff and power other things. Now we want to power our plasma tellys, surround sound, air conditioners, hair straighteners and plug in our Nissan Leaf, but we don’t want to look at our power source. Oh no, lets bung them all in East Riding of Yorkshire.

Our campsite was functional and very clean and tidy, but most importantly had hard standing in the form of gravel to park on. This isn’t usually a concern, in fact the more farmy and unkempt the better! There had been huge bucket fulls of rain falling from the sky earlier and I for one was in the mood for an easy park and escape, with no bogging or need for levelling blocks. Another campsite had been very honest and advised us not to come as the pitch was in a sloping field an we may never get out. Little did they know, we also have trouble with the approach sometimes!

Staf the campsite owner was one of the friendliest people we’ve ever met. Classic Yorkshire, straight talking, no-nonsense, with a cheeky glint in his eye. As we were chatting, we got onto the subject of how stupid and arrogant some people can be. He told me of a camper who walked his dog early in the morning, straight into his private garden, not the campsite area where he should have been. For a couple of mornings Staf watched this plonker walk across his lawn and allow his dog to do a dirty great doggy-dump then walk off as if nothing had happened. When Staf challenged Mr. Plonker, about his imaginary public right of way and his dogs do-do’s, he denied even being in the garden. Staf’s response was “I might be old and need my glasses for reading, but I saw you so don’t deny it. If I catch you in here again, I will shoot you, but I will let your dog go.” My kind of bloke Staf. Hard but fair.

Speaking of guns, he filled us in on the local scene and why there were so many police hanging around. This is where the Norwegian gas line comes in and it’s a high risk terrorist target. So no petty crime around here then. No, especially when the police are actually the military variety, all carry a side arm as well as a rifle in the seat next to them and have the authority to fill you full of lead even if you just look at them funny. You ain’t leavin’ til r gets whats marn. Sorry, I don’t know why I started squinting and talking like I was in a Spaghetti Western. I guess guns are all a bit alien and more of a thing you see in films to most people in the UK. Lucky I looked all respectable with the hair cut I had a couple of days previously. Well, I thought I looked respectable.

Next day was our walk out along Spurn Head. Yes Spurn, got a problem with the name? Like I said, it looked interesting on the map. Not sure this was enough of a reason for my fellow explorer to appear enthusiastic about walking 3 miles (4.8km in new money) along a narrow strip of featureless land with the brown Humber estuary to our right which looked like it would engulf us at any moment and the North Sea to our left which looked like it would engulf us at any other moment, in a howling wind, only to get to the end and return the 3 miles with exactly the same scenery, with the added thrill of the Humber, this time on your left and the North Sea on your right!

Our first reaction on arrival was of shock. Just look at all the rubbish on the shore! This is meant to be a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve! If anyone is offended by the rubbish around here, they’ve got a funny way of showing it. Why isn’t it cleaned up? Locals, councils, what do you do with your spare time? You can’t just blame the 25,000 ships that pass this headland every year. Any dribbling and primitive low life who has dropped rubbish west of here is guilty. The wind carries it and dumps it. We even saw a family cowering from the wind right next to a 2 metre wall of imminently crumbling soil, surrounded by rubbish. I admired their ability to enjoy themselves, whatever the circumstances whilst pondering how shit their lives must be for this to be an escape.

Once out on the peninsular, it was quite exhilarating to have such a tiny amount of land, or should I say sand and mud, under our feet with all this sea around us. At times the width of the head was not much wider than a suburban house block and less than a metre above sea level. If that wasn’t enough, the wind made a ghostly howl in the power lines above. I could be all poetic and say it was the voice of a thousand lost at sea, crying for the warm embrace of their loved ones. No matter how scientific your brain, it was a menacing sound.

On the end of the head is the Humber pilot and the only full time RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) station in the UK. The lifeboat is permanently “at sea” moored to the jetty and ready to respond. The crew live, yes live, at the other end of the jetty. I’m sure these houses come with the job, but I really hope it pays well, this looked bleak enough in summer. Can you imagine the property details for these houses: Secluded and private with magnificent and far-reaching views of the Humber and Lincolnshire coast. Certain death at every high tide. The kids will love the kite flying opportunities, although you may need to collect them from Greenland.

Spurn Head, East Riding. Genuinely lovely people, but you have to be keen. Really keen.



Eeyup lad – a bit bloody harsh! It’s got a lighthouse – what more do you want? They also have beautifully laid, wavy bricks. It must take a special skill to get them all seamlessly matched, with the smooth mortar and all. Anyway, it’s better than a hole in the road with cold gravel for breakfast.

From what you say East Riding sounds like an excellent spot to power my plasma telly from, especially as there appears to be nowt else about. Yeah – keep Wandsworth beautiful!

PS Wot no birds at Spurn Head? I expected at least another skua.

When you feel poetic again in a bleak place,try the ballad of Patrick Spens.Was very bleak here on thurs……but not lots of rubbish . Wot is a Nissan Leaf ?

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