Well this wasn’t the walk I had planned for this day but circumstances conspired to disrupt my original plans and so it was that I ended up walking the north side of the Humber estuary instead. This walk also marks the completion of another county, as I’ll have completed the Lincolnshire coast (Hull is in the East Riding of Yorkshire and I’ll cross back to Lincolnshire at the end of this walk) . The crossing between the two counties is mid way over the Humber Bridge, which made for an impressive and enjoyable end to this walk.
I had originally planned to begin my walk on this day from Aldbrough (east of Hull), which at the time had only a limited direct bus from Hull (it doesn’t have a bus from Hull at all now). I was travelling from home and a couple of months earlier had booked a train ticket from London to Hull for only £16.20 and coming back for only £10, a good deal! I took the train from my local station to London Waterloo, the tube across to London Kings Cross and then a train from London Kings Cross to Doncaster, where I was due to change for a train to Hull. Unfortunately the train from London was (surprise surprise) late (for reasons I can’t remember now) and this meant I missed the train I was due to catch to Hull. So I had to catch the next one, which delayed me by a little over 30 minutes and as a result I missed the bus I needed to get to Aldbrough.
That left me with a problem, because there was no other suitable alternative bus. I could get to Hornsea or Withernsea and take another bus from there to Aldbrough but it was infrequent and would not give me enough time to complete the walk before I had to catch the train home again.
The delay to the trains had therefore scuppered my plans for the day (a taxi from Hull would be very expensive). However I had ended up in Kingston-upon-Hull (generally abbreviated to Hull, compared with Kingston-upon-Thames in London which is generally abbreviated to Kingston, I’m not sure why). Hull was on the banks of the Humber and so also on a section of coast I would need to walk. At the time I hadn’t walked the coast either side of Hull at all, so the obvious thing was to make the best of it and start the walk from Hull instead, coming back another day to get to Aldbrough. I’d still walk a new part of the coast, so it wasn’t to be a wasted journey.
The next problem was that I didn’t have a map of Hull, only the coast further east (where I had intended to go), so I needed to get a map to plan a route (I didn’t have a smart phone at the time). Fortunately I am in the middle of a city centre, so I headed to WH Smith to buy a copy of the local Ordnance Survey Map, covering Hull. I had a choice of going east or west.
East did not have a footpath marked all the way and it looked like I’d need to walk alongside a busy dual carriageway for a time. I wasn’t sure if that would be possible or safe (ideally, I’d like to check on Google Street View first, but didn’t have the ability to do so now). Whilst to go west it looked like there was a proper long-distance walking route, the Trans Pennine Trail which would take me as far as the Humber Bridge. I wasn’t sure if I’d have time to cross the bridge, but there was a station nearby at Hessle. If I did cross the bridge, I could see that this also had a path across it, the imaginatively titled “E2 European long distance path” (which was intended to link Galway in Ireland to Nice in France, though the section in Ireland has not been completed). If I did cross the Humber I’d end up in Barton-upon-Humber. So I opted to go west on the basis I’d be following long-distance paths the whole way and so should not have any difficulties with paths or navigation, and that there was a path right along the shore the whole way.
It looked like reaching Barton-upon-Humber at least was achievable in the time I had available however I needed to work out transport back to Hull in order to catch my train home. So I headed back to Hull Paragon station, where I had arrived earlier. Helpfully in Hull the bus and rail station are combined into the same building and I was pleased to see checking the bus timetables that a regular bus runs between Barton-upon-Humber and Hull, every 30 minutes.
So with my plans for the day hastily re-planned, it was time to get going.
I came out of the station and turned right to head down to the A63. Here I crossed it at a large roundabout and continue ahead passed a marina on the left to reach Albert Dock. This is a commercial dock which is therefore served by large ships. There is a large lock gate at the east of the dock (to provide entry for ships) and the Trans Pennine Trail was marked on the map as crossing this lock gate and then following along the south edge of the dock, right beside the Humber.
However on reaching the lock, it was clear there was a problem with my plans. The lock gates were open! I had no way of crossing the muddy and deep waters of the lock to reach the path beyond. There weren’t any signs to indicate why it was open and if (or when) they would be closed again – neither could I see anyone around to ask, or close them for me. I was annoyed by this as it was both a public right of way and a long distance trail and I had expected to find it usable – but it wasn’t.
After completing this walk I did contact the Council to report that the path was not usable. Here is their reply.
On the working docks, such as Albert Dock and Alexandra Dock, it is necessary to open the lock gates up to an hour on either side of high tide to allow the docks to recharge, allow the movement of waterborne traffic and relieve pressure on the lock gates . Unfortunately the high tide on Saturday 14th April 2012, occurred at 1310hr, consequently you may arrived just as the tide was approaching it’s peak (1210hr) or ebbing (1410hr).
I am sorry to hear that you were inconvenienced and can assure you that the City Council is in ongoing dialogue with ABP to investigate the feasibility of erecting advance warning signs with the relevant tide timetables for reference to be located at appropriate diversionary locations.
I can assure you that the Council as Highway Authority actively engages with ABP to minimise any disruption/obstruction to the public right of way.
To be fair that was helpful enough and did explain why I hadn’t been able to cross. However it’s pretty poor that seemingly no one had thought to erect a sign explaining this to anyone wanting to use the trail (had I know it might have been worth waiting for the gates to close again).
So time to find an alternative route and give up with the Trans Pennine Trail. I headed back towards the main road (the A63), retracing my steps. This is a dual-carriageway at this point and I didn’t want to walk beside that (if it was even possible), but between the docks and the A63 was a quieter road. It had a pavement and went between some light industrial and commercial buildings (one of which was a cinema). Better still it had a pavement. So I followed that road west.
After about a mile or so though it reached a slip road heading onto the A63. However I was pleased to find that whilst there was no pavement as such right next to this road, there was a tarmac path just back from the edge of the road, between the road and some industrial units. So I could follow this down to a footbridge over the A63.
Looking at the map I could see that a path ahead was meant to cross the docks again and so I was hopeful I could do so and pick up the Trans Pennine Trail again, a bit further along than originally intended. But heading the short distance down the path towards the dock fence I could see either ahead of me wasn’t a lock, or if it was the gates were missing or underwater. Once again, there was no way through – I was not impressed by The Trans Pennine Trail, which seemed impossible to actually get onto!
Now the A63 had turned south and was now the closest road to the coast. However I was pleased to find that a tarmac path still continued beside the A63 alongside the fence to the docks, with a line of trees between me and the traffic on the busy road.
I could follow this for about half a mile. Here I met a footpath going left to right. Right would take me through a subway under the A63 into the industry beyond. Left, according to the map, would take me back to the waters edge where I could join the elusive Trans Pennine Trail along the shore again. So I turned left, hoping to end up beside the Humber.
I should have known! Ahead the path was blocked, as was the road ahead, with a firm barrier across it and I could see the buildings ahead and to the right were derelict. Perhaps there was some redevelopment going on which had closed the path but either way, yet again, I was unable to meet the seemingly mythical Trans Pennine Trail.
The path I had been following beside the A63 had ended now and in any case I couldn’t get up onto the road now, as it was above me. So I had to head back through the subway under the A63 to the industrial area beyond. Here I turned right then left to join West Dock Street. I turned left on this through the industry. There was a pavement – but I was not sure for how long. I could see that the road ahead would soon turn right anyway so I decided to take the first road on the right to head north away from the Humber to the residential roads beyond, fed up of finding dead-ends in the industrial areas beside the docks, and unable to reach the Trans Pennine Trail.
So I followed this to reach the Hessle Road. This was busy, with industry on the south side of the road and houses on the north side. It wasn’t great, but it was still better than the docks and there were at least people about now, so I knew I wasn’t going to find it a dead-end.
I followed this road west (which did have a pavement) to the roundabout on the A1166 ahead. Here I was going to try, once again, to join the Trans Pennine Trail. So I turned left and although this road was also a dual carriageway, it did have a pavement. So far so good. I reached the busy roundabout junction with the A63, (which goes over the roundabout on a flyover). I passed under this and continue ahead where there was now one of those out-of-town retail parks.
I continued ahead passing Frankie and Benny’s where I could at last cross the road to reach the Trans Pennine Trail that had proved so elusive so far!
At least I had reached the waters edge, nearly 3 miles out of Hull! I now had views over the huge expanse of muddy water that make up the Humber and I could see it must be near high tide given it was all full of water, rather than mud.
On such a grey day, it did not look at it’s best, but I was still grateful to be beside the water at last, and away from the industry.
Across the Humber I could also see the industry (where I later walked on a different day). However looking to the right I could see I was already nearing the mighty Humber bridge.
The retail park continued on my right for some distance, after which there were a couple of industrial units and beyond those some waste ground where clearly there had once been industry and indeed from the map it looked as if I was on reclaimed land (I was also walking on a man-made concrete wall, another clue). Soon I reached the end of this reclaimed land.
Now the concrete wall I had been following turned right and I could see ahead the banks of the Humber were now more natural. The tide too was beginning to recede and I could see mud banks forming as it did so.
At the end of this reclaimed land the path turned right (inland towards the A63) and then just before it left, between the waters edge and the A63. The path was no longer surfaced and a bit muddy and boggy in places, but at least it felt like I was in a more natural rather than industrial environment now, even if I did have the raw of traffic on the A63 alongside me.
Beyond the A63 I could see what looks like it might be some sort of sports venue. Soon the A63 turned slightly inland but the path ahead continued for another 500 metres or so whereupon I was signed right through the edge of a business park to a more minor road alongside the A63, which serves this business park.
The business park soon ended to be replaced by more industry and a car dealership, but at least there was a pavement beside the road.
Ahead I came to a small (I think man-made stream) draining out into the Humber which the road crossed. Now I could turn left on the west side of it to return to the shores of the Humber.
Here I reached the eastern end of the Yorkshire Wolds Way. This is a National Trail which heads through the rolling hills of East Yorkshire to reach the coast again at Filey, though I’ll not be following it for long as it heads inland rather than along the coast.
Immediately, it felt more pleasant and that, at last, the industry of Hull was behind me. The banks of the Humber were now lined with a shingle and shell beach with the Humber bridge ahead. Although I was in fact heading further inland, the presence of a shingle beach rather than mud made it feel like I was nearing the sea rather than heading further inland.
As you’d hope from a National Trail the path was now a good mostly tarmac path along the bank of the Humber.
I passed through a car park (I think used for people to enjoy the views of the Humber bridge). Soon I reached this impressive bridge.
The bridge was opened in 1981 and is over 2km long. When it opened it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Before it opened, passengers had to use the ferry from New Holland whilst motorists had to drive many miles further inland to Goole to cross the estuary there.
As it is a suspension bridge in some ways I found it more impressive from underneath it. There are two support piers at either end, but between them nothing, just the bridge suspended over the huge estuary for more than a mile and it is quite a sight to see this road almost suspended in air like this. I was impressed.
Checking the time despite my issues with finding a suitable route out of Hull, I had managed to do so and I still had plenty of time to cross the bridge. It felt like this was my reward for the difficulties earlier in the walk.
Next of course I had to get up onto the bridge. So I continued with the path underneath the bridge where I was now entering the Humber Bridge Country Park. This was created on the site of a former quarry and is now quite popular with people wanting to see the bridge and estuary close up.
I passed an old windmill on the right now, within the park but sadly without it’s sails now.
Next although I wanted to be going up onto the bridge, the path goes down, into a subway under the railway line and A63. Then the path emerges and climbs up steps passing under the bridge, with the traffic rumbling just above me and up stairs to reach a footbridge, attached to the eastern part of the bridge and just past the toll booths (there is still a toll to cross the bridge for vehicles).
It was about now that a heavy shower started, so I quickly returned to underneath the bridge to shelter for a few minutes.
When the rain stopped, I returned to the bridge to cross it, not wanting to cross in the rain, as it was windy and it is very exposed up there.
Now up onto the bridge I was pleased to find a metal fence separated the walkway from the traffic just beyond.
The bridge soon crossed way above the A63 and the railway line I’d been walking parallel with for so much of the day.
I continued looking down to the little beach and grassy area I’d walked on earlier.
What really struck me as I crossed is the vast amount of water that flows in and out of the Humber, the currents were clearly very strong. The Humber has a huge tidal range, I suspect quite similar to the Severn.
The Humber estuary is fed by two large rivers, the Trent and Ouse so a lot of water drains in and out each tide, so there is a lot of water moving about, and I could appreciate that from this high view point. It was also a very muddy looking river.
It is hard to grasp the scale of it, but the river is still quite heavily used by industrial craft, and I could watch this barge as it passed underneath the bridge ahead, giving the scene some scale.
It was wonderful crossing this bridge and as I did so the clouds began to part and the sun break through. It made such a difference and it was the real high point of the walk. I really enjoyed crossing the bridge and soon I was above the marshy banks of the south side of the estuary.
I now had dry land beneath me but had to head a further 500 metres or so inland before I could descend steps from the bridge to the steps which led me off the bridge and down to the road underneath. Here I could turn left along the road heading east towards Barton-upon-Humber. Only a short distance along this road I could turn left along another long distance footpath, this time the Viking Way. This long distance path heads over the more undulating parts of Lincolnshire from here to finish at the town of Oakham in Rutland. However I only followed it the short distance back to the Humber.
(In fact earlier this year I made a visit to Oakham and walked around Rutland Water, it is big enough it almost felt like the sea – you can see my photos here, should you be interested).
I was soon back at the Humber looking back to the bridge I had just crossed.
Only 100 or so metres further along the Humber and I came to a muddy stream. This is Barton Haven a stream which only seems to go half a mile or so inland. Thankfully I only had to head about 100 metres inland to find a footbridge over it.
At this point I’d reached the point on the previous walk that I wrote up, but I’ve not done these walks in the same order that I am writing them up. Therefore at the time I didn’t know how much further to continue, so I continued walking a little further along the south banks of the river (meaning I walked this of the coast twice).
However after a while I stopped to check the map. I soon realised whatever distance I walked onwards I’d have to re-trace because the only public transport east of here for some distance is the rail line to Barton-upon-Humber and the service on this line is very infrequent and the times not suitable for me today. So I soon returned to the stream of Barton Haven and this followed it inland to the town and the rail station.
As I reached the station a bus pulled in – perfect timing! I took this bus back to Hull. It is a good service, crossing the Humber Bridge and then sticking to the main road into Hull so it only takes around 30 minutes or so. I was soon back at the station but had almost an hour before my booked train home.
Rather than just sit at the station I used the time to explore Hull, as I’d never explored the centre, I’d only been here previously to change between the bus and train.
Hull seems to have a poor reputation, so I wasn’t expecting much. Though it’s reputation felt to me undeserved. Whilst you might not perhaps be booking your 2019 holiday to Hull I do think the city is worth a visit and the centre is actually quite pleasant.
I found nice parks, historic and interesting old buildings, a pleasant waterfront and interesting visitor attractions such as The Deep aquarium and the Minster.
There are numerous attractive and grand stone buildings around the city centre. Whilst there is a lot of industry in Hull, as I’d found earlier (and as is common with ports) I thought the city centre was actually quite nice and had a fair bit of interest.
Now I’m not saying it’s the best city in the country, but it’s really not that bad and in my view worthy of a visit. (In fact it was even voted city of culture for 2017). So there we are “Hull, it’s really not that bad” – somehow I can’t see that becoming the cities slogan!
Having explored the city a bit it was now time to head back to the station for my train home, which I was pleased to see was already in the platform when I got there. I got some food to eat from the station then headed onto the train where I could sit in more comfort. Hull is known for having it’s own telecoms company (Kingston Communications rather than BT or Virgin Media), which means the telephone boxes in the city are cream, rather than red. However as I had found, not only does the city have it’s own telecoms company, it also has it’s own train company, called Hull Trains. They are, I suspect, the smallest train company in the UK, operating just one route, London to Hull, a few times a day. Still I happened to time it for one of these direct services to London and it provided a comfortable, fast and punctual service back to London, it had free WiFi and the ticket had only cost me £10 – I was impressed!
This walk wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I started the day and proved frustrating. The Trans Pennine Trail proved elusive and unusable for much of the length I intended to use, which led for a frustrating, boring and ugly walk through the large amount of industry to be found in Hull. However once I had actually left Hull and reached Hessle and the Humber bridge it was a very enjoyable walk with the walk over the Humber Bridge being a memorable and enjoyable walk and I was also very impressed by the bridge itself. Having had enough time to explore Hull too, that had turned out to far nicer than expected. So this was definitely a walk of two halves – and the first half I’d be very happy not to repeat again!
It also marked the end of the coast of Lincolnshire. I have to confess that of all the coastal counties of Britain that I have so far walked, the coastline of Lincolnshire is the one I have enjoyed the least. However the next one – Yorkshire – is one of the best, and tremendously varied.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Humber Fast Cat bus service 350 which is operated jointly by Stagecoach and East Yorkshire Motor Services : Scunthorpe – Winterton – Winteringham – South Ferriby – Barton-upon-Humber – Hull. Twice per hour Monday – Saturday and 6 times per day on Sundays. It takes a little over 30 minutes to travel between Barton-upon-Humber and Hull.