Having reached close to the mouth of the river Humber on my last walk I’d now be back beside the open-sea for most of this walk, which I was looking forward to. It was also my first coastal walk of 2017, having stopped when the clocks changed later in the previous year, so it was several months since I had done a new coastal walk.
I had planned two walks for this weekend and the plan was a little complicated, so I’ll explain it first. The first of these walks (to be done on Saturday), was this walk, as it required the use of a bus service (to Easington) which did not run on Sundays. So today I would follow the coast from Withernsea south to Kilnsea. South of Kilnsea is Spurn Head, a narrow sandy spit. I planned to miss out Spurn head today and instead, cut across the top of the narrow peninsula to the car park at Easington Clays, where I had ended the previous walk. Then I’d walk back to Easington along the same road as before and take the bus back to Withernsea. Then the next day (Sunday) I planned to return to Kilnsea (by car) and walk out to Spurn Head and back, as this would not require the use of any buses (as there aren’t any, on a Sunday any more). This filled in the gaps left on Saturday (this walk) and meant by the end of the weekend, I’d have walked all the coast between Easington Clays and Withernsea, including Spurn Point.
For this walk I was starting the day at home and travelling up to the area for the weekend by car (due to the lack of Sunday buses). I left at around 7am and it took me a little over 4 hours to reach Withernsea. A long drive, but there were no real hold ups, an advantage of leaving at an early hour. The only part that took longer than expected was from the outskirts of Hull to Withernsea along the A1033. Although it looks rural on the map (and it is), all but about a mile of the road has 30 or 40mph speed limits on it, with the 30mph limit continuing between some of the villages. It felt very slow on this wide and often straight road, with little traffic, but I was sticking to the speed limits (not being familiar with the area and not wanting to risk a speeding ticket) which meant I spent much of the last part of the journey being overtaken and tailgated (as the locals seemed to largely ignore the low speed limits between the villages – as I was tempted to do). This made the last part of the journey a little stressful and I was glad to finally reach Withernsea.
I had found a free car park just north of the old pier entrance – I was pleased to find it was free. I had considered taking the bus down to Easington (and walking back to Withernsea) but I stopped to find a toilet after the long drive and when I came out I just saw a bus on the route I needed departing for Easington. On checking the timetable I found that the next was not for 2 hours so I gave up on that idea and started walking from Withernsea instead, intending to take a bus back to Withernsea from Easington at the end.
I had previously been to Withernsea (I’ve not walked this part of the coast in order) and ended my last walk at the entrance to the old pier. So from the car park just north of the old pier entrance I first walked from there down to the old pier – I didn’t want to miss anything out! It was a grey and overcast day, but still good to be back beside the shore.
The old pier entrance looks a bit like the towers of a castle (here viewed from the beach).
Withernsea pier had a very short history. It was proposed in 1870. Work began in 1875 and it was completed in 1878. This grand castle like entrance was built at the same time and on completion the pier stretched beyond it to an impressive 1196ft. However during storms in 1880 two boats crashed into the pier, one creating a 200ft hole in the middle of the pier and the other damaging the end. Many more ships collided with the pier in the next few years, with more than half of the pier having been destroyed by 1890. In 1893 the now much shortened pier was again damaged by a boat (bound for Grimsby). The damaged sections were knocked down and by this point, just 50ft of the pier remained! Even this was deemed unsafe and so the entire pier was demolished. It was never rebuilt and so all the has remained since then is the original entrance. You can read a bit more history and seem some historic photos of the pier on this website.
From the pier I planned to walk south along the coast. From the map, this looked to be quite tricky to do because there are few footpaths along the coast. That meant I was likely to have to need to follow minor roads and footpaths often quite some distance inland, or see if I could get along the beach that was marked on the map (I was planning to try the latter). I was lucky with this walk because I had booked my hotel for the night some weeks previously not knowing what the tide times were on the day I would actually do the walk. But it turned out that low tide was not long after I set off, which turned out to be invaluable.
Although a footpath is initially marked along the coast from Withernsea it runs for only around 500 metres. So I headed down onto the beach straight away as at low tide there is plenty of it. The downside was the groynes along the beach were large.
A few I could find gaps in the wood or climb over them but for most I had to walk up to the back of the beach where there were steps around the end. It often seems to take a while to get out of a town and this was no exception. I was getting a bit irritated with all the barking dogs of the local dog walkers and longed for the quiet beach and to be back with nothing but the sound of the sea. The town soon ended but the cliff top was then lined with caravans.
Around this point someone had a mini areoplane flying around too and I was buzzed by this for about half an hour. It was really quiet irritating that buzzing noise.
The first impression of this walk was how soft the cliffs are here (as is the case right back in Norfolk). They are basically just like the soil but stretching all the way down to the waves (usually the soil is just the top layer). What this means is that they erode – quickly. Incredibly quickly, in fact. The whole walk was next to cliffs so crumbly that in places the grass almost in the sea was still green and there were clear falls in places that looked as if they had not even seen their first high tide.
The impact of this was all the concrete bases from old caravans falling down the cliff face ahead and bits of bricks and so on at the back of the beach. Not so pretty.
The people soon thinned out as I got south, as I hoped. The sound of barking dogs soon disappeared (though it took a bit longer to get away from that awful buzzing plane that was just flying around in circles). The whole time I was alongside the muddy cliffs and varied by walking near the shore or next to the cliffs. My earlier grumpy mood soon lifted and I was now really enjoying the walk.
I briefly got a whif of the sewage works at Hollym above (but out of sight) but thankfully it did not last long. I had to be careful in places where pools of water had collected at the back of the wet sand, as they could get quite deep so I soon stuck behind these, knowing the streams from them would soon be flowing over the beach.
I passed just a single fisherman for a couple of miles until I reached a placed called The Runnel. Here a stream flows out onto the beach and a footpath runs along the south edge of the stream down to the coast (I was on the north side of it). This means I had to cross the stream. As I got there some fisherman were just arriving. They stood there staring at me. It was clear I was going to have an audience for my crossing of the stream. There is also an old World War II pillbox to the left of them, now at a jaunty angle as a result of the coastal erosion.
However as you can see the stream is narrow and shallow so I made it across the stream (with dry feet!) and once I was safely down, they too stopped watching me and headed down onto the beach, setting up near the stream. I was glad to reach here though, as this was an access point back inland, should I end up finding I can’t get along the beach further up.
I wondered what the fish was like from here? Grimsby is not far of course and known as a fishing port but the waters look very muddy. Old World War II pill boxes and other concrete structures dotted the beach. They would have once been on the cliff tops, of course!
At the base of the cliffs I could see eroded old bricks and bits of concrete where various buildings had gone over the cliff.
The cliffs were very interesting. In places streams dripped and flowed in other places you could see just how much and how quickly they erode with bits of grass (still green) ending up part way down the cliffs and lose soil at the back of the beach.
I passed the village of Holmpton on the right though could see very little of it from the beach. I noticed that the roads here just ended at the cliff top – I suspect it was once a much larger village and much has been lost to the sea.
I continued on the beach to reach the stream at Old Hive Dike. This proved easy to cross, I could just step over, with some old lobster pots at the back of the beach.
South of here a lot more erosion was visible and I was beginning to get a little concerned about the tide which was now starting to come in and the beach ahead looked quite narrow.
Still the cliffs were so soft you could probably climb up them, though you would get very muddy doing so. The muddy eroding cliffs formed some interesting shapes.
The beach was getting narrower and with numerous rocks and boulders along it.
Out to sea, the water was muddy. Whether this was mud washed down the Humber or mud from this eroding cliffs, I wasn’t sure (probably a bit of both).
I could see some rocks in the distance but as I got closer I realised they were more concrete structures washed off the cliffs. I wondered what they were.
More concrete was visible at the top and part way down the cliffs. This must have been a heavily defended coast during World War II.
Once past these I could see some giant windmills of the electrical generating kind ahead on the cliff tops (you can just see one on the photo below).
This is the Old Newton wind farm. Though large the turbines were silent here and I barely noticed them.
As I continued south the beach was getting narrower and narrower. This was a problem for two reasons. The main problem and most worrying was that if the sea reached the base of the cliffs ahead, I would have to turn back (or try and climb the crumbling cliff face), and I’d need to be careful because the tide was coming in. Secondly, the narrow beach meant I was now walking much closer to these cliffs than I’d like given that I could see how unstable they were. However, the erosion had created some pretty patterns.
Looking back, the beach was littered with boulders from cliff falls.
A little further south from here just north of Easington on the cliff top is a large “Natural Gas Terminal”, I assume where gas pipelines come ashore and I could get the odd noxious smell wafting my way from it. I wondered if I might have trouble getting on the beach past this (as other walkers have).
However as I got closer I began to see fisherman again so I was relived as I knew it meant I could get through (as in my experience fisherman don’t walk far from their cars).
The cliffs soon got lower and then fairly abruptly ended, revealing some of the gas terminal ahead.
I could also see the fishermans cars parked on the road above so I could get up there if needed. I was relived I would not have to turn back and my plan to walk along the beach had worked.
Now the cliffs had ended they had been replaced with obviously man-made grass banks with “rock armour” in front of it. It was not pretty but it protected the “Gas Terminal” behind I suppose, which was the point. Thankfully too there was nothing blocking the beach ahead behind this gas terminal so I could continue along the beach.
The village of Easington was my intended destination but it is about half a mile inland from the coast. All I really saw of it as I got closer and a bit south of the village was the caravan park.
Now originally when planning this walk I had planned for todays walk to be from Withernsea to Easington, ending at the point I had just reached. Tomorrow I planned to walk the coast from here down to Spurn Point at the end of Spurn Head, then continue around the coast to the car park at Easington Clough and then follow the road back to Easington. However on checking the bus times, I realised I had just missed a bus (for the second time today!).
This time I had an hour to wait for the next one. That might sound like a criticism but it isn’t – I was actually pleasantly surprised just how good the bus service is in what is actually quite a remote area. I considered my options. It was only around 2pm. I could hang around near the caravan park for nearly an hour before walking inland for the bus or continue walking. So I checked the map. I reckoned I would have time to walk south along the beach to the car park at Kilnsea then walk a circular route back to Easington (via the car park I ended at last time) in time for the 4pm bus (2 hours later) if I walked quickly – it would mean covering around 9km in 2 hours (I normally aim for around 4km per hour, so seemed doable).
I hadn’t quite finalised the route I would follow (because of the lack of paths) but had a few possibilities. The other slight uncertainty is that south of the village are a couple of natural lagoons behind the beach I (Beacon Lagoons Nature Reserve) I think formed by the tide but where the beach has since built up, making these lagoons. I wondered if there would be a flow of water out of them over the beach or if access would be restricted to save disturbance of the birds.
Thankfully there turned out to be no restrictions, at least at this time of year (March) so I could continue unhindered on the beach. It soon got quite again and it was just me and the waves, just as I like it. Looking inland, the lagoons were just behind the beach, separated by a few dunes.
It was a nice walk south and I made good time since (as I hoped) as there was still plenty of firm sand. What I hadn’t expected is that the cliffs would start again once I reached the end of the lagoons. I could also see a large building ahead which I hadn’t expected, as Kilnsea looked to be a small place. Before that was a large caravan site and then I came to these enormous concrete structures falling off the cliffs and into the sea. Pretty it isn’t.
It turned out to be old World War II gun emplacements. Getting around them was a bit tricky as at the far end I had to climb over the broken concrete (and a bit of mud between) to get around. I hadn’t expected that!
Beyond it was more bits of broken concrete, but smaller.
Just south of here I reached the end of the caravan and the public road, which just ended just before the cliffs here. I walked down to the car park (which also had a handy toilet).
Signs warned of the dangers of walking out to Spurn Point at high tide in storms, as waves break over the spit. I hoped it would be calm tomorrow, for my walk out there!
The beach here was again a mess of ruined buildings.
My plan now was to briefly leave the coast and head west along the road here (along the neck of the spit out to Spurn Head) to reach the small village of Kilnsea and then return to the shore to the car park at Easington Clough on the shore. (Tomorrow I would come back and fill in the gap). So that is what I did.
From the car park I was now at the road was fairly quiet and I hadn’t realised quite how narrow the spit is now since I could almost immediately see the waters of the Humber ahead. Looking south the extent of the erosion was clear.
Already the land is only about 800 metres wide here. Kilnsea was a small place and the only building of interest was this brick church.
I continued along the road and soon reached the rough car park at the far end. I was hoping I might find an un-marked path north along the shore here but there wasn’t one. Instead as the road turned a little right I climbed over the fence beside the road and over the rock armour to a marshy beach overlooking the Humber.
I followed this north with the raised bank visible ahead and wondered if I would be able to get off. Signs at a slipway off the beach to the right warned “no public access” and “no right of way”, so I would likely have to turn back if there was no way through on the beach. So once the rock armour ended I made my way up to the right and found a reasonable path along the back of the dunes.
It was not a right of way but looked to be well used. As it reached the raised bank there was a good path along the top of it. I don’t know the status of this path (it is not a right of way) but there were few buildings around so I doubted anyone would see me. After a while there was a beach to the left again anyway which I could drop down onto if challenged, but I didn’t need to.
I was able to make it no problem along the top though at a point there were some bushes and trees to the right someone was just behind the bushes and started shooting something (inland) so I hurried past this hoping I had not been seen. Out to sea the beach had large areas of mud beyond it – I was clearly back on the Humber!
I continued along here to the car park passing a fisherman sitting on the bank just before it. I was pleased to have made it along the shore here given the uncertain access.
Ahead was the familiar grassy banks of the coast beside the Humber.
I now followed the road north all the way to Easington (the same route I followed on the walk I wrote up previously). It was mostly quiet apart from a large tractor and a Vauxhall Corsa, the latter having blacked out windows, music blaring and a noisy exhaust that was being driven far too fast and didn’t give me much room at all. In my experience the drivers of such cars are usually a little lacking in the brain-cell department so I was not surprised to see it come back again 10 minutes later (presumably having discovered the road is a dead-end).
I continued passed a horse stud and continued on the quiet road into Easington.
I was not sure what to expect of Easington given the gas terminal I had passed earlier (I hadn’t been there before as the previous walk that I wrote up which ended there was actually done later).
I feared it might be a bit industrial or functional but it was quite a pretty village with light coloured bricks and red tiled roofs on the houses.
It had a nice thatched tithe barn (though other farm buildings near it were derelict) and a large church suggesting it had been a wealthy place once – perhaps it still is.
I soon reached the village centre and the little square where I saw the bus stop and a community centre.
I had a quick look at an information board on the side of some council “outpost centre” (where you could talk to someone at the Council via video conference, though it looked to have recently been closed down).
The bus arrived a few minutes later though it waited for a few minutes before leaving, as it had arrived early, it was not quite 4pm yet.
It was a double-decker and I don’t think there were ever more than 4 passengers aboard (myself included) the whole way and the fare was not that expensive either. I was impressed with the quality of the bus service to this small and remote place and hope it can be maintained.
Once back at Withernsea I stopped for a (soft) drink before driving to Hull where I was spending the night at the Hull West Premier Inn. I had opted for this rather than the city centre as I hoped it would be quieter (hotels in British city centres tend to be noisy on a Saturday night in my experience). The downside was it was actually quite a drive to get there. This time I used the SatNav which took me along the B-roads instead, which turned out to be a much faster route than following the A-road I had used to get here. I quite like Premier Inn. Sure it might be a little lacking in character, but it had only cost me £36 for the night (albeit extra for breakfast), the room was large, spotlessly clean and very comfortable, with free wi-fi and a sofa and I had a good nights sleep – which is all I could have asked for.
It was nice to be back on the coast, it had been about 5 months since my last new coastal walk (due to winter, because it’s not worth making the long drive to new parts of the coast with the short days and often changeable winter weather)! I was pleased to have made it along the beach. In hindsight it might not have been the most sensible route (there was a very real risk of being cut off by the tide or cliffs falls), but I had made it unscathed. It was really interesting too, but there was a lot more erosion than I had expected. I was also looking forward to exploring Spurn Head in the morning.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :-
East Yorkshire Motor Services bus route 71 : Easington – Skeffling – Weeton – Welwick – Patrington – Hollym – Holmpton – Withernsea. Note – the destinations in italics are NOT served by all the buses on this route (some go via Patrington and Hollym and others via Holmpton but all go between Easington and Withernsea). Mostly hourly, but with a few 2 hours gaps, Monday – Saturday only (no service on Sundays). It takes around 30 minutes to go between Withernsea and Easington.