This was a short walk from Aldbrough to Hornsea, but there were 2 reasons for the short distance. The first is that the route was, once again, uncertain. There are no footpaths along this stretch of the coast. That meant my options were either to walk on the nearest road (the B1242) or attempt to walk along the beach.
The former was not very attractive to me because B-roads tend to be busy and usually have no pavement. In fact I find they are often worse than A-roads because they also tend be narrower too, and with poorer visibility.
The beach alternative however came with it’s own hazards. Between Aldbrough and Cowden the coast was marked as a “Danger Area”, which included the beach and part of the sea. A weapons range is marked on the map. Often with such ranges, access will be permitted along the beach if red flags or lights are not flying or there is information online about the times the ranges are in use. However for this one I couldn’t find anything definitive at all. There were hints that the range was no longer in use, but then why is it still marked on the maps? More worryingly, a few months prior to me doing this walk (July 2012 according to news reports), a landslide had uncovered around 1000 bombs and rockets that had been embedded into the cliffs (presumably buried at some point) and ended up tumbling onto the beach. This led to the beach being closed for a time (with security guards present) and controlled explosions being carried out.
So my options seemed to be to follow a hazardous road the whole way, or risk exploding on the beach. I hadn’t made up my mind which route to choose when setting off and decided to put that decision off until I got there.
I was doing this walk from home. Back in July, I had booked an Advance Single train ticket from London to Hull for £16.50 and back from Hull to London for £10. So I took the train from my local station to London Waterloo, two tube trains from Waterloo to Kings Cross, another train from London Kings Cross to Doncaster, another train from Doncaster to Hull and finally a bus from Hull to Aldbrough. There was a lot of potential for something to go wrong, as the last bus (from Hull to Aldbrough) was extremely infrequent (I think there were only two direct buses the whole day). So I needed everything to run on-time. Fortunately it did and so the bus dropped me off at the cliff top at Aldbrough a few minutes after midday. By this point I was the only passenger on the bus. (This route no longer runs, however).
In fact although the bus serves Aldbrough village, it continues along the dead-end road to the cliff top, turning round by a pub just before the point the road drops right off the cliff, which was handy, as the village itself is about a mile inland.
With no footpath along the coast, if I couldn’t make it along the beach, the first thing I’d have to do is turn back and walk back along the road I’d just been driven along in the bus! So I headed to the end of the road.
As you can see, erosion occurs rapidly here, and the road simply dropped off the cliffs, with the crumbled former road surface still visible a few metres below, part way down the cliffs and with even the double-yellow lines still visible. Given the rate of erosion, there is no footpath or steps down to the beach and I couldn’t see any access in either direction. The tide was however out, so I was hopeful the beach route might be possible, if I could get to it. I tried walking a bit south along the cliffs looking for a possible way down, but it did not look that easy.
As I was pondering what to do (this was my first visit to Aldbrough as although the previous walk I wrote up also started here, I’d done it later), a family arrived. Sure enough they gingerly made their way down the collapsed and eroded cliffs. I suspect they had done it many times before.
I headed back to the end of the road to watch the way they went. I watched them making their way down and satisfied none of them had fallen to their deaths, ventured down the same way. What could possibly go wrong?
Well I made it down onto the beach without too much difficulty. Reassuringly, looking north I also could not see any obstacles or red flags along the beach, as far as I could see, though I also noticed that the footprints very soon stopped.
Still I carried on, keeping close to the shore and away from the rapidly eroding cliffs.
However soon the beach narrowed and larger pebbles and small rocks were present, probably having fairly recently fallen from the cliffs and been eroded smooth by the waves.
The beach soon got narrower until there was only about 150cm between the base of the cliffs and the breaking waves.
In addition the beach was beginning to get areas of mud from the various landslips of the cliffs, so the terrain was not that easy either.
After a while, continuing north, there was soon a bit of firmer sand again though I had to time my steps carefully to avoid getting wet feet from the waves.
Thankfully I so far hadn’t seen any signs warning of the weapons range, or any signs prohibiting access. Or any old bombs, for that matter.
I did however start to see the remains of some buildings now lying on the beach, probably from World War II.
Bits of concrete were also visible along the beach, presumably from further structures washed off the cliffs. Still the beach had widened and the tide was still going out, now leaving expansive areas of sand.
You might be wondering my photos are now black and white. To be honest, I was also wondering that (it wasn’t some attempt to be “arty”).
The truth was I was having problems with my camera. A few days previously I had been down to the beach at Chapman’s Pool in Dorset (a favourite of mine). If you’ve ever been there you’ll know access is difficult by either of the two routes, but the footpath route I had followed ends at a rough landslip a few metres above the beach. Having been taking photos on the beach I had my camera round my neck when I was ready to leave. Trying to climb back up this path (which starts as slippery grey “blue slipper” clay of the landslip), I slipped (it was a near 45-degree slops) and put my hands down onto the grey clay to steady myself. As a result my camera (a Canon EOS 400D, at the time) ended up dangling into a stream of water flowing off the cliffs! (I should have put it in my bag before setting off, but hindsight and all that….). It took me a few seconds to get a good grip underfoot so I could lift my hand and be able to move enough to get it out of the stream of water. I assumed that it would be ruined, as it was still turned on. I took the battery out quickly in the hope it might survive.
Trying it out when I got back home to my surprise it still seemed to be working OK, so I left it without the battery in for a couple of days to dry out and the evening before setting out on this walk I tried it again and it still seemed to be working OK (though I bought an old compact camera with me as a spare too). So I planned to use it on this walk. However what I hadn’t realised is that dunking it had got seemed to have played havoc with some of the electrics. It kept switching to a higher ISO setting on it’s own without me touching it, which led to some of the photos being grainy. If I noticed this I changed it back. However at some point it seemed to have also activated a mode (by itself) that meant the photos were being stored in black and white. This camera did not have a “Live view”, so I was using the optical view finder to take photos and hadn’t noticed that it had decided to start saving them in black and white. By the time I noticed I had nearly finished the walk, and was not sure how long it had done that for. I didn’t have time, or inclination to go back and take all the same photos again. Even when I did notice it took me a long while to find the option to save in black and white and turn it off again (up until this point I didn’t even know that there WAS an option to make it do this!).
As an aside, after a week or two the camera was back to normal and gave me no further problems until I accidentally gave it another dunking a year or two later (on a later coastal walk), this time in sea water – and that did finish it off.
Anyway I’ve gone off on something of a tangent there. Back to the walk. I continued north along the beach. It is quite difficult to gauge progress on the beach when you cannot see anything on the cliff tops. Getting out the GPS I realised I was now at the northern end of the old Weapons Range and had not had any problems with access – or un-exploded bombs.
I could now see a few caravans on the cliff top ahead, Cowden and encouragingly a couple walking along the beach below. I’m always pleased to see that, as it means there must be another point of access ahead, so I know I’m not going to find a problem that means I have to turn back.
Soon there were quite a number of people about, many walking dogs and this was clearly a popular beach even though access here also seemed difficult (I suspect climbing down the cliffs was the only option here too, as it was at Aldbrough).
Looking inland the cliffs had become sandier and seemed to be mostly dunes. Bizarrely, on top of the cliffs, right at the edge, the farmer had placed lots of hay bails. Given the cliff top is likely to be the windiest part of the field and hay bails are light, I wondered how long it would be before they either blew over, or there was none of the straw left, as the wind would keeping blowing bits of it away (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever followed a lorry carrying hay-bails on a motorway).
I was now approaching the village of Mappleton, where an artificial stone groyne had been built on the beach presumably to try to control erosion.
Looking at the cliff tops some of the buildings were now very close and I suspected they would not last much longer.
The beach was now mostly sand, but with a few areas of shingle in between.
Looking inland I could see how quickly the soft cliffs were eroding, as parts had slipped down, but still had grass growing on top!
After a while the shingle areas soon ended too, and the beach was lovely sand. So I took my shoes off and walked in the edge of the water (always very refreshing on the feet).
As I neared Hornsea, my destination, a few pebbles began to appear, but not enough I needed to put my shoes back on. As I neared Hornsea I could see the cliff tops were now lined caravans.
Many were close to the edge, but at least being semi-mobile they can be pushed back rather than being left to fall over, or having to be demolished, as with houses. Still I could see the attraction, as it is a lovely beach. Soon there were people about again, a sure sign a road and car park must be near!
Still I was glad in this case as I knew I’d have no problems getting up from the beach. Sure enough soon there was a concrete sea wall built to protect the town, so I could walk on the promenade along the top of that.
I was pleased to have made it to the town. I had allowed plenty of time for this walk, not being certain of the route, but hadn’t needed it in the end.
However north of Hornsea there is nowhere large enough to have much (if anything) in the way of public transport until Bridlington. That was too far to get for today, so I would end this walk in Hornsea.
However as I had plenty of time, I continued north a bit along the beach, until the promenade ended and the cliffs began again.
The beach was rather nice here backed by grassy cliffs (which seemed a little more stable here) and the beach being a mixture of sand and shingle.
Having spent some time on the beach I headed up to explore the town – and find where the buses back to Hull went from. The town was a bit of an odd mix. Some horrible run-down seaside architecture, such as this arcade was present along the sea front.
However a little back from the shore there were some nicer old buildings, with quite a bit of character.
The town also had a nice church and some attractive brick buildings around it.
It did have the impression of the town having seen better days, but it was not as run down as many other towns I had found a bit further south along the east coast.
Having explored the town, it was time to head back to Hull. At one stage this would have been possible by train, but the Hull and Hornsea Railway was closed in 1964, a victim of the Beeching report. However at least in this case, the entire length of the railway is now a bridlepath (part of the long-distance Transpennine Trail). So with the lack of trains, I had to return to Hull by bus instead. I found the little bus station the town has (or rather had, it subsequently closed in May 2018) . From here I took the bus back to Hull. This ends directly inside the railway station (Hull Paragon) so I only had to walk a few metres for the train home.
My train home soon arrived and I got some food to eat from the WH Smiths at the station (and some more from the buffet on the train). It was a pleasant journey back, this time direct to London on Hull Trains. From there I took the tube to Waterloo and the train home from there.
I really enjoyed this walk. It was a fairly short but very pleasant walk, entirely along the beach (and the good weather helped). It was a bit tricky to get to the beach, but once down it was pretty easy other than a few parts where there was stones and a few muddy areas underfoot. The Weapons Range didn’t give me any problems (I don’t think it’s in use now) either and this route was surely far nicer than the alternative of the B1242!
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
East Yorkshire Motor Service (EYMS) bus route 129 : Withernsea – Sand le Mere – Roos – Garton – Aldbrough (village) – Aldbrough (cliffs) – Mappleton – Rolston – Hornsea. 3 buses per day each way Monday – Friday (increasing to 4 per day during school holidays). 4 buses per day on Saturday. On Sundays there is no service in the winter, but 4 buses per day in the summer (from April to early September). It takes around 35 minutes to travel between Aldbrough and Hornsea.