[This walk was completed on the 10th September 2021, apologies for the delay in writing up]
I’m staying in a hotel in Grimsby and, in order to avoid a long bike ride down busy roads, I decide to catch the bus to Cleethorpes. Unfortunately, the bus soon fills up with hordes of chatty teenagers on their way to school. Only one single girl on the bus has the courtesy to wear a mask.
So I spend the journey in a state of high anxiety, and am relieved when the girls got off at their stop. I get off near the “Pleasure Island” in Cleethorpes, and watch the bus leave.
Covid is still rife and Manchester is full of it. Rural Lincolnshire might feel safer, but it is a long time since I travelled by public transport and I expected masks to be mandatory. I am angry with myself for taking the risk, and even angrier with the teenagers for being so inconsiderate. Too late now.
[At this stage, my daughter had just finished her chemo course and was waiting for surgery for breast cancer. I knew my own immunity was wearing off as I hadn’t yet had my booster dose. I was terriried I would catch COVID, infect my daughter, and delay her treatment. It was a horrible, stressful, worrying time.]
I hoist my rucksack onto my shoulders and set off on my walk. Must try not to worry. I’ll just keep taking the tests and hope for the best.
I’m following a cycle/walking track, and heading south back towards Tetney Lock.
It’s a pleasant walk, through woodland to start with, then past a golf course. I meet a few cyclists, and some dog walkers.
Now I’m surrounded by flat, Lincolnshire fields, intercut with drainage dikes. Wind turbines turn slowly in the morning breeze.
The sea is about half a mile away, to my left. I soon reach the point where I intersect with the route of yesterday’s walk, and join a familiar track. Take a right-angled turn, and head towards the sea wall.
I climb up the bank and feel a sense of relief. I’m back on track. Tetney Lock lies a mile or so further south, but I turn north. Onwards, back to Cleethorpes.
There are pillboxes on the bank, relics from WW2. I like seeing them – a reminder of how my parents’s generation fought and suffered to protect these shores. They are ugly and functional, and in various stages of decay, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before we begin to slap preservation orders on these concrete boxes.
Although I’ve reached the sea bank, the water is still a long way away. I look across a mile or more of marsh. Two more reminders of our past wars – the two sea forts that guard the entrance to the Humber – stand in the grey waters of the estuary. Relics of WW1.
In the foreground are the bright hulls and masts of sailing boats. As I continue along the sea wall, it bends past some pools of water, and I reach the focus of all this boating activity – the Humber Mouth Yacht Club.
Here the marsh seems to disappear, and a beach begins. I climb down and follow the curve of the sea defences. Finally, I’m walking on sand again. This is lovely.
But the marsh hasn’t really gone – it’s out there, forming and reforming. What looked like acres of sand is really a mixture of sand banks and mud banks. A battle between competing terrains.
Ahead, a family is making the most of the shore. But I can see I’m running out of beach. Maybe when the tide is out you can walk further along the sand, but today the water is right up to the top of the breakwaters.
I climb back up onto the bank, where there is a well-trodden path.
It’s quite crowded up here, with strollers, dog walkers, joggers, etc. Below me, on the low-lying Lincolnshire land, a little shanty-town of beach cottages and bungalows has sprung up. It has a charming but impermanent air.
All these little buildings could be washed away by a sudden sea surge or due to rising sea levels caused by global warming. But, in the meantime, the sea bank looks solid and provides a substantial defence.
Here is a bench with a view – but a view of the bushes, rather than the water!
Dotted along the bank are warning signs. “Danger. Fast flowing creek.” Parents are advised to supervise their children at all times. One sign is even more specific, and provides a handy map to explain the danger.
The sign mentions Beach Safety Officers, which I take with a pinch of salt… until I spot a couple of them, standing on an access platform and watching the beach.
According to my map, this area is called the Humberstone Fitties. The beach here looks deceptively safe. The breakwaters have given way to shallow waters and sand. There is even a swimmer in the sea.
I climb off the bank and walk along the sand. Heading towards the water, I follow the line where the sands appear to stop, and the muddy floor of the estuary begins. The sky is blue, the light is bright, and I forget my anxieties caused by this morning’s bus ride.
You can’t beat the soothing effect of a wide beach and a huge sky.
I reach a little river. Unfortunately, it’s too wide to cross without getting wet feet, so I turn and head inland towards what appears to be a bridge.
But I can’t reach the bridge, because I get bogged down in a mass of marsh, which fills the area just inland of the beach.
So, frustrated, I have to retrace my steps and climb back up onto the sea bank. This soon becomes a proper tarmac track, which doubles as a cycle way and walking route.
Out in the marsh, near the stream of water that kept me from finding a way forward, is an artist. He stands with perfect concentration, working on his easel.
Many years ago, I would take a sketch book with me everywhere I went. I have books full of records of past expeditions and holidays. I gave this up when I started walking the coast, fearful I would never make any forward progress if I kept stopping to sketch. I replaced paper and pencil with a camera.
I’m surprised to see a signal box. “Humberston North Sea Lane.” I wonder if the line still functions?
I must be drawing level with the place where I got off the bus this morning, and where the holiday parks and the Pleasure Island are situated – somewhere just inland. The walkway is positively crowded now.
What is that signpost, with the globe, doing? Is Cleethorpes claiming to be the centre of the world?
Well, yes, actually. Apparently “the world revolves around Cleethorpes”. It’s on the Greenwich meridian line.
I remember crossing over this line before, at a weird place called Peacehaven on the south coast. That was a walk I did between Seaford to Brighton, 10 years ago! I was still married then, and still working as a doctor. Pre-COVID, pre-Manchester, pre-breast cancer. Seems a different world.
Step over the meridian, crossing from the east into the west.
Further along, the path veers inland, but I continue along a watery track that sticks closer to the shore. The beach has receeded and the water is barely visible across an expanse of marsh and mud. Ahead are the buildings of a sea front promenade.
Ah. Beach again. And this must be Cleethorpes proper. Yes, it feels like a proper seaside town (athough it is technically a resort on the Humber Estuary, rather than on the sea!) and it even has a pier.
It’s nearly 1:30 pm, and how could I resist a seaside cafe? I head across a road. Time for lunch.
[To be continued]
Route so far today: