Humber to Grimsby

Day 72 Sat 21 May: Apologies for the three day radio silence. Normal service could not be resumed. Having grown used to free wifi, I have recently been restricted to wifi free zones.

The time has come to say goodbye to Yorkshire.  So, is this God’s Own Country? Do the Hills of the North rejoice? And did those feet, in ancient times …? Who knows? Answers please, on a postcard. Or, wifi permitting, click the comment button and show yourselves at your opinionated best. All I know is that I love the bits of Yorkshire I’ve seen and the people I’ve met. I will be back. But hang on a minute.  Before we abandon this County, let me rabbit on about the bit I’ve left ’till last. The best bit.

The Humber Lifeboat, at Spurn Point, is strategically placed at the mouth of the Humber. But this is no ordinary coastal location. It is neither an island (having a long sandy causeway, traversable on foot most of the time) nor is it permanently attached to the mainland (being occasionally cut off by a tidal surge, the most dramatic in recent years being the 2013 tidal surges which washed away the road link). For those of you not familiar with the geography of this remote SE corner of Yorkshire, take a look on Google Earth. Or, take a very, very long walk along the soft, sandy ‘breach’. But don’t even think about trying to cycle across.

Yesterday, at the point where the last visible patch of tarmac disappears under soft sand, I leaned Fondo against a well placed post at the edge of a sand dune and sat down in the warm sun. Just enough time to eat my Co-op meal deal cheese & pickle sandwich before the RNLI Land Rover arrived to pick me up. Not only was Matthew (one of the regular Humber crew) able to negotiate the more than challenging soft sand, maintaining 4 wheel drive traction at all times, with deep ruts and steep dunes to climb over. He was also able to maintain a fascinating introduction to the history, natural and man made, of Spurn Point. Did you know there are vicious man eating caterpillars here? That there was once a railway line all the way to the end, used to transport the wartime munitions off-loaded here? I was shown evidence of both. Too late to turn back.

This is a full time, 24/7, permanently manned Allweather Lifeboat Station. The usual requirement of volunteer crew members to be living / working within 5 minutes of the LB Station is not possible here. In recent years, houses were built for each of the essential full crew. They had to live here permanently, with family. That worked well for a while, with everyone able to drive their own cars all the way along. But the isolation and inherent problems (medical, social, particularly for the children at school) were beginning to take their toll. The families had moved out. The final straw was the 2013 breach.

The current system now operates two separate full time crews.  Six days on,  six days off. My visit coincided with ‘blue watch’, who had invited me to eat with them and stay overnight. The full guided tour of this unique Station was fascinating. Everything planned and organised, almost militarily but not as you might imagine.  Not in the way an RAF aircrew would be fully prepared in flying boots & jackets during the Battle of Britain, reclining in deck chairs waiting for a ‘ring the bell and run like Hell’ scramble to their Spitfires and Hurricanes. Yes, the crews’ suits & boots were strategically placed in readiness for the next shout. But they were also the ones responsible for keeping the place running. Doing the washing, cleaning, cooking, maintaining equipment, planning exercises, looking after visiting fundraisers  …
A calm, organised atmosphere but no time to lay back in a deckchair snoozing under a newspaper, whilst separate groundcrew tended to the pilots’ every need. A daft analogy, I know. Hardly the same life expectancy as a young WW2 pilot.  But there was something about this crews’ camaraderie. They had been called out on a couple of shouts recently,  the most recent being in the early hours of the morning, the day I arrived. A yacht in difficulty, rope tangled prop, at the mercy of the tidal currents and sand banks.

Many thanks to Ben, (2nd Cox’n, the man in charge this week, also capable of producing a great chicken pasta dish for 9 hungry people), Ed (Mechanic, with more big boys toys to look after than the average full time LB mech), Liam (Ast Mech), Col (Navigator), Matthew (crew and great guide). Also, the relief ILB crew temporarily based here to cover a nearby flanking Station, off-service briefly: Steffan from Tower (London), Kim from Gt Yarmouth and Glenn from Cleethorpes. A huge thank you to you all. I shall never forget my time at Spurn Point, the icing on the cake being the opportunity to be part of a joint ALB/ILB exercise and maintenance run this morning, across the huge Humber estuary and into Grimsby Fish Dock. Very conveniently timed.  The two units were carefully offloaded, ready for their onward passage to their next destination,  Cleethorpes ILB Station.

Alas, I had to miss out the Humber Bridge crossing. Never mind, using such a big bridge to such advantage would have been too easy. Battling through the treacherous currents of a fast ebbing tide at the helm of a powerful Severn Class Lifeboat was a much more appropriate experience (Exaggerate? Me? Not in a trillion years). The Humber Bridge experience can wait until next year, when Hull is the City of Culture. I’m hoping my good friend & cycling buddy Keith will be my guide on a ceremonial Yorkshire ride.

And so, from Grimsby to Cleethorpes, Mablethorpe and Skegness. The roads of Lincolnshire. … Part 2 Tbc. ..

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