Humber Hundred

The East Riding of Yorkshire branch of Velo Club 167 took its inaugural ride on Monday 18th July 2016… I went out on my bike. Alone. Well I have just moved here so I don’t actually know if there are any other VC167 riders nearby, perhaps I should have asked. Anyway, without checking the weather forecast and seeing that it was a lovely sunny day: I set out on an exploratory mission to do a lap of the Humber estuary; across a series of bridges. I estimated it would be around 100km and hoped to be back by teatime.

I’m living in Brough now, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and looking down across the Humber from our house I can see the ‘South of England’. The ride to the Humber Bridge is fairly easy, although I wish I’d ridden through the villages of Welton and Melton instead of following the cycle path along the A63. That was an horrendous cycle path; broken surface, narrow and centimeters from the heavy goods vehicles thundering towards me. I’ll not be using that cycle path again.

Humber Bridge

The Humber Bridge has a 2,220m single span and I understand that it is the longest cycleable suspension bridge in the world: the other suspension bridges have been designed to carry motor-traffic in the style of an ExpressWay. It is an interesting experience riding over the Humber; there is the temptation to gaze idly at the river below and off towards Kingston-upon-Hull in the distance, but actually the shared use cycle and footpath can be quite busy so it is much more sensible to watch where you’re going.

Once into the ‘South of England’, I turned west and climbed the hill from sea-level to 60m where I joined the A1077. From here there was a good view back into the ‘North of England’ and I could make out, just over the water, my new home sandwiched between Brough Aerodrome and the Quarry dug into the side of Welton Wold.

View north across the Humber

Although the Humber carries some large shipping to the ports at Gunness and Goole, there is a complex series of sandbanks and islands which would have to be navigated. Looking at my OS map, I’m struck by the wonderful names: “Redcliffe Middle Sand” which is apparently made of ‘mud and sand’, “Read’s Island” which is grassland and looks like a wildlife preserve, and my favourite bit of ‘mud and sand’ just past Winteringham Haven called “Pudding Pie Sand”.

The road dropped down in nice wide sweeping corners to South Ferriby and I crossed my second river of the day, the New River Ancholme. This wide straight river felt more like a canal, I understand that it was designed to drain most of northern Lincolnshire and runs alongside the Old River Ancholme which takes a more meandering route.

New River Ancholme

I assumed that from here on my cycling would be on flat roads for the rest of the day, but I was mistaken because I had the ascent to Winteringham yet to make. I was exploring and thinking about whether this might make an interesting 100km Audax, and as I looked back over my shoulder I saw a lovely view of the Humber Bridge through the fields – so I started to wonder if this route would make more sense ridden anti-clockwise. The hills on this southern bank of the Humber are all less than 100m high, so any climbing would be fairly gentle even towards the end of the ride. I also suspect that the prevailing wind would be behind riders coming from Goole to the Humber Bridge.

From Burton-upon-Stather to Flixborough the road was fairly quiet and then I came around a corner and dropped off the edge of the ‘cliff’ down to Flixborough Stather… it was an interesting descent because opening up in front of me was a landscape defined simply by power lines and wind turbines. There were hundreds of wind turbines spread across the fields and interwoven with cabling carrying electricity elsewhere in the country. I’m not sure how I felt about the view – on one hand it was clearly a human-made marvel, on the other-hand it felt so totally alien to British landscapes I’d known before. Usually a few wind turbines on a distant hilltop evoke a wistful sense of gentle wind and environmentally friendly power: but here the was no landscape… everything was wind turbine or power cable. It looked like a modern industrial mess, even if it was an ‘environmentally friendly’ mess.

My riding was now on truly flat roads from here: I followed the B1216 south the Gunness where I was able to cross the River Trent on a dauntingly heavy duty bridge and then turned immediately north on the B1392 to follow the river downstream on the opposite bank, toward Ousefleet. The road follows the river, obscured by the high walls and dykes which defend the flat countryside from inundation. As I gazed back east I was able to see the cliff face of Flixborough Stather just on the other side of the river. This was becoming a theme for the day: feeling only a short distance from places I’d passed much earlier in the ride.

I hadn’t bothered with the weather forecast, so I wasn’t aware of just hot scorchingly hot the day was expected to become – I was feeling exceptionally tired and dehydrated despite filling up with plenty of water the whole way round. I had a tightness to my chest which I now think was a touch of heat exhaustion… I stopped for a drink and a rest. Around me was the busy-ness of English farming and I loved this quintessentially English image of hay bales and a church building:

Church and hay

Continuing through Garthorpe and Adlingfleet, I eventually turned west into Ousefleet and back straight into the mild headwind. Surrounding me was deadpan flat marshland and farmland, I also noticed a lighthouse on the river bank. I assume, looking at my OS map, that the lighthouse was to warn of Whitgift Ness; the bank of mud and sand deposited on the inside of a bend in the river. I’d passed the point where the River Trent flows into the Humber, and I wondered if that meant that I was now cycling along the River Ouse.

I reached Goole eventually, and crossed the numerous bridges surrounding the docks, before looking for the little roads that lead to Hook. I rode the ‘Beverley 100’ from Hook and remembered that the roads out of Goole to Boothferry Bridge were much nicer this way. I crossed the River Ouse at Boothferry Bridge and as I approached Howden I started to see more cyclists out and about.

I picked up the Trans Pennine Trail at Howden and decided to follow this almost the whole way back to Brough, so I was riding along lovely quiet lanes with barely any traffic. There was one section of off-road I’d been expecting: to get from Faxfleet to Broomfleet but I was rewarded with a great view downstream along the Humber from Weighton Lock, and out over Whitton Sand.

Trans Pennine Trail

Weighton Lock

Time was pressing on, and I still hoped to be home for teatime. The heat of the day had thoroughly drained me and the heat exhaustion was making a comeback as I meandered my way back into Brough. I thoroughly enjoyed my first ride from my new home and I do think this route would make a nice 100km ‘Brevet Populaire’, especially with a 10am start to that riders could easily make it an ‘Extended Calendar Event’. I’ll have to try riding it anti-clockwise and make some notes on the route and the exact distance.

Route map

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