Monthly Archives: May 2016

Recent walks.

Recently Will. Jennings and I, once work colleague and ex-Head-teacher at Cottingham High School, undertook one of my favourite short circular walks. Starting in Paull village we followed the ‘dockside’ where fishing smacks and shrimp boats once tied and below the outer rampart of Paull Fort. Having looked at the, now redundant, ‘high and low lights’ (see Landmarks and Beacons) on the foreshore we walked to the Thorngumbald road alongside one of the four Humber-side ‘areas of managed retreat’ and on to the church. Paull church has an interesting mix of materials in the building fabric (again see relevant section in Landmarks and Beacons) while W.J., being more of a ‘people historian’, studied an elegant Georgian monument to a once justice-of-the-peace for the East Riding, this sited just east of the north transept. W.J. is a musician and, along with his ‘group’, has just produced his/their second cd ‘No Hand Left to Show’ – the first is called ‘Powder River Stories’ and the third, apparently, is nearing completion.

Our initial plan to go on the previous Thursday had to be postponed, but I went on the following interesting walk. Starting at ‘Julian’s Bower’ in Alkborough village Molly (dog) and I walked the scarp-top footpath to Burton on Stather church. Normally this fine path affords panoramic views west across the Vale of Axholme and the Trent plain but that day the weather was hazy. Having passed through Burton village with its coursed rubble ‘ironstone’ wallings a path led downhill and along the bottom of the wooded scarp slope, carpeted with flowering bluebells, to the site of Flixborough river-side port and industrial estate. Now intensively farmed with arable crops, the lowland west of the path was once the outer limit of the Vale of Trent floodplain. Walking up the scarp slope to Flixborough village we rested on benches outside the recently refurbished village hall. Returning north to Normanby village and Burton the path passed along field headlands alongside sandy-loam land now mostly devoted to turf production. And so back along the scarp-top to Alkborough. Probably 10 – 12 miles.

Yesterday Rachael (daughter) and I visited East Park, Hull before going to visit Kerry (daughter). Had not been to East Park for long time and was amazed at the way it has been developed while having retained a density of mature deciduous trees and shrubs un-rivalled in other Hull public parks. Incidentally have submitted a project to the Hull 2017 organisation whereby I would research and write a history of Hull’s parks, allotments and open spaces if they publish. Even if they don’t will continue the research anyway and have started map research at Hull History Centre. Any help and/or relevant information would be appreciated (I have copy of Paul Gibson’s excellent booklet on West Park).

Sad to hear of the recent death of John Markham who for many years has written for the Hull Daily Mail as well as being an author and Chairman of Hedon Local History Society.

St. Nicholas church, Kings Lynn.

Thirdly I wanted to re-visit St. Nicholas church, north Lynn. A few years ago this church passed into the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and extensive repairs have recently been completed. Often called a ‘chapel’ as for much of its existence it was a chapel of ease to St. Margaret’s church (as Holy Trinity, Hull was to All Saints, Hessle until the mid 17th century), the latter serving the original settlement established by the first Norman bishop of Norwich alongside what became ‘Saturday market place’ while St Nicholas served a settlement extension of the 12th century  (with nearby ‘Tuesday market place’). St. Nicholas’ west tower was certainly topped by a spire in the 18th century but the current needle spire was designed by G.G. Scott in 1869.

Currently the C.C.T. are hoping to open the church every day although this relies on volunteers. The restored church has already been the venue for some public events and this, it is hoped, will continue.

The Churches Conservation Trust do great work across the country and their efforts will be much needed across this century. I am an active supporter – current membership is £42 pa.

Nearby St. Nicholas church is museum to the ‘North End’ fishing community, now all but gone. Part of the museum is in a property that use to be a shop and post-office in the 1960s in which my late half-sister worked.

Denver Sluice, south-west Norfolk.

Denver Sluice is in fact a complex of three sluice gates which control the flow of water between a series of large drainage canals dug between the 1630s and the 1960s to drain water from the Fenlands to the River Great Ouse, to reduce the flood-risk to the region and to prevent further ingress of tidal waters from the Wash. The most recently dug drainage canal post-1953 also canalised the lower River Wissey, a tributary of the R. Great Ouse which drained the ‘outlier’ fenlands of Methwold Hythe and Southery and Hilgay Fens. In walking from one side of the complex to the other it is hard to unravel which channel is which but there are information boards erected by the Environment Agency and a copy of the relevant OS map helps.

Although each channel is very wide they are no longer arteries of trade although pleasure craft can pass through the incorporated locks.

These drainage channels have led to the transformation of the Fenlands from natural wetland to a huge tract of fertile arable land. A rare thing – a landscape that is actually ‘flat’.

Number three, see above.

Visit to south-west Norfolk.

Three weeks ago I spent a week  with my touring caravan at the small Woodstock caravan site (thankfully no clubhouse or vans all in rows), Gibbet Lane, Boughton – the parish where I grew-up. Apart from local walks and visiting niece and husband in Kings Lynn three things deserve mention here.

On a bitterly cold and wet late April day I re-visited Thetford near the Norfolk-Suffolk border. As well as boasting the location (along with the surrounding Breckland) for the early filming of episodes of ‘Dad’s Army’, the birthplace of the 18th century radical thinker and writer Thomas Paine and the first British town to have a black mayor (1904) Thetford has un-rivalled surviving evidence of its pre-historic and medieval built environment – at least for a relatively small market town.

The vast earthworks surviving in what is now a public park are the product of ramparts for an Iceni tribal centre with a massive Norman motte superimposed.

For a brief time, during the reign of Edward the Confessor, the chair of the bishop of East Anglia was moved from North Elmham to church of St Mary the Great, Thetford. However cathedral status was transferred to Norwich in 1094 with the building there of the new Norman church. The medieval grammar school at Thetford evolved on the site of the Anglo-Saxon church. Sports teams from Downham Market Grammar School use to play those at Thetford Grammar School in the 1960s, I seem to remember we usually lost.

Reputedly ‘Thetford’s oldest standing church’, St. Mary the Less now stands in a very sad state of modern disrepair,

Like Beverley Thetford had a dense concentration of pre-Reformation religious  house complexes. The site of a pre-Conquest Benedictine abbey, on land between the Rivers Thet and Little Ouse, later became a nunnery and then, post-Reformation, a domestic residence. The house and grounds, now the hq. of the British Trust for Ornithology, incorporate many surviving medieval features. Three friary building complexes developed in the 14th century. The vast site and standing ruins of the pre-Reformation Cluniac priory stand above the River Little Ouse valley. Here the ruins provide clear evidence of the site of the church, cloisters, prior’s lodgings, gatehouse and Lady chapel. Since its dissolution the freestone (facing stone of the walls) has been removed but much core walling remains largely because the flint stones of the core were set in a heavy lime mortar.

A steam engine museum, watermill and some surviving medieval housing add further to Thetford’s interest. The Heritage town trail is recommended.

Secondly I visited (again) the complex of sluices at Denver, just south of Downham Market (see above).

12th May 2016.

I have had such a lot of trouble with internet access – either on one minute off the next or just not available at all – that blogs have not been possible. Have had countless long mobile calls to EE, eventually got new router which is helping but reception is still unreliable. Suggested I move to fibre-optic.

Anyway the second part of tides was simply to state that with sea level rise inevitably fundamental policies will be forced on government sooner or later. These are;

Which areas of current shoreline land shall we give-up to tidal ingress and how will we deal with the private property there lost – will it be left to the ‘market’ i.e. will properties be left to tumble in value until they become worthless or with there be a national compensation relief fund?

How will centres of population be dealt with? On a local level would the coastal flood defences of Hull be repeatedly heightened but not those of the vale of Ancholme – these two areas being identical geo-physically?

How, and when, would displaced home owners, landowners etc. be re-homed.

And more.

Such an issue underlines the essential ‘short-term’ mentality of the western political process.