Monthly Archives: October 2021

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 26.

The River Ancholme is a canalised river flowing north from Bishopbridge, on the road between Gainsborough and Market Rasen, north-east of Lincoln. The River exits into the Humber Estuary and is fed by a number of headwater streams south of the Market Rasen road. For the whole of its length the River Ancholme has been canalised and along much of its length the meandering course that the River once followed is evidenced either in the course of nearby drains/streams or in the surface of fields, this particularly so between Brigg and South Ferriby. The story of the River’s canalisation and of the construction of a sluice at the mouth of the River is a complex one extending from the 17th to the 20th century. Centuries ago the level land of the Vale of Ancholme either side of the River would have been a complex of marshland/wetlands, increasingly bracish near the Humber where high tide waters would have washed through the marsh, further inland the waters of the marsh would have mostly come from streams flowing in from the springline of the Lincolnshire Wolds to the east and from the springline of the dip slope of the Lincolnshire Heights to the west. Although used as a transport artery in the 19th century, the main financial incentive for the canalisation of the River was to improve drainage across the Vale – the name ‘carr’ being applied to the Vale lands of each successive parish whether north or south of Brigg. Although some fields of permanent pasture survive, the drained fertile land of the Vale is arable farmed (that stated, a sizable proportion of the land is given over to the permanent production of ‘elephant grass’ annually cut for the biomass fuelled generators at Drax).
Panoramic views across the Vale can be had from the route of Middlegate running north-south just below the ridge of the Lincolnshire Wolds on the east side of the Vale.
(to be continued) (the picture above is of part of the floodplain of the River Hull).

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 25.

Today’s blog is taking stock – of the 24 blogs under this heading 10 were about the chalk rock country (20/7/’21 to 11/8/’21) and 14 about Holderness (14/9/’21 to 18/10/’21). Referencing back to my chart reproduced on 11/08/’21 (which, incidentally, shows the most common type of village on Holderness to be a ‘composite village’, my term) the remaining regions to cover under this heading are;
. Upper and lower Hull Valley
. Vale of Ancholme (I am inclined to deal with these two regions together for reasons which I shall explain).
. Vale of York,
. Vale of Trent (I am inclined to deal with these two regions together for reasons which I shall explain).
. Lincolnshire Marsh,
. Lincolnshire Heights and the limestone escarpment on the north bank between South Cave and Market Weighton.
The photo above, taken in June of this year, shows a pair of mature swans and their four signets on the edge of the lake at Oak Road Playing Fields site. As last year, the progress of the signets (and other wildfowl youngsters) has been followed keenly by myself, daughter and local people, fortunately this year three of the four have survived and are now at the point where, having practiced flying, they are being ‘encouraged’ to go independent by their parents. Last year there were episodes of wildlife crime in the area and, in response to public outcry, local councillors and the M.P. for North Hull are pressing for changes which may help in the future. It was also in this area that a student at Hull University was murdered a while back.
Next time will start with the Hull Valley and the Vale of Ancholme.

Simplified Geology of the Humber Region 24.

I will make this the last blog on the Holderness section of the above title and I admit to drifting off theme somewhat, although the inter-connection between geology and many aspects of landscape history remains. The above photo. shows part of Barrow Blow Wells just north of Barrow on Humber village in North Lincolnshire, this chosen because it is impossible to find any part of Holderness today where conditions prevail similar to those of prehistoric times (as is the case in most areas). The question is how would early man, that is through the aeons between hunter-gatherer society and the later Celtic cultures which, by the time of the Roman invasion, could trade in hand-tools made of iron, subdue the natural vegetation. As someone who spent last winter and most much of this year ‘taming’ a much neglected large allotment, this without power tools but with reasonably well-made hand tools, this question has a personal edge. How would Neolithic man have ‘tackled’ the sort of environment shown above – not only cleared but then got into a state in which to plant seed which would have been tended and later harvested, this, unlike an allotment which will only produce a fraction of the goods consumed, being their main means of survival.
Two factors may go some way towards an explanation. Such ‘attacks’ on the natural vegetation of Holderness would, almost certainly, have been group ventures of some sort, involving some sort of oral plan, discussion, agreement and some sort of bonding system cemented partly by common necessity. Secondly, a part may have been played by domesticated animals. I need to do my homework to check exactly which ones may have been available three-and-a-half-thousand years ago, but that apart ancestral cattle and sheep would have required closer grazing than that seen above although, swine and goats would have been more useful in this respect. It might have been that having cleared and planted a given area that these animals might have gradually ‘subdued’ the surrounding area to make it more easilly ‘tamed’ at a later date, and so was lost the natural vegetation of Holderness.

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 23.

Most of the historic villages of Holderness took the form of linear settlements, i.e. building plots straddling a road or lane, or villages around a simple grid-plan, i.e. building plots alongside a routeway with the entrances to the land at the rear of the plot becoming a lane itself. Ottringham is an example of the latter although the short lane shown above runs crossways to the main ‘arms’ of the grid.
Having discussed the development of natural vegetation woodland (s.p.b.) on the post-glacial soils Prof. English (s.p.b.s) states that ‘Few of these wood-lands lasted into the Norman era’ (i.e. 11th -14th centuries) and she goes on to state that ‘Little of the ancient landscape of water, marsh and wood survives in Holderness today (1980s and even less so in the 21st century), and it requires an effort of imagination to reconstruct the appearance of the country before it was drained’. This invites some thought on the process by which this may have happened between, say, 4000B.C. and the 12th century, a timespan of perhaps 200 generations. This, of course, was a very long time but the pace of technological change was slow by later standards. Furthermore, most of the woodland clearance may well have happened pre 6th century as the Anglo-Saxon colonists would have needed large tracts of relatively open land on which to develop the characteristic ‘two-field’ openfield and common system of land allocation. So a follow-up question(s) might be to what extent , and by what means, was the natural vegetation on these fertile claylands reduced by prehistoric settlers – and indeed, to what extent was the forest clearance of, say, the Anglo-Saxons a destruction of seconday colonisation by Nature after some form of earlier ‘slash and burn’ treatment? The deciduous trees native to Holderness would have allowed a relatively thick undergrowth to develop, the beech with its dense leaf-canopy being more suited to calcarious soils.
(to be continued)

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 22.

Hedon is/was the one town of Holderness (Withernsea and Hornsea were certainly villages up until the coming of their railways, now long gone, they remain as small towns with their secondary schools each having a considerable proportion of students from the surrounding rural area). Hedon, like Barton, was a medieval new town created by Lords of Holderness in the early 12th century. In the town centre parallel north-south streets are evidence of its origins as is the majestic parish church, for much of Hedon’s history out of proportion to the town’s population. St. Augustine’s (east end see above) followed close on the heels of the town’s beginning with much of the building dominated by the Early English style of architecture. Although centuries older, Barton exhibited similar features in the form of grid-plan streets running east-west and two fine early medieval churches, St. Peter’s with some surviving late Saxon architecture and St. Mary’s with part of its architecture roughly contemporary with St. Augustine’s. At the time of Hedon’s creation Barton had been the principal Humber port for some centuries.
Hedon’s establishment and the canalisation of an existing small Humber tributary to create Hedon Haven went hand-in-hand. The Lord’s plan was for Hedon to be the port from which agricultural produce grown in Holderness could be shipped and luxury goods and other foodstuffs shipped in. Indeed the port got off to a good start leading to the town gaining a royal charter in the 1170s. However it was to be the the small outport of Beverley, Wyk on Hull and Ravenser Odd that were to flourish by the 14th century (although the ascendancy of the latter was to be short-lived) while the trade of Hedon stagnated.
The coming of the Hull – Hedon turnpike, 1830 – 1881, and the Hull – Withernsea railway, 1850s – 1960s, led to the population of Hedon expanding as a commuter settlement, which it remains.

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 21.

Today’s photo shows the underside of a misericord cleverly carved to show a seasonal scene, such carvings often showed a scene for each season, even a scene for each month of the year. Here an autumnal scene – a man knocking acorns from an oak tree to feed the swine (pigs) grazing on the floor of the woodland. Given that this is a medieval carving the tree would have been an English Oak, a native species, there are a number of varieties of oak tree (three different varieties were recently identified in Pearson Park, Hull), the non-native varieties have been introduced since the time of this carving.
How is this relevant to Holderness? In its primevil state the post-glacial clay soils beyond the meres would have sustained many self-sown oak trees, it would have been one of the flora that colonised the undulating land as the climate warmed after the retreat of the Devensian ice sheets. Moving forward, by the Middle Ages Holderness was almost certainly one of the most densely populated areas of England so any then remaining oak trees would have been ‘harvested’ as above.
Professor English (s.p.b.s) presents a detailed analysis of Holderness at the time of the Norman Conquest by analysing the evidence from the Domesday Survey, 1086 (and credits her sources) but for our purpose the main point is that Holderness has always been a region of villages, with Hedon as the one exception (see later). By the 11th century the villages seen today and more (before some were ‘lost’) were almost all in existance with, on average, scarcely a mile between one and the next. So an intriguing question is; over how long and by what processes did the region transform from it being covered with post-glacial climax flora and fauna and it becoming densely populated by an agrarian human population?
(to be continued).