Monthly Archives: November 2021

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 39.

Today’s picture is a photo, presumably taken from a crane gib, of the excavation of what might be called Wallingfen’s celebrity. About 2400 years ago a huge, hollowed-out log-boat sank in a channel in the marsh not far from the current course of the River Foulness. In 1984 it was fortunate that archaeologists were field walking soon after a field belonging to Hasholme Hall had had field drains laid, this resulting in narrow trenches cris-crossing the field. In one such narrow trench was an off-cut of wood that suggested it might be part of a log-boat, and excavation began. It was the natural conditions of Wallingfen that had preserved the organic material of the log-boat, the anaerobic conditions excluding air (it is an irony of Nature that water preserves organic materiel, it is a mix of air and water that causes decomposition).
The boat (log canoe) had been created from a hollowed-out single oak tree-trunk except at the stern end where a grove had been cut into the inner surface of the log and into which a board had been slotted to create the stern of the boat.The boat,at a length of 41 feet and a width of five feet, had been made from a huge tree and, as Wallingfen was an unlikely area in which oaks would grow, it had been constructed elsewhere and, on the day of its sinking, had been rowed to this watery inlet for some purpose.
The ‘rescuing’ of the boat from the silts and muds received a lot of media attention and was achieved by encasing the boat in a metal cradle, dragging this to the surface and then loading onto a lorry to be taken to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich for a decade of spray cleaning and conservation by being injected with a special wax.
Why did it sink? No human remains were discovered on site.

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 38.

As one moves west across the Humber Region the bedrocks get older, therefore the bedrock of Wallingfen and the eastern Vale of York and Vale of Trent was laid-down in the Triassic geological period between roughly 250 and 200 million years ago. This geological period followed the largest mass extinction of flora and fauna known to have happened in the history of the Earth. However biodiversity increased again in the Triassic era, this including the earliest dinosaurs. Another mass extinction occured in the Triassic/Jurassic overlap, although the early dinosaurs mostly survived this disaster. The picture above is a late-19th century German impression of Triassic flora (copied from Wikipaedia).
The drift geology of Wallingfen is more a product of it being part of the bed of Lake Humber, a vast inter-glacial lake, and of the humus accumulations that occured prior to drainage. The current Humber Estuary was almost certainly partly, if not mainly, created by the effects of water erosion through this being an overflow channel from Lake Humber.
To complete this section on Wallingfen I shall cover two things, The Hasholme log-boat and, secondly, hemp production of the early drained lands of Wallingfen.
This will then, I think, complete my coverage of this topic for now.

Simplified Geology of Humberside Region 38.

The photo above (also used yesterday) shows St. John’s church, sited between North Cliffe and South Cliffe. Built in 1873 in the Early English style of architecture it was commissioned by Samuel Fox, a Sheffield ironmaster, who had purchased the Cliffe estate. The nearby estate cottages are also of this time as are some of the isolated farmsteads out on Wallingfen, the one due west of the church and surrounded by a shelter-belt of trees being the one Fox lived in (I think). Standing in the churchyard and looking west and south one has expansive views of Wallingfen. St. John’s does not follow the standard orientation of most parish churches.
Being a difficult to penetrate wetland for hundreds of years Wallingfen formed the common land of parishes centred on settlements to all sides. This provided these communities with the resources of wetlands; fish, wildfowl,turves and summer grazing. Clearly, across such a large lowland area the parish boundaries could not have been clearly defined. A specific Enclosure Act of 1777 spurred-on plans for draining to create valuable arable land but, as seen with the Hull Valley and the Ancholme Valley, this resulted in major loss of habitat as well as parishioners common land rights.
Centuries ago such a large wetland area immediately west of the Yorkshire Wolds added to the isolation of the East Riding as, even if Wallingfen were crossed, the Wolds, before enclosure by the Sykes dynasty and other capitalist entrepreneurs, were difficult to cross with few recognised trackways. Little wonder that the people of the East Riding looked to the sea and Estuary to access opportunities beyond.
The settlements along the north bank of the River Ouse (s.p.b.) might trade beyond their locality by river, indeed Blacktoft retains a large jetty set into the foreshore of the River Ouse. Also in early medieval times the north levee bank of the River acted as a routeway west, although tide dependent.

Simplified Geology of Humberside Region 37.

Wallingfen is the name given to the south-east ‘bit’ of the Vale of York. For the purpose of this blog it can be defined as the area bounded in the north by the pre-motorway A63 through the villages of Newport and Gilberdyke, to the south and west by the River Ouse and to the east by the base of the limestone escarpment, just west of Elloughton, Ellerker, South Cave (West End), North Cave, Hotham and Cliffe (north of the old A63). If being studied in total Wallingfen can be interpreted as extending further north to the upland out-lyer at Holme on Spalding Moor and incorporating Holme Common.
Wallingfen is a level, low-lying region, traditionally with a low density of population and few villages, exceptions being Broomfleet, Newport, Gilberdyke and Laxton, plus the settlements established along the north bank of the River Ouse, east to west, Faxfleet, Blacktoft, Yokefleet and Saltmarshe. Given these points it is an area where, when out in the fields or beside the River Ouse the silence can be almost tangible (this like Sunk Island or up on the Wolds for example). The Trans-Pennine Trail, long-distance footpath/cycleway follows the north bank of the River Ouse, this having started at Hornsea.
To the west the lowland of Wallingfen merges into the lowland of Bishopsoil, around Howden, this so-called because the Bishops of Durham had a summer palace at Howden and controlled Howden’s vast parish.
Wallingfen was crossed by the meandering, sluggish River Foulness flowing into the Humber north of Whitton Sands. From a point just north of Newport the lower part of the River was canalised to benefit the local brick-making industry and (as with the River Ancholme) to improve land drainage.
Historically Wallingfen in the East Riding of Yorkshire was a large tract of waterlogged marshes and carrs and subject to annual flooding by semi-saline water from the lower River Ouse.
(to be continued)

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 36.

The above photo shows the linear lowland between the two naturally occuring ranges of vegetated sand dunes, as viewed north with Cleethorpes Leisure Centre in the distance (s.p.b.). The flora in the lowland is non-saline whereas that of the dune ranges is dominated by wind and salt resistant species. The concrete footpath (s.p.b.) is off picture to the left at about the same height as the middle of the parallel sand dunes, beyond that the coastal area is at about sea-level. At the time of writing an embrionic third linear dune range is developing by natural accretion seaward of the right-hand dune in the photo, and the very earliest patches of vegetation are beginning to get a foot-hold.
Until the coming of the railway in the late 1840s ‘Thorpe’ was a site of little more than fishermen’s huts. Cleethorpes is a seaside resort of the railway age with a station, still the final stop for the train from Barton and the Trans-Pennine trains, right next to the promenade. The village was a mile inland, still well worth a visit with its estate cottages and fine parish church incorporating Anglo-Saxon features. It has now been surrounded by suburban sprawl.

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 35.

Today’s illustration is a diagrammatic map of the Lincolnshire Marsh coastline between Cleethoepes and Donna Nook and is scanned from a chapter called ‘The Lonely Lands’ in the booklet by Larry Malkin ‘Wavelength Wanderings Along the Humber Estuary’ (1992). In fact the boundary between the two-tier unitary authority of North-East Lincolnshire and the three-tier county council of Lincolnshire crosses the ‘Marsh’ immediately south of Humberstone Fitties (see map above ‘Fitties Camp’). I don’t know the origin of the word ‘Fitties’ and Kenneth Cameron in his ‘Dictionary of Lincolnshire Place-Names’ doesn’t provide any explanation, but he does record in his historiography of the name Humberstone that the antiquarian Gervase Holles in 1634 recorded that at this place was ‘a great Boundry blew stone’. This is interesting because back then there was no North-East Lincolnshire and the south Humber bank was the northern edge of the County of Lincolnshire or strictly speaking the north riding/thirding of Lincolnshire Lindsey (the other two being Holland and Kesteven). So what was the stone the boundary of? It could have defined the boundary between the coast of the Estuary and the coast of the North Sea (or then the German Ocean). Indeed where this boundary is is a matter of debate today, although the whole coast is simply a continuation of the ‘Marsh’ (s.p.b.s).
The ‘Marsh’ south of Cleethorpes’ Leisure Centre is a fascinating area. Along the south coast of the Humber to Cleethorpes the ‘Marsh’ is protected from coastal inundation by concrete sea defences, south of the Leisure Centre the natural coastal landforms in the form of successive vegetated sand-dunes are undisturbed, although inland of these a raised concrete path does act as a relief sea defence. Sand-dunes and a gently shelving beach have the effect of absorbing the power of strong flow-tides, thus providing a natural sea defence.
(to be continued, one more on Lincs. Marsh, then Wallingfen).