Summer Wednesday Exploration Ride
Burton Constable 5th June 2019
The first of our Summer series of Wednesday Exploration Rides and a visit to Holderness for a ride from Burton Constable. Sadly, John Ambler wasn't well enough to join Tim Newbery, Rob Whitworth and Bernie Hobill and we hope he feels better soon.
Rob had very kindly agreed to drive club members to the start point at Burton Constable, and we arrived just as the gates were being opened to the estate at 10.00 am. Time for tea and coffee at the very fine cafe before setting off on a route devised by East Riding of Yorkshire Council. The route is one of the William's Farm Kitchen Cycle Rides and is designed to showcase the delights of Northern Holderness.
Making sure we didn't run over the sheep 'safely grazing' we headed out of the estate and continued east along quiet country lanes towards Aldbrough. A flat route so far, zig-zagging around a prominent wind farm and then back inland to Withernwick. We noted how good the road surfaces were. Hardly a pothole in sight and no sign of any surface 'redressing'! Bliss.
Turning north towards Hornsea, we made a stop to view the medieval standing wayside cross at Great Hatfield. It's carved with vine motifs running along the main upright with crouched lions on its base. A fine survivor probably dating to the 14th or 15th Century, although the cross head has long since been destroyed by the Puritans.
Having enjoyed a short rest, the route continued towards Hornsea crossing over Sustrans NCN Route 65, the Trans Pennine Trail. Deciding not to deviate to Liverpool it was only a short distance to the Mere Cafe overlooking the water. We had arrived ahead of schedule due to the brisk tail wind and plenty of time to sample bacon rolls, sausage egg and bacon, welsh rarebit and avocado (which formed just a small part of an extensive menu).
Hornsea Mere is the largest freshwater lake in Yorkshire and the last remaining post-glacial melt water lake in the region. The Mere Cafe was first opened in 1887 as a Refreshment Room. Little has changed although for a time it was converted into workshops for the maintenance of aircraft engines. In 1915 the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) established an air station at Hornsea Mere and was to be a substation of RNAS Killingholme on the Humber Estuary.
A bit too chilly to take up an offer of a motor boat trip around the lake it was time to make a move to head towards the historic Skipsea Castle. Leaving the mere behind there was a short climb to Bewholme (Holderness is not all flat). Fine, picturesque countryside once more with fields of wheat and barley swaying lazily in the breeze. With Bernie in good spirits and looking fit the short cut was by-passed and it wasn't long before arriving at the remains of Skipsea Castle.
Skipsea Castle, built about 1086, was the residence and administrative centre of the Lords of Holderness. William the Conqueror created the lordship of Holderness, a vast area from the Humber Estuary to Bridlington, and gave it to Drogo de la Beuvrière (a Flemish mercenary) who had fought alongside him at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The King needed a trusted follower to control the area and adjacent coastline. The region was on the frontier of Norman power and subject to potential Danish raids from across the North Sea.
Drogo married William the Conqueror's niece, Lady Albina. Tiring of the lady he poisoned her and before the news got out had the wit to go to the King to borrow money on the pretext of 'a great desire to return to his native country'. William amazingly gave him the money whence Drogo fled to the continent and disappeared from history.
Drogo's successors, the counts of Aumale, held the seat for only about 130 years when the Lords of Holderness moved their administrative residence to Burstwick (we'll be vising this fortified manor at the end of the month) in about 1200. The castle was destroyed in 1221. Interestingly, recent archaeological excavations in 2016 proved that the mound on which Skipsea Castle was built is in fact a much earlier Iron Age structure dating to about 400 BC. It is the largest of its type in the UK, larger even than Silbury Hill.
Having taken in the history oozing from this site club members prepared themselves for the return route, this time directly into the head wind. Road surfaces remained on the whole in good order and in spite of the wind we made fine progress past Rise Hall and New Ellerby where the old railway line, the Trans Pennine Trail, crossed the route once more. Time for one last refreshment stop at the 'Railway Inn' (appropriately named) just before closing time.
Cycling UK Louth contingent finally arrived at Burton Constable at a little after 3 pm, comfortably before the 4 pm deadline of the purchase of hot food from the cafe. Highly recommended are the carrot cake and meringues!
Burton Constable Hall is a spectacular Elizabethan Mansion with 300 acres of 'Capability Brown' parkland and worthy of a visit in its own right. Once the Lords of Holderness had left Burswick which was abandoned in the reign of Elizabeth I, the family moved to Burton Constable and has been their home for 700 years. On a quirky note, at Burton Constable there's the remains of a 58.5-foot-long skeleton of a sperm whale found beached on the nearby coast in 1825. Accounts of the whale reached Herman Melville who was inspired by the story and went onto publish his renowned novel 'Moby Dick'.
All in all, a fine start to our Exploration series of rides. 35 miles covered and thanks to all for their company.