The Plan - To Hull and Back - CycleBlaze

The Plan

Last year when I returned from my fortuitously-timed tour abroad in Austria, I was all fired up to get back out on the open road. I'd been toying with a tour of the East of England for a while. Growing up in the extreme South-West part of the country, it's an area that I was almost completely unfamiliar with before moving to the vicinity of Cambridge, and I've still not really explored most of the East coast.

The whole area is quite distinctive. Unlike the rest of the country which is reliably rolling, it contains large flat areas, often floodplains or drained swampland (fen). Much of the land was ruled by Vikings for hundreds of years, leaving distinctive and sometimes guttural-sounding placenames (like Scunthorpe and Skegness) and an influence on dialect (and some say culture) to this day. It's a certainly less touristed, and perhaps lesser-known, part of the country.

In the west we have many river Avon-s (from the Celtic word for river). In the east there are several river Ouse-s ("ooze", which also means, erm, river).  A trip between our local Ouse  - the "Great Ouse" of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire - and the other Ouse of Yorkshire seemed a good peg to hang a trip on. In between is the big gap of the Humber, a huge estuary drawing together pretty much every river of the north-east. Spanning this is the mighty Humber bridge, at one time the biggest suspension bridge in the world, and still the longest one you can still cycle over.

The only city of the region - Hull - has a perhaps unfair reputation as a bit of a backwater. Numerous towns dotting the coast are known as old-time seaside resorts, or for their heavy industry. I had no other reason to travel to this area - the only way I was going to see it was on a bike tour.

The rough plan. County names and the route are in red; rivers, lakes and other watery features are in blue; and the general vibe of the landscape is in purple.
Heart 4 Comment 0

I would first strike out over the Cambridgeshire Fens, on the familiar route to Norfolk via the tiny city of Ely. Then I'd head around the remote and unpopulated Wash and into central Lincolnshire via the old agricultural port of Boston. Avoiding Lincoln itself, I'd cross the Wolds to reach the coast, the odd mixture of seaside resorts and heavy industry around Grimsby in North-East Lincolnshire. Then it would be over the Humber bridge into the East Riding (part) of Yorkshire, and closing in on York itself.

My return would take me through mining country of South Yorkshire, then into Nottinghamshire and Sherwood Forest. From Nottingham it would then be a jaunt through the rolling, pastoral lands of Leicestershire to the giant reservoir of Rutland water which occupies most of the tiny country of Rutland. From here the route home would be familiar.

The sketchy map above gives some idea of where I'm going and the terrain.

A few notes:

  • This is about 700km/450 miles worth, which should be easily doable in six or seven days if conditions are good.
  • The aim here is to avoid cities, for better social distancing and easier camping. Maybe I'll be avoiding the centre of Hull (sorry to disappoint!).
  • It's low lying. Really low lying. As such there's not much climbing and water features - the rivers, the inlets of the North sea (like the Humber and Wash) are important barriers.
  • A lot of this flatness is Fens - which until medieval times were impassable marsh, but are now drained, flat, empty and typically rich farmland. This eerie landscape I am familiar with from Cambridgeshire, but actually extends all the way to Lincoln. It's not all flat though - pretty rounded limestone hills are called Wolds, and extend in a spine through Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.
  • This will be a ten county adventure: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, West Riding of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rutland.
Rate this entry's writing Heart 8
Comment on this entry Comment 2
James FitchThe Humber bridge is long, at 7,283 feet (according to Google), but you can ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, which is 8,981 feet (again according to Google).
Reply to this comment
1 year ago
Jon AylingTo James FitchHa, yes I was wondering where I got this from, because as you say the Golden Gate is certainly longer (oddly enough I've cycled across that one as well - it certainly takes the prize for aesthetics too).
It turns I remembered it from wikipedia - and the claim is somewhat, well, contestable! Wiki has that it's "the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world that can be crossed on foot or by bicycle". This is (apparently) true - the Humber has a single span length of 1,410m, while the Golden Gate 1,280m. But I'm not sure this is what anyone cycling across it would really notice!
Reply to this comment
1 year ago