It was a cold, frosty morning as I waited on the platform at Hampton in Arden for the 0624 train to Birmingham. The train was punctual and I arrived at Birmingham with plenty of time to spare. The second leg of my journey was the 0730 Cross Country service. For part of the journey I had an enjoyable conversation with a keen hiker and cyclists about his exploits in Scotland and the Lake District.
I arrived at Sheffield Midland Station at 0846 and waited on the same platform for my connection to Cleethorpes. It was many years since I stood on that platform but, in those days I had to treck across to Victoria Station, now long since closed, for my train to Manchester. I didn't have long to muse as my train, courtesy of Trans Pennine Express arrived on schedule.
My companions for the first part of the journey to Doncaster were a group of chaps on there way to a "Stag do" at Sunderland. They seemed quite reserved on the journey, but probably would have been more lively on the return trip. The train then passed through Scunthorpe, the town where I grew up, and little appeared to have changed. Despite the closures, the steel works on the east of the town seemed to be very busy.
Onward then, through the fields of the Lincolnshire Wolds, to Cleethorpes where the train arrived early at 1055. It is over 50 years ago that I visited the seaside town, so I decided to spend half an hour looking around. The first thing to strike me were the Victorian shops and the clock tower at the station which brought back pleasant memories. A short cycle ride past the pier to the boating lake, the site of my earliest aquatic experiences, then back along the seafront towards Grimsby.
The approach to Grimsby was along a minor road in need of repair with 1920's terraced housing along lengthy side roads. I stocked up with a sandwich and packet of Parkin at a Lidl store on the way. Virtually all the houses here had been "improved" with stone cladding, rendering, poor quality porches and inappropriate roofing. What once were neat, humble, but proud dwellings had become a messy jumble. In the middle of all this was Blundel Park, home to Grimsby Town FC. From the angle at which I saw it, the ground did not look as though it had been touched in decades. Perhaps it might merit a preservation order.
The commodity upon which the past prosperity of the town had been built was becoming more evident as I progressed towards Grimsby Docks - Fish! The smell increased to a crescendo as I arrived the Docks (1148) complete with imposing administration building and harbour lighthouse on the left as I crossed over the railway bridge. To the left was Alexandra Dock where the Lincoln Castle Ferry was moored. This paddle steamer used to ply to and fro between New Holland and Hull until the Humber Bridge was built in 1974. More of this later.
The route then passed through bland post-war suburban developments that might be found in any town. Eventually this sprawl gave way to the village of Great Coates (1213) with its stone tower hidden behind conifers, defying any attempt to take a reasonable photograph of it. (Must bring a chain-saw next time!) The B1210 then took me through countryside to Healing, where I ate half of my sandwich in the shadow of the church with its ornamented tower, then past Stallinghorough and Immingham (1320).
Shortly after Stallingborough I suffered a puncture (More accurately, the bike did). I lost a little time in fitting a replacement inner tube but, learning from experience, I had taken an old pair of rubber gloves with me to keep my hands clean. The same road took me to Haborough with its stone church which is more reminiscent of Norfolk than Lincolnshire. South Killingholme, North Killingholme and East Halton (1350) were unremarkable except for a sturdy stone church with a tower at the latter.
A highlight of the trip was reached at the 12th Century Thornton Abbey with its imposing brick gatehouse. My original plan was to cycle along a track by the Humber but, since I had lost time and used my only spare inner tube, I headed directly for Barrow upon Humber with its stone church towering above a 1950's housing estate. The centres of both Barrow and Barton upon Humber (1500) have remained largely unspoiled by recent developments and contain many fine 19th Century and earlier buildings. A short ride to Waterside gave me an impressive view of the next part of my trip over the Humber Bridge.
I had cycled to Hull from Scunthorpe many years ago before the Humber Bridge was constructed and crossed to Hull using the New Holland - Hull Ferry Service. I travelled on the paddle steamer Tattershall Castle and admired the machinery visible through a window into the engine room. The vessel was withdrawn in 1981 and is now a pale shadow of itself moored on the Thames Embankment and serving as a restaurant.
The ride over the Humber bridge was along a wide, segregated pathway for cyclists and pedestrians. The high vantage point of the bridge yielded excellent views of Hull, the Humber Estuary and New Holland Pier from which the Ferry Service to Hull sailed many years ago. At the Hessle end of the bridge there was a convoluted route through the village until I joined Hessle Road followed by Woodcock Street for the long haul through urban sprawl to the very attractive Hull Paragon Station (1632).
I enjoyed a meal and a pint at the "Admiral of the Humber" pub before catching the punctual 1752 Northern Train to Sheffield. There was a short wait at Sheffield before the 1924 Cross Country service whisked me off towards Birmingham. The only event of note on the return journey was the opportunity to perform my good deed of the day by helping a lady to recify a problem with her mobile phone.
The train arrived at Birmingham New Street three minutes late at 2030, but this was enough for me to miss my connection. I therefore had to wait until 2113 before I caught the local train to Hampton-in-Arden and my patient car.
Next Trip - Southminster to Southend - 10 April