Today was probably the flattest day of the entire journey so far. I can’t think of anywhere else this vertically challenged over so many hours of riding. The first section, from York to the wolds at Market Weighton, was particularly flat and not especially interesting. It was mostly just ploughed fields and hedgerows, with the odd village here and there. The roads were quiet though, and the weather warm, and I sped along. I had made a sluggish start so lunchtime came around quickly. I ate outside in the sun at the Wolds Cafe in the no nonsense town of Market Weighton, nestled beneath the hills. Here is a statue of England’s tallest ever man, William Bradley, a resident of this town, who lived from 1787 to 1820.
From here, I took a tiny lane up into the wolds directly from the church. The next few miles to Beverley were a delight. I had the countryside to myself and typical wolds scenery all around, with gentle undulations, wide grass verges, and green hedges separating the fields. I could see a very tall spire from a few miles away, punctuating the horizon in dramatic fashion. This was worth a small detour and I soon found myself in the very pretty but very small village of South Dalton, staring up at a church spire that belonged on a cathedral.
It was built in an already lofty position, so appeared from a distance to be even taller than its actual 208 feet. Inside, I read that the spire has been described as “being planted like an enormous arrow in the breast of the Wold”. Quite. It was built from 1858 to 1861 and designed by the same architect as Truro cathedral (which has 3 spires). I know that the parish church in Bottesford, Leicestershire, is claimed to have the tallest village spire in England. That is 212 feet tall, so this one ran it very close. Impressive stuff. In the next village along the road, Etton, is another lovely church; but quite different. This one has a square, solid looking, almost castle-like Norman tower of much greater age. It was equally notable; but disappointingly locked.
Just a few more miles and I arrived in Beverley. This must be one of the most glorious of English country towns. It is quite large and feels prosperous and important. As you approach from the north, you travel along a broad street lined with sumptuous town houses. This is North Bar Without, which leads up to North Bar, the ancient brick gateway into the main town, through which I cycled. Traffic still passes through this narrow, pointy opening, albeit in one direction at a time, controlled by traffic lights.
And when you reach North Bar Within, the visual feast continues, with a succession of fine hotels, houses, shops and the imposing St Mary’s Church (closes at 3pm, so I missed out). Interesting mews lead off in different directions, including towards the showpiece of the town, its twin towered Minster. I got inside there in time, but the nave was being prepared for a wedding fair this evening, with over 30 vendors about to set up tables. This struck me as a serious case of merchants in the temple! Sound and lighting people were transforming the interior of this holy place. I don’t know how I felt about all this. I am not at all religious but I love old churches. Perhaps this wedding fair had as much business being there as I did. Hmm.
The land between Beverley (named, by the way, after the beaver, which was hunted to extinction in Britain centuries ago but is now being successfully reintroduced) and the east coast is pretty flat, so you would think it might be easy to find a straight route across it. Which just shows how little you know. The route, avoiding main roads, was tortuous. I met a local cyclist and we rode together for half an hour or so. He showed me some nice roads that were all pretty much empty of traffic. It had been another day of quiet cycling. I found an excellent chip shop cum cafe in Aldbrough and gratefully sat down for their seafood platter, a rather posh version of fish and chips, with everything in batter, but more types of fish. It was just the thing to power me through the last hour down the coast on more empty roads, not quite affording me the sea views I knew must be very close. After the small town of Withernsea, with its strange inland lighthouse, I followed the low cliff tops in the dusk to a B&B on a farm, just a few miles north of Spurn Point. That is tomorrow’s objective, truly an extremity to mark the end of another journey across the country. But more of that to follow. Tonight I will fall asleep to the sound of the sea through my window. Very shortly.