Opposite the Admiralty Guest House, Hornsea, Friday evening promenaders enjoy the lapping of the great North Sea below. The fading sun makes a colourful picture of clouds and water to rival any Westward sunset. Only some among these walkers might be aware that this peaceful scene conceals a grim truth - that the rising North Sea is a terrible force for destruction on this coast. Those looking Eastwards with the eyes of history know that one mile, two miles out beneath these glowing waves, lie ruined towns, lost harbours.
In the B&B I have been reading Outrageous Waves, in which Basil Cracknell describes in great detail the historical vulnerability to the tides of the Holderness and Humberside coastlands. It’s astonishing, like nothing I know on the sheltered West:
The Holderness coast is said to be the most rapidly eroding coastline in Europe. Nor is this a modern phenomenon: it has been going on ever since Roman times if not earlier. The sea has also had a dramatic effect upon the coastal configuration of the Humber estuary, giving here, and taking away there, and in the process quite large towns and ports have come into being and have then disappeared under the sea.On the eve of my walk, then, I am aware of these things: the temporary nature of places in the great scheme of things (great cities like Hull as vulnerable to rising tides as lost, tiny settlements like Hornsea Burton and Ravenser Odd), the speciousness of the maps I carry (Barbara and Catherine earlier pointing out to me that when they walked Spurn Head a few weeks back, the road - clearly defined on OS 107 - had disappeared), and the great power of the flows which I am tenderly treading my way into, or in opposition to, on this route - the water flows of Humber, Hull and Ouse which will be my companions east of the M62, and then the terrifying traffic flows of the massive roadway which I shall follow home.