Day out on the Holderness Coast, Spurn Point and the Humber

A couple of weeks ago Tom took his new PhD student, Chloe Morris, out around the East Riding Coast and the Humber to scout out potential future field sites – I was invited to tag along, so I did. Chloe has joined us, working with the Environment Agency and the British Geological Society, to advance the work myself and others have done with Dynamic Humber in trying to understand how the future of the Humber is linked with the future of the Holderness Coast – people seem t be surprised to find that the sediment in the Humber predominantly comes from the coast and not from the rivers.

.South of WithernseaIMG_3807

The first stop was Withernsea. The photo above shows Tom and Chloe looking over the southern extent of the hard defences for the town – the cliff beyond has eroded several metres back from the line of this defence. The Holderness Coast is often said to be the fastest eroding coastline in Europe, as the till left behind by glaciers as the last ice age ended is broken up and washed away by waves and storms.

From Withernsea, and all along the coast you get a view of vast offshore windfarms being built in the North Sea.


Roads and paths that just disappear over cliff are a common sight, as are more of the offshore windfarms.


Further down the coast you get a sense of the history that gets lost to the sea. There are dozens of towns and villages that appear on maps and in records that are no longer there, but here it is second World War military defence structures being broken up and washed away. I think it is a real shame that we are losing these.


No trip around this area would be complete without visiting Spurn. This is a most interesting and dynamic site and there is a lot of potential for interesting science to be done here. The photos above were taken six months apart, the left in November 2014, and right on our trip, May 2015. The sign is valiantly holding on, but the area looks to have lost some height and the ground is visibly more pebbly.


Again, the two photos above were taken six months apart on the same dates as the road sign. In November there was a clear lip on the seaward side, and a shallow dip down towards the estuary side, yet in May the beach across the beach site was clearly flatter, and with lots more and larger pebbles. There is a lot going on here! Time to get the terrestrial laser scanner out again.

From here I went on to break a chair and remind myself I really need to be stricter with my diet… so after picking up pork pies from a local bakery, we headed to sites on the Humber.


Paull Holmes Strays is what is called a Managed Reallignment site. It’s where an area of flood defence is deliberately breached, with new walls built further back, so that water will inundate the area during a high tide. This creates a new salt marsh habitat populated by birds and other wildlife. It also acts as a flood defence as it stores water during unusually high levels. The image on the left above shows one of the two breaches at the site, and the right shows collected debris on the estuary facing wall, indicating the height of a past event (possibly the 5th December 2013 storm surge).


Although I have studied it, looked at it on aerial photographs, through LiDAR data, and even modelled it, I have never visited the site – I was pleasantly surprised to find it affords you some glorious views over our estuary, including a seaward view of Hull, and a great view side on of the Humber Bridge. From here we headed to the “Jewel of the South Bank” – Barton-upon-Humber.


Here we headed to the end of the Far Ings Nature Reserve and found the Chowder Ness Managed Reallignment site. This intersects a footpath I used to use a kid to walk between Barton and South Ferriby. Here you can get a view of the other side of the Humber Bridge. Our last stop was South Ferriby, where we looked at Reed’s Island. I’m sure I’ll write a post in the future about Reed’s Island, it has an interesting (if maybe not true) history.

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