Monday, 23 April 2018

Walking the Humber. Stage 11. Sunk Island

A blustery, but bright day for a circular walk around Sunk Island. Scattered farmhouses, flat arable land under 4 m over sea level. I drive through the tree-lined approach road to the crossroads that mark the centre of Sunk Island village, a church on one side and the old village school on the other, where I park. Grimsby dock tower rises over the horizon ahead. The rapeseed is blooming and the wheat is thick and green after the last rains, but is quite dry under foot. A Yellow Wagtail flies overhead onto a field.
Farmhouse on Sunk Island

A resting place with great views for a pair of shelduck. 
 I take the right towards Stoney Creek, passing by several farms and the war battery.

Stone Creek anti-aircraft battery.
Information panel on the battery.
 I climb the sea bank by Stoney Creek and head east. A pair of Swallows struggle with the wind to sit on a post. I struggle to get hold of my field book as I take notes.

The salt marsh is wide here, with some pools. A pair of Gadwall, Mallard and two Redshank take off.

The trees of a copse rise ahead appearing looming on the flat landscape. As I walk by the copse, a Lesser Whitethroat sings and two Red Kites are mobbed by a Magpie. I get to see one quite close as it flies over me. I wasn't expecting to see my first Red Kites this year at Sunk Island!
Although there are a few gates and fences, this is a permissive path, not a Public Right of Way, there is easy access all the way around Sunk Island, the worse part just in need of some mowing.
 Near Hawkins point I have a glimpse of Spurn Lighthouses in the horizon, and when I look back I can also see the Humber Bridge, probably not many places where this is possible. The Humber here forms a wide shallow bay with wide mudflats called Spurn Bight.

History of Sunk Island
Sunk Island is an intriguing name for a eye-shaped piece of land attached to the mainland, and its only makes sense when one knows its fascinating history. During medieval times silting of land on the north bank of the Humber was promptly followed by land reclamation, and villages like Tharlesthorpe, Frismersk, Penisthorpe and Orwithfleet were established in the area around or shortly after the Domesday book (1086). However, the new land was lost again to the Humber in the following centuries and the villages and hamlets destroyed. In 1356 Tharlesthorpe was completely lost. By 1670 there were no traces of what is now Sunk Island. These loses to the Humber might have something to do with Spurn being breached, and therefore unable to shelter South Holderness from storms in the North Sea or resulting from changes in the strength and erosive force of the Humber north channel. Part of the land that disappeared into the Humber formed a shoal that was called 'Sonke lands' in navigation charts.
Maps showing the changes in Sunk Island from 1744, after the island emerged for the second time (redrawn and modified from Sheppard, see More Information).
However, the sunken lands eventually re-emerged into a sand bank and then an island. In 1695 Sunk Island had emerged from the tides and part of it was embanked and put into cultivation. In 1744, 20,000 acres were added to the new island. Further silting and reclamation meant that a little later in 1786 the western side of Sunk island had become connected to the mainland and by 1834 much of Sunk Island was attached to the mainland. The North Channel became completely silted and Patrington Haven could no longer be used for navigation in 1869. The fishermen had to move to Stoney Creek. Today, Patrington Haven is now over 4 km away from the Humber bank. The old name for Sunk Island stuck and now it is neither sunk nor an island. Today's walk more or less traced the contour of the island before it became reclaimed and attached to the mainland.
Notice for wild fowlers near Stoney Creek.
A meandering drain.

A copse in the distance.
Red Kite.
Chalk bank at Hawkins point.
Shelduck and Redshank.
Avocets. 
Grimsby Dock tower. 

Long grass on the bank. Around this area a mixed hirundine flock with Swallows, a House Martin and a Sand Martin hunts over the flooded marsh as it moves up the estuary.
Beach east of Hawkins point.
A pair of Roe Deer rests on the 1850 sea wall now well behind the sea defences near East Bank Farm.
Drain near East Bank farm.

Typical farmhouse cottage. After Hawkins point I walk up a farm track and join the road back to Sunk Island church.

Rapeseed in bloom.
The church of Sunk Island.
A Rook takes off the lovely cockerel weather vane atop Sunk Island church.
Today's circular walk, 14 km.

More information
Sheppard, J. The Draining of the Marshlands of South Holderness and the Vale of York. East Yorkshire local history series, 1966. Here.

Genuki Entry for Sunk Island. Here.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Wilkdale with Hull Nats

A day trip to Kirkdale, North Yorkshire with the Hull Natural History Society. Its is sunny and warm, a spring day with clear sky that clouds up in the afternoon. We start on the car park by the little saxon church called Gregory's Minster. We first walk across the dry ford of Hodge Beck. There are a few pools, but the beck runs underground. A glade by the beck is covered in primroses and wood anemones, with bumblebees, Tawny mining bees and a very flighty Nomada which we don't identify.
 The first stop is Kirkdale cave, discovered in 1821, and which obtained fame due to its assemblage of megafauna fossils from the last interglacial, the Ipswichian (about 110,000 years ago). The fossils included the northernmost hippo fossils, elephant and hyena. They were studied and described by William Buckland, who interpreted the assemblage as the remains of cave hyena prey in the hyena's den. Today the cave sits on a small quarry and its small entrance is about 5 m above the ground.
The quarry with Kirkdale cave.
Andrew Chadwick bravely climbs to Kirkdale cave entrance.
We continue upstream in the wooded vale, with plenty of wild garlic and wood anemones.
Wood anemone.
 The beck runs dry by the path. We have a lot of Bee Flies, including a mating pair. We stop for lunch by another ford by the dry beck. In this area there are no pools, but there seem to have been running water recently.
 We carry on through the woods. At some point we notice the beck is flowing happily by us and it carries so until we get to Hold Cauldron mill, where the weir also flows in abundance.
Two lucky members of the groups get to watch a dipper leaving a likely nest site by mill. We return to the car via the other side of the beck.
 Our butterfly list included Peacock, Orange Tip, small tortoiseshell and an unidentified white, none of them settled for photos though.
We cover three km2 and just over 5 km, entertained by the diverse wildlife in the woods and beck. A most enjoyable day out. If you are interested in the plant, invertebrate or bird lists for the day, check the Hull Nats website.
Marsh Tit
Early-purple orchid, Orchis mascula
Some Caddis flies on a stagnant pool by the ford.
Mayflies.
A field behind the church.
The remains of a bridge near the ford.
Small Frog.
A beautiful flowering willow buzzing with bees.
Morel mushroom.
A recently deceased grey squirrel squirming with fleas.
 Spurge-laurel, Daphne laureola.
Early dog violet (top left) growing near Common dog violet (bottom right).
Basking Bee fly, Bombylius major.
A very dirty Oiceoptoma thoracica carrion beetle trying to fly.
Hold Cauldron Mill and weir from the bridge.
A large patch of white lichen on the bridge.

Stone fly Perlodes mortoni, with thanks to Sharon Flint for her ID.
A section of Hodges Beck in flow.
Motley crew of invertebrates under a log, including Pill Millipedes, Nemastoma bimaculatum harvestman and the millipede Tachypodoiulus niger.
Pill millipede and small stonefly under log.
Hoverfly Eristalis pertinax.
Primroses.
Common dog violets.
Toothwort.
Carpet of wood anemones
Moschatel, Adoxa moschatellina
Part of the group walking by the dry riverbed.
 
The beck flowing.
Before leaving we walk around Gregory's minster.
A very megalithic looking stone by the church.
Ancient tombstone reused to rebuild the church
A pair of crosses used to rebuild the church.