Nat Severs: Homeward bound
In his penultimate entry for Walkmag.co.uk about his epic trek around the entire UK coastline, Nat Severs heads for home…
Back to England
I walked over ten hours on the day I crossed back over the border into England to finally finish up in Berwick-on-Tweed – where I treated myself to a B&B stay. As with the entrance almost five months earlier, I left Scotland on road. I was straight onto the Northumbria coastal path the following day, though. This is yet another coast path that could do with staying on the coast, especially as there are alternative paths that stay closer to the shore at times.
On my first day back in England I was welcomed by a bomb being dropped in the sea to my left as I walked the causeway over to Holy Island. I had been told earlier by an official that there was going to be an exercise as I walked past him, but I had completely forgotten when the bang shocked me out of my little world. The Northumbria coast is somewhere I had not explored before as any trips north always end at Middlesbrough, where my dad’s family are all from. I quite enjoyed walking this stretch though with its castles, long sandy beaches and obviously the blustery freezing winds.
I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time staying with family and friends along the east coast, starting with five days staying with my auntie and her family whilst being fed and transported by my grandparents during the stretch through Newcastle and Middlesbrough. Every morning I was dropped off at my gran’s to be given a cooked breakfast so she could rest easy that I had had a proper start to the day. It was slight improvement on cookies for breakfast.
In this period the wilder coast of Northumbria had given way to large towns and industry, as well as the return of the dreaded river. I had the odd experience of a pedestrian tunnel to get over, or rather under, the Tyne and then the Tees crossing was made on the iconic transporter bridge. From there I was onto familiar territory of the Cleveland way and moved straight onto staying with my uncle in Scarborough for a few days. Most recently I spent six nights with family friends as I negotiated Essex and the Thames estuary and there have been friends and friends of friends to stay with the odd night in between.
The Cleveland Way takes in coastline as picturesque as Northumbria but in a completely different way. It is more similar to parts of the South West Coast Path where cliff walking is interrupted by dips into pretty little fishing towns or larger resorts like Scarborough. Continuing south the cliffs started to turn to mud and were crumbling away before my eyes at times. A road shown on my map was already half lost to the sea and caravan parks don’t bother with putting in permanent perimeter fences, opting instead for ones that can be moved inwards as more of their land disappears.
The terrain was getting bleak and the weather mirrored it. Cliffs gave way to levees and the nearer I got to the Humber estuary the more industrialised the coast got. Paths were erratic as well so much of the time I was forced onto roads, which never went in straight lines. It wasn’t pleasant walking and it didn’t improve once over the Humber bridge. I was following a path along sea wall when it was blocked off by temporary fencing, assuming it was merely for maintenance work I moved onto the path below the wall then climbed back over. Further along I neared a industrial port that the path passed through according to the map.
Unfortunately, the tall spiky fencing that had cropped up to my right came round to block me off and the gate was padlocked shut, apparently someone wasn’t keen on allowing people access to the coastline of their own country. I retraced my steps until I came to another closed footpath but it was a better bet than the several mile retreat to the nearest road. After being attacked by brambles, clambering over a wobbly 7 foot fence and trudging through cow fields I got to a road which made its way parallel to the coast, a few miles inland. At least in Scotland it’s generally only nature and geography that you have to overcome rather than man-made and wholly unnecessary obstacles.
More of this followed in Lincolnshire where drainage ditches forced me inland countless times when a simple bridge would have cost nothing. On one occasion there even was a bridge, but multiple painful looking fences were there to ensure it was completely redundant. Rivers again featured to make walking by the sea rarer than I would have liked and the flatness of the county was oppressive to someone who is used to hills and until quite recently highland mountains dominating the landscape.
Rivers and sea walls have typified my journey from Lincolnshire down to Kent, where I find myself as I write this. The landscape has thankfully improved though, with hills giving the landward view some character and hiding what lays ahead from sight. What is more, I even walked along beach today that was made of sand rather than estuary mud and silt.
By the next dispatch, Nat should have arrived home – and we’ll be venturing out to meet him along the way. In the meantime you can read an full interview with Nat from the Autumn 2010 issue of Walk Magazine here, read his previous posts for Walkmag.co.uk here and follow his trek on his Twitter feed (@nomads_land) and via his website http://natsevs.wordpress.com.