What a stretch of water the Humber is. It's majestic, massive, moving and magic. We'd like to call it a river but it's in actual fact a tidal estuary that has inspired men and woman for centuries. What relation has it got with the Wye? Its connection resides, not only in our own family, but in the Humber Brook that flows into the main tributary of the Wye at Hampton Court in North Herefordshire. The Humber Brook is the only mention of the Humber outside of Humberside its namesake of which was the scene in May of a reunion in honour of 'Stan Pettit'. A very special friend Stan showed us the ways of life and would share stories of his Humberside adventures as a young rum lad as he and our father were called.
Less straight forward than Stan the Humber Brook is somewhat mysterious. Why someone would name it after the Humber remains unknown. Of course, there are theories as to what Humber means. At one time it was known as Abus, which refers to something being shadowy or dark in Latin. We can only assume that the successive name Humbre/Humbri/Umbri could have the same meaning. In fact, the Latin verb umbro means "to cover with shadows" possibly hinting at a black/dark river. Another idea is that, since its name recurs in "Humber Brook" near "Humber Court" in Herefordshire or Worcestershire, the word humbr- may have been a word that meant "river", or something similar.
Whatever the reason the size of both waterways suggests no relation at all. The babbling Brook, for example, flows through undulating Hilly North Herefordshire whilst the Humber estuary itself is expansive amid predominantly flat land both on the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire sides. We must admit it's an odd connection that has always reminded us of our northern routes beside an estuary that once hosted annual family gatherings.
Stan or our father who explored this amazing waterway as lads would not have minded us using Stan's goodbye as a chance to explore the estuary making it into somewhat of an exciting adventure.
Humber Mooch & Bivvy
We bivvied beside the Humber for four nights in 3 different locations each distinct in character. The first night was on the North side of the Humber after catching a bus from the centre of Hull. The weather looked good and the bridge from below in the Humber bridge country park even better. It's here we made camp, a fire in an existing pit and conversation before hitting our sacks. We spoke of the bridge, family, ascension, quality of life before we ascend and we spoke of peace in life as we explore. A good first night we got our heads down to be awoken by what turned out to be 8 hours of solid rain. Paul was fine in his Nordisk but with a cheap tarp I was being tested a bit more. Not to worry i had brought with me my Alpkit Bivvy bag, which proved to be a saviour in terms of keeping me dry.
Across The Humber - The South
The Humber has been crossed via natural human endeavour on two occasions. On 8 September 1927 Miss Alice Blowman, aged 19, entered the water at New Holland Pier at 4.30 pm and arrived at Victoria Pier Hull at 6.40 pm. She was the first woman to successfully swim across the River Humber. In contrast Graham Boanas, a Hull man, is believed to be the first man to succeed in wading across the Humber since ancient Roman times. The feat, in August 2005, was attempted to raise cash and awareness for the medical research charity, DebRA. He started his trek on the north bank at Brough; four hours later, he emerged on the south bank at Whitton.
Our crossing on the Tuesday morning was not so daring as we walked leisurely across the bridge to Barton Upon Humber where family awaited us mid-week. The bridge was magnificent with its towers reaching 155.5 m (510 ft) above. Scraping the turbulent sky above they stood sentinel and sturdy as they took the weight of the deck and traffic. The wind, now blowing as if in a storm, hardly swayed the structure as its tapered deck design deflected each gust to our delight and that of the traffics.
Once on the South side we set off for South Ferriby for a walk down memory lane. To make up time, because we wanted to be near Barton in order to Bivvy, we caught the Humber Fastcat in Barton, which stimulated our memory cells with fantastic views of the Humber as it pulled in just above the village. With a reflective walk around the village and Stan's former home, which he shared with Meg his wife and two sons Ian and David we made our way back towards Barton via a short break in the village and the Humber the muddy and chalk strewn shore of which awaited our curious feet.
Swans basked in the day partially submerged in the silky mud like some seekers of healing in the many spas that invite humans to bathe similarly. As we progressed we came upon the skeletal remains of an old wooden boat that we remembered as children. There is something about death that is, without doubt, life affirming. If it were not for Stan's passing away would we be walking this shore line and mighty estuary? It's unlikely and so death has brought to us the reminder of life. Good on you Stan...it's in your honour and our fathers!
We walk around and slow down as we consider where we're going to Bivvy. Upon finding a dilapidated caravan situated on the grounds of an abandoned hotel we decide the ideal spot has been found. Relaxing inside we are surprised by the visit of an elderly man who turns out to be the owner. After telling us the hotel is closed due to a storm surge in 2014 he asks us kindly to vacate the caravan and Bivvy elsewhere, which we do. Where now? It wasn't long and our second option appeared in the form of a bird hide in the renowned 'Far Ings' nature reserve. Not the luxury of a caravan but stimulating in terms of the birds and information that adorned the walls. For two nights it served as the preferred Bivvy site in a kind of Appalachian Trail tradition. Indeed, huts and Bothies are used around the world and this felt no different. It was as good an adventure as any.
The next day having explored the boat yard in Barton and spoken with the craftsmen at Draughtsman Racing Yachts we pay our respects to Stan. With a fantastic turn out, an inspiring Eulogy read by his son David and a heart-warming get together with Meg and family we are spurred on to return the next day to say farewell to Meg after which we meet with our Uncle Brian our fathers brother. We speak of the family tree and routes and get a sense of our connection to Humberside once more.
With our second windy night in the hide done we question the last of the four hunker downs. Will it be this side or the North side of the Humber? We favour the North side but not before finding the 'Railway Villas' a place where Grandad Jickells used to reside. We remember it as an un-manicured place when young although probably clean. To locate and see it would be a good send off. After a little investigation we jubilantly find it and are struck with how acute our memory is. This is the place, this is where dad once lived, this is where the Jickells were. I take my camera out. Shit..... I have no batteries left for the rest of the journey. It will have to live on inside as will Stan and all the others.
Back To The North Side & Home
We have enough time to relax before catching a bus to the North side whereupon we'll walk the rest of the way into Hull via the shore line, which we're not sure can be done. We will need to chat with a few friendly locals to get our bearings because the map we printed out was soaked the first night out.
Fortunately, we meet with Mark below the bridge who happens to be a hiker and a supporter of the Wolds Way, which he encourages us to complete one day. After almost half an hour of talking we continue on towards Hull winding our way through industrial estates, around small confluences with the Humber, alongside the motorway and through fascinating docks such as the Lord Line, which once housed the largest deep-water fishing fleet in the world. Art deco in design it stood barren and bare despite being a magnificent relic of Hulls mighty sea faring history. Having said this, it was still not short on life, because as we neared our last Bivvy site of the week in the King William an abandoned city centre pub, local lads demonstrated their own enthusiasm for the docks via their willingness to chat openly.
We were meeting some good folk but were mindful of the streets we were trudging most of the night looking for that elusive 'hunker down' spot. Predatory people exist everywhere - in every city and Hull has that reputation. Knowing the ways of the street we stay vigilant but not adverse to new connections as was proved when we met with Ivor, Damon and Danny guys more than willing to spend time and impart their knowledge regarding the city. We like Hull and although it appears hard and rough in certain areas there is friendliness here, which bodes well for it's year as the City of Culture UK 2017.
It's time to find that place. We go down this road, that road, that lane and this lane. There it is. It looks like a shit hole that only the rats would favour. However, with a bit of survival thinking that our good friend Lofty would be proud of we put benches together in two separate spots under awnings and they serve as our sheltered raised beds for the night with two other benches obscuring the entrance to the unsightly yard. We eat, talk and sleep soundly at the heart of an historic UK port city, which has seen life come and go as we have. Both Stan and our father are still with us and as we look around at the end of our week beside the Humber this old pub is a reminder that it has a life awaiting it whatever that maybe. The same is so for us. Although we're not clear on what lay ahead we know life will keep on renewing itself by way of birth, ascension and unions that will always seek to be made such as that of the Humber Brook with the Humber Estuary untypically bringing two renowned waterways together namely the Wye and Humber. It's a good life full of positive connections that Stan and his mate Terry knew well.