Glorious mud

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Spurn Point on the mouth of the River Humber offers a marvellous opportunity to study the power of the sea and the shaping of the coastline. Kevin Berry reports

Spurn Point is that long, remarkably thin peninsula on the northern bank of the mouth of the River Humber.

It has the sea's waves to one side and vast, calm mudflats to the other. It is being pushed gradually westwards and if you study this peninsula carefully and then return in five years' time, you will see a marked difference.

"It is so dramatic," says Paul Gibson, a geography teacher at Beverley Grammar School. "I doubt that many of our children have been in such a wild and lonely place before."

Spurn Point is three and a half miles long. To appreciate its length and shape it is best to look at the telegraph poles carrying their wires down to the towers and buildings at the very tip.

Lifeboat men and river pilots work from there and there is accommodation for seven families. The peninsular has moved and changed much over recorded time. There have been many attempts to rein back the waves, but now the inevitable is accepted. Work on sea defences has stopped and the sea is being allowed to do what it will.

As a precaution, sections of the narrow road have been made movable and removable.

"One day I'd like to come back and show it to my own children, and tell them how it was formed," says James George, a Beverley Grammar School sixth-former.

Spurn does have that effect. It marks the passage of time and stays in the memory far longer than other school-visit destinations.

This coast is crumbling away at a rate of more than two metres each year.

The sites of medieval villages are many miles out to sea. Just a mile to the north of Spurn is a road I can remember walking down, as an A-level geography student. More than 60 metres of that road have been lost in the intervening years.

The peninsular is a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, because of its geographical features, its vegetation and the migrating or wintering wading birds feeding on the mudflats.

As befits its status, Spurn Point is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Andrew Gibson, the warden, will talk to school groups and these sessions are recommended by teachers who come to Spurn regularly.

"Spurn is unique. There is nothing of this nature across such a large river anywhere in the UK," he says. "You only have to walk a few metres across to appreciate the contrast between the sea and the river."

Spurn Point is not just a paradise for the geographer. Art students have been here and visits have inspired work in English and drama.

The remains of wartime defences can still be seen and there is some evidence of a rail line that was used to supply army garrisons based on the Point during the two world wars.

Sit among the dunes, let the imagination stir and you could be in an Edwardian thriller, or Erskine Childers' Riddle of the Sands.

* Trip organisers should visit the website so that they can time their visit with a low tide, which is the best time to see the peninsula. School groups are also advised to hire a bus no more than nine metres long for better access to the site.

Toilets, including a disabled facility, are available at the Blue Bell visitor centre and car park, approximately one mile before the entrance to Spurn Point.

Contact Andrew Gibson

Tel: 01964 650533

Email: spurnywt@ukonilne.co.uk

www.spurnpoint.com

ON THE SPOT

Chris Elvidge is head of geography at Beverley Grammar School

We have been going to Spurn Point for three years and it is a marvellous place to take students for A-level geography studies. We can cover half of our chosen syllabus - two-thirds with a trip up to the contrasting location at Flamborough Head.

Spurn has a natural spit, which is a major depositional feature, sand dune systems, salt marshes and mud flats. We can work on beach profiles and look at different types of waves. It is a great place to look at coastal management and erosion. We can reinforce the theory that we do in the classroom.

It's good for students to go to a place where they can see a natural landscape in its entirety. There is much potential here for work in other subjects - our art students have also visited.

We had a comment from Georgina Freelance, one of the girls, and she said:

"Today has brought everything in the textbooks to life."

There are no shops and that is a bonus. But there are no toilets, which can be a problem.

ON THE MAP

Spurn Point

Admission free Coach parking pound;12 Car parking, for preliminary visit pound;2.50 Fee for talks depends on length of session.

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