A Brief Journey to the End of the World
Author Russ Litten urges us all to get to The Point before it’s too late.
Spurn Point’s iconic lighthouse
There are some wonderfully strange and unique places clinging to the edges of this island. If you are the type of soul who finds solace in such out-posts, then Spurn Point, a three-mile long sand spit that dangles from the chin of the East Yorkshire Coast, should be visited sooner rather that later. Because, just like the strange and beautiful remnants of life it still plays host to, Spurn Point is also one of the most vulnerable places in Great Britain.
You take the coast road away from the seaside towns, and you drive through the East Riding villages until the church spires, post boxes and pubs thin out into unembellished countryside and the horizon flattens, the Humber spilling into view. This is the “unfenced existence” immortalised in the verse of Larkin. Stark, scrubbed fields. Tiny scatterings of houses, with no people in sight. The beginning of isolation. You drive until you start to run out of land until you reach a small café in sight of where the sand starts.
There are pamphlets and cups of tea and cake and a chance to get your bearings before heading out into the wilderness. One of the local stories tells of the village of Ravenspur, a temporary resting home for King Henry the Fourth. Ravenspur and the several other surrounding holdings were gradually engulfed by the tides, wiped off the face of the map and gone forever, save for the ghostly chiming of underwater bells heard on the sand dunes on cold clear nights. So the story has it.
The sculptures of the sand
No matter how many times you go back to Spurn Point, you always feel like you’re setting out on a journey to the end of the world.
There are wide sand dunes and marshes either side of a steep bank of matted grass, cut by a footpath that divides the salt water from the fresh. As a result of this odd proximity of sea and estuary, the place teems with rare wildlife. Roe deer dart through the long grasses of the sand dunes. Around seven hundred species of butterflies and moths feed off the local fauna of the salt marsh, alongside the occasional bright winged visitors blown in from a passing ship. Brown tailed moth caterpillars wriggle in convoy across the footpaths, their poisonous barbs a loaded invitation to any unsuspecting visiting bird.
And there are thousands of birds. Spurn Point is a magnet for twitchers. Viewing huts dot the edges of the land, alongside the crumbling Victorian sea defences. Men crouch down and aim binoculars where once they aimed guns. The mudflats are the vast dinner table to teams of waders, and the easterly winds bring huge migrating flocks in their thousands.
Spurn Point’s lifeboat station
The peninsula narrows down to just fifty meters wide in places, before spreading out to an abandoned black and white lighthouse and a fully working Life Boat Station complete with a wall-length mural; faded smocks and beards and badges. There’s a cluster of small wind-battered houses. On a fine day, you might find boxes of home made cakes and second hand books for sale. No prices, just an honesty box. It all adds to the eerie, abandoned atmosphere of the place.
After you’ve clambered as far as you dare up the side of the grey skeletal Pilot’s Jetty that juts out into the choppy muddy brown water, there’s nothing else to do but head on back.
The constant aggression of the North Sea has long worn away at the local geography and the tidal surge that hit the East Coast in December 2013 dealt Spurn Point another unhealthy slap. Get yourself out there before it’s gone forever.
Russ Litten has written drama for television, radio and film and is the author of three novels, the latest of which (KINGDOM) will be released in 2015. He lives with his family in Kingston Upon Hull and currently works as a Writer In Residence at a local prison.