Travelling Hopefully

What is the difference between passion and obsession?  The argument is a subjective one and people I’ve been in relationships with have taken both sides in describing my love of photography and my drive to blog about it.

I ask the question having spent a weekend exploring the coastline of East Yorkshire; exploring with an open mind to what I might find, but with a very specific objective in mind.

Some time ago I was inspired by photographs in another photographer’s gallery on Viewbug, and in particular one long exposure image of an unusually shaped line of sea defences.  Since it combined both my love of things marine with the technique that I’m trying to perfect at the moment I was keen to know where it was.  The photographer had posted no details so I messaged the question.  No response.

Which is the point at which that “obsession” kicked in.  I knew from the rest of his imagery that he was based in the north of England, and in all likelihood Yorkshire.  (The best landscapes are usually shot by those who live there and know the way in which light and weather interact as well as being near enough to be there during the golden hours at dawn and sunset).

Yorkshire is England’s largest county; historically divided into three “ridings”, North, West and East.  Those who wondered why there wasn’t a South Riding (other than as the title of novel) overlook the meaning of “riding”.  The Vikings, who settled in the region, had a word “thridding” which meant “a third”.  Of those thirds only the East Riding had coastline, so that narrowed down the possibilities.

Enter Google Earth!  I scanned the satellite shots of that coastline in search of the particular feature and as I worked my way south I passed other geographic features of note; Flamborough Head and Spurn Head in particular.  The place names had a common theme too; Hornsea, Kilnsea, Withernsea… only Ursula le Guin was needed to complete the picture.  I didn’t spot the groyne I wanted but there were so many along this shoreline that I might have missed it.  My interest was truly whetted nevertheless, which is why at 9.00am on Saturday I found myself 150 miles from my bed on Humberside and stopping at a church in village called Patrington.

St Patrick’s church was not on my agenda but the impudence of that spire demanded my attention.  I discovered a Grade I listed building built in the Decorated Gothic style (early 14th century).  The similarity between the name of the village is a curious one, but apparently without explanation, though the church has another name too; the Queen of Holderness, Holderness being the peninsula on which it stands.  Which brings me back to that outstanding spire.  Whether built with the purpose in mind or not, it has proved a useful navigational aid in an area where the sea was crucial to the lives of those who lived here.

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But on with my quest and I eventually reached the spit of land leading to Spurn Point.  Miles of boulder clay deposited by natural forces creating an ever-changing land and seascape similar to the shingle at Orford Ness.  No route for cars so it was time to walk those miles once the tide had subsided to allow passage through the “washover” section.

And here I found wooden posts emerging from the sea as those waters receded.  Hundreds of them.  None forming the structure that had inspired my trip* but enough to produce some interesting shots, and one that I absolutely loved.

  1. It is better to travel hopefully…
  2. …than to arrive

Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice, part titles.

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I may not have arrived at the source of my original inspiration, but my hopes were fulfilled.

*I subsequently rediscovered the image – taken in Caister, Norfolk, but now that I have, I think I prefer my own shot above!