Swifty Scooting around Hull - 2017 UK City of Culture
Swifty Scooting around Hull...
I have been to Hull a few times over the past couple of years and often thought that its reputation as a rather grim, downtrodden city to be unfair and that the notorious 'Crap Town' title given to Hull back in 2003 is simply not true. I needed to go back and spend some real-time in the city to discover some of the best places in and around the Hull region. This year is a special year for the city as Hull has the chance to change its perception far beyond the Humber Bridge because the city is the official 2017 UK City of Culture taking over from last year’s titleholders - Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland.
I decided to pay a visit on one Saturday in March and with the cultural programme in full swing, I would take my Swifty Scooter over to the city and ride around some of the East Riding of Yorkshire’s famous places including the Humber Bridge, Hull, Bridlington and Beverley.
Together with a Northern Rail Day Ranger ticket and my Swifty Scooter, I hopped off the train at Hessle and made my first stop on the River Humber to see something extraordinary.
Swifty Stop-Offs in Hull and East Yorkshire...
The Humber Bridge connecting East Yorkshire with North Lincolnshire is one of Britain’s iconic structures and a marvel of the modern world. Opened in 1981 and free to cross by bike or on foot with a £1.50 charge for cars, this is a unique cycling experience and offers great views across the Humber Estuary.
Interestingly, it is still the longest pedestrian and cycling bridge in the world and at one point was the longest suspension bridge in the world at over 1.5km in span. As probably the first person to cross the Humber on a Swifty Scooter, I felt honoured to be a very small part of the bridge's history!
Hull City Centre
Upon leaving the impressive Hull Paragon transport Interchange, I scooted across the main road and onto the recently pedestrianised shopping centre. Hull seems to have rebuilt its city centre and created a shopping centre to rival other key cities in the north.
The city centre was widely devastated during the Second World War and much of the rebuilding was done in a harsh modernist or brutalist style. Ironically after being derided for many years, this style of architecture is starting to become fashionable like vintage shops and vinyl records and there is now a campaign to save the large 1960's ‘Three Ships’ mural on the defunct, but vast BHS store.
One of the main highlights of the 2017 cultural programme is a temporary installation that showcases in dramatic style how Hull is emerging from its post-industrial decline to become a world leader in renewable energy technology.
The German industrial giant Siemens is building a wind turbine factory in one of the former Hull docklands and as a gift to the city have installed a huge 75m turbine blade in the Queen Victoria Square in collaboration with the artist Noyan Kulkarni.
Strangely, the alien 'Blade’ has a natural presence in the city centre and it is odd to see something so out of place being part of the flow of a busy Saturday shopping morning.
I scooted out towards the Old Town and past some impressive Grade II listed buildings and the home of slave trade abolitionist William Wilberforce. This quarter of the city is one of the finest old town areas in any northern city with preserved cobbled streets, cute maritime style houses and an impressive transport museum detailing the history of Hull and its part in the ‘Cod Wars’ with Iceland in the 1980s.
Further down through the Old Town, there is ‘The Deep’ aquarium that is one of the world’s best places to see marine life and started the process of Hull’s reinvention back in the early 2000s.
Bridlington lives in the shadow of its more famous East Yorkshire neighbour Scarborough further up the coast, however ‘Brid’ is the stereotypical seaside town that I am very fond of. Whether I am in Blackpool, Southsea or Southend, I love British seaside towns with their retro amusement arcades, tacky shops and the mix of people from different walks of life that join together for the simple pleasure of a day at the beach.
I scooted along the promenade which unusually for a busy seaside town allows both cycling and walking along the beachfront. The promenade also marks the endpoint of the famous 170 miles ‘Way of the Roses’ cycle route from Morecambe Bay.
Despite the weather being rather grey and dull, the town was packed full of visitors, the fairground was blaring out dance music and the seemingly endless supply of fish and chip shops were busy. I didn’t stop around long but was impressed by the fishing marina, the regenerated Bridlington Spa and the combination of both traditional and modern beach huts.
The train on the way back to Hull passed through the market town of Beverley, so I decided to stop-off for an hour to look around before catching the next one. Full of medieval streets and varied architecture through the ages, Beverley is a town that I will remember fondly.
Oddly upon researching this blog post I found out that Beverley is the reason why Beverly Hills in Los Angeles has the same name. Whilst not being the same in terms of physical characteristics, it is clear to see that Beverley is a wealthy town and a complete contrast to the industrial shapes of Hull only 8 miles away.
The shops are aimed at the premium end of the retail market and there were lots of well to do ladies wearing Barbour jackets! There is also a racecourse and large Saturday market that was closing just as I arrived.
The highlight of my visit to Beverley was certainly seeing the Minster.
Dating from the 13th Century and similar in design to the more famous churches in York or Lincoln, I have never seen such an impressive religious building in such a small town. The intricate carvings of monks and other religious leaders were so detailed and well-restored that I doubt there are better examples in the U.K.
I left Beverley impressed and will probably head back to explore the other impressive church at the other of end of the town centre. The town also lies at the heart of the Yorkshire Wolds cycling route and a good day tour can be created from York or Scarborough.