One of the things we would regularly do on a weekend as children was to travel to the seaside.
There are many beautiful seaside location within easy reach of Beverley. Beaches, cliffs and caves. Harbours, promenades and caravan parks. Lighthouses, lifeboats and fishing boats. Rocky beaches, sandy beaches and even a naturist beach.
The nearest place is the small seaside resort of Hornsea.
We would walk on the beach at Hornsea for hours. It wasn’t a place we would go to for sunbathing, the breeze coming in from the North Sea is more normally biting. The cliffs are made of ancient boulder clay which are being steadily eroded. This erosion means that the beach is a pattern of sand with islands of pebbles extracted from the boulder clay and polished by the waves. Many of the pebbles include fossils so we would spend much of our time walking along looking at the ground, picking up stones and closely examining each one. More often than not we would throw the stones away but sometimes the tell-tale signs of Ammonites would have us bashing stones together in the hope of a ridged swirl revelation. We’d regularly pick up fossilised Gryphaea, not that we would call them that, to us they were Devil’s Toenails. For a period we would walk the beach in search of driftwood, but that’s part of another story.
The coastal erosion means that Hornsea has extensive sea defences providing a split level promenade and an extensive system of groins. Climbing over the groins was part of the adventure. Sometimes we would deliberately go to the seaside when the tides were high and the wind was blustering. On the best days the waves would slam into the sea wall and break over the upper promenade.
We were walking along the upper promenade one day when, from what I remember, the wind and the waves were moderately high. Not high enough to break over the very top of the promenade but still giving a moody seascape. I don’t think it can have been too violent, because if it was really wild my actions were downright stupid, but I think I was just being absent minded. Anyway, I was walking along, a little way behind the rest of the family, when I decided that a visit to the lower promenade was in order.
I don’t remember whether I was on my way down, or my way back up. What I do remember is hearing my Mum shout “Graham!” as I was on a walkway connecting the lower and upper promenade. Before I’d even had chance to look up a wave engulfed me.
It was fortunate that I was on the walkway because there was a handrail on the outside which the wave pulled me into and stopped me from being dragged out to sea by the wave.
Somehow, I don’t remember how, I got to the upper promenade and was reunited with the rest of the family. My clothes were absolutely soaked through. Other people walking the promenade had clearly seen the incident too with many of them making comments as we walked back to the car.
It wasn’t until years later that I realised how close I came to being a search incident for the local lifeboat at best, at worst I wouldn’t be here today.
Back at the car I stripped off and sat in the car in someone else’s coat and jumper. I don’t know how old I was, but I was small enough to be encased by an adult jumper.
I still love watching violent waves breaking over cliffs and sea walls, but I’ve not got as close as I did that day.
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