We’ve all been there*. You arrive at your mother in-laws, a fleeting visit equipped with single-speed, a glut of spares and the tacit acknowledgement that at some point, you’re going to need to spin those legs, drive fresh air into your lungs and take advantage of some new scenery. Then when that moment arrives – and it will – a frantic rummage around the holdall reveals all of your cycling kit bar shorts. Two options remain; (i) Give it a miss or (ii) Change the focus of the ride. I chose the latter.
Rather than my planned 2-3 hour jaunt through the gentle slopes of the East Riding, I packed my camera (a Canon G12) and headed off toward the crumbling docks area of Humberside. Kingston-upon-Hull has a truly grand past. Briefly the capital of England, the crucible of the gunpowder plot (you can still drink in the pub where the plot was hatched), the centre of the UK whaling industry and one time home to a huge fishing fleet, the city suffered appallingly during the wartime blitz and in the early 21st century finds itself at some remove from the centres of current UK commerce (‘current’ being the operative word). There are sections of the docks area that extend to Sculcoates Lane and Wincolmlee that are now crumbling and falling to the ground; a dystopian landscape of faded industry, smashed windows and aging brickwork. An orange boiler suit waves at me through a smashed window pane. A disused bridge offers graffiti practise and a road to nowhere. I find these old edifices fascinating. One day this area will provide luxury accommodation and high-tech commerce (you can bet on it), for now its haunted by the ghosts of industries past.
There can be little doubt that a bike provides the perfect vehicle for urban exploration. Nip down narrow channels between buildings, swerve through bollarded no-through roads. Access all areas.
*Or at least I’ve been there quite a bit.