In the 1640s, this was a walled city with the biggest arsenal of weapons in the country," said tour guide Paul Schofield as we ambled through Hull. In the City of Culture 2017, the BBC Proms have already presented Handl’s Water Music, waterside, and Marc Almond headlined the inaugural UK Pride in July. A refurbished Ferens Art Gallery is hosting the 2017 Turner Prize, and a performance by the Royal Ballet, curated by Kevin O’Hare, reopens the New Theatre after a multimillion pound renovation. Hull’s 21st-century arsenal comprises very different things.
Regal retail: Eat and shop at Princes Quay, located near Hull Marina
"It all kicked off on 23 April 1642," Paul continued, on this blissful sunny morning as he chattily revealed Hull through its history. Charles I tried to enter the city, to seize control of the weaponry, only to be denied. "That key act of defiance led to the outbreak of the English Civil War," Paul said, before propelling me a century on to great trading port days. The 18th-century docks are filled in now, they’ve been manicured public gardens since the Thirties, but plenty survives in the Old Town. Merchants, wealthy from trade with Europe’s Hanseatic ports, built houses amid a warren of cobbled lanes. We were also on Hull’s Fish Trail, tracing an industry which lasted a good century. Eel and fish are carved into paving stones (herring where the stones are red, of course). Magnificent Victorian civic architecture arrived later, on its periphery.
Hepworth Arcade's grand passageway
We took in the Hepworth Arcade, museums, skirted statues to famous Hullensians, slave trade reformer William Wilberforce, poet Andrew Marvell, and traversed curiously named streets — Dagger Lane, Land of Green Ginger — eventually reaching the marina at Prince's Dock. One is never far from water; this city stands at the confluence of the River Hull and the Humber.
When the Humber Bridge, a singlespan suspension bridge, opened in 1981, it was the longest of its type in the world. The Wolds Way begins here, a 79-mile walking route from Hull to the coast at Filey. With no time to explore on foot, I hopped into the car and began my voyage of discovery at the wheel. I used a beautifully illustrated booklet as my guide, thoughtfully produced by the hoteliers at my overnight billet, Tickton Grange (just outside Beverley and about 12 miles from Hull). First stop, 15 miles from the city, was South Dalton, in time for lunch at the Pipe and Glass, a pub with rooms and a Michelin star for its food. For dinner you must book, but on this sun-baked afternoon I sauntered to a table outside and savoured watercress and wild garlic soup with crisp blue cheese palmiers beneath a parasol.
Set your sights high: The magnificent Humber Bridge
On I drove, in search of Millington Wood. As the road swooped and looped, the beauty of the Yorkshire Wolds unfolded in a cacophony of colour. A periwinkle big sky stretched away over chalk hills, a patchwork of soft green and Day-Glo oilseed rape fields and darkly golden gorse. Not far out of Pocklington, I turned off the A614, the wood was signposted, and I found myself on a lonely lane, no wider than a track, now in a David Hockney landscape every bit as vibrant as his paintings of the Yorkshire Wolds. Leaving the pungent scent of wild garlic of the wood, I pressed on, to Sledmere House, home of the Sykes family. The interior yielded up as much dramatic colour as its location. A library the size of a badminton court sported an ornate plaster ceiling of gold, duck egg blue and white, a room covered entirely in intricate tiles from Damascus the legacy of Sir Mark Sykes of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Golden: The bright yellow rapeseed fields of the Yorkshire Wolds
Sensing a coastal freshness in the air from Sledmere’s walled garden, the toss up, now, was whether to head eastwards to the sea or south to the market town of Beverley. In the end I chose the following morning to wander through Beverley’s Georgian streets, into bijou independent shops and cafes, such as the Yorkshire Soap Co and Filmore & Union, and visit the immense, soaring Minster. Rain had swept in and I was glad the lure of fish and chips had won out the evening before, when I’d parked up on Flamborough Head, to eat the freshest fried haddock from a little village chippy in the last of the sunshine — for a few days, at least.
Flamborough Head Lighthouse
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