Elsewhere, this Larkin journey is no longer linear and visits several significant locations peppered around the East Riding. Six miles from Cottingham lies another suburban village, Hessle, former home of Larkin’s first publishers, George and Jean Hartley. A short distance away, Hessle Foreshore stretches along the banks of the broad Humber, dominated by the suspended ‘giant step’ of the Humber Bridge. Beyond, inland and further to the west, amongst the ‘thin and thistled’ fields around the Humber estuary, lie the quiet villages where Larkin loved to cycle. From one of these villages, Broomfleet, the trail stops off at the delightful market town of Beverley, as Larkin liked to do when returning home on his bicycle. To the east of Hull the trail heads out across the ever-lonelier Holderness Plain, where ‘silence stands / Like heat,’ calling at Patrington to admire its exquisite church. Finally, the trail enters the dunes and grasses of Spurn Point, a remote spit of land curving into the North Sea, where ‘Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach / Of shapes and shingle.’

No.1/6
253 Hull Road
Hessle
Private Residence
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No.2/6
The Humber Bridge
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No.3/6
Blacktoft
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No.4/6
Beverley
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No.5/6
Patrington and the
Holderness Plains
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Heading east out of Hull along the A1033, you gradually enter Holderness Plain, a wide expanse of arable fields, big skies and ever-lonelier roads. In the village of Patrington, about 14 miles east of the city, stands the beautiful church of St Patrick’s, often described as the Queen of Holderness (nearby Hedon being her King).

St Patrick’s was largely built between 1310-1349 and is regarded as one of the finest parish churches in the country. John Betjeman wrote:

‘There is no doubt that, inside and out, the parish church of Patrington is one of the great buildings of England. It sails like a galleon of stone over the wide, flat expanse of Holderness, its symmetry and many pinnacles lead the eye up to its perfectly proportioned spire which crowns the central tower’.

Larkin often passed this way when cycling further and further out around Holderness, soaking up Cherry Cob Sands, Stone Creek, Skeffling and Sunk Island, where the ‘leaves unnoticed thicken, hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken’.

Patrington- roads leading to Withernsea (Left) and to the final point on the trail, Spurn (right).
Patrington images by Joe Johnson (above)
Church Going

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
‘Here endeth’ much more loudly than I’d meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation - marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these - for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.
The Village of Hedon, on the way from Hull to Patrington
Patrington Market Place
No.6/6
Spurn Point
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