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Sep 2018

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A funny sounding place is Cleethorpes, isn't it? Sounds like the punchline of an old music hall joke even though there isn't one.

It's fairly familiar-looking seaside fayre so far with all your typical facilities and no, not that kind of Fantasy World, right lads?

Forget your first impressions, however, for there's a nigh-on, mile-long promenade and it needs a right good strolling down. Today's nonsense starts at the train station where the Railway Clock has had a relatively recent facelift.

The salt air had just about seen to the original 19th-century wood so they've kindly gone and replaced it in time for this visit. This is where, and how, we've pretended to arrive, you see, but only because there was some difficulty trying to get over to Disney™...

'Two tickets to Paris please.'
Eurostar™?
'Well, I can hold a tune but I'm no Dean Martin.'

Now, that's what you call a punchline.

Turn left out of the station and this solid, if, erm, unspectacular, stretch isn't the greatest greeting you'll ever get. It's all opposite an agreeable bit of beach, however, with a mini funfair, of sorts, when in season.

They're short on staff today, though, one of the operators has been sacked, it seems. He's not at all happy about it and he's suing them for funfair dismissal.

The busy shipping channel is used by the industry at Immingham and the big ferries to and from Hull. Because this is technically on the Humber Estuary, the mood of the moon can make for an awful lot of wet sand.

If none of that sounds particularly appealing, there's still nearly two miles of the golden stuff to keep 'em coming in summer but more on that in a minute.

  Haile Sand Fort

Careless captains are discouraged from the sand by avoiding this crystal-clear, offshore structure. There's another one just off Spurn Head and the Humber Forts still stand guard at the estuary's entrance.

Their original job was to discourage different types of, less accidental, groundings although they arrived a little too late for World War I.

This one was privately sold in 2018 for £117K, one-third of the original asking price, to be converted into posh apartments, probably.

The last lodgers numbered over 200 in total but they weren't here for a gimmicky weekend. They were all too busy avoiding bombs during World War II.

The road leads to a headland that's sort of a dead end and for no other reason than to eye up some birds and stare  Grimsby in the face.

It was only 70 years ago that it was home to the largest fishing fleet in the world, they say, but it's no longer viable for them to trawl up from Cornwall.

The twin edifices of the Dock Tower and the football ground's floodlights, there, and that's Blundell Park, home of  Grimsby Town F.C.

Numerous football pundits have said re: Messrs Viera, Suarez et al. 'He's got all the tricks all right but would he fancy it on a cold and wet Wednesday night in Grimsby[1] with the wind whipping in off the North Sea.', probably.

Grimsby's still worth a visit, just not today, and this told by a pal who was born there. 'Which part?' I asked. 'All of me' he replied.

[1] See also Hartlepool and if you're Scottish, Arbroath and Montrose work equally well.

It's been a deliberate diversion so some backtracking is required and of course there's a pier here and of course they've had a fire, which can be said, for once, without tapping one's nose.

That was back in 1903 but the pier was shortened further, this time deliberately, to make things not so easy for you-know-who during World War II.

Just over a quarter of its original 1200-foot remains meaning it doesn't even trouble the pier charts, length-wise, but was still considered worthy of a  prize in 2016.

It's thought so, anyway, either that or they don't serve evening meals until just after a quarter past eight.

That'll be in  Papa's and the current owners claim to be the largest Fish & Chip restaurant in the country. Ownership of the pier flipped frequently during the noughties around the operation of a naughty-sounding nightclub whose licence was pulled after one punch-up too many.

That's not to say things are that much more wholesome, these days, it's been overheard there was a fight in here last night...

Two fish got battered.

  Dovedale Hotel & Restaurant (Albert Road)

The traditional, narrow staircase and the all too familiar fire doors indicate former, proper-old-skool lodgings. They've modernised the rooms, though, gone all open plan in the bar and don't charge nearly as much if you book on the same afternoon.

Two trains here, actually, and given that'll be this pair in 10 years time, nothing wrong with a friendly wave at the  Lollipop Road Train.

Children are rewarded with a sugary treat, you see, which explains the swarm of hyperactive nippers now chasing after it, not really.

It runs south from the pier to the end of the promenade and it's towards there you'll find the pick of those golden sands.

It's also where you'll find the  Leisure Centre for which most passengers are unlikely to be alighting. One such chap, however, was heading for a yoga class to help with his clearly bad back.

'How flexible are you?' He was asked.
'I can’t make Tuesdays.'

Three trains here, actually, and you can continue your journey south on the Cleethorpes  Coast Light Railway by the back of the Leisure Centre.

It cuts through a really rather marvellous park with a big old boating lake in it or at least it does when in season.

The  park is a favourite spot for a family picnic or even a paddle, perhaps? They used to call these broken glass storage facilities back in the '70s but no such concerns, these days, nor in the sandpit neither.

There's a small Zoo and the Discovery Centre, with its observatory, adds an educational element before you finish off by feeding the ducks.

If that full day out has worked up quite an appetite, you can feed yourselves duck, at an all-you-can-eat Oriental Buffet, obviously.

Once inside, this duck came up to me with a red rose and says 'Your eyes sparkle like diamonds.'
I said, 'Waiter, I asked for
 a-ROMATIC duck!'

  Cleethorpes Country Park

Over the road and behind a small retail park, you'll find the town's prime piece of public greenery although half of it is a golf course. There are still over 150 acres, though, or nearly 80 Blundell Parks if you'd rather, all with an even bigger lake and short trails through the woods and meadows.

The wading birds in winter bring the twitchers in who were jerking furiously at a Red-necked grebe in 2016.

Beyond the boating lake, the beach starts again and runs south into a nature reserve then more sand then another nature reserve. It's a bit of a diversion but sandwiched in between are the Humberston Fitties[1]. The Humberston Whatties?

An early 20th-century movement rooted in socialism saw the creation of a community by those inclined to crave the unconventional. With the land simply unworkable, the ramshackle shacks soon turned into holiday huts and working-class families started to stay for the summer.

The hippies turned up in the '60s before electricity did in the '90s and it's still home to some of those attuned to the alternative.

The council sold the site in 2016 with residents now worried of rising ground rents and the encroachment of the surrounding  holiday park. Some investigation suggests that's already started to happen with the word 'luxury' bandied about in some holiday-let ads.

You can just about get here by the light railway and asking the driver if he stopped at Humberston Fitties?...

'What on these wages!'

This was after asking the driver of the Lollipop Road Train if he stopped at the pier?...
'I hope so sir or there'll be an awfully loud splash!'

[1] Local lingo for the salt marsh, apparently.

There's no other option than to return the way you came but this time by the road above the promenade. The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Garden is home to The Boy with the Leaking Boot, a statue that does exactly what it says out of tin.

Is this a heroic act to dampen a fire? Did the boy die? Here's the thing, nobody seems to know.

It was put here by a Swede who was a big fisk in the industry of Grimsby but only because he liked the one he'd seen in Stockholm.

It seems they were cast in Germany in the late 1800s and made their way around the world with 'hundreds' of them in the USA, they say. There are a couple in Canada where, just like here, they don't know what it's all aboot, neither.

Sadly, this is a replacement for the original, which was vandalised by two young lads in 2012[1]. Turns out they had been drinking battery acid and eating fireworks...

The police  charged one and let the other one off.

[1] This much is true.

After the well-tended Kingsway Gardens, the road rises slightly and Ross Castle hints at an ancient fortification to repel invading Vikings, maybe? Hardly, it's a work of pure folly, funded by the railways to help bring the visitors in.

Passengers were pressed into an extra penny on their fare for entrance to the small, ornamental gardens and the erm, castle. Pioneers of the upsell, they weren't so big on the branding and the name is just that of the old railway boss who doesn't demand any of your dosh these days.

You've already passed it at the bottom so for a change of scenery, cross the main road and head up Sea View Street.

The name not only acts as a reminder as to where you are, it functions as a hub for independent traders and hipster coffee providers in North Lincolnshire. Come sundown, the fleshpots are the size of aircraft hangers and they're queuing out of the doors.

  The Fishermans Arms (Wardall Street)

It looks like they like their Saturday nights in Cleethorpes and there's trouble getting served even in the least busy of the lot. Having been beaten beating a path to the bar by a trio of lads...

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a pub...

Away from the front, St Peter's Avenue leads to the centre, which gives no great hint of the seaside. What with its Costa™s and the inevitable Wetherspoon™s, it could even be described as suburban.

There's competition on the tandoori front and you can take your pickle from three of them, all in a row.

This modern-day dilemma is because they're queuing out of the door at the highly recommended  Agrah back on Sea View Street. There's no point asking them if they deliver, they just do chicken, lamb or prawn.

  The Coliseum Picture Theatre (High Street)

Inevitably there's a Wetherspoon™s and not being massively big fans of these places, honestly, they do provide exceptional value in this age of austerity. No, it's just the idea that at some point there was a meeting of some people to decide on the often unimaginative name.

The Director of Contrived Waterhole Naming has simply gone with the name of the entertainment venue that closed in 1953 but the fact it was once a Woolworth™s is much more interesting.

Some time remains for the imaginary train home so it's back to the front and the Cleethorpes Pier Gardens where there's something that hasn't been seen in donkey's years.

There was a bit of an assumption that those fat cat EU bureaucrats in Luxembourg City Hall, or wherever, had them all in sanctuaries but it seems that's not the case.

The Nuttal family have the monopoly on the mules in this, admittedly niche, market and Gladys even went on to make mayor.

Dudley the Donkey celebrates not just the tradition but Gladys' charitable work and she was further rewarded with a pat on the back from HRH Princess Anne, no less.

They can still be found plodding the vast, sandy expanse as today can the RNLI where it's hoped it's just a drill. Nearly five minutes it took to reach the shoreline during which a chat with a lady who makes a living from the flats.

At first, it was first thought cockles or hand-crafted jewellery from the scavenged flotsam but it turns out to be neither and it's hard to say what she does...

 She sells seashells on the seashore.

I would say 'I'm here all week!' but it's just the one night, actually, and, of course, there's not really a train to catch.