End of era for family who ran lake since 1939

Hornsea Mere. Picture: Terry Carrott
Hornsea Mere. Picture: Terry Carrott
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IT is the end of an era after the family running Yorkshire’s largest freshwater lake stepped down after more than 70 years.

Visitors were in tears when Mike and Alison Hood and his mother Joyce finally called it a day.

Mr Hood, who is suffering from cancer, and the fourth generation of the Hood family at the Mere, is handing back the running of the boathouse, cafe and chandler’s to owners, the Wassand Estate.

The Mere, a site of special scientific interest, attracts huge numbers of wildfowl and is popular with families who buy bags of grain to feed the swan and ducks, as well as anglers, who can buy permits to fish for carp, bream and perch. People can hire a rowing boat or simply while an hour away in the cafe watching the swallows skimming over the lake - a wooden building dating back to 1880 and above which generations of the Hood family have lived since 1939.

The half-timbered cafe with two antique life belts hung on the wall looks like something from a bygone age - part of the site’s many charms.

Great-grandfather Fred took over the business in 1939, but there was little activity in the water, as it was swathed in barbed wire to prevent enemy seaplanes from landing. Grandfather Charles took over in 1953 and father Gordon in 1970. Mike Hood followed family tradition in 1996.

One of his most important jobs has been looking after the safety of the boats on the Mere and going out to tow back broken-down boats and rescue anyone who has capsized.

Joyce Hood met her late husband in 1948 when she was learning to sail and spent 42 years living and working at the Mere.

She said: “It is a very happy place. We have become friends with lots of the customers that have come here since we took over in 1970. I worked seven days a week, when I first came.

“I just love it and it is just very unfortunate that Mike has cancer, otherwise we would still be here making a difference.

“You go to so many places and everything has changed and sometimes change isn’t good - this is what people like.”

She said she believed things would carry on as they had before: “The site isn’t closed. People are still able to come in. At the moment they ware wanting to keep things as it is, certainly this season.”

Hornsea Sailing Club said there would be restrictions on when they could sail, as Mr Hood provided the safety cover.

The lake, which is two miles long and a mile wide, is a natural relic of the Ice Age and is the last remaining mere in Holderness. The Wassand Estate was unavailable for comment.