Point of departure as nature bites back on Spurn

Humber lifeboat coxswain Dave Steenvoorden, with crew members in front of two of the homes on Spurn Point which are having to be vacated
Humber lifeboat coxswain Dave Steenvoorden, with crew members in front of two of the homes on Spurn Point which are having to be vacated
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FOR centuries their home has been a remote spit of land buffeted by the winds and the tides.

But now the families who live alongside the country’s only full-time lifeboat crew at RNLI Humber’s base are moving to live on the mainland – ending a tradition that began 201 years ago.

Increasing erosion has seen the road leading to the tip of Spurn Point, ever more frequently covered by wind-blown sand, and sometimes impassable.

Lifeboatmen say they have been living in the 19th century – and they now want a 21st century life.

High tides frequently stop children getting to school and last winter two families had to stay in a hotel when a sea surge cut the road off, with one visitor having to be rescued, when her car was engulfed by a tidal surge.

Later this year the lifeboat will begin a new shift system with five members of crew working six days, on six days off.

Four new members of crew have been recruited and other crew are now planning to move to villages and towns inland.

Humber Lifeboat coxswain Dave Steenvoorden has lost count of family gatherings he has missed over nearly 22 years through working six days on, one day off.

He said: “I came ashore to the RNLI from being at sea as a professional seaman to be with my family, so it will be a wrench to be away from them – but it is the six days off I am so looking forward to.

“I can go and see my grandchildren now.

“People’s expectations are different now, we’ve got telly, broadband, freezers, but the lifestyle is 19th century and people don’t want to live like that any more.”

Mr Steenvoorden said the road to the point was increasingly fragile.

“From the beginning of my time here we have had some pretty serious breaches where we didn’t have roads for eight weeks but then things would get back to normal.

“What we have now is constant niggles compounded by these major problems. We haven’t got a free run any more. Delivery drivers won’t come down when there is the slightest thing and bins don’t get emptied either.”

However, wife Karen said she had loved living on Spurn: “It is a proper community, the kids are in each others’ houses and I’m going to miss all that even though mine are grown up.

“There are going to be some benefits like walking to the shop or the pub, but it is a shame that my grandchildren can’t be part of Spurn life.

“We have got little ones here that are going to be devastated when they move off because they can’t go out and play.

“The wives have taken it really hard. If you could bottle what Spurn is and sell it you’d be a millionaire. It’s very laid back, we don’t lock doors. We are going to find it so strange going out into the big wide world.”

Early houses on the Point would be sometimes washed through by the waves and families would travel by sea to Grimsby for shopping.

Dr Jan Crowther, who wrote the highly regarded local history The People along the Sand said: “I’ve been expecting for years that the road is going to go and every year they have managed to get through.

“They made their 200th anniversary which is a pretty good achievement. But I am very, very sorry because it is the end of an era.”

The RNLI said: “Our crew make many sacrifices to enable them to save lives at sea – a role they would be unable to carry out without the full support of their families – and the RNLI has a duty of care to both its crew members and to the families.

“We want to ensure our crew members have a satisfactory work-life balance, with appropriate time off from operational duty and their place of work.

“ The current way of working means this is impossible to achieve.”