Day 59 Immingham to Barton on Humber 15th February 2015

Today has been a long day – 17.25 miles.

It rained heavily in the night but when I left grim B&B after a miserable breakfast of yellow cotton wool on toast, the sky was blue and the temperature very reasonable. The earliest bus I could get, being Sunday, was 9.25am. Having looked closely at the map, there was really no possibility of getting back to the sea front much before Immingham – the coast is a long line of factories and logistics plants. The bus deposited me at around 10.15 and there were a couple of miles to walk along a main road, before turning off into a lane, leading down to a public footpath, that, in theory, after a further 3/4 mile, and crossing the railway, led to the sea front.Killingholme

Aggravatingly, my map must be out of date (although I only bought it last week) as the path came to an abrupt halt at the railway with no possibility of crossing whatsoever. Even If I had been tempted to cross (I knew there were no trains on that line on Sunday, as I had considered it as alternative to the bus), there was a line of giant pipes and a very high, brand new metal fence. I could walk parallel to the railway line for a bit, but in due course, the gas pipes swung round and there was no alternative but to go back to the road, and follow it to Killingholme, which is a huge container terminal. Two enormous ships were disgorging their contents, and there was a permanent buzz of lorries and smaller vehicles with containers. Once there, the public footpath followed a narrow alley between enormous compounds full of cars. My feet were feeling a bit achey as I had now walked five or six miles on tarmac, but there was no improvement to be had for several miles, as although the path turned to face the sea, it continued as a concrete strip. At last I could see the Yorkshire side of the Humber Estuary. The sky had clouded over, and everything was hazy, but there was no mistaking the factories and chimneys on the distant bank.IMG_9107

Eventually, the hard track ended, and was replaced by a grassy bank, which carried on for several miles, turning west at last. I was looking forward to my first sight of the famous bridge, but the cloud had come down low and there was nothing to be seen. Eventually, out of the gloom, I could just about discern the suspension pier on the far bank. After that, it became clearer gradually but it was one of those faintly depressing situations where you walk and walk but the landmark never seems to get any closer….

The last five miles turned inland again, through a succession off muddy fields, with a strange mixture of rural and industrial buildings. I tried to imagine what the huge sheds could be used for, but there were no markings, no people, no goods in the yards, in fact, nothing but a sinister hum of machinery emanating from them.

Almost all of the houses in the village I passed were for sale. This did not surprise me – what did amaze me, was that anyone had bought them in the first place!

Barton on Humber is a fairly workaday town, but it does have two very interesting churches. One, St Peter’s, has an exceptionally fine stone Saxon tower, quite a rarity. St Peter's Church, Barton on HumberThe other, St Mary’s, was just a good example of English Perpendicular.

I am staying in a pub, which is nice enough, but ludicrously expensive. I suppose because it seems to be the only accommodation in the whole town.

Day 58 – Donna Nook to Grimsby Fish Dock 14th February 2015

Today was certainly a “day of two halves”, but definitely a red letter day, as my last steps of the day completed my first 1,000 miles!

My B&B host kindly offered to take Tm and me back to my finishing point from yesterday, saving us a dull walk along the road. Marsh between Donna Nook and CleethorpesWe set off around 10.45 and walked for several hours on the edge of the salt marsh, the sea a long way out. The weather was fine, bright although not that sunny, with a moderate east wind. There were lots of birds to admire: curlews, brent geese – readying themselves to migrate north, oystercatchers and egrets. Brent Geese near Donna Nook

There were not many more people around than yesterday, although we did see a few dog walkers, including one lady with an enormous black beast the size of a bear.

Far out, we could just see the estuary, but for most of the day it was invisible. Around 3.30 we reached the outskirts of Cleethorpes, and came down to the lovely golden sands. The beach is wide and flat, with ribbons of black dust. I had picked up a shiny black stone yesterday, in the slim hope that it might be jet, but my hopes were dashed – apparently it is just shale. My learning point for today, is that jet is fossilised monkey puzzle wood from 120 million years ago!

We stopped for tea, cake, and half of the England-Italy match in Cleethorpes, then carried on toward Grimsby.

What a contrast! The whole stretch of sea front is a dreadful scene of ex-heavy industry, with the most appalling stench of dead things. Docks at CleethorpesIMG_9083Approaching Grimsby fish dock, the smell improved slightly, to fish, fish, fish. I certainly didn’t fancy having it for dinner. We found our way through the semi-derelict lots back to the main road, accompanied by the sound of roars from the football stadium. We concluded that Grimsby Town had won and, since it was Valentine’s Day, we imagined that the wives and sweethearts of Grimsby would be bracing themselves for a double celebration. The disgruntled Bristol team were being borne away in a coach, accompanied by a police escort.

I leapt on a bus back to Cleethorpes, where I am staying in a very, very functional guest house. Much of the next stretch of coast is inaccessible behind oil refineries and logistics plants so I shall take a bus to beyond Grimsby in the morning.

Day 57 – 13th Feb 2015 – Mablethorpe to Donna Nook

I didn’t know how much I was missing the walk until I saw the sea this morning at Mablethorpe. I had a horribly early start (5am to catch three trains and a bus and had been wondering why I wasn’t tucked up in my nice warm bed) but when I saw the huge expanse of golden sand and heard the sound of the waves I felt a surge of delight. The day was very straightforward, fortunately, as I have lost all my fitness, and am really feeling the 15 miles I have done. The first couple of hours were along the flat, firmly packed sands north of Mablethrope. The weather was hazy, but dry, and eventually the sun came out.IMG_8993 I don’t think I saw more than three people the whole day – it is probably the most remote the walk has been so far. Perhaps the fact that it was a working day in February added to the solitude. Looking behind me, I could see my lone prints in the sand – I felt like Lawrence of Arabia – especially as I was wearing my attractive snood headgear. On checking my map, I saw that I was approaching a red flag zone – I wasn’t sure if it were an MOD driving range or some other danger (quick sand danced across my mind for a fleeting, unpleasant moment). I decided to skirt around the zone by moving inland. At this point there was some salt marsh, but nothing too difficult to cross. There were quite a few birds and I am sure I saw a hen-harrier – I shall have to consult the expert, Tom, when he joins me tomorrow. He’ll probably tell me it was just a gull when he sees the picture. IMG_8996 The Humber Estuary is designated as one of the top ten locations for estuary life n the whole of Europe. There are many species of both plants and birds here that are endangered elsewhere. I saw quite a few egrets, but they seem positively old hat now. Apparently there are over 100,000 water fowl here in the winter, and there is also a flourishing population of both river and sea lampreys. It turned out that the danger was an MOD firing range, there were threatening signs around and lots of ugly concrete buildings and barbed wire, with no one and nothing to be seen apart from bits of old metal. Marsh near Donna Nook At Donna Nook, I turned inland towards North Somercotes. There was a very dull 2 mile stretch down a flat straight road into the village, and it started to rain, so I was glad to each my very cosy B &B (see review). I am now in the highly recommended pub.

Day 55 – Friskney to nowhere in particular in Lincolnshire

Today did not turn out quite as expected. We had already decided that Sutton-on-Sea was too ambitious, but Chapel St Leonards seemed a reasonable target. We took a taxi back to where we finished yesterday – actually, a little further down the road so that we could get back onto the sea wall. The scenery did not vary from yesterday with mile upon mile of marsh and, just toward the horizon, the mudflats.IMG_7974

The landscape is strangely sinister. I don’t mind walking alone, but it was good to have someone with me as, despite not seeing a soul, it felt as though we were being watched. There were no bovine incidents today and we meandered on. We came to the end of the marsh, opposite Gibraltar Point, a noted wildlife reserve. According to the map, all we needed to do was cross the dyke, now wide and deep enough for various small craft. The map showed a slipway, but it was covered in thick, deep mud for at least six feet on either side of the water way.IMG_7979

We regarded it with disfavour and consulted the map for an alternative. No problem – a few hundred yards upstream was a footbridge. We approached it in due course, a rather rickety looking metal affair. We read the signing, warning of trip dangers and proceeded down the steps to the bridge. Unfortunately, the gate on the far side was firmly padlocked. The gate itself was a good 7 feet high. Clearly previous walkers had clambered over it as the evil-looking spikes on top had been bent over.IMG_7981

“Do you think you could get over that?” asked Rachel.

“Not sure, what about you?”

“I think I could.” I will add at this point that Rachel is very much taller than me with exceptionally long legs. She could probably have stridden over it in one step.

I looked again.  “I expect I could get over it if a bull were after me, but at the moment I am not too keen.”

We consulted the map again. It wasn’t raining, but it was pretty miserable and the ground was wet underfoot, soaking Rachel’s lightweight shoes.

According to the map, there was a further crossing point some 800 yards further. We trudged along, beginning to feel grumpy. This would add at least 3 extra miles to the day. On we went, towards the farm buildings that the marked crossing led to. Of course, the route was blocked with a barbed wire fence.

Now what?

We decided that were three options: we could trespass, not appealing; go back and try climbing the gate or wade across thick mud of unknown depth. We thought that if we were sure about the existence of the crossing place that we might risk trespassing, although we didn’t fancy it, but the reliability of the map at this point had been less than a hundred per cent. As we hummed and hawed we saw a figure approaching through the field ahead.

“Great, now we are going to be shot at by an irate farmer,” we thought.

We approached the fence and explained our predicament to the farmer. Fortunately, he did not have a shot gun and was willing to let us walk through his yard if we could get over the fence. I whipped out the map and folded it over the barbs, hopping over into a field which contained a good half dozen ponies.  Up came the farmer’s wife (or sister..?) who was very friendly and told us all about the horses – gipsy cobs, apparently. She was a mine of information about the care of the sturdy little beasts. Mrs Farmer was keen to talk – she probably doesn’t see many people out in the Fens.   She was a local girl – apparently Lincolnshire folk are “yellow-bellies”. The commercialisation of Skegness obviously upset her – she was adamant that it is Skegness, not “Skeg” and definitely not “Skeggy.” The renaming of the High Street as Chip-pan Alley was clearly a sore point.

We lingered for a while to chat, then asked advice on the best way back to the sea wall. The map showed a track called New Road, which we thought might be a route leading back to Skegness, but Mrs Farmer told us it went through private land and that the owner was distinctly unfriendly. More map reviewing…. Our only option was either to walk at least 5 miles along the busy A52 or to go to Havenhouse station and get the train into Skegness. We opted for the latter…unfortunately, on Bank Holidays there are no trains so another taxi was IMG_7983required.

By now it was pouring with rain so we decided to abandon the walk and console ourselves with the best fish and chips in Skegness.

We fetched our bags from the hotel and are now on the Skegness to Grantham train which is chock full of enormous suitcases and screaming children. A fairly low level 10 miles today but a fun weekend overall – the only disappointment being that the sea has not been visible at any point.

Day 54 – Boston to near Wrangle 24 August 2014

We have just returned from dinner, laughing so much we could barely eat. Our hotel, which is very pleasant and economical, despite its proximity to the seafront, has an Indian restaurant. All through the meal, 1970s Bollywood pop videos were being played against the wall. I was absolutely mesmerised, staring over Rachel’s shoulder and barely able to make conversation. In the end she turned round too and we were practically rolling on the floor as the Indian equivalent of a cross between Elvis, Roger Moore and Mr Darcy pranced and prinked around various sets, including, bizarrely, scenes set in the Austrian alps with all of the women dressed in dirndls.

It was a fitting end to a very pleasant day.IMG_7930 We still haven’t seen the sea, but it has been good all the same. We left Boston at 9.30 and walked down country lanes to get back to the sea front at Freiston Shore. We passed the small village of Freiston and saw there was a flower festival in the church to celebrate its 900th anniversary. IMG_7935We went in and were delighted with the sight of banks of sunflowers in the porch.IMG_7947 Inside were various beautiful arrangements denoting momentous events- weddings; Christenings; Silver, Ruby, Golden and Diamond weddings; the birth of a girl; a boy or twins. Even more delightfully the ladies, who could all have come from a Miss Marple set, were serving coffee and cake.

Another mile or so between enormous fields filled with brassicas of all descriptions took us back to the sea wall. After that, all was similar to yesterday, although the landscape was even more open, with enormous skies and marvellous cloud formations. IMG_7966We were told to look out for peregrines, which apparently have nested in the area and are now feeding their young. Although we didn’t see them, we did see egrets, starlings beginning to gather for the autumn exodus, skylarks, and heron, as well as more butterflies, a rather nice lurcher and the Red Arrows.

The weather was kind, but the bovines were far too prevalent and unnecessarily curious. I was not reassured by signs saying “Bull in Field.” At one point we had to pass a group that contained some youngish calves. We skirted around carefully, and I was pleased to find a dismembered fence post on the ground which I clutched defensively.IMG_7961

The last couple of miles were less pleasant as we were walking alongside a drainage ditch with almost stagnant water which was mozzie heaven.

Lunch was cheese straws for me and cherry scone for Rachel – I love having the excuse of walking to eat an appalling diet.

We covered some 25.9 km, ending at a little pub between Wrangle and Wainfleet. We will start there again tomorrow. I think Sutton-on-Sea is too ambitious, so we will set our sights on Chapel St Leonard’s.

Day 53 – Fosdyke Bridge to Boston – 23rd August 2014

Today was equally uneventful. We ordered the taxi to collect us from the hotel around 10.30. This was a very late start but Rachel needed to go to Boots for a heel lift as her achilles’ tendon was playing up. Unfortunately, we were led astray by some beautiful scarves in the local dept store. These were of gorgeous emerald green liIMG_7881nen nothing like the dreadful woolly snoods I wear walking to keep my ears warm! We decided that walking need no equate to dowdiness and purchased one each.

During our drive back to Fosdyke, we couldn’t decide whether our taxi driver is a fully paid up member of UKIP or not. On the one hand, we heard about how Boston has changed out of all recognition in the last 10 or 15 years (although he didn’t look much older than 30). The change being due to the locals being driven off the land by huge influxes of foreigners Latvians, Lithuanians, Bulgarians and so forth, many of whom are lodged in caravan parks and brought over by unscrupulous land owners to undercut local wages. A gentle enquiry about the minimum wage led to a suggestion that there is a huge scam in place, whereby the local landowner employs the men through contracts in their home countries and pays them there. If that is true, it is indeed a very disturbing situation. We also had some sympathy with his concerns about planning consent being given for a 1,000 unit caravan park to house the workers. It sounds like a recipe for disaster to have 1,000 young men, of whatever nationality, cooped up in a caravan park, not integrating with the local community.

On the other hand, the taxi driver was sure that there is really plenty of work for locals who bother to seek it out – there are just families just haven’t bothered for a couple of generations. We confined our responses to meaningless murmurs.

We walked away from the Ship Inn, up the western bank of the river Welland.  The path was pretty similar to yesterday’s, but the weather was a little warmer and there were quite a few butterflies in evidence, small tortoiseshells mainly, but also the odd red admiral and small blue. The path meandered on, along the top of the bank, a good mile of marsh between us and the sea. Because we have a second night in Boston, we didn’t need to carry rucksacks, so we bounced along very speedily.IMG_7896

In due course we came to the nature reserve. Birds spotted through the day include a heron, egrets, kestrels a grebe and cormorants. We also saw a very large bird of prey, but I have no idea what it was. Apparently there are marsh harriers, the odd hen harrier and sparrow hawks in the area but I would be unable to distinguish them.

We stopped to munch a light snack and enjoy the sunlight. Our healthy choices were a bag of cashew nuts, some 70% chocolate and a flapjack – all distinctly better than yesterday’s dismal sandwich.

Around 1pm a very sharp shower came up from an inky black sky. My splendid waterproof trousers ate beginning to struggle now, so I got a bit damp and really felt the rain on my back with no rucksack on. However it only lasted ten or fifteen minutes.

We could see the Boston Stump all day – properly named the tower of St Botolph’s church. It is an enormous structure the widest and the tallest parish church in England, begun in 1309. (The largest overall in floor area, is apparently St MaryIMG_7915’s Hull.) More information can be found here. http://www.bostontown.co.uk/index.php/boston-stump  John Taverner, the Tudor organist and composer was organist in the first quarter of the 16th century.  This impressive church was built on the proceeds of the wool trade, Boston being one of the Staple Towns in the mediaeval period.

The path turned up the river into Boston. It is not an especially attractive river, run down industrial buildings and a horrible stench of dead things. We were surprised at how high all of the pylons are. At least twice the height of normal pylons, but I have no idea why.IMG_7906

We walked into the town centre around 3.45, having walked a light eleven miles. Boston has some lovely eighteenth century buildings and is a bustling place.  It has quite a radical history. It was the birth place of John Foxe, the Elizabethan author of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. With either a very overdeveloped sense of irony (or none at all), just below the blue plaque on the pub commemorating his birth place was a rather explicit advertisement for pole dancing. IMG_7924Poor fellow must be spinning in his grave.  Boston was also the jumping off point for many of the Pilgrims who left for the IMG_7914Netherlands and then joined the Mayflower,  before it departed for Plymouth. In the churchyard are commemorative stones for a second wave of Pilgrims and their leader the Rev John Cotton, who took his congregation to the New World in 1633 and contributed to the founding of Boston, Massachuessets.  Later in the 17th century Boston was strong for Parliament.

Rachel’s achilles heel is still bothering her, so we made an emergency trip for comfy shoes for tomorrow.

We are now waiting for dinner in the White Hart hotel. I am writing and Rachel is reading about the Bastard of Arran, having finished with the Wolf of Baddenoch – I must say, Scottish history is very lurid!

Day 52 – Sutton Bridge to Fosdyke Bridge 22nd August 2014

Today was a very easy, pleasant day. Following my bovine escapade last time, I drafted in Rachel for protection, but there was no real need. We met a few “coos” as she calls them in her lovely Scots accent, but they were supine in the sun.IMG_7873

We took a bus from King’s Lynn to Sutton Bridge, where I finished, bad temperedly, back in July. The sun was shining but there was also plenty of cloud cover.IMG_7856

After stopping to talk to a beautiful smokey grey cat, we walked back to the Nene and followed the road running to the east of the water. Eventually, the road became a track, and the track, a path. This is the Nene Valley Way. Towards the end of the Nene channel were a delightful pair of lighthouses. The one on the farther bank had clearly been done up into a very pleasing residence, and we both had a pang of house envy.IMG_7862 But on the whole, I wouldn’t really want to be on such flat terrain. As we turned west along the Wash, we could see, far out to our right the line of the sea, but, to be honest, the marsh is so wide here; it is hard to believe I am actually on a coast walk.IMG_7868

The harvest is now mostly in – we saw a few combines diligently moving up and down the fields, but mainly the view inland was of cut corn fields or hay meadows with bales stacked high. The corn was interspersed with the odd field of potatoes or beans, and there was one big expanse where ploughing for, I suppose, winter wheat was beginning.

We saw few people all day – occasional dog walkers, one with a very nice retired greyhound that we were tempted to take with us. About half way round we came to an army shooting range. There were minatory signs around stressing the illegality of tampering with the unexplored bombs that apparently littered the area, I am convinced it is just cordoned off while the army searches for King John’s Crown Jewels, of which I have still seen no sign.IMG_7869

The sky, wide and open with 180degree views changed colour constantly with white clouds turning almost black and an interesting pink light over the Wash.

After some 15 miles we could see a tall tower in the distance. I decided it must be the Boston Stump, of which I have heard so much, and so it later proved.

Another 2.5 miles, took us to Fosdyke Birdge, a small settlement on the Welland Cchannel with a few boats moored, and, more importantly, an excellent pub! (See review.)

We took a taxi for the 8 miles into Boston and have booked him to fetch us in the morning to go back to Fosdyke. It seems there are no buses along the A47 going into Boston, the nearest being some 3 miles up the main road, which is a-thunder with lorries.

Boston looks nice, the Stump is indeed imposing. We may have a bit of time inthe morning to have a closer look, as tomorrow is an easy day. Hopefully, tonight will be more peaceful than last night – around midnight our peace was rudely broken by a young woman screaming and screaming at her boyfriend to f**** off and let her have five minutes by herself. She yelled and yelled as he tried to placate her. In the end, earplugs had to be employed!