First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Gedney Drove End lies at the end of five miles of lonely road, out on the shores of the Wash estuary under the enormous skies of the South Lincolnshire flatlands. It’s a salty, strong-flavoured place, and so are born-and-bred Drove Enders.
From the sea bank beyond Gedney Drove End there must be forty miles of land and sea in view, all of it in narrow parallels of green and purple salt marsh, olive and brown sand and mud flats, ice blue sea and the black distant shores of Norfolk and Lincolnshire shimmering like a mirage. Within the three-sided cup of land that holds the Wash live hundreds of thousands of birds, and countless millions of lugworms, crustacea and other invertebrates that feed them. From the top of the sea wall we watched a lonely figure bending over a spade out on the mud flats, digging lugworms for bass fishing.
We walked the sea bank south, with the great estuary spread out on our left hand and massed fields of peas, kale, wheat and potatoes on our right – the soil here, reclaimed from the sea by the building of the parallel banks, is the richest and most productive in Britain. Down at the wide mouth of the River Nene we stopped to admire the twin white lighthouses that mark the channel.
Peter Scott, founder of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, lived in the lighthouse on the east bank in the 1930s. It was on these marshes that he shot and wounded a goose, and saw it fall on inaccessible ground where it took three days to die. The experience haunted him, and was the catalyst for his conversion from wildfowler to dedicated conservationist.
Before turning back along the Old Sea Bank through the arable fields to Gedney Drove End, we dropped down the outer slope of the sea wall and followed a muddy path through boot-high thickets of samphire to the edge of the marsh. Redshank cried, the wind hummed and brought smells of salt and mud, and up on the sea bank a flock of starlings squabbled for insects brushed out of the grass by a herd of slowly lumbering bullocks. I could cheerfully have stayed there all day.
Start: Village Hall car park, Gedney Drove End, Lincs, PE12 9NW (OS ref TF 461295)
Getting there: Bus – Long Sutton Call Connect (0345-234-3344; book in advance)
Road – Gedney Drove End is on B1359 signed off A17 between Long Sutton and Holbeach. At T-junction in village, left to car park in 200m.
Walk (7½ miles there-and-back; easy, OS Explorer 249 – NB: online maps, more walks: christophersomerville.co.uk): Back towards T-junction; in 200m, left (fingerpost) to Old Sea Bank (464296). Right for 250m; left up road to cross T-junction (469296). Ahead up path to sea wall (472298). Right for 2¾ miles to gate at River Nene mouth (492264). NB Old Sea Bank (see below) can be overgrown approaching Marsh. To avoid this stretch, return along sea wall from Nene mouth to Gedney Drove End. To continue round walk from gate, turn right along bank to road (486263); right for 600m; at left bend, keep ahead (482268, fingerpost) along Old Sea Bank (can be overgrown) for ¾ of a mile to road at Marsh (477279). Right; at left bend (478283), right to sea wall (481285). Left to Gedney Drove End.
Lunch: Rising Sun PH, Gedney Drove End (01406-550734)
Accommodation: Woodlands Hotel, 80 Pinchbeck Road, Spalding, Lincs PE11 1QF (01775-769933; woodlandshotelspalding.com) – comfortable, very friendly.
Info: Spalding TIC (01775-764551)
Yorkshire Wolds Walking & Outdoors Festival: 10-18 September; theyorkshirewolds.com