First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
‘Lincolnshire?’ say friends who’ve never been there. ‘Flat as a pancake; just boring.’ More fool them. The westernmost corner of the county along the River Witham is wonderful for rambling, threaded by immaculately maintained and waymarked footpaths. There’s a subtle dip and roll to the landscape. Medieval sites, village with vigorous community lives; woods, ponds, moats, green lanes; west Lincolnshire has it all. Nonetheless, you rarely see another soul about the fields. What a pleasure it is to have such an undiscovered piece of walking country to oneself, especially on a drowsy afternoon after a pint and a sandwich in the flower-bedecked Royal Oak at Aubourn.
In a thistly field beyond the village, Jane and I found the Anglo-Saxon manor site of Hall Close, all lumps and bumps of grassed-over earthwork, half-dried moats and masonry. In a thicket by the river, broken fragments of wall and dragonfly-haunted pools showed where a monastic settlement once throve among its fishponds. Up the bank stood a 15th-century dovecote of creamy oolitic stone with nesting holes for 500 birds – last remnant of Haddington Hall, seat of the ancient Meres family.
On the far side of a quiet green lane we went on across pastures heavy with meadowsweet, over pungent beanfields, through the slumbrous hamlet of Thurlby where mulberries and horse chestnuts half-smothered the houses. As we crossed the River Witham and came into Bassingham, the tower of St Michael & All Angels was striking three over a fantastic collection of gargoyles grinning and gurning from the church eaves. Did Walt Disney, on a visit to his ancestral village of Norton Disney a few miles away, come here taking notes? Certainly more than one of the Bassingham grotesques put us in mind of Mickey Mouse’s cock-eyed pup Pluto.
Bassingham was primping its herbaceous borders for Open Gardens Weekend. Schoolchildren queued up politely in Green’s Stores to buy sherbet lemons. Walking back along the well-kept field paths to Aubourn, watching swans on the river and listening to yellowhammers issuing their eternal requests for ‘A-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese!’, Jane and I began to wonder if we had slipped through a crack in the space-time continuum and wandered into some improbable land of lost content.
Start & finish: Royal Oak PH, Aubourn LN5 9DT (OS ref SK 925628)
Getting there: A1 to Newark, A46 towards Lincoln; right through Haddington to Aubourn.
Walk (6 miles, easy grade, OS Explorer 272): From Royal Oak, left; in 70 yd, left (fingerpost) up path. Through kissing gate at end; left; follow yellow arrows (y.a.) to road (918628). Right across bridge; in 100 yd, left over footbridge. Follow y.a. across 3 fields, then Hall Close historic site, to cross green lane (912626). Continue same line for ½ a mile to road (907622); left into Thurlby. Beyond bend, left (‘Bassingham’) along pavement. 200 yd past cottages, left (907609) across field; cross road (908605), and on across fields. Opposite Bassingham church, left (906598) across river to road (909598). Right to church.
Return up road; left at war memorial (‘Thurlby, Lincoln’); left by Green’s Stores. Just past Five Bells PH, left (912602) down Water Lane. In 100 yd, right (fingerpost) down path and on through fields. Cross road (910605); on past Witham Farm, following y.a. for 1 ¼ miles to weir (913625). Right to end of green lane (916623); left along road; immediately left (fingerpost) across 2 fields to road (919626). Right to clock tower; left into Aubourn.
NB – Online map, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk
Lunch: Royal Oak, Aubourn (01522-788291; www.royaloakaubourn.co.uk)
More info: Lincoln TIC (01522-873213)