First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
This walk is a tale of two churches and one long ridge, starting in the high-perched village of Hough-on-the-Hill. Of course, ‘high’ and ‘hill’ are relative concepts in South Kesteven, the south-western corner of the Lincolnshire flatlands. But standing at the ‘sunset gate’ on Folly Lane, the westward view seemed to stretch out for ever.
You get great sunset views from this spot. But the bright morning prospect under a cloudless blue sky was pretty fine, too. This is corn and sheep country, the lowland striped in blue-green wheat and pale emerald pastures where ewes called phlegmily to their fat lambs with propeller ears and boot-button eyes.
Along the path in Gelston the stub of a medieval cross stood on the triangular village green. Beyond lay the carefully restored pinfold where, in times past, stray beasts would be impounded till their owners paid a fine.
Celandines, elm shoots and small-leaved lime bordered the lane back to Hough-on-the-Hill. The Norman motte-and-bailey earthworks that underpin All Saints Church were hard to make out, but the building itself stood out tall and proud on the ridge, a diminutive round Saxon tower clamped like a root of ivy to its square medieval successor.
The lych gate was beautifully carved, a Green Man at its northern apex, a cross-legged wood carver at the southern peak. Houses and gardens beyond looked immaculate. Hough is one of those villages about which people take great care, one way and another.
A long path through sheep pastures on the slope of the ridge led steadily north-east, the slender crocketed spire of St Vincent’s Church at Caythorpe beckoning us on. This is another of Lincolnshire’s remarkable village churches, banded in yellow ironstone and pale grey Ancaster limestone, its interior endearingly out of symmetry. A memorial slab commemorated Edmund Weaver, 18th-century astronomer, ‘A Tender Husband, an indulgent Father, A quiet Neighbour, a cheerful Companion.’ Could there be a fonder epitaph?
The homeward path lay along the edge of wheatfields, their broad margins heading for the pinnacles of All Saints tower at Hough-on-the-Hill that rose out of a collar of trees. A gentle wind blew in our faces, bringing the nagging cries of sheep from the higher pasture slopes where they lay like so many blobs of cloud swept from the blue sky.
Start: Brownlow Arms, Hough-on-the-Hill, Newark, Lincs NG32 2AZ (OS ref SK 922463)
Getting there: Hough-on-the-Hill is signed from A607 (Grantham-Lincoln) at Caythorpe
Walk (7 miles, easy, OS Explorer 272): From Brownlow Arms, cross road; down Folly Lane; way-marked path across fields for 1 mile to Gelston village green (913453). Left; in 100m, left on road. At Hough-on-the-Hill, left (923461), in 70m right (fingerpost) across field. At Carlton Road (926463), left; cross High Road; ahead on Lower Road for 150m; right (925466, fingerpost) along field path for 1¼ miles to outskirts of Caythorpe (937480). Left along Back Lane; at end (936484), right to High Street at Waggon & Horses (938484). Left to St Vincent’s Church; left along Church Lane; ahead where Waterloo Road bends right (937485). At T-junction, left (936485); in 150m, left across Wheatgrass Lane (936484), down Back Lane. Retrace field path to cross stile (936478); right along hedge/fence for 1 mile to stile into lane on edge of Hough-on-the-Hill (924467). Cross lane; ahead to road (924466); cross and climb path with white railing to church and Brownlow Arms.
Conditions: NB Dog owners – sheep in fields, many stiles
Food/accommodation: Brownlow Arms, Hough-on-the-Hill (01400-250234, thebrownlowarms.com) – very friendly, comfortable stopover.