Search Results : Lincolnshire Lincs

Mar 232013
 

A blustery cold day at the start of spring, with bursts of snow racing across the Lincolnshire Wolds. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Seen from afar as a modest green bar on the horizon, the Wolds loomed, close-to, as a considerable wall. This long whaleback of limestone and ironstone rises some 300 feet above the Lincolnshire plains, a height lent grandeur by the flatness of the surrounding landscape.

‘Tealby, Claxby, Normanby, Otby, Walesby, Risby’ said the map. So many ‘-by’s in this part of the world – the Norse word for a farmstead, denoting where 9th century Danish invaders settled and beat their swords into ploughshares (to some extent). Outside Tealby the Viking Way long-distance path handed me over to a footpath at the feet of the Wolds, running through Walesby and on through the wind-whistle fields. From Claxby I went steeply up the grassy escarpment, picturing the village’s founder, one Klakkr – rather a fierce fighter, I guessed, carrying the smack and clatter of swords in his name. Up in the wind on the wold top at Normanby, I rejoined the Viking Way and followed its horned helmet symbols down to lonely Otby on its ridge, then back to Walesby tucked into the valley below.

Walesby folk have not always dwelt in the vale. In the Middle Ages the village lay high on the Wolds, but when the Black Death arrived in 1348 the inhabitants fled their plague-blasted settlement and its church. I found snowdrops and daffodils growing on the ancient foundations of houses and fields around St Andrew’s – known to generations as the ‘Ramblers Church’. It became the focus of local walkers’ expeditions in the 1930s, when it stood in romantic ruins. Nowadays there’s a most beautiful stained glass window depicting a red-robed Christ beckoning across a cornfield to a trio of clean-limbed young ramblers of the old school, while a brace of 1950s cyclists waits to attract his attention.

Medieval masons carved a jostle of cheeky, coarse-featured faces among the stone foliage of the nave pillars. I took some snaps and had a chuckle, then followed the Viking Way on along the ridge. Near Walesby Top a herd of 40 red deer watched me pass. The flock of pedigree Lincoln long-wool sheep at Risby – hefty beasts with a llama-like hauteur – stared through their floppy fringes as if mesmerised. And I stared back beyond them, out west to the edge of sight, where an apocalyptic sunburst sent Blakean shafts from blackening clouds to pick out the two towers of Lincoln cathedral on their ridge some twenty miles away.
Start & finish: King’s Head, Tealby, Lincolnshire LN8 3YA (OS ref TF 156905)

Getting there: Tealby is on B1203 near Market Rasen (A46, Lincoln-Caistor)

Walk: (10 miles, moderate, OS Explorer 282): From King’s Head, left to T-junction; right up street. In 200m (156907), up Church Lane to B1203. Left for 50m; right on Viking Way/VW (fingerpost). In 2nd field, fork left (152911; fingerpost) across fields to Catskin Lane (142917). Forward for ⅓ mile; right (136919) on footpath (fingerpost) into Walesby. Follow VW out of village; right (130924; ‘Mill House Farm’). Left at fork (129926; ‘Byway’); in ⅓ mile, left off VW (127931); follow ‘Byway’ for 1¼ miles to road (113942) into Claxby. Right up Normanby Rise; in ⅓ mile, right by reservoir (118948; footpath fingerpost), up side of wood, through 3 gates to road (123949). Right past Normanby church; follow VW. After 3 fields, leave VW (125936); ahead (fingerposts, yellow arrows) to valley bottom. Left (130930; fingerpost) to end of paddock (133933); uphill to Otby House drive (139935). Right to road; right into Walesby. From crossroads by village hall (134924) follow VW for 1¾ miles past Ramblers Church (138924), Risby Manor and Castle Farm to Tealby.

Lunch: King’s Head, Tealby (01673-838347; thekingsheadtealby.co.uk)

Accommodation: Advocate Arms, Queen Street, Market Rasen (01673-842364; advocatearms.co.uk) – stylish and very welcoming

Info: Lincoln TIC (01522-873256); visitlincolnshire.com
www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk
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 Posted by at 01:44
Aug 102019
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Neat, self-contained and well provided, the little country town of Epworth stands on the clay hump of the Isle of Axholme in the north-west corner of Lincolnshire. Epworth is only a hundred feet above sea level, but descending the slight slope into the flat lands west of the town feels like launching oneself from a comfortable haven into a vast gold and green sea of corn and root crops.

When Cornelis Vermuyden and his Flemish engineers drained the great fens and swamps around Axholme in the 1620s, the locals hated it. The ‘thick, fatt water’ of the winter floods, full of river silt, declined to a ‘thin, hungry, starveing water’, and the marshmen lost the reed cutting, wildfowling and common grazing that constituted their living. What replaced the floody fens was some of the best arable farmland in the country.

Ranks of tall hedge poplars made verticals in the horizontal landscape as we walked the boundaries of barley and beet fields. A detour round the perimeter of Epworth Turbary nature reserve gave a glimpse into the vanished landscape – bog pools, silver birch thickets, dragonflies and sedgy grazing where locals would cut peat to dry for their fires.

Beside a long straight drive road beyond the Turbary we saw a pile of lunch bags embellished with Polish brand names. At the far side of the field their owners bent and straightened among lines of sugar beet and lettuces, calling to each other in high voices like birds.

From this regulated, highly productive landscape we turned east along the green leafy paths of Haxey Turbary, another nature reserve. Beyond on a ridge stood the houses of Haxey, the setting for a January frolic called the ‘Haxey Hood’. A couple of hundred muddy persons push and shove for hours, trying to force the Hood – a stuffed leather tube – into one or other of the village pubs. This scene of cheerful mayhem has been enacted each Twelfth Night since who knows when – certainly for hundreds of years.

I can’t image John Wesley would have approved of the Haxey Hood with its drinking, profanities and raucous behaviour. The handsome brick-built old rectory where the founder of the Methodist movement grew up with his brother Charles stands at the southern edge of Epworth; a landmark to aim at as we crossed a golden river of corn to journey’s end on the banks of Axholme.

Start: Church Street car park, Epworth, Lincs DN9 1ER (OS ref SE 784039)

Getting there: Bus 291, 399 (Doncaster-Scunthorpe)
Road: Epworth is on A161 Gainsborough road (M180, Jct 2)

Walk (12 miles, easy, OS Explorer 280): Pass Willows Beauty Salon to cross Market Place by Red Lion Inn. Up Queen Street, then Blow Row to cross A161 (781033). Lane opposite (fingerpost/FP) past cemetery. In 500m dogleg left/right (776034) along field edges, under old railway (772034) and on. In another ¾ mile, at corner of Turbary Road, cross road to gate of Epworth Turbary Reserve (758036); walk circuit of reserve and hides, back to gate.

Right along road. In ½ mile, left (747038, FP bridleway) down drove road. In ½ mile, tarmac ends at Harvest Farm entrance on left (746029); in another ½ mile, left at split oak on left (744019, unwaymarked) along path in tunnel of trees. In 200m, past metal barrier and sun. In 700m pass another metal barrier by Lupine Woods field centre (753018) and on along dirt road.

In 500m pass Fir Tree Lodge on left; in 100m, right (758014, FP, yellow arrows/YAs) along field edges past Haslams Farm (756009) to T-junction (758005). Left (FP) to cross road at Cherry Orchard Farm (766004) and on to road in Haxey (771002). Left; just before A161, left (772003) along Axholme Line local nature reserve railway path. In 1⅓ miles cross Burnham Beck with fancy guard rails; pass metal barrier, and turn right (772025) on field path. In 100m fork right, following Restricted Byway for 700m to cross A161 (780022).

Down road opposite past phone box, in 100m fork left past Walnut Farm. On along track for 700m, passing Holy Well (785021) to left bend (787021); north on field track for ¾ mile to road (786035, opposite Wesley’s Old Rectory). Left; right along Albion Hill, right at Red Lion to car park.

Refreshments: Red Lion, Epworth (01427-872208, redlionepworth.co.uk)

Accommodation: Double Tree by Hilton, Ermine St, Broughton, Lincs DN20 0AQ (01652-650770, doubletree3.hilton.com – comfortable golf hotel.

Epworth Old Rectory: 01427-872268, epwortholdrectory.org.uk

Info: visitlincolnshire.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 00:42
Apr 282018
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A brisk spring day in the southern folds of the Lincolnshire Wolds offered us a walk of two very distinct flavours. The first half snaked through the steep green valleys of Snipe Dales; the second strode across broad uplands with mighty views.

Snipe Dales Nature Reserve is beautifully tended by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. This is a damp, deep bowl of country full of birdsong, where many springs rise. A shallow stream meanders and bubbles between flowery banks, artfully shaped to slow the flow and nurture a richer palette of wildlife.

A crowd of crows a hundred strong strutted in the furrows of a newly harrowed field, snatching up leatherjackets in their sharp black beaks. We crossed a road where a shallow ford ran sparkling in wrinkles across the way. Then we turned west on a broad trackway that led over the hills and between a brace of recently erected stone circles, before diving down once more into the damp wooded depths of Snipe Dales.

Beyond the tall brick block of Winceby House on its ridge road, the scene changed as though one backdrop had been snatched away and another substituted. Wild flowers and birdsong vanished, as did the lush intimacy of the deep green dale. Up here the landscape seemed to widen all in an instant, shooting off south and west across low-lying countryside, out to the towers of Lincoln Cathedral standing tiny and sharp-cut against the rainy sky nearly thirty miles away.

We walked the margins of enormous silent ploughlands under a great bowl of sky. Field shapes were geometric, colours flat and simple – brown for ploughed earth, green for corn, yellow for oil-seed rape. It was easy striding through a top-of-the-world landscape.

Down below the uplands, in the ominously named Slash Hollow, a troop of Cavalier horsemen were hacked to death by their Roundhead pursuers at the start of the Civil War. They had become trapped at a country gate they couldn’t open. Such horrors seemed an age and a world away as we descended from the broad sweep of the arable uplands into Snipe Dales, with all the intimate details of nature close at hand once more.

Start: Snipe Dales Country Park car park, near Hagworthingham, Lincs PE23 4JB (OS ref TF 331682)

Getting there: Signed from A158 (Skegness-Lincoln] and B1195 (Horncastle-Spilsby)

Walk (5 miles, easy, OS Explorer 273. Snipe Dales trail leaflet from dispenser in car park): Pass office/toilets. Follow broad track downhill. In 400m, at path crossing (335685; pine tree waymark to left; ‘Path to Pond’ to right) keep ahead (‘Bolingbroke Way’). In 400m at T-junction, right (338687, ‘Hagworthingham’) on fenced path to road (346689). Don’t cross ford; cross road and keep ahead (fingerpost, stile, yellow arrow/YA, ‘Furze Hill’) up field. 2 stiles to gravel path; left to road (346697). Left; at lower road, left; in 70m, right (344691, fingerpost), following track across wolds.

In ¾ mile, between 2 stone circles, fork half left through hedge (333689, white arrow). In 300m through gate (YA), along path into Snipe Dales Nature Reserve. Cross stream (331687); at 2-finger post, right (YA). In 200m, left fork through gate; in 200m, don’t cross footbridge on left (326686) but keep ahead on right bank of stream. Path crosses stream at hydraulic ram (323686), and rises to go through gate (‘Nature Reserve Car Park’). Path to ruined graveyard (321684); through gate, left over stile (YA). Cross field to stile (YA); driveway to B1195 at Winceby (321682).

Right; in 150m, left (fingerpost) through trees, then fence (YA). Ahead down field edge with hedge on left. At bottom of field bear right round field edge; in 150m, left over stile (314677, YA). Half left across field to fingerpost and lane at Old Ash (313676). Left; in 400m, just before right turn (‘Hameringham’), left through hedge (312672, fingerpost, YA) on track eastwards across fields (YAs). Approaching Asgarby in 1 mile, cross stile (327668) and keep to right of pond. Stiles, YAs to drive (330670); right to road. Left for nearly 1 mile to cross B1195 at Winceby (322682).

Stile, YA, ‘Greenwich Meridian Trail’; ahead to YA post; right across field to stile (324684, fingerpost). Grass path into Snipe Dales Nature Reserve; then follow red square markers on right bank of stream for ½ mile back to car park.

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: Admiral Rodney Hotel, Horncastle LN9 5DX (01507-523131, admiralrodney.com)

Snipe Dales Nature Reserve: 01507-588401, lincstrust.co.uk

Info: visitlincolnshire.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 14:24
Aug 272016
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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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

www.visitlincolnshire.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:16
Jan 242015
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Frampton Marsh RSPB Reserve lies on The Wash, the great square estuary where the coasts of Lincolnshire and Norfolk meet. It’s a magical spot in winter for anyone who loves wild birds or walking. I tramped a circuit of the sea banks and reedbeds, seeing no-one, savouring the solitude and the enormous skies, while a rainy morning turned into a spectacularly sunlit afternoon.

‘Our resident glossy ibis is on the pools,’ advised the friendly Visitor Centre volunteers, ‘and look out for the rough-legged buzzard!’ I saw neither. But the pink-footed geese, winter visitors from the Arctic, were there in huge numbers, and squadrons of wigeon went racing by, whistling like corner-boys.

From concealment in a bird hide I spied on chestnut-headed pochard preening on mud islands. The ‘pop-pop’ of a wildfowler’s gun came from the marshes beyond the seabank, and suddenly the sky was full of dark little brent geese, a couple of thousand at least, flying low overhead in loose straggling vees, barking in tremulous voices like elderly hounds.

Up on the seawall a new world was revealed, mile after mile of green saltmarsh grazed by cattle, stretching away east to a streak of silver on the edge of sight where the sea lay low. The munching cows brought to mind Jean Ingelow’s epic poem The High Tide On The Coast Of Lincolnshire, about an aegre or mini-tsunami that overwhelmed these marshes in 1571, broke down the sea banks and drowned scores of people.

‘It swept with thunderous noises loud,
Shap’d like a curling snow-white cloud,
Or like a demon in a shroud.’

On the northern skyline rose Boston Stump, the 272-ft tower of St Botolph’s Church, seamark and beacon in this dead flat countryside, round which the dark waters had swirled during that historic disaster.

An ice-blue winter sky opened over Norfolk in the west, with a pink glow as a foretaste of sunset. Lines of geese hurried across the sky towards their evening roosts. The last sighting of the day was one of the best – a barn owl as pale as a ghost, beating along the furrows of a ploughed field on stiff wings, as careless of my nearby presence as though I had never been there at all.

Start: Frampton Marsh RSPB Visitor Centre, near Boston, Lincs PE20 1AY (OS ref TF 357390).

Getting there: Bus – CallCollect Service from Boston, Mon-Sat (0845-234-3344)
Road – Frampton Marsh is signed from A16 between Boston and Kirton. Non-RSPB members – £2 car park donation requested.

Walk (4½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 249. Leaflet map guide available at Visitor Centre. NB: online map, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): Reedbed Trail (1.2 miles, surfaced), Wash Trail (2.2 miles), Grassland Trail (2.8 miles). Walk as described: From Visitor Centre, follow road towards sea. By seat, left through gate (359388, ‘Hides’) on path past 360 Hide, Reedbed Hide and East Hide. Near East Hide climb steps to sea bank (367391, ‘The Wash’). Turn right along sea wall. In 1¼ miles, right through gate with white arrow/WA (360379); steps down; follow Cross Bank inland. At end (350384), WA and yellow arrows (YA) point left, but turn right (fingerpost). From gate (351387) follow ‘GMT’ YAs, WAs to road (356391); right to Visitor Centre.

Lunch: Hot drinks, snacks at Visitor Centre

Accommodation: White Hart Hotel, High Street, Boston (01205-311900, whitehartboston.com) – solid, old-style, friendly.

Frampton Marsh RSPB: Visitor Centre open 10-4 daily – 01205-724678, rspb.org.uk/framptonmarsh.
Birdwatching cruises on The Wash, April-Oct – 01775-764777; southhollandcentre.co.uk

Info: Boston TIC (01205-365954)
visitengland.com; www.satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk; LogMyTrip.co.uk

 Posted by at 01:12
Jun 282014
 

You can’t walk long in Lincolnshire without becoming aware of how the county’s hundreds of village churches punctuate the flat horizons with their slender spires or square-topped towers.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The great swirling skies seem propped above the level land of Lincolnshire on these celestial staddle-stones.

We set out from Ruskington station to follow the Spires and Steeples trail northwards through a long line of villages. Big blue skies teemed with cloud over the fields of barley and rape. The hedges bowed to the earth under their weight of hawthorn blossom. In a pen on the outskirts of Dorrington some proper old-fashioned chickens strutted in black plumage with iridescent tails and splendid scarlet combs and wattles. A sculpture of writhing demons on the village green recalled the tale of how the Devil and his minions prevented the church from being built on an ancient pagan site.

By the time we got to Digby’s lovely Church of St Thomas, the sky was boiling with giant white cumulonimbus clouds and dramatic grey thunderheads. We admired the church’s gargoyles and grotesques inside and out; then we followed a winding county lane to Rowston with its remarkably slim tower and spire, and on across big open fields of beet and grass, peas and beans showing white and velvet black flowers.

In Scopwick the brook streamed with duckweed as it flowed under a succession of miniature bridges. Four tiny ducklings huddled under the river wall, queeping for their mother; but it was father who came to the rescue, resplendent with silky green head and chestnut flashes. The village is an ancient foundation; when the inhabitants ceremonially beat the bounds in bygone times, they would dig holes and upend the village boys in them to knock the parish limits into their young heads.

The Church of the Holy Cross stood locked and silent. Beyond it we found the small, beautifully kept war cemetery where young fliers from Digby aerodrome who met an early death are buried – Canadians and New Zealanders, mostly. Beside them lie five young Germans, four of them the crew of a single plane that fell in January 1943.

A rainstorm came sweeping across the fields to drive us on past immaculate little Blankney and into our homeward train at Metheringham, dripping wet and talking of all we’d seen.

Start: Ruskington station, near Sleaford, Lincs NG34 9ED (OS ref TF 083502)

Getting there: Rail to Ruskington
Road – Ruskington is on B1188, signposted off A153 Sleaford-Horncastle road

Walk (10 miles, easy, OS Explorer 272. NB: online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): From Ruskington station, down station approach; ahead along road; round left bend, first right into Chestnut Street (‘Free Church’; ‘Spires & Steeples’ sign/SS’) At end, left along High Street. At end, bear right to cross road, leaving church on your left; ahead down laneway to left of old chapel (083511, SS). Right at end by barrier; in 50m, left up path to cross road (084512). On along pathway (SS), up side of playing field and on through fields. In 2nd field, fork left; in 3rd field, yellow arrow/YA points right (083524), but keep ahead here (SS on next telegraph pole). At road in Dorrington (082529) right past ‘demons’ sculpture; left across playing field to top left corner; right (SS) and on across fields (SS) to road in Digby (082548 – church to left).

Cross road by village cross; up road opposite with Red Lion PH on left. Follow this road north to Rowston. Round east end of church; immediately right (084564, SS) over stile and through farmyard. Keep left of barn; ahead for 500m over fields (SS) and through woodland to track (084570). Left to cross road; forward (SS) on track. In 400m track turns left; continue ahead here on grass path by hedge; in 100m, right across footbridge (079571, SS); on along hedge. In 150 m at hedge corner, bear diagonally left across field to pylon (075575). On across 2 fields (YAs); clockwise round 3rd field to road in Scopwick (07158). Left to church (Royal Oak PH is beyond).

Right up path beside church (SS). At T-junction of paths (070582, War Graves Cemetery to left), dogleg right and left (SS); on along wide grassy path. Follow SS north for 1 ¼ miles past Blankney Hall walled gardens to road (068600). Right; in 250 m, right (‘Blankney’); in 650 m, right (073605, ‘Blankney Walks’) for nearly half a mile, passing Beck’s Wood. Left (079607, fingerpost) past brick pump house; ahead across field; ahead (09611, SS) between woods to B1189 (078614). Right across level crossing; left to Metheringham station platform for return train to Ruskington.

Walk: Ahead along station approach, then road. Round left bend; first right (‘Spires & Steeples’/SS). At end, left to church; right across road; ahead down laneway by old chapel (SS). Right by barriers; left to cross road (084512, SS), ahead on path across fields to Dorrington (082529). Right past demon sculpture; diagonally left across playing field; right (SS) across field to Digby (082548). Pass Red Lion on left; follow road to Rowston. Pass church; right (084564, SS) through farmyard; north for 500 m to track (084570). Left across road; follow SS northwest across fields to Scopwick (071580). At church, right up path (SS); north for 1 and a quarter miles to raod at Blankney (068600). Right; right again (‘Blankney’) next right (073605, ‘Blankney Walks’). In half a mile, left (fingerpost) up track, across field, between woods to B1189 (078614). Right across level crossing to Metheringham station; train to Ruskington.

Lunch: Red Lion, Digby ( ); Royal Oak, Scopwick ( )

Accommodation: Finch Hatton Arms, Ewerby, Sleaford, postcode (01529+460363; website)

Spires & Steeples Trail: download leaflet guide at website.

Information: Lincoln TIC
www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk visitengland.com

 Posted by at 01:50
Nov 232013
 

An enormous sky of blue and silver wheeled above the dark earth fields of west Lincolnshire as we set out from Swinstead to wander the paths and rides of Grimsthorpe Park.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Stubbles, iron-rich ploughlands and cattle grazing – this is agricultural England, in which the big country estates sit handsomely in their landscaped grounds. The de Eresby family have held Grimsthorpe Castle since before the Reformation. Their seat and stronghold stands on a green ridge overlooking a long lake perfectly set in its valley.

We crossed the wide fields west of the lake, whose alders and willows framed a picture-book view of the castle. South lay the stew ponds that kept Grimsthorpe’s monastery well supplied with fish in medieval times. The sinuous little valley that curves away through the monastic site is known as The Vaudey, a corruption of the beautiful name the monks gave it – Vallis Dei, the Valley of God.

Dozens of partridge poults went scurrying frantically before us as we turned from the lakeside into the woods. The track led us east to Edenham for a pint of Market Deeping-brewed beer in the Five Bells, and a sandwich in the shade of the churchyard trees. Then it was off down Scottlethorpe Road, where stickily pungent hops hung in the hedges and naked ladies posed in miniature statue form among the geraniums at Cowman’s Cottage.

Alongside the lane ran the overgrown cutting of Lord Willoughby’s Railway. It didn’t exactly fulfil the dreams of its founder, Lord Willoughby de Eresby of Grimsthorpe Castle. He opened it in 1856 to connect two bigger railways on either flank of his estate, but his tiny branch line closed only 17 years later, scuppered by its limitations – mainly the speed of the trains, which at a maximum of 8 miles per hour was not all that attractive to paying customers.

From Scottlethorpe Road we went west across the park, following the green way of Steel’s Riding through woodland full of majestic old oaks, then over the fields to Creeton and a railway with a history rather more magnificent than that of Lord Willoughby’s Railway. A mile or two north of this stretch of the East Coast main line, on 3 July 1938, the A4 locomotive Mallard flew into history at 126 mph, the fastest speed ever recorded by a steam train.

The racing railway has a companion through the countryside, the ancient drove road of The Drift where cattle and sheep would meander to distant markets at two miles an hour. We sauntered its ribbony course before turning aside to cross the Swinstead Valley – a deep-sunk and beautiful hollow of calcareous grassland never ploughed or fertilized. All lay gilded by the low evening sun as we climbed to the ploughlands and turned for home.

Start: High Street, Swinstead, near Bourne, Lincs NG33 4PA (OS ref TF 019225)

Getting there: Bus service 4 (centrebus.info), Grantham-Stamford
Road – Swinstead is on B1176, signed off A151 Bourne-Colsterworth road

Walk (11 miles, easy, OS Explorer 248): From High Street, walk up Park Road. 150m past ‘Park Farm’ notice, left (021223, yellow arrow/YA) across field. At far end follow hedge; left through hedge beside gate (025223); right along track and through Crow Wood. In ½ mile, where trees end with view of Grimsthorpe Castle ahead (032222), bear right off track along grass path to cross end of lake (039220) and on to T-junction (040219). Left on tarred road. In 250m, where lakeside track bends left (041219), turn right on stony track. In 50m, left up fence (YA), then rising gravel track, then through The Grove plantation. At end of trees (048219) dogleg left/right (YAs) to cross fields (YAs), keeping same direction towards Edenham church tower. In ½ mile, nearing village, cross old railway by stiles/YAs (057220); across paddocks towards houses. At A151 (060220), right through Edenham past Five Bells PH and church.

In ⅓ mile, right along Scottlethorpe Road (062215). In 2 miles, look for 3-finger post on right (041197). Right through gates here, across field. Bear right (038199) along edge of Elsea Wood to Pebble Gate (037201); then (YAs) for 1½ miles along Steel’s Riding through woods, then along field edges. 50m short of first house in Creeton, bear left over stile (015200) to lane. Right through Creeton to B1176 (011199). Left; in 200m, right at bend (010198, ‘Counthorpe’). In 700m, road bends left under railway; but keep ahead here (006204, fingerpost) up The Drift green lane. In ⅔ mile it climbs, levels out and broadens. In another ½ mile, just before it descends again, turn right along wood edge (003222; YA in sight 50m along this path). Descend into valley; cross footbridge (007223), left, then right up path (YA), climbing to crest. Left over stile (009226, YA); right along hedge (YA, stiles) to green lane (014225). Left to B1175 (015226); right into Swinstead.

Lunch: 5 Bells, Edenham (01778-591111; the-five-bells.co.uk)

Accommodation: Toft Country House Hotel, Toft PE10 0JT (01778-590614; tofthotelgolf.co.uk)

Information: Stamford TIC (01780-755611); visitlincolnshire.com

www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk

 Posted by at 08:30
Apr 032010
 

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A gorgeous cold blue day, a proper sunny start-of-spring morning over the Lincolnshire Wolds. Seen from afar as a modest green bar on the horizon, the Wolds loomed close to as a considerable wall. This long whaleback of limestone and ironstone rises some 300 feet above the Lincolnshire plains, a height lent grandeur by the flatness of the surrounding landscape. Views west and south from the top are quite spectacular in clear weather, and that’s exactly what today held in prospect.

Claxby to Normanby-le-Wold, suggested the map, and then on via Otby and Walesby to Risby. So many ‘-by’s in this part of the world – the Norse word for a farmstead, denoting where 9th century Danish invaders settled and beat their swords into ploughshares (to some extent). I strode out up the hill from Claxby, picturing the village’s founder, one Klakkr – rather a fierce fighter, I guessed, carrying the smack and clatter of swords in his name. Up in the wind on the wold top at Normanby, I found the Viking Way long distance path and followed its horned helmet symbols down to lonely Otby on its ridge, then on to Walesby tucked into the valley below.

Walesby folk have not always dwelt in the vale. Their 14th century forebears fled the plague-blasted settlement around the church of St Andrew on the hill. Today’s low sun picked out the ancient foundations of their houses and fields around St Andrew’s – known to generations as the ‘Ramblers Church’. It became the focus of local walkers’ expeditions in the 1930s, when it stood in romantic ruins. Nowadays there’s a most beautiful stained glass window depicting a red-robed Christ beckoning across a cornfield to a trio of clean-limbed young ramblers of the old school, while a brace of 1950s cyclists waits to attract his attention.

Medieval masons carved a jostle of cheeky, coarse-featured faces among the stone foliage of the nave pillars. I took some snaps and had a chuckle, then followed the Viking Way on along the ridge. Near Walesby Top a herd of 40 red deer watched me pass. The flock of pedigree Lincoln long-wool sheep at Risby – hefty beasts with a llama-like hauteur – stared through their floppy fringes as if mesmerised. And I stared back beyond them, way beyond my homeward path and out west to the edge of sight, where an apocalyptic setting sun sent Blakean shafts from blackening clouds to pick out the two towers of Lincoln cathedral on their ridge some twenty miles away.

Start & finish: Claxby, Lincolnshire (OS ref TF 114944)

Getting there: Claxby is signed from A46 (Market Rasen-Caistor)

Walk: (8½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer 282): Follow Normanby-le-Wold road (signed) uphill. Right by reservoir (118948; footpath fingerpost), up side of wood, through 3 gates to road (123949). Right past Normanby church; follow ‘Viking Way’/VW. After 3 fields, leave VW (125936); ahead (fingerposts, yellow arrows) to valley bottom. Left (130930; fingerpost) to end of paddock (133933); uphill to Otby House drive (139935). Right to road; right into Walesby. From crossroads by village hall (134924) follow VW for 1¼ miles past Ramblers Church (138924), Risby Manor and Castle Farm. In valley bottom beyond, right (152911; fingerpost) across fields to Catskin Lane (142917). Forward for 1/3 mile; right (136919) on footpath (fingerpost) into Walesby. Follow VW out of village; right (130924; ‘Mill House Farm’). Left at fork (129926; ‘Byway’); left off VW (127931); follow ‘Byway’ to Claxby.

More walks, maps: www.christophersomerville.co.uk

Lunch: Picnic

Lincolnshire Wolds Walking Festival: 22 May–6 June; info 01507-609740; www.lincswolds.org.uk

Info: Lincoln TIC (01522-873256); www.visitlincolnshire

www.ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 00:00
Sep 142009
 

Wild and wintry weather was tearing across the flat North Lincolnshire landscape, showering the huge ploughed fields and ruler-straight roads with whirling leaves and bursts of rain. Lovely weather for ducks – and for grey seals, according to Claire Weaver, Natural England’s adviser on wildlife management for several of the Sites of Special Scientific Interest along the Lincolnshire coast. ‘The seals don’t care,’ she observed as we set off along the fenced path through the dunes of Donna Nook, heads down against wind and rain. ‘They’ve got just two things on their minds at this time of year – giving birth, and having sex.’

The UK is home to something approaching half the world population of grey seals, and the window of opportunity for them to pup and mate is a narrow one. They have to come ashore to do both, explained Claire. But on land they are slow, clumsy and vulnerable, particularly when all hyped up and distracted by birth and sex hormones. So nature squeezes both activities into a very tight time frame. The cows, having delayed implantation of last year’s fertilised egg for seven months, have been carrying developing pups since late spring. They give birth a couple of days after they reach land, wean their pup for three weeks, and then mate and get back to sea in as short order as possible. By that time they are literally starving; they don’t eat while on shore, and drop about 40% of their body weight.

The enormous flat expanse of salt marsh and mud flats at Donna Nook on the southernmost edge of the Humber Estuary, the Lincolnshire grey seals’ chosen pupping and mating ground, is not only an SSSI and a National Nature Reserve managed by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust – it’s also an MoD bombing range. Juggling things so that aircraft can practice, seals can perform their functions undisturbed and the public can enjoy the spectacle safely is a complicated business, but NNR warden Rob Scott, his solo assistant and dozens of volunteers make a wonderful job of it. The fenced path conducts you along the edge of the saltmarsh, and there are the seals, hundreds of them, some close enough to touch – if you don’t value your fingers. ‘They’re wild animals,’ Claire reminded me as we stood looking down at a snow-white pup cuddled up to the fence, ‘and they can give a nasty bite.’

There is something very Walt Disney about grey seals – the adorable huge-eyed pups in white coats, the sleekly dappled mothers and big bruiser males with ripples of fat round their scarred necks. ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ were in the air. At first glance all the adults looked utterly docile, a collection of fat slippery slugs marooned in the mud. But nature is a ruthless driver of behaviour. The bulls went slithering and undulating forward to confront one another with open-mouthed roars, occasionally tumbling over in actual combat as they bit at one another’s necks. Young males not yet bulky enough to ring-fence a harem made nuisances of themselves, teasing the seniors by invading their personal space to provoke deep roars and impressive displays of sharp teeth.

A couple of bulls tried their luck with the cows, but were warned off with snarls. It was a little early in the season for mating; the first pups had only been born three weeks before. Now there were well over four hundred of them, ranging from the newly born (in coats still stained bright yellow by amniotic fluid) to three-week pups already losing their lanugo or baby coat of white.

The cow and pup pairs lay high up the salt marsh or in the dunes, well away from the roaring and splashing on the mud flats. I watched a well-grown pup nuzzling for its mother’s tiny teat while she guided it with flaps of her flipper. Seal milk is fabulously rich in fat, so while the cows and bulls starve and diminish, the pups put on weight like super-sizers, nearly four pounds a day. ‘They need to,’ said Claire. ‘When that cow goes to mate and then back to sea, the pup’ll be fending for itself for the next fortnight, living on its blubber until it gets into the sea and starts fishing for itself.’

It was a mesmerising sight – the rain-freckled marsh and mud flats covered in grey seals, apparently inert, in reality working overtime to respond to the timeless imperative of reproduction of the species. As I watched, I became aware of the extraordinary noise the seals were making, swelling like a chorus behind the show – a mooing, roaring, groaning and banshee wailing that our seafaring ancestors told each other was the song of the mermaids. Eerie, ghostly and spine-tingling, it haunted my inner ear for the rest of the day.

FACT FILE

Seal-watching at Donna Nook NNR: A1031 (Cleethorpes-Mablethorpe) to North Somercotes; brown signs to Donna Nook. Open to public (free) all year. Best time is pupping season, mid October – late December. Observe MoD range warnings. Try to visit on weekdays; weekends get very crowded, lanes are narrow and car parking limited).

Claire Weaver’s seal-watching hints

  • Don’t get too close – you will disturb the seals, cows might desert pups, and you could get badly bitten.

  • At Donna Nook, keep out of the sanctuary area.

  • They’re wild animals – don’t feed or pet them.

  • Leave the dog at home.

  • Bring your binoculars, and don’t forget the camera

Help and advice

The Wildlife Trusts (01636-677711; www.wildlifetrusts.org) co-ordinate 47 local Wildlife Trusts across the UK, Isle of Man and Alderney, and should be able to help you locate and watch grey seals. Other helpful agencies are Natural England (0845-600-3078; www.naturalengland.org.uk), Scottish Natural Heritage (01738-444177; www.snh.org.uk), Countryside Council for Wales (0845-130-6229; www.ccw.gov.uk) and Northern Ireland Environment Agency (www.ni-environment.gov.uk).

Grey Seal information: http://www.pinnipeds.org/species/grey.htm;

http://www.arkive.org/grey-seal-(eastern-atlantic-population)/halichoerus-grypus/

Grey seals in Wales: http://www.welshwildlife.org/Greyseals_en.link

Accommodation: West View B&B, South View Lane, South Cockerington, Louth, Lincs (01507-327209; www.west-view.co.uk). Very helpful and friendly.

Reading: Seals by Sheila Anderson (Whittet Books)

Information: Donna Nook NNR (01507-526667; www.lincstrust.org.uk)

Louth TIC: Cornmarket, Louth (01507-609289; www.visitlincolnshire.com)

 Posted by at 00:00