216. Sutton Bridge to Fosdyke and Sutterton

May 2015

Planning this walk had been bothering me for some time.  Like my previous walk, I was walking between two rivers again. In the east I’d be starting at the lowest point you can cross the River Nene, Sutton Bridge and heading back to the coast. Then I’d follow the coast west to the mouth of the river Welland, whose lowest crossing point is at Fosdyke Bridge. To walk between them I estimated at between 18 and 19 miles. A long walk. To further complicate matters, my route would take me through a military danger area (a bombing range). Whilst there were rights of way along the coast through this range I wasn’t sure if they were always open or if (as I suspected) access was restricted when the range was in use. Furthermore, I couldn’t find out when the ranges were in use or not. I decided to hope for the best and do the walk at the weekend when I suspected the range was less likely to be in use.

The second complication was transport. Sutton Bridge is on the A17 (a major road). Fosdyke Bridge is also on the A17. So I assumed there would be a reasonable enough bus service between the two – but there isn’t. All I could find was a once per day school bus (on school days only, naturally). I was quickly learning that public transport in Lincolnshire is very poor. Of course part of the issue is that buses in England tend to be routed away from main A-roads and on more minor roads through villages instead, which might explain why this main road seemed to lack any buses.

To resolve this I originally hoped to walk between Sutton Bridge and Boston in a weekend, staying overnight somewhere on the way (preferably Fosdyke). However I couldn’t find any accommodation at all anywhere on or even near the coast between these towns, whether I looked for hotels, bed and breakfasts or campsites, there was nothing. I considered wild camping but with the land so flat and featureless, it is much more likely you will be spotted  (as it’s illegal in most of England) and it would also mean carrying bulky and heavy camping equipment and sufficient food and drink with me for 2 days (water especially gets very heavy if you have to carry a lot).

It seemed my only alternatives were to call a taxi from Fosdyke (expensive), take a day off work and go on a weekday so I could use the school bus (not very appealing and requiring a very very early start) or try to find somewhere else I could walk to that did have a bus. In the end I opted for the last option. After much research I found the village of Sutterton had a bus service to Boston (which importantly ran on a Saturday). However to walk here from the bridge at Fosdyke would add another 3 1/2 miles to my walk (inland, in the wrong direction). That bought the total distance to an estimated 22 miles. Almost the distance of a marathon! However I decided that at Fosdyke if I didn’t feel up to going further I could then fall back on the option of a taxi. There was also a pub there, so I’d have somewhere to wait, too. At least the terrain promised to be flat so I was hoping it would not prove too demanding.

Unfortunately the bus service at Sutterton went to Boston not Sutton Bridge so travelling between my start and end point is tricky. This meant I decided I’d travel by train to London, take the train from London Kings Cross to Kings Lynn and then return home from Boston which also had a railway station (but on a different line).

This plan presented further problems. For reasons I’ve never understood, return train tickets are usually about 10p more expensive than single tickets. For this journey though I’d need to buy two single tickets (because I’m using different routes) and that was going to be expensive. A single ticket from London to Kings Lynn at today’s prices (2018) costs £16.70 if bought on the day at the weekend with a Network Railcard. By way of contrast, a single ticket from Boston to London on the same day costs £68.20 (a Network railcard is not valid). Kings Lynn is around 105 miles from London whilst Boston is around 130. Yet the fare between Boston and London is more than 4 times the price as Kings Lynn to London! It’s insane (I’ve long since given up trying to apply any sort of logic to railway ticket prices, they simply defy logic). I managed to partly resolve this cost issue by purchasing a ticket from Boston to London almost 3 months earlier, which bought the cost down to a more reasonable £14.90, but meant I was tied to travelling on one specific train I’d booked only and if I missed it, I’d have to buy a new ticket (at nearly £70!). So I’d booked to travel on the last possible train from Boston to London which leaves a little before 8pm. That ought to give me enough time and if I had time to spare I was sure I’d find a pub or somewhere to wait in Boston, which was a sizeable town.

So if I’ve not lost you on the way … it was time to begin. I also made an early start, catching a train at around 6:45am from my local station to London in time for the 7:45 am train from London Kings Cross to Kings Lynn. At London Kings Cross I found the right platform (according to the screens) and got on the train awaiting departure, and put my headphones and some music on (if you’ve been on a train recently you’ll why – far too many pointless automatic announcements). However I only caught the tail end of an announcement on the station tannoy (rather than on the actual train) that mentioned Kings Lynn, and then people started getting off the train. Oh no, a problem.  I quickly realised it was a platform alteration and I now had about 90 seconds to find the new platform and get on the train. By running I just made it (though it left late, so I hadn’t needed to run). Not the start to the day I’d hoped for!

Thankfully I made it to Kings Lynn around 9:30am in order to catch the bus to Sutton Bridge, which I did and alighted at the same stop as last time, but this time I’d be heading north. I reached Sutton Bridge a little before 10:30am which I hoped would give me enough time to reach Sutterton for a bus to Boston.

The first part of my route was along the western bank of the River Nene, having crossed the swing bridge.

Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire

The first part was along a road leading to Port Sutton Bridge. As I’d found last time this port was very much still in use even at the weekend. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to dodging lorries, but thankfully the road did have a narrow pavement but in fact there was also short grass beside the river so I walked on that instead.

The River Nene near Sutton Bridge

I passed the derelict hotel I saw last time and a few houses then I was reaching the more industrial surrounds of the port, where the pavement ended. A sign warned vehicles “Dead Slow; Bends; Pedestrians; Hazards” followed immediately by another sign “Welcome to Port Sutton Bridge”. Well I didn’t fell very welcome!

The road went around a little U-shaped cut in the river bank (surely man made?) and beyond this the road became a byway on the map. However the road continued north as a tarmac road, there was no obvious change on the ground. I continued past the rest of the port, where a few people were about but less activity than I’d seen last time and they didn’t give me any bother (I’ve had two incidents walking through other ports where I’ve not been so lucky). I was relieved when the road turned inland and the byway ahead became more of a track, leaving behind the traffic.

The track soon became just short grass beside the river. Much nicer and the sun was just beginning to break through, too.

The River Nene near Sutton Bridge

A boat passed along the river, I did wonder where it was going, it didn’t look like a fishing boat, but it also didn’t look like a pleasure craft either.

The River Nene near Sutton Bridge

Inland my view was very similar to my previous walk. Huge flat fields. Though in this case the farmer had piled up some bales of hay at the far end. This puzzled me because none of the fields I could see had any animals in them.

Fields near Sutton Bridge

Soon another boat passed along the river this time “Fisheries Research” and then quickly followed by a Pilot boat going at high speed. There was far more activity on the river than I’d found when walking the other bank.

The River Nene near Sutton Bridge

The River Nene near Sutton Bridge

After about 2 miles my path joined a road again this time “West Bank Road”. I continued beside this road for half a mile or so, there was not much traffic. The road ended at a small car park and over the other side of the river I could see Peter Scott’s’ lighthouse where I’d walked last time.

Peter Scott's Lighthouse beside the river Nene

On this side there was also a lighthouse, but it looked to be a private residence now, though a patriotic one!

Lighthouse beside the river Nene

I continued on a path beside this lighthouse and then crossed over a drainage channel via the path over the sluice gates.

The Lincolnshire coast near Gedney Drove End

Ahead I was now nearing the end of the river Nene and I was pleased to see a clear footpath sign directing me left as I’d hoped.

Footpath on the sea bank near Gedney Drove End

One worry had been how well used these paths would be, in such a remote area and therefore if they’d been maintained, so this was a good sign.

It was clearly near high tide as when I reached the end of the river ahead of me this time I had water, rather than mud flats! I could see the “Outer Trial Bank” man-made island I had seen last time, though it was clearer from here.

The wash at the mouth of the River Nene

Now I turned left with the sea-bank path. I was now walking alongside “The Wash National Nature Reserve”. Between me and the open water was now almost half a mile of muddy marshes, dotted with some muddy water channels.

Marshes near Gedney Drove End

Marshes near Gedney Drove End

Level with the Boatmere creek, the path briefly diverts away from the most coastal sea bank (likely onto what was previously the sea bank, as this is all reclaimed land). Thankfully on the ground the path seemed to carry on along the coastal sea bank, a useful little short cut.

I passed an old Ordnance Survey trig point. These are normally located at the top of high ground. In this case it was a mere 4 metres above sea level according to the map – it gives an indication of just how flat everything is around here!

Marshes near Gedney Drove End

I continued on the edge of the sea bank for another 2 miles or so, to reach the edge of the military range. The signs weren’t encouraging.

Entering Holbeach Bombing Range

Danger Unexploded Bombs and Dangerous Missiles. Ministry of Defence (Air Force Department)“. Another sign warned “Danger Keep Out when warning flags or lights are displayed” and finally a 3rd sign “When access allowed do not touch military debris, it may explode and kill you“. Well thankfully there weren’t red flags or lights so the range was open and I could continue albeit it was clear I was hardly welcome!

Thankfully the path continued on the sea bank and again it was good. Nice short grass, flat and easy to follow. I passed a couple of towers looking a bit like aircraft control towers, one on the bank and another out in the marsh.

Holbeach Bombing Range beside the Wash

Holbeach Bombing Range beside the Wash

It did seem rather odd that a few miles back the marsh was a nature reserve, but a little further along the air force drop bombs on it!

Soon I seemed to have a choice of routes, the grassy bank or a tarmac road just below and alongside. I stuck to the grassy bank, it was easier on the feet and the views were better. Ahead a sign warned “Heicopters operating, possibility of turbulence”. Thankfully I hadn’t seen anyone in the range so far, and nor did I see or hear any helicopters.

I did however pass the heliport alongside the path.

Holbeach Bombing Range beside the Wash

I continued past another sign (there were a lot of signs), this one warning “When red flags up and/or red lights on do not pass this point without permission from range control”. Quite how you were meant to obtain such permission it didn’t say, but no red flags were flying or lights were on so I didn’t need to worry about that.

Holbeach Bombing Range beside the Wash

I could see a few structures out to sea which I assumed were part of the range but not sure what they were used for.

The Wash near Fosdyke

The marsh was criss-crossed with more muddy channels whilst inland man-made and arrow straight water channels went between the fields  to keep them drained – a reminder this is reclaimed land and it would not take much for nature to take it back! The path meanwhile was either the top of the grassy bank or this dead-straight road (I wasn’t actually sure which was officially the path and swapped between them).

The coast near Fosdyke

I was relived to soon leave the bombing range having had no difficulties. The path continued on the sea bank, soon becoming a bridlepath rather than a footpath, though I didn’t see any horses. Inland it continued past large flat fields, with water channels alongside.

Near Fosdyke

As I neared the mouth of the river Welland I could see out to the open water again and make out some buildings on the other bank. I could see trees and some white structures. I wasn’t sure if that was Skegness or somewhere further west, but I couldn’t work out where exactly.

Near Fosdyke

At one point the map showed a brief section of sea wall (less than 100 metres) where there was no right of way. Instead the right of way turned half a mile inland, west for 100 metres and back half a mile further north to the sea wall (a very tall narrow U-shape). Thankfully this 1 mile diversion to cover 100 metres of sea wall was not necessary as on the ground the path continued ahead along the sea wall (and I think was signed as such).

I was soon turning inland alongside the river Welland. It was a long straight and wide track clearly often used by vehicles, but there were none about today though I did see a dog walker, the first person I’d seen since Sutton Bridge, several hours ago.

Near Fosdyke

The path turned slightly inland part way along where there is a car park and a small area of woodland, which had some pretty flowers (forget-me-nots, I think).

Woodland near Fosdyke

The track continued dead straight, but 100 metres or so back from the rivers edge to so I made quick progress as it was quite boring.

Ahead I could now see and hear the A17 and soon I reached this busy road and the pub at Fosdyke Bridge.

The Ship Inn, Fosdyke

It’s a bit of a strange little place a small boat yard on both sides of the river (with associated buildings), about half a dozen houses, a few caravans and a pub. I had already had lunch and I still had a way to go but I stopped for a quick sit down and drink at the pub, though not for long as I still had a way to go. It was quite warm and the sit down refreshed me nicely.

Once off I looked around in the vain hope there might be a bus stop with another bus I had not been able to find on the internet, but it was not to be. So now I had to head away from the coast to head about 3.5 miles inland to Sutterton in order to catch a bus. I crossed the river on the bridge, which gave nice views.

The River Welland at Fosdyke

Though the view inland was rather dull as the river had been straightened.

The River Welland at Fosdyke

Initially, I followed a track on the north side of the river (part of the long distance Macmillan Way). I passed a single house on the sea wall that seemed to have created their own car racing circuit to the left of the path but there was no one around. This bit though is a byway and just past the house a car came speeding along, kicking up loads of dust which was not very pleasant (I guessed it was the owner of the house).

Just after this point I turned off right on a bridleway instead, heading for Bank House Farm. Here the path ended at a minor road which just served a few farms, so there was little traffic. I passed Bank House Farm, Irelands Farm and then the road turned sharply right but I continued ahead on another road, Marsh Lane past Poplar Farm and then to the A17. I only had a mile to go and whilst I was now a bit tired I had coped better than expected!

Near Fosdyke

I crossed the A17 and took another minor road almost directly ahead, Pitcher Row Lane. I could soon turn off this to the left along Church Lane which took me to the A16. I crossed this and headed for the village of Algakirk, which ajoins Sutterton (they have more or less merged together). Algakirk had quite a grand village hall and a lovely church.

Algakirk village hall

The church in Algakirk

I crossed the road and continue along a path into a new housing estate and made my way through this straight ahead to the main road through Sutterton. To my slight irritation, the main road was called Station Road. How it would have helped me if there was still a station here but sadly the station (called Algakirk and Sutterton) closed in 1961. So now the bus is the only option. It was now around 17:10, so I’d made better time then hoped.

I had about 30 minutes to wait for the bus. In the centre of the village was a nice green with a small pond and some seats. Having located the bus stop I passed the time sitting on one of these seats for a rest before the bus. Sutterton was a pleasant village. Not stunning but pleasant enough.

Sutterton church

Sutterton pond

Sutterton pond

Whilst bored I noticed the signs around (such as “clean up after your dog”) were in both English and an Eastern European language (Polish, I think), which surprised me in a rural area like this.

The bus arrived on time and the driver sounded Eastern European and all the other passengers seemed to be too. I later found that there are a large number of eastern Europeans in the area working on the numerous farms, which explains it.

The bus took me to Boston and I arrived with around 1 3/4 hours before my train. Not ideal to have such a long wait, but I’d rather have arrived too early than too late!

Boston (not to be confused with the more famous city in Massachusetts) is a place I knew little about. However it turned out to be rather lovely. A high church tower was a landmark in the town (I believe it is open to the public to go to the top during the day), some pretty cobbled streets and attractive buildings.

Church tower in Boston

Boston

Boston

I soon came to the large open market place. A large open market place or square in the centre of the town isn’t something you find that often in the UK (it seems much more common in the rest of Europe), and I liked it.

Boston Market place

Sadly I couldn’t appreciate it as much as I hoped as it was all full of a huge fun fair. This had bought with it large crowds. I had hoped to use my time in Boston to find a nice pub for dinner, but they were all packed and I couldn’t find a free table in any that I tried. I had to settle for a take away but at least they had some seats outside where I could sit down and have a rest after this long walk (it was still quite a warm evening).

Boston Market place

Having finished the walk and my dinner, I then wandered around the fun fair for a while and then headed to the station for my train home (and a well-earned sit down in the mean time).

River Witham, Boston

River Witham, Boston

I didn’t like the rail line to Boston (which is part of the line to Skegness), for reasons I’ll explain on a later walk (as I’d not done these walks in order I’d already used the line quite a bit) and was a bit apprehensive about the journey, so  I was relieved when this time the train arrived and was not that full. I had feared it would be packed with people returning from a day out to Skegness, Stag parties and so on but this time it wasn’t, to my relief.

Boston is on a line going east to west (Skegness to Nottingham), so I had to change trains for London at Grantham, a station I strongly dislike. I’m sure Grantham is a perfectly fine place (I’ve only ever seen it’s station), but I dislike the station because I’ve been stuck there 3 times in recent years each time for at least 2 hours due to delayed trains and there is very little to do in the station for that long (and ticket barriers, so you can’t leave). The most recent, a year or so ago, I’d been stuck here for hours (until well after midnight) and as a result ended up finally reaching London at 3:30am, – the train was well over 5 1/2 hours late by that point (a new record for me).

This time though I had no such delays, the train was on time to Grantham where I changed onto the train to London, only a few minutes late, though the buffet car on this second train was closed due to staff shortage (another black mark for Virgin Trains East Coast) so I was glad I had eaten in Boston as this had been my backup plan! After that the rest of my journey home was fine.

I was very pleased at having made it to the end of this walk, as this was a long walk which had been at the back of my mind for a while. Boston had turned out to be quite nice and made a nice end to the walk, it is always good to find a place you know little about but turns out to be lovely. I was also pleased to have had no problems walking through the bombing range and to have found the paths in good condition (another worry). It was however a boring walk. Flat featureless fields on one side and flat marshes on the other, with little sight of the open sea. The coast of Lincolnshire was turning out to be rather dull.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. Two buses are needed to travel between Sutterton and Sutton Bridge, changing in Spalding and I’ve also included details of the very limited bus to Fosdyke (which goes to the village not the bridge itself). Note that the buses are run by different companies so you need to buy two tickets to get to Sutton Bridge.

Brylaine Travel route B13 : Boston – Wyberton – Kirton – Sutterton – Gosberton – Surfleet – Pinchbeck – Spalding (Bus Station).  Hourly, Monday – Saturday. No service on Sundays. It takes around 30 minutes to travel between Sutterton and Spalding.

Stagecoach bus route 505 : Kings Lynn – West Lynn – Clenchwarton – Terrington St Clement – Walpole – Sutton Bridge – Long Sutton – Gedney – Fleet Hargate – Holbeach – Whaplode – Moulton – Weston – Springfields – Spalding (bus station). Twice per hour Monday – Saturday. Hourly on Sundays. It takes about 1 hour to travel between Sutton Bridge and Spalding.

Cropley Brothers Bus B18D : Kirton – Sutterton – Algakirk – Fosdyke (village). School bus, runs once per day each way on local school days only.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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4 Responses to 216. Sutton Bridge to Fosdyke and Sutterton

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, always good to know the reasoning behind the route selection and the logistics of getting from A to B and ultimately home to C! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there….”Lincolnshire is rather dull”. I have one more walk to reach Boston, then I will be onto your walks .
    cheers Alan

    • jcombe says:

      It sounds like you’re not especially enjoying Lincolnshire either then! Yes this was a tricky walk to plan, but at least I found a way of doing it in the then.

  2. Phew. the logistics sound horrendous! You are very dedicated. That was a really long day.

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