My first new coastal walk of 2016, but it was a very cold one. The forecast high for the day was just 5 degrees and there was a strong easterly wind, so it was not ideal conditions for a walk on the flat east coast, where there is no shelter.
I was travelling by train for this walk as I’d managed to book a ticket a few months in advance from London to Boston for £15.50 and returning from Wainfleet for £16.50, making it a reasonable £32 in total (it is much more if booked on the day). So I took the train to London Waterloo, the tube to London Kings Cross and a train from there to Grantham, a station I have a hatred for, because I’ve been delayed there so often (and today was no exception, though the delay was on my return journey). At Grantham I took the Skegness train onwards to Boston. The line to Boston and Skegness is another line I strongly dislike and today was no exception, as the heating was broken on the train, so it was very cold. Not a great train journey then, but at least I got there on time.
From Boston I took the number 7 bus to Wrangle, as this is where I got to last time, and as close as I could get any pubic transport to the coast (it is about 2 miles from the coast).
Helpfully the bus to Wrangle pulls off the main road onto the road I was going to walk down anyway, so that saved me a bit of walking. I passed the large and pretty church on the right but then it was a boring walk past houses.
Pretty soon the houses ended so I continued on the quiet but pavement-less road though the lack of pavement was not a problem because in this area the fields are not fenced so I could just go onto the edge of the adjacent field if any traffic did come. At the end by Wrangle Hall I followed the same paths I took last time over the fields back to the coast.
Most of this was on a wide farm track. I passed the vast farm at Marsh Farm off to the left which had some odd round dome buildings. Soon my path veered off to the right towards the road and the oddly named house, Sandalfs Garden where most of the buildings other than the house itself were derelict. Here I once again opted to join the road to save a possibly muddy path. The road only exists to serve a few houses (mainly the ones I was now passing) so there is little traffic.
The house on the other side of the road was just called The Cottage but looked derelict and I suspected the owners were living in the static caravan in front of it. Soon the road ended at the footpath junction I had joined it at last time, but this time I turned left (north) rather than right (south).
I was now in the full force of the wind, and it was bitterly cold, so I had to put on gloves and a hat. To my right I got occasional glimpses of the water over the salt marsh, the Wash. But the path was so flat and at the same level as the marsh, so I could not gain enough height to see far. So it was a fairly uninteresting walk along the raised sea wall.
The view inland was not much more interesting. The large drainage channel behind the sea wall is common around the Wash, they are used to keep the land drained for farming.
At least the path was in good condition though, as it had been a wet winter and I had feared a mud bath. There was now little of interest to see for a couple of miles, save for some flocks of geese.
I kept up a brisk pace, just to try to keep warm. I soon reached a pumping station (see I said there was nothing to report of interest!), also marked as “The Horseshoe” on the map, (for some reason).
Here there was a junction of paths as the most coastal sea wall turns to the right. There were then 3 parallel sea walls, the one I was on continuing ahead, but which then became two sea walls back from the actual shore.
These sea walls are all the result of land reclamation over the years, where a wall would be built, to stop the tide flooding over the land, draining it, and more marsh would then form in front of this wall. Then later another wall would be built a bit further out, drying out this new marsh and creating more agricultural land behind (leaving the old wall redundant). This is I presume how there were now 3 sea walls a few hundred metres apart, but parallel to each other.
My planned route was to get along one of these old sea walls to the public road, around 2 miles ahead. The most coastal of these walls did not carry a right of way at all.
The second sea wall back from the shore does have a right of way along it but according to the map, it runs for about for only the first 300 metres and then simply stops (with the next mile and a half to the road having no right of way) . Or if I continued on the wall straight ahead (which had become the 3rd sea wall back from the shore), the public footpath continued for about 200 metres. Then there was a gap of about 200 metres where there was no right of way and then after that the path resumed again, for around 1.5 miles to the road! So neither of the 3 options had a continuous right of way ahead to the road.
Neither was there a legal path left or right so if the map was correct I was technically at a dead-end and would have to turn back. I was already aware of that, but I hoped I would be able to continue ahead on one of the three sea walls, in the hope that the 200 metre gap in the right of way on the one ahead was a mistake on the map and the path was in fact continuous. (If you’re struggling to follow what I’m going on about here, hopefully this map will make it a bit clearer, the arrow shows where I was and the rights of way are the dashed purple lines).
So I started with the more inland of the 3 sea walls, straight ahead, on the basis I knew this became a right of way again a short distance ahead. Sure enough at the point the map shows the right of way ending the path on the ground seemed to continue straight ahead, with no indication the right of way had ended, so I continued along it. I soon reached a track going left to right, which is the point where the path became a right of way once more again. This was good as it meant I now had a right of way for the next mile and a half to the minor road.
Initially I planned to continue ahead here to the road. However now I had a change of mind. I had made good time, there was no one around and this was meant to be a coastal walk. This path that supposedly abruptly stopped didn’t, so I hoped the same was true on the more coastal sea wall to my right. If it didn’t, I’d have time to come back. I decided to turn right and at least investigate if there was a path ahead.
When I got to the next sea wall, as I had hoped there seemed to be a well worn path ahead which was encouraging and I couldn’t see any obstructions ahead (you can see a long way when it’s so flat). So I continued along it.
My walk was going well and I could see what looked very much like an airport control tower ahead (there was a “Tower” marked on the map).
I think this tower has a military purpose, since the area out to sea is marked as a Danger Area (firing range) so I assume this tower is used to keep an eye on proceedings. It was as I approached this that I came to my first (locked) gate. I didn’t want to turn back now, and the road was not that far ahead, so I climbed over it and continued, soon getting closer to the control tower. As I did so there was another (double) locked gate ahead to climb over. All of these were the metal bar gates, which are at least easy to climb over, but it made it clear I couldn’t really claim I didn’t know this wasn’t a public footpath if I was challenged.
I continued until I was right alongside the control tower, thankfully empty on a Saturday so far as I could see. This marks the end of the public road, so I knew I would not have to turn back now, I could turn left along the road, to the A52.
When I had planned this walk at home, that was exactly what I had planned to do. However having made it along a section of sea wall that was not a right of way I decided to try my luck at continuing ahead along it. It ran for just over 2 miles further to the next public road, which I hoped to reach. A car was parked by this control tower, but no one was in it, so I hoped I would not be seen and so I climbed over the fence ahead to continue on the sea wall.
I had only gone 100 or so metres when I spotted people on the sea wall in the distance ahead walking towards me (though I was not sure if they had spotted me). Shortly after, I heard gunshots from the land ahead, (where I hoped to trespass over the marsh). So these people were likely part of a shooting party. I decided I’d best not try to continue, I was likely to get caught and it seemed I was now also running the risk of getting shot.
It was time to revert to my original plan. I headed back to the road and the tower and turned right on the road heading inland.
I thought this road was a public road, since it is marked in yellow on the map (which normally means a public road), but a red and white security barrier I had to walk around rather suggested it was not. I continued to the Coastguard Cottages marked on the map. As I got up to these cottages the car I had seen at the tower was now returning (suggesting perhaps there was someone in the tower after all, who might have seen me). I was therefore now wondered if the occupant(s) might stop and say something to me. Thankfully, they did not and drove on!
So I continued on the road, but shortly after a Range Rover with blacked out windows came down the road I was following at a terrific speed, they did not slow down or move over at all, so I had to get off the road into the adjacent field. This car was followed soon after by another much older Range Rover and a Van, also all heading to the tower at speed. I was not sure what was going on, but I was keen not to linger in the area and get to the A52, as quickly as possible!
About 300 metres after the coastguard cottages there was another dead end footpath marked on the map heading off to the right, which I was not planning to take because it too becomes a dead-end (according to the map), after about 3/4 of a mile (this is not an area friendly to walkers). However the footpath sign pointing along this path actually said “Main Road 2 ¼ miles”. This suggested it wasn’t a dead-end path after all and I figured, given what the sign said, that I’d have a good defence if someone did challenge me for walking along it.
I therefore decided to take this path after all as I was really keen to avoid a walk alongside the A52 ahead that I’d otherwise be facing. This path was initially an easy track alongside a line of trees on my left, which were very welcome, since they were providing some shelter from the cold wind. The track soon deteriorated to a path, muddy in places. Pretty soon it largely disappeared altogether, but I could see a wooden marker post ahead, which confirmed the path did continue straight ahead.
I followed this but could not see an onward path, so I headed straight on, nearing a barn, which was the end of the public right of way according to the map. Near this, I spotted the wooden footpath sign pointing the way I had come, confirming I had come the right way. I was still hoping that I might be able to continue ahead, but the path was now signed left (along “The Staver”, as marked on the map). It was also signed that this was a permissive path created by the landowner, which explains why it was not marked on the map. Perhaps this area isn’t so unfriendly to walkers after all!
So I followed this north west to Boundary Farm. It was an easy, if un-interesting walk. As I reached the farm I was wondering if I was meant to go ahead to the right hand side of the barn but there did not seem room, so I turned left heading to the farm yard. This brought me round to a road with the farmhouse ahead. I turned right here, then spotted the footpath sign I was meant to have followed (indeed it did point behind the barn), but it looked a tight squeeze, but I was obviously meant to have gone that way. Oh well, I wasn’t going back now as the track took me to the A52.
I was not looking forward to this bit at all, which is why I had tried so hard to avoid it. There wasn’t a pavement and looking at the speed and volume of the traffic (this is the main road to Skegness), along it I decided it was not a safe route.
Instead from the map I could see there were footpaths that more or less parallel the A52, about 200 metres further inland from it. This was therefore a slightly less coastal route, but it was safer (and in any case I couldn’t even see the water from the A52, so it seemed largely irrelevant that I was going slightly further inland).
To follow these paths then I crossed the A52 and took up Mill Lane ahead, a narrow muddy road. Another track went off right, but I continued ahead and soon reached the point where a footpath went left to right and there was a footpath sign pointing right where I wanted to go, a good start.
The first field was fine and I followed the route to a little footbridge that crosses the stream between the two fields (behind Ramper Farm). However the route ahead over the next field was across a field that had been ploughed. And clearly ploughed a lot longer than 2 weeks ago (which is I think the maximum legal time limit a farmer is allowed to leave a public footpath ploughed before restoring it). So I continued ahead over the ploughed field but the uneven ground meant it was hard work
As I approached the road at the end of the field (Ivy Lane) I spotted the footpath sign, so at least I knew where to leave the field and join the road. I continued ahead crossing the road and on to the next field, where there was also a footpath sign ahead. Once more the field had been entirely ploughed, and the footpath was not visible (same farmer, I suspect), so I made my way over the lumpy earth.
I came out onto a dirty track, covered with fly-tipped rubbish, Abraham’s Lane. I must have slightly missed the correct way out of the last field because I was right by the path I wanted to follow ahead (the map suggested I would need to turn left a bit after leaving the last field). So I took this, initially a muddy track but soon crossing a ploughed field, yet again. It was hard work and I was fed up that these paths had all been ploughed out.
I aimed to the right hand edge of the houses I could see ahead, as that seemed to match the official route of the path marked on the map and indeed found the track which went alongside the side of the garden of the house. I turned right and then almost immediately left off the road and onto another footpath.
This went between the fields (thankfully this time NOT ploughed) and then into the park of Wainfleet Hall.
The map suggests this area is wooded but it isn’t really, there are some trees but they are dotted about on the grass.
I tried my best to follow the correct route ahead and then at the field edge, with views of the house, turned right and then followed the path I could see down to the road. I had reached Wainfleet All Saints (my destination), or near enough.
I turned left and follow the road down to the river which flows through the town. On reaching the road the river ran right alongside with a pretty thatched cottage to my right.
I turned left to the road and crossed via the old bridge.
I now had the mill that houses the Batemans Brewery ahead.
It was a lovely sight and looked like it had largely been unchanged since the brewery opened. The brewery does tours and I was hoping I might be in luck and be able to go on one, but I was too late for the last one of the day, so I had to be satisfied with quick look at the outside of the buildings instead and then continued into the centre of Wainfleet instead.
I did not know much about the village and the number of empty pubs and shops I passed on my way to the centre suggested it had seen better days. However it is the first place I’ve been through since Boston that has a railway station, so I was booked to take a train home from this station, which I soon reached. However I was very early for it, so I continued on my way past the station to the centre of the village.
I reached the market place which was quite pretty.
The village shop you can see to the left of the clock tower above seemed to be a bit of an Aladdins’ cave that sold just about everything, even petrol! (if you look closely above you can see the petrol pump just to the right of the shop door and I saw someone use it, so I know it was in use).
There were some interesting houses down a side-street here, too.
Having had a nice look around I returned to the station, where I still had a 20 minute wait for my booked train home, so I got quite cold. My fear was it would be the same train I had travelled on earlier and so the heating would be broken, or that it would be overcrowded. However I was pleased when the train did arrive to find it was not overcrowded and this time the heating was working!
I settled down for the journey to Grantham which went smoothly. On reaching Grantham I noticed that the London train I was booked on (scheduled in half an hour), was a couple of minutes late already, so I had more than half an hour to wait. After my walk, I was hungry and I decided to get some crisps from the vending machine at the station (the buffet was closed and ticket barriers meant I couldn’t leave the station). I put my £1 in the machine and made my selection, only for the crisps to get stuck on the window and not drop down into the slot. I asked the station staff if they could retrieve them for me “Nothing to do with me, you need to call the number on the machine” was the reply. Ah, ever “helpful” railway staff. I was tempted to give the machine a good bashing to dislodge them, but a sign said it was alarmed so I decided I’d better not. I couldn’t be bothered to call the number – I can’t imagine they’d get someone to the machine in the half an hour I had anyway, so that was a waste of £1. Another reason I dislike Grantham station!
Whilst I was waiting for my train I watched the station staff get into a flap over an unfortunate elderly lady in a wheelchair who wanted to go to Norwich. The station lifts were broken, so she was unable to get onto the correct platform for the train to Norwich. The whole situation was ridiculous and I listened in horror as the station staff (the same man who had not helped me with the stuck crisps) told her there was “nothing he could do about it” and so instead she would have to miss her train, travel in the wrong direction for 35 miles to Peterborough (where the lifts were working) and then take a later train from there back to Norwich (which would delay her by at least an hour), and that was the last train of the day.
The train she was due to catch to Peterborough was the same one I was taking to London. It got later and later, eventually arriving a little over 20 minutes late. As a result the poor lady would then probably miss the last train to Norwich. I don’t know if she made it there that night. It shows how poorly the railway treats disabled people. Surely they could have got the train to arrive at a different platform, or called her a taxi instead, rather than send her 35 miles in the wrong direction, where she’d probably miss the train anyway? I got the impression the man at Grantham just wanted her out of the way so she’d be someone else problem.
When the train did finally arrive it was announced it was late “due to having to arrest an unruly passenger at Doncaster”. I have spent far too much of my life waiting at Grantham station!
Once I got to London Kings Cross I travelled over to Waterloo and onwards home.
It was nice to get back on the coastal paths after the winter break but this was not a very interesting walk – limited views of the sea, flat un-interesting countryside and a bitterly cold wind, not to mention poorly maintained paths. I had a few issues finding a suitable route too and resorted to trespassing. I’m glad I’ve done it, but it is not a walk I would want to repeat, sadly.
Postscript: I did report the ploughed out footpaths near Wainfleet to Lincolnshire Council. They told me that my reports were rated as “Priority 2A” and this meant the problems I’d reported would all be resolved “by 16th June 2016”, which seemed very precise! To their credit, on the 14th June I got a further letter (as an email attachment) telling me they were pleased to inform me the problems I had reported with these footpaths were now all resolved. It was nice to see a Council doing their job of maintaining footpaths well.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. Rather confusingly there are two bus companies operating largely the same route but with different route numbers. Between them, the service is around every 30 minutes (except Sundays).
Stagecoach route 57 : Boston (Bus Station) – Freiston – Butterwick – Bennington – Leverton – Old Leake – Wrangle – Friskney – Wainfleet – Skegness. This bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday and takes about 20 minutes between Wainfleet and Wrangle. There is no service on Sunday.
Brylaine route IC7 : Boston – Freiston – Butterwick – Bennington – Leverton – Old Leake – Wrangle – Friskney – Wainfleet – Skegness. This bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday and takes around 20 minutes between Wainfleet and Wrangle. There is no service on Sunday.