This was my last walk around the Wash and I was looking forward to finally getting this frustrating and rather dull stretch of coast done. This was however really a walk of two parts, the first a rather dull walk along minor roads and the odd footpath into Skegness and the second what I hoped would be (and was) a lovely walk along a glorious beach.
For this walk I was travelling from home as a day trip by train. A couple of months earlier I had booked a single ticket from London to Wainfleet for £16.50 and a ticket back from Skegness to London for £15.30. I’ve no idea why a ticket from Skegness to London is cheaper than from London to Wainfleet given Skegness is further away, but then there is no logic to rail ticket pricing. However all in the total (£31.80) was pretty reasonable I thought but the downside is of course I’m tied to returning on the specified train.
I took a train into Waterloo, two tube trains to get to London Kings Cross, a train from there to Grantham and finally another from Grantham to Wainfleet. It was a fine summer Saturday in May where lots of people were heading to the coast. Trains to Skegness only run hourly and so of course the train company (East Midlands Trains) had scheduled this service to be run with just 2 carriages. I walked through the train but only when I almost got to the end did I spot a seat that should be free if the person sat next to it had not put their bag on it. I asked if they’d mind if I put this on the luggage rack so I could sit down (it should not be necessary to ask, really) which they agreed albeit reluctantly, so at least I didn’t have to stand, though the train was hot, noisy and crowded and I was glad when we reached Wainfleet and I could get off.
Thankfully the trains arrived on time so I reached Wainfleet a little before 11am. I was surprised how hot it had become – it seemed that summer had arrived the previous day, so I stopped first to apply some sunscreen.
I first headed from the station in Wainfleet through this pretty if unremarkable village which seems to have a large centre but few actual shops (I suspect there were once many more shops).
I followed the main street to the market square which like many places is today mostly used for car parking. Here is where there are still a couple of shops. I continued north past an attractive little street I remember passing the last time I was here where all the houses are to the same design, and continued north away from the village centre.
The most direct route to Skegness is along the A52. This is also (possibly) the most coastal route I could follow, but it is a very busy road with no pavement and the traffic is heavy and fast moving. I decided that it was too dangerous to try and walk along this road the whole way so looked into alternatives.
A minor road runs east from the A52 to Haven House station (a bizarrely remote station which seems to serve just a single farm) beyond which the road narrows and then some point the map suggests the road becomes private, but that it continues as a track (New Road then Toll bar Road) to reach the coast road south of Skegness near Seacroft Golf Course. However I was not sure if I would be able to get through if the road was private so checked on Google Street View (this is so useful!). Sure enough the Google car stopped at the point the road became private (no longer yellow on the map) where there was a warning sign that the road ahead was private and there was no through route. I also checked the other route which had similar signs though these also barred pedestrians. That is a shame but I didn’t want to risk trying to trespass along this track to reach the coast.
Plan B was therefore a a more inland route via the village of Croft. This was further from the coast, but on more minor roads that would be safer to walk on, at least initially. So that is the way I went.
After a short distance from the centre of Wainfleet I forked off the (not very) main road onto Croft Road. This past alongside a cemetery to my left and fields and a hedge to my right. I soon passed an old windmill by the looks of it, with new build houses around it.
I soon reached (I think) the edge of the village of New England though it seems to merge with Wainfleet All Saints, so it is hard to know where one ends and the next begins. I then crossed the Wainfleet Relief Channel via the bridge. This is a man-made stream built I believe to prevent the surrounding area from flooding (most of Lincolnshire is very flat).
Beyond this I continued along the minor road, Croft Lane, now out into the countryside. The road did not have a pavement but there was not much traffic and grass verges on either side so traffic was not a problem.
I soon reached the small number of buildings to the south of the village of Croft where there was an attractive and welcoming looking pub but it was too early for it to be open, so I continued.
Behind the pub (perhaps in their car park) rather strangely was a caravan site. A footpath was marked on the map as going through this so I took it as a little shortcut. The caravans were very close together, it did not look a nice site, but they soon ended and the path continued through the edge of a couple of fields to the road ahead. Here I turned right and resumed on the road, having cut a little corner.
Just after this I turned right off this road and onto Washdike Lane. This dead-straight took me straight into the village centre of Croft, a few hundred metres ahead. Here I reached a junction with the war memorial ahead and continued ahead along Pinchbeck Lane passing the church just beyond.
It was quite an old and pretty looking church, though I did not go inside.
I followed the road ahead for around 3/4 of a mile to reach Croft Drain. A weed-filled channel of water that looked rather stagnant.
Here I could leave the road and follow a footpath which runs alongside Croft Drain to re-join the road ahead (another slight shortcut). So I took that, keen to get off the tarmac for a while.
This path crossed a couple of footbridges and then rejoined the road. Here I turned right along this now busier road to reach the A52. I couldn’t escape this road entirely, but at least here I only had a mile or so to go now to Skegness. As I joined the road it was lined by houses. I’m not sure if these are part of Croft or another settlement but only a farm is named on the map (Retreat Farm), so I’m not sure. However what it did mean is that the road had a pavement!
The houses soon ended and the pavement narrowed but thankfully did not disappear entirely. I passed a caravan park on the left (as I found there are a LOT of these around Skegness) and soon the welcome to Skegness sign decorated with the Jolly Fisherman logo, which the town seems to have adopted.
The Jolly Fisherman dates from a railway posted created by John Hassall in 1908 by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) originally as a holiday advertisement, with the slogan “Skegness is SO bracing”. It seems a strange way to advertise a town (bracing tends to be associated with cold), but it was I believe quite successful and seems to have been adopted as the towns logo, 100 years later.
The pavement continued, sometimes very narrow and often with grass growing over it (I guess it is not much used) but it did continue all the way into the town. My welcome to the town was B&Q and various other shops in a retail park. I continued along the busy road, passing the railway station and onwards to the beach.
At last here I was. I’ve rounded the Wash and finally returned to the open sea. Whilst I did not much care for the town itself, the beach at Skegness was beautiful. Lovely soft sand with few people about, despite it being May, though this was perhaps because it was quite windy.
Of course my main route onwards along the coast is north from Skegness. However to the south there is about 2 miles of coast I’d otherwise have missed out, being a narrow peninsula with the coast on one side and drainage water channels on the other. There is no public access over these drainage channels, making it in effect a 2 mile dead end, at the far end of which is Gibraltar Point (how it came to be named I’m not sure).
I had allowed time to walk down to this, though I’d then have to walk back again. So I turned right and walked along the beach.
Whilst there weren’t many people on the beach in the town, there was soon no one at all as I headed further south. The tide was low and it goes out a long way here, so the sea was still some way away.
As the hard sand was criss-crossed with numerous areas of water I stuck to the sands nearer the back of the beach to avoid having to keep wading through the water. However it was lovely to be back beside the open sea walking on sand, backed by dunes and with the sea to my left.
Gibraltar Point is a nature reserved managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. In a little under 2 miles I reached the edge of their reserve.
Here sadly I had to leave the beach. A barrier had been put across the beach “Shorebird Sanctuary Do Not Enter”.
So here I turned inland on the paths to reach the marshes of the nature reserve.
Here I followed the looping path over the extensive marshes behind the beach. This was quite pleasant and interesting though I did not see much in the way of wildlife (I expect there is more activity at dawn and dusk).
Having rounded the nature reserve I met the road.
For variety I intended to walk back along the road rather than come back the same way along the beach. It only went to the nature reserve so I was not anticipating much traffic, but it was nice to come across a parallel foot and cycle path alongside which I had not expected to find (as it’s not marked on the map).
This path ran through trees and initially had the feel of an old railway line (though I don’t think it is).
Later it seemed to have been made deliberately wiggly!
Sadly the cycle path soon ended and I was back on the road. I continued on the road for around 1 mile to soon reach the first houses of Skegness. After a further 1/4 of a mile there was a footpath marked on the map heading right back towards the coast.
I was alerted to the point this started by a dog walker who was just ahead of me and then disappeared along the path (it was easy to miss), so I followed this over the golf course where I came to an unexpected lake.
Unexpected, because it is not marked on the Ordnance Survey map at all! It is just marked as marsh land on the map. On reaching the edge of this I turned left, hoping that I could find some way past it to get to the dunes and the beach beyond. Footprints showed others had been here before me and at the south edge of the water I could follow the sand and mud at the edge of the water to get closer to the coast. It was however rather muddy underfoot.
Having made it past this marshy lake I found a fairly well worn path over some more slightly marshy ground and then into the dunes, where I could continue back to the beach.
My alternative route had turned into rather more of an adventure than I had planned. Still I was now back on the beach and so continued north back to the town centre.
Here I found a site you don’t often see these days. Children still having rides on donkeys (I remember my late grandfather always giving me money before we went on holiday for a “donkey ride”, though he continued to do it long after I was far too big for that to be a possibility!).
I had a bit of time before my train home so I continued to the towns rather pathetic pier. Pathetic because this is the view from the very end of it!
Yes it doesn’t even reach the sea any more (at least not at low tide). Of course it used to be much longer. The rot set in in World War II when the pier was closed during the war. A storm in 1978 breached part of the pier, leaving the old pier head isolated from the rest of the structure. This isolated end of the pier was demolished in the 1980s. The main pier itself was also shortened following further storm damage and fires leaving just a little over 100 metres left. There is nothing to be seen of the old pier head now.
Still I enjoyed the view along the lovely sandy beach in either direction before leaving and heading for the town.
I didn’t have time for a sit down meal, so found a takeaway (which wasn’t very good) before heading to the station.
Skegness station is very odd because rather than be able to go on the platform they block the platforms off and tell you to form a queue at a gate to the platform. You are only allowed on the platform a few minutes before the train is due to leave. It is not a friendly system as you have to stand in a long queue to stand any chance of getting a seat so if you want to buy something or go to the toilet you lose your place. I arrived a few minutes before the train was due only to find I was near the back of the queue. This meant when I got on the train I had to stand, the whole way to Grantham. I didn’t have the option to go on a later train as my ticket was only valid on that specific one.
As well as having too few seats the train was disgusting. It looked like there had been an explosion in a crisp factory inside, with bits of crisps all squashed into the carpets, left on the seats and the tables, along with fast food wrappers and all sorts of other rubbish. I presume this is all the mess that had been created today. It is a shame people leave such a mess but also a shame the train company doesn’t seem to bother cleaning it up until the train goes back to the depot at the end of the day.
Despite the filthy state of the train it go me to Grantham on time for my onward train to London (where I did get a seat) and then home.
The first part of this walk through villages and along roads was quite dull. However things improved greatly by the time I reached the beach at Skegness. It was lovely to be back beside the open sea again, on a lovely sandy beach. I was glad I’d made the effort to explore Gibraltar Point too, as it was a lovely and remote beach out there. The town of Skegness itself did not seem especially nice, but at least it has a good beach and I knew that my next walk along the coast would finally be beside the open sea, rather than marshes and mud flats.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. You can travel back either by bus (routes 57 and IC7) or train:-
East Midlands Trains The Poacher Line : Nottingham – Netherfield – Radcliffe – Bingham – Aslockton – Elton and Orston – Bottesford – Grantham – Ancaster – Rauceby – Sleaford – Heckington – Swineshead – Hubberts Bridge – Boston – Thorpe Culvert – Wainfleet – Havenhouse – Skegness. Trains run approximately hourly seven days a week (though there are some longer gaps). It takes a little under 15 minutes between Wainfleet and Skegness. Note that one or two trains on this route do not stop at Wainfleet. Many of the smaller stations on this line also have a very limited service (perhaps only one or two trains each day, with most running through without stopping).
Stagecoach bus route 57 : Boston (Bus Station) – Freiston – Butterwick – Bennington – Leverton – Old Leake – Wrangle – Friskney – Wainfleet – Skegness. This bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday and takes a little under 15 minutes between Wainfleet and Skegness. There is no service on Sunday.
Brylaine bus route IC7 : Boston – Freiston – Butterwick – Bennington – Leverton – Old Leake – Wrangle – Friskney – Wainfleet – Skegness. This bus runs broadly hourly Monday – Saturday and takes around 10 minutes between Wainfleet and Skegness. There is no service on Sunday.