After my last walk was cut short due to train delays today was going to be a shorter walk, between Chapel St Leonards (where I got on my last walk) and Mablethorpe (where I planned to get on my last walk). I also realised last time that visiting Skegness (and the surrounding coast) during the peak summer season is not a good idea (especially when it comes to travelling).
My last walk was in August 2010. The cheapest “Advance” train tickets then were generally released for sale around 3 months prior to departure, so you had to book around 3 months in advance to get a reasonable price. That put me into the November time frame, and with the clocks having changed and the weather much less predictable by then, I decided to postpone to the following year. So here we are, now in April 2011.
So back in January I’d booked a single ticket on the train from London to Skegness for £13.80 and the same for the return journey, bringing the cost in at under £30. I was hoping that this time I’d have more luck with the trains. So it turned out. This time my train from London to Grantham was on time, and the train from there to Skegness was also on time. What’s more, going out of season, the train from Skegness was pleasantly quiet for once and I got a seat the whole way this time.
Even better, the weather was on my side too, with cloudless skies and quite warm for the time of year.
When planning this walk I’d spotted that the train timetable for the trains to Skegness listed Mablethorpe as a destination after Skegness. I was a bit confused as I thought there wasn’t a station in Mablethorpe and I had made a mistake. But looking more closely I realised I was right, there isn’t a station, and in the small print the connection to Mablethorpe was listed as”by bus”. The thing that shocked me most was the time. My train arrived at 11am. The arrival time into Mablethorpe from this same train was listed as 1pm. How can it take 2 hours to go by bus between two towns that are only around 10 miles apart (and linked with an A-road)? The answer turns out to be that I had mistakenly assumed that because the bus connection to Mablethorpe was listed in the train timetable, that the train company that operates the trains to Skegness, East Midland Trains, is owned by Stagecoach and the bus to Mablethorpe is also run by Stagecoach that there might have been some effort made to co-ordinate the time of the bus departure with the arrival of the train. There hadn’t been. The bus departs at ten-to the hour, the trains arrive on the hour. This means anyone arriving by train in Skegness has a 50 minute wait for the bus to Mablethorpe (the bus and railway station are in the same building) and this partly accounts for why it takes so long (the other reason is simply that buses take ages to get anywhere, much longer than trains).
In the reverse direction the connections between the bus and the train seemed to work better, meaning I could depart Mablethorpe 1 hour and 35 minutes before the train departed Skegness (it was 2 hours in the other direction). Hence I planned to start my walk from Chapel St Leonards (which has a much more frequent bus) and walk on to Mablethorpe and take a different bus back from there, which also matched the direction I walked last time. It was only when I checked the evening before this walk I realised that the times of the bus from Mablethorpe listed in the current train timetable did not match the times of the same bus route I could get from the Stagecoach website or from Traveline. It seems the different parts of Stagecoach don’t talk to each other (we just can’t seem to manage to do integrated public transport in Britain). I decided that since the walk should take me much less time than the time I had available to me, I’d worry about that when I got to Mablethorpe as I should have plenty of time to get back to Skegness regardless.
So I headed to the adjacent bus station and took a bus onwards to Chapel St Leonards. Another reason why it makes sense to go here out of the peak season, this time traffic was light and there were no delays so I arrived into Chapel St Leonards on schedule.
The beach was pleasantly quiet too, and it was a very calm day with barely a breeze, the sea looked more like a lake!
I had got off the bus at the same place I got on last time, which meant the first half a mile or so of my walk was re-tracing the same route I did last time as far as Chapel Point.
The tide was far enough out there was plenty of firm sand and it was a very pleasant and easy walk back to the familiar line of beach huts I saw last time.
South from Chapel St Leonards, the coast is built up (either with buildings or caravans) all the way to Skegness. Thankfully Chapel St Leonards marks the northern end of this ribbon of development and so north of here the coast was more rural.
The sea wall and beach huts soon gave way to dunes and a beautiful sandy beach, which was more or less deserted, it was absolutely lovely.
I continued north, the pools of water on the beach reflecting the blue sky and blurring the line between the sea and the land.
A couple of car parks north along the coast meant from time to time there would be a few people on the beach near these, but it was very far from crowded.
I made quick progress to the next place on the way, Anderby Creek. This is a small village – from what I could see of it from the beach it looked to consist of about a dozen houses, at the back of the beach! (I think there is a bit more there than that, but I didn’t see it from the beach).
Onwards along the beach and the few dog walkers at Anderby Creek were soon left behind and I was back to beautiful deserted beaches.
When I found a nice quiet area I headed up to the dunes for lunch. Having had lunch, I continued along the beach.
Further north there were a couple more car parks of the variety that allow you to park directly on the beach, so the beach was busier again.
However the public do not walk far from their cars on the whole, so soon the beach was largely deserted again.
Ahead however there was soon a further line of beach huts. I was now reaching the edge of the built up area that includes Mablethorpe.
As I found north of Skegness, these coastal towns, in order, Sandilands, Sutton-on-Sea, Trusthorpe and finally Mablethorpe seem to more or less merge into one, so it’s hard to tell where one finishes and the next begins. So from checking the map, it must be Sandilands that I had reached and given the amount of sand nearby, I could see how it go it’s name!
The beach huts were all of different designs, which I liked. Some were also double aspect, meaning they had a window at both the front and back so I could see right through them!
I continued right by the shore, it was much more pleasant there so I didn’t investigate the town further. A lot of starfish seemed to have been washed up. I don’t know why and I suspected they were dead, which was a shame and I wondered what had caused them to die and be washed up.
I continued past more beach huts, now clearly with a proper promenade behind the beach with a sea wall and a line of street lights visible.
I continued along the beach, it was an easy walk soon passing through Sutton-on-Sea and the smaller Trusthorpe, where there were lots of caravans.
The beach ahead was soon becoming much busier and I could see some fair ground rides behind the beach. This must be Mablethorpe.
It felt like quite a big and busy resort, more so than I had expected, and many people were out enjoying the fine spring weather.
I continued north to the end of the promenade and looked north.
Here I was pleased to see that again the coast was lovely and rural ahead.
However that would have to wait until next time. North of here there were only small villages (with minimal public transport) until I reached Cleethorpes, which was I estimated a little more than 20 miles ahead. So there was no point in going any further today, as I was not going to get as far as Cleethorpes so I’d just have to walk back again.
Instead I stopped for an ice cream and a wander around Mablethorpe. It seemed a pleasant enough sort of holiday resort, and certainly a step above Skegness.
I was a bit puzzled why the crazy golf was flying the flag of Wales and Australia (but not England or Scotland).
I’ve seen some resorts that are rather tired and like ghost towns out of season, but even in April Mablethorpe was busy and the fun fair seemed to be doing a good trade.
There was, as I found in Skegness, Donkey Rides available too, it is nice to see these traditions kept going (as long as the donkeys are well cared for, of course), which they certainly appeared to be.
Although why did a “99” ice cream cost £1.10 (I always though the 99 referred to the price, but perhaps not).
Having explored the coast I headed a bit further inland. Here it was a little more tacky, with lots of takeaways and arcades.
I decided to seek out the bus stop to confirm exactly when the buses went to Skegness. It turned out that the Stagecoach website and Traveline were correct and the train timetable was wrong. I had about 20 minutes to wait for the bus to Skegness so I decided to take this one to avoid any worries about getting back to Skegness too late for my train.
The bus arrived on time and this time it was a double-decker bus so I could enjoy the views of the coast and beaches, as we headed south (and caravans, as we neared Skegness). The amount of built up area and nice weather meant that the southern part of the bus journey was very slow (I think we must have stopped at every bus stop on the way, or certainly most of them), so I was glad I had plenty of time. It took 1 hour and 10 minutes to get back to Skegness (it is only around 10 miles) but it had made for a nice rest.
As I had nearly 2 hours before my train I decided to stop for a takeway (it wasn’t particularly good) and then re-walk some of the coast south towards Gibraltar Point, as it was a nice evening and I knew the coast quickly became rural as I headed south.
By now the tide had come in and so there wasn’t much firm sand left, so it was a bit harder going.
Despite this having kept an eye on the time, I was surprised to find I had enough time to get as far as the start of the nature reserve section before I had to turn back to head for Skegness and the station.
This time there was less of a queue for the train (I’d discovered the odd arrangement at Skegness station last time), but with fewer people waiting this time the staff opened the gate to the platform earlier, so I could get on the train and sit down, rather than stand in a queue as last time.
Again on the way back the train was not crowded and so for once it made it a pleasant journey. This line across the flat marshy land of Lincolnshire is not spectacular, but with the sun just getting low, it was causing the sun to reflect off the water in the numerous drainage channels and streams (sometimes with a Heron in site), it was actually rather beautiful in the warm light as the sun neared the horizon.
I reached Grantham on time and my train on to London was only a few minutes late. From there I took the tube to London Waterloo and another train onwards home. In truth I could have booked to travel home on an earlier train, but I decided to stick with a later train in case there were any delays again – I didn’t want to have the same problem as last time, where I ran out of time to reach Mablethorpe as a result of train delays and had to come back again!
This was a lovely and rather relaxing walk (as being shorter than I often do, I knew I would have plenty of time to complete it and it was all flat). I had passed along miles and miles of glorious sandy beaches, much of it backed by pleasant sand dunes and some attractive beach huts. I’d also had pretty much perfect weather for it which always helps. Mablethorpe was quite a busier and larger resort than I had expected, but it was also quite pleasant and I enjoyed looking around it.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :-
Stagecoach Interconnect bus route 59 : Skegness – Ingoldmells – Chapel St Leonards – Chapel Point – Hogsthorpe – Mumby – Huttoft – Sandilands – Sutton-on-Sea – Trusthorpe – Mablethorpe – Maltby Le Marsh – Strubby – Withern – South Reston – North Reston – Legbourne – Louth. Hourly (more or less), Monday – Saturday. No service on Sundays.