445 Holbeach St Matthew to Fosdyke Bridge

[This walk was completed on the 13th June 2021]

I hide my Scooty bike in some bushes, and regain the sea bank near Holbeach St Matthew.

Sea bank? Not much sign of the sea, to be honest. Just a swathe of marshy grassland, intercut with channels of water.

A track runs parallel with the sea bank for a while. The purpose of the track? To access a pumping station. Most of these stations are marked on my map as “Ppg Sta”, but this one only gets a few blobs to indicate buildings.

Pumping stations, and their network of dykes and ditches, are vital to keep the low-lying fens free of seawater. This station looks modern, and is very neat and tidy.

There is a weather vane close by, showing the wind is coming from the south. It’s going to be another beautiful, sunny day.

I’m feeling quite tired already, although I’ve walked less than a mile. The hay fever tablets are catching up with me (the effect seems cumulative, as I’m getting dopier each day!) and I also had to cycle 7 or 8 miles to get here before I started walking. So, I’m pleased to see a bench – a good place to sit for a rest and a snack.

Also, the bench provides a handy place to prop my camera and take a self-portrait.

I lather up with sun lotion, and set off along the bank. There is no track now, just a wide dyke with the water looking clean and blue under the clear sky. I hope the cows in the field on the other side appreciate all the ingenuity and effort that goes into keeping their field nice and dry.

I was hoping to see a lot of interesting birds on the marshes and waterways – but, like the Peter Scott Walk a few days ago, there really are very few to be seen. But here’s something now… on the far bank of the dyke… oh, only a swan, sitting proudly on its nest.

Apart from the cows and the swan, there really isn’t much to look at. Few landmarks. Just a never-ending sea bank that stretches in easy curves as far as the eye can see. A line of trees on the distant horizon gives me something to aim for.

At a point where the bank curves, I spot a cyclist. The ground is quite rough with uneven grass, which is fairly long in places, so he is bouncing around as he pedals towards me.

He stops for a chat and tells me cycling on the grass is hard work. He was following an easy track, which he expected to continue along the bank. Is it much further until he reaches a place where he can leave the sea wall?

I check my Garmin. I’ve come less than three miles, so I can reassure him that he will soon reach the pumping station and from there he can join the track and get back on the road at Holbeach St Matthews. He thanks me, and sets off again. I watch him bouncing along until he’s a tiny speck in the distance.

Meanwhile, I’m finding this endless bank hard work too. The uneven ground makes it difficult to relax into an easy walking rhythm. I’m looking forward to reaching the track he talked about.

I’m drawing closer to the point whre the River Welland empties into sea. This marks the bottom-left corner of The Wash, and I’m beginning to see landmarks on the far side of the marsh. That tower… it must be the famous Boston Stump.

The landward side of the sea bank looks over flat fields of enormous acreage. Industrial farming on a giant scale. Endless rows of… possibly cabbages?

A definite path appears on the bank, which is now lined with wild flowers. Really very pretty. I’ll soon reach the track the cyclist mentioned. There’s a footpath sign ahead, and I’m about to reach a spot where I might have to leave the bank.

This is the spot where the footpath takes a wide diversion inland, heading down one side of a dyke, only to take a 360 degree turn and head straight back up the other side of the same dyke. As I look down this diversion… I realise this is the track the cyclist was almost certainly talking about.

There’s no need to follow the inland diversion though, because the bank continues without obstruction. I cross the gap in the public footpath – only a few yards wide – and continue onwards.

Past more endless fields of cabbages, and much further along the bank, I come to a strange fenced area. The security fencing has spikes on top and means business. “Fosdyke Stone Quay” says the sign.

The quay isn’t marked on my map, but the nearby section of marsh is called “Fosdyke Wash”. I poke my camera through the bars of the fence and take a photo of what’s inside the proteced area. Really, not a lot to see. A few rusting containers, and an old river barge.

Not sure why the little quay requires so much security!

Just past this point, I realise I’m probably walking along a river bank, rather than a sea bank. That channel of water must be the River Welland. And the fields have disappeared behind a line of trees and bushes growing on the landward side of the sea bank.

A sign tells me this is “Moulton Marsh Nature Reserve” – a place of saltmarsh and saline lagoons. But, to me, it looks like a nice wooded area, and the path takes me on a circular diversion along a path dappled with sunlight falling through leaves.

There is a car park here, where my trusty Beast is parked. Now, all I have to do is go back and collect my bike from Holbeach St Matthew, and drop it off at Fosdyke Bridge.

[Yesterday, at the end of my walk, I drove back to the B&B where I was staying – and suddenly realised I’d forgotten to pick up my bike! These “senior moments” are becoming more regular, but I prefer to put it down to the effects of my hay fever medication!]

With my bike safely hidden in a field, I return to Moulton Marsh Nature Reserve. It’s quite crowded with dog walkers, and a few families with children, but I find a place to park, and set off walking the sea bank again.

Well, it’s a river bank really, although you can’t tell, because a screen of trees and bushes hides the water on the other side.

More industrial farming to my left. From a distance, on first impression, I thought these fields were flooded. But, as I got closer, I realised they are covered in plastic.

On my right, I finally reach the end of the inpenetratable screen of trees, and can climb down to the water’s edge. Ah, not a river after all. This must be one of the “saline lagoons” mentioned in the description of the nature reserve.

There lagoons continue for quite a way, and look as if they are fairly new creations, as they are lined with the bony skeletons of dead trees. The actual river (The River Welland) is over the bank on the other side and is barely visible.

The lagoons seem mournful places. The only birdlife I can see are some rooks perched ominously on the dead branches of the ghostly trees. I suppose it’a a good idea to create new wetlands – if that is indeed what happened here – but more saline pools seem a bit unnecessary when I’ve just walked for miles along the edge of a saline marsh!

Anyway, I’m approaching Fosdyke Bridge.

I trudge past more endless fields. Their plastic coverings have been removed and left in huge rolls by the side of the bank – like giant cocoons.

On my right is the river. On the far bank is a motley collection of old boats – some in better shape than others.

The path emerges into a yard of indeterminate purpose, but which appears to be used as a storage place (or dumping gound) for various large pieces of building material. From here, I pick up a cycle way which runs below and parallel to the busy A17…

… until I reach the minor road that leads to the nature reserve. Middle Marsh Road. Here I’ve hidden my Scooty bike in the long grass at the edge of a field.

Lockdown has created a bike shortage and bike thefts are rife in Manchester. Of course, this is the fens, and I’ve left the bike with a chain around its back wheel, but someone could just throw it in a van and drive off with it. Always a relief to find the bike is still there.

Anyway, I’m glad I’ve completed a significant stretch of The Wash. Time to go home and rest up before my next adventure.

Miles walked today = 7.5 miles

Total around coast = 4,559 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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6 Responses to 445 Holbeach St Matthew to Fosdyke Bridge


    Wow, it’s flat round there!

  2. I followed your trail from Sutton Bridge with an 8 hour day to get to Fosdyke. I also commented on the uncomfortable dike walking. At the end of that long day I had trouble finding accommodation and was also battling with toothache and hoping to get it sorted in Boston next day but that is another story. I am so pleased to see you taking this positive step to continue with your adventure. Long may the cows remain on the other side of the river.

  3. jcombe says:

    Yes it’s quite a flat boring bit of coast around to Boston isn’t it? Not much sea to see.

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