[This walk was completed on the 9th July, 2021]
The first part of the diversion looks quite appealing – a well-mown path around the edge of an old waste tip. There are gas-releasing tubes and cannisters poking up through the top soil
The path branches at a signpost, where the logo for another long-distance path is shown. A white arrow with GMT written on it. The Greenwich Meridian Trail.
I remember my excitement on passing the marker for the Greenwich Meridian (longitude 0) on the south coast, at a weird settlement called Peacehaven. And I remember reading the book “Two Degrees West” by Nicholas Crane, who tried to walk the length of Britain following, as closely as he could, the 2 degree longitude line. Anyway, walking the Meridian line appeals to me. Maybe when (and IF) I finish this coastal trek…
The GM Trail heads off to the left. But my diversion takes the right fork. And from here onwards it doesn’t look quite so appealing.
I bat aside brambles and stinging nettles, wishing I had brought my walking pole with me. Soon, I reach a flight of steps – oh, excellent, I’m re-joining the river bank…
…but no such luck. I’m simply walking around the raised edge of the old waste tip. At least I can enjoy the butterflies. This one, a small tortoiseshell, stays still long enough for a half-decent photo.
The path is contained within an overgrown hedge and a barbed wire fence. Beyond the fence, across a strip of vegetation, I can see piled up earth. Is that the reason for the footpath diversion?
Beside the path is an odd little blue flag. Very small. I wonder what it means and why it’s there?
Onwards. I’m walking through a tunnel of vegetation. It’s hot and stuffy – no breeze – and I’m hungry but can’t see anywhere nice to sit and have my lunch.
Ah, there are some diggers to my right. Yes, definitely some construction work going on. Wonder what they’re doing?
Now, I’m walking along the edge of a fir plantation. I’m not keen on these trees. Dark and devoid of wildlife. Dead-zones.
The path emerges from the trees, and takes me down to a road. This must be the edge of the industrial estate on the outskirts of Boston.
My map suggests the footpath continues straight ahead, but all I can see are fences and “Private Property” signs. Where is the footpath?
I’m tempted to just follow the road and head straight into Boston. But I walk further along, hoping that I can somehow get back onto the river bank.
Soon, I spot another footpath sign. It points straight into an impenetrable mass of bushes. You’ve got to be kidding!
Just a little further along, beside the 10 mph limit, and a “WARNING CCTV” notice, is a temporary Footpath Diversion sign.
It’s pretty overgrown, but at least it’s passable. The footpath runs on an uneven slope above a track. I pass a car park, and the entrance (I think) to the old landfill site, where I can see diggers in the distance. Are they expanding the landfill area? I can’t tell.
Onwards. The track comes to an end, and now I’m following the line of a barbed wire fence. Industrial complexes – including one with a very tall chimney – poke above the bushes to my left.
The path suddenly takes me up some steps. I’m back on the river bank! At last!
But, oh dear, it doesn’t look as if I can actually walk along the bank itself. It’s fenced off. “Construction Site” says the warning sign, although I can’t see any construction going on.
In fact, the path only joins the bank for a few yards, before taking me down into yet another diversion.
Oh, this is horrible. One thing I really don’t like is being hemmed in. With thick bushes on one side, and this impressively high fence on the other – well, there’s simply nowhere to go if you meet anybody dodgy.
I’m glad to get to the end of the fence. But, now the route is very overgrown – hard to spot where the path actually runs. I get stung by nettles and caught by brambles. Ughh.
I cross the end of a public road. Again, it’s very tempting just to follow this road into Boston…
… but, there’s the footpath on the other side. I’ll carry on, because the path must rejoin the river bank soon.
This path is even worse. I’m enclosed in a narrow alleyway by two fierce fences. I fight down a feeling of unease.
I’m on the fringe of an industrial estate, in no-man’s land, right on the edge of the town with the worst crime rate in Lincolnshire – rated highly for violence and sexual assault. It’s not a place I want to be walking on my own in a hidden alleyway.
The path crosses the end of a track, follows a line of bushes, and – such a great relief – finally takes me up onto the riverside. Yes, at last!
But my relief is short-lived, because there are more fences ahead – barriers to stop me walking any further along the bank. Oh no. Boston is so near, but I can’t get there!
I look backwards down the bank. No barrier here, but there will be further on. Anyway, that’s the wrong direction entirely.
What I can’t see is ANY evidence of construction or anything else happening on the bank. I feel a sense of outrage. The bank is completely clear. So, WHY have I been forced to walk along this horrible, dangerous, diversion?
It just doesn’t make sense.
Feeling angry, I look around, but I can’t see any continuation of the diverted path, just thick bushes and high fences enclosing industrial yards. So I have no choice but to turn back.
I hurry along and emerge at the top of the track again. Here I notice a couple of signs – which look as if they’ve been tipped over and flung to one side.
It occurs to me that if the signs had been in their rightful place, they would point down this track and then onto a road.
So is this the way I should have gone? Well, it is definitely the way I’m going to go, as I can’t see any other route.
I start walking along the road and, sure enough, see some footpath signs. “Footpath 14.” The signs are unusual – high up on lampposts, and certainly not in the official public-right-of-way colours.
I have no idea whether footpath 14 is the path I want, but I dutifully follow the signs. Check my Garmin from time to time. Yes, I’m heading through the industrial estate and into Boston.
Leaving the industrial area, I walk through streets…
… until, at last, the river bank is ahead. And I can see the tower of St Botolph’s Church – the famous Boston Stump.
On the river bank, I come across an interesting sculpture, which is engraved with sentences describing people’s feelings about Boston. Sadly, many of the phrases displayed a longing to get away from the town.
One that I particularly liked ended with the phrase “one day I will melt away from Boston to travel the universe.” Good idea.
I wish I could be kinder about Boston. While King’s Lynn seemed to have gone upmarket since I was last there, Boston seems as drab and dreary as ever. This sign, advertising the “Port of Boston” seems to sum it up. Weatherbeaten, well used, and definitely past its prime!
I cross a bridge, over a river where boats are marooned in mud, and now I’m heading towards the heart of Boston. The Stump is straight ahead.
I spot a swing bridge – but this one looks like it hasn’t swung for some time. Once it carried railway freight to and from the port.
Over the past 20 years or so, Boston has seen a huge influx of migrant workers – from Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia. It’s the town with the highest proportion of eastern europeans in the country. They come to work on the land and must have hard, lonely lives, away from their families and homeland.
Their presence is obvious. Different languages in the street. Long queues outside places that offer money transfer and internet services. “European” shops and supermarkets.
Despite my mean words about Boston, the centre is very attractive, with a large market square (where the market traders shout their wares in a variety of languages) and, of course, the incredible Boston Stump which towers above everything.
I was planning on walking further today. But feel too dispirited after my difficult walk this morning. And I’m very hungry. So, I stop at a Wetherspoons for a very late lunch, and spend the rest of the day wandering around Boston.
My “hotel” turns out to be a pub with rooms. It’s noisy and cheerful. My room is accessed via an external, metal, fire-escape staircase. I’m very grateful, because this means I can avoid walking through the pub itself, which seems busy most of the day. Nobody is wearing a mask, so the place is certainly not covid-secure.
I’ve had good news, via text. My eldest daughter (the one with the dodgy mole) has secured an urgent appointment. The GP said he would refer her to dermatology clinic and she should be seen in about six weeks… at which point my daughter interrupted him and pointed out she merited a 2-week cancer appointment as her mole scores 5 on NICE’s malignant melanoma check list. (My daughter actually works for NICE, so she knows these things!)
Now, she has got her urgent clinic referral, and we will just have to wait and see.
Miles walked today = 7.5 miles, although felt MUCH longer.
Total around coast = 4,573.5 miles
Route (morning in black, afternoon in red):