[This walk was completed on the 10th July 2021]
It’s a Saturday, and the market in Boston is busy. I enjoy wandering past the stalls, and listening to the different languages being spoken.
Ten or so years ago, when the Eastern European influx was at its height, the centre of Boston was an uncomfortable place to be. Groups of young men stood around on the streets, often drunk, which felt pretty intimidating to local people, particularly women. Crime rates soared to the highest in Lincolnshire.
It’s not surprising that 75% of Boston voters voted to leave the EU.
These immigrant workers had a pretty grim life – recruited to work in the fields, promised large wages and then forced to pay back travel costs, recruitment fees, accomodation costs etc. They ended up finding themselves with little if any money, exploited and unwelcome. Living conditions could be terrible, with mattresses crammed on every inch of floor space, including bathrooms and kitchens. In the mornings, the field-workers had to vacate their beds to allow the night-shift workers from the food processing stations to take their place.
City workers complain about hot-desking. These poor guys were hot-mattressing.
Now, the town feels calmer. The intimidating groups of young men have almost disappeared, and there is a more family atmosphere because, I presume, those same young men are now married, either to local girls or have brought their wives over from Romania, Lithuania, etc. King’s Lynn used to have similar problems, but King’s Lynn seems to have recovered. Boston will recover, I’m sure. And the immigrants have certainly brought some life and vitality into the town.
I walk away from the market, heading for the bank of The Haven. Past Boston College, past a little corner shop selling “EU International Food and Drink”, and over a bridge.
This stretch of water is so straight that I suspect it is a canal. According to my map, it’s the end of the West Fen Drain.
On the other side of the bridge, I turn down a side road. A footpath leads up onto a bank, where a young father is lifting his children up to look over the wall.
On the other side of the wall is The Haven. This channel carries the combined waters of the River Witham, the South Forty Foot Drain, and the West Fen Drain, from Boston down to the sea. Well, down to The Wash, anyway.
There’s a roadway along the top of the bank. I pass a large pond with square corners – not a natural pool. On the other side is a Norman Church. A very pretty scene.
[Later I learn this is St Nicholas’s Church, the oldest church in Boston.]
My spirits had lifted but as I near the end of the roadway, they sink back down into my walking boots. What’s this? The footpath is closed! Not again!
Yesterday’s walk was pretty horrible – in the end stages anyway – due to an unkempt and dangerous diversion away from the bank. In fact, looking across the river, I can see one of the points where I managed to reach the river bank, only to realise I couldn’t continue any further.
With a sense of irritation, I leave the bank and follow the footpath diversion…
… which takes me past a graveyard. First past a group of modern graves, some of which clearly belong to children…
…and then past an overgrown section where ancient stones stand half-hidden among the undergrowth – like sad ghosts.
The footpath runs on a bank above an avenue. It’s pretty overgrown in places, and I’m tempted to give up and join the road, but I persevere.
After a short distance, the footpath takes me down onto a roadway, which leads past various industrial yards and storage facilities, until I end up in a small car park. This seems to be a narrow strip of public access land and popular with dog walkers.
I follow the footpath signs which follow a track running close to the river bank. It swings round the back of a haulage yard..
…and finally up onto the river bank again. Yay! But there’s a fence, for some reason, separating the path from the river.
I pass a seat, where someone has scrawled, “Freedom is to be free of the need to be free.” Wise words.
Sadly, a few yards later, and my freedom is further diminished by another barrier. Yes. The footpath along the bank is officially closed. A map shows me the diverted route, and explains the diversion is because the bank has been recently reseeded following construction works.
I guess the seeds need to be given a chance to grow, but you would think they could leave a narrow path open.
Where’s the diverted route? Ah, I see it. A new path has been created – if you can call it a path. It runs along the edge of the field below the bank.
Sadly, it doesn’t look very appealing. Uneven. Overgrown. There’s be no breeze down there either, and no view. I feel myself getting quite angry. Yet another unpleasant diversion where I risk spraining my ankles.
But, on the top of the bank there is a definite narrow path, and plenty of regrowth to be seen.
I’m usually a follower-of-rules. But, as someone once said, laws are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of the wise.
I duck under the wire fence and continue along the bank, along the forbidden route.
Across the river, I can see the place where I was forced to divert yesterday. Yes, there’s the white notice- the one that the guy in a high-vis vest was fixing to the signpost.
The footpath on my side of the river is just an ordinary public right-of-way. But, over on the other side it is part of a long-distance trail – the Macmillan Way, a route designed to help people raise money for the Macmillan charity by undertaking sponsored treks.
In fact, the horrible diversion occurs almost right at the beginning of the Macmillan Way.
It’s July, the start of the holiday season. I wonder how many walkers have set off, full of optimism, to hike the Macmillan Way, and have given up after the first day because it was so awful. (Of course, the route gets much better further along, but how do you know that when the first few miles are so horrible!)
I continue along my illegal route, and come to a spot where another footpath joins the bank. Another board, facing the new footpath, says the path is closed.
I carry on along the bank, spurred on by the sight of a couple of walkers ahead of me. I’m not the only person breaking the rules today!
Later, when I catch up with the other walkers, they tell me they parked their car at the far end of this stretch of bank, and had no idea the footpath was supposed to be closed. They’ve really come to see the new viewing platform.
I have no idea what they mean by “the viewing platform”, but I nod politely and carry on.
On the far side of the river, two familiar birds are standing in the mud. Comorants. I put my camera on full zoom and catch a fuzzy shot of them posing with their wings outstretched.
I haven’t seen cormorants for a long time. They were common on the south coast, but seemed absent from Scotland – possibly too cold. Is this the furthest north I’ve seen them? I think it might be.
Here’s the car park the other walkers were talking about.
Yesterday, I had planned to continue to this point, but my experience on the diversion had left me feeling so dispirited, that I cut the walk short. Now, I’ve finally reached the planned endpoint and I feel a bit downhearted. It’s so flat around here, I should be making great progress. But, I seem to be taking forever to complete my trek around The Wash.
There’s a memorial here. The wording on the plaque is a bit odd.
“Near this place in September 1607 those later known as the Pilgrim Fathers were thwarted in their first attempt to sail to find religious freedom across the seas.” So something nearly happened somewhere near here?
Beyond the memorial is a strange blue platform.
When I saw this blue metallic contruction yesterday, I assumed it was some sort of pumping station. Now I realise it is, in fact, the new viewing platform mentioned by the other walkers. It’s been built to commemorate the Pilgrim Fathers (the same group, I assume, who nearly sailed from somewhere near here.)
I like the design. Star charts cover most of the walls, and the names of various cities are etched around the top.
I sit on a seat on the platform, and eat my lunch.
While I’m eating, an elderly couple wander up and start talking about the design. I ask them if it’s supposed to represent a sexton. They ask me to repeat the word “sexton” several times, and then say they’re not sure.
After they leave, I realise I meant a sextant, not a sexton. No wonder they looked confused.
The platform gives a good view looking back up The Haven, to Boston Stump. Shame about the pylons, which detract from the majesty of that tower.
I think how Boston was once the place that people left, hoping to make a new life in a strange country. Now it’s the place where Eastern Europeans arrive, hoping to make a new life in a strange country.
To be continued…
Route so far this morning: