[This walk was completed on the 10th July 2021]
I finish my lunch, and leave the blue viewing platform. One last look back at Boston…
… and now I’m heading eastwards along the bank towards the mouth of the Haven. I pass a white house which nestles up against the bank.
A sign outside says “Old Jolly Sailors”, so I assume this was once an old inn, probably catering to shipping using The Haven, either on the way up to Boston, or simply mooring on the river while taking shelter from the winds and tides of The Wash.
Well, it’s a shame it’s not a pub now, although it does make a rather nice private house. the garden is neat and well kept, complete with a small cannon (a replica, I presume) and a statue of a naked lady.
Just beyond the white house is a pumping station. A serious one, with four huge pipes which emerge on the bank, and then bury themselves under the earth as they tunnel through the bank to the marsh.
I wonder if they are carrying water, or something else. They seem very robust.
Onwards, along the path, following The Haven.
The path swerves inland, and crosses over a wide dyke – the Hobhole Drain, says my map – via a very ugly bridge, which sits alongside another extensive pumping station. Here, I’m passed by a cyclist.
Beyond the bridge, the path curves back towards the river.
On the other side of the river is a line of trees. I recognise this avenue from yesterday, when I nearly ended up walking 1.5 miles eastwards to the mouth of The Haven, instead of heading northwards to Boston. Today, a cyclist is pedalling back from the mouth of the river, with rucksack on his back and a selection of fishing rods.
I wonder if he caught anything.
Soon, I come to a couple of buildings, where a lane – Cut End Road – ends in a little car park. I have a number of options for the next part of my route, but from this point onwards the river path looks very overgrown. So, I decide to cut out the loop of overgrown bank, and walk down this lane instead.
At the entrance of the little car park is a sign saying “No fly tipping” and warning of CCTV surveillance. I think this is a little over the top…
…until I peer into the parking area and see someone has, in defiance of the sign, dumped a couple of sofas and their associated cushions. Look quite recently dumped too. What a shame!
How disgusting some people are. I hope there really is CCTV here, and they get caught.
A little way down the road, and a footpath sign points me into a ploughed field.
It’s a typical Lincolnshire field. Very, very large. At least the ground is dry, and there are tractor tracks I can follow. Ahead is a group of low buildings. I must be getting near the prison.
Yes, my route takes me close to a place called “North Sea Camp”. It sounds vaguely familiar, and the name suggests it might be an old-fashioned holiday camp, but the additional explanation comes in brackets on my map. (HM Prison)
A deep dyke runs to my right, and beyond that is a bank where I can see footpath signs on a fence. Uh oh. I’ve been so busy following the tracks – which provide a flattish surface for my tired feet – that I failed to notice I’ve deviated from the footpath.
There’s no way over the water-filled ditch, so I retrace my steps back to where the dyke begins. Here, the official footpath runs through tall grass along the top of the bank, but is too overgrown to tackle, so I stumble along the edge of another ploughed field.
At the end of the field, I can climb onto the bank, where there are, indeed, footpath signs. Soon, the bank swings rounds in a curve and I realise I’m heading towards the prison.
My OS map shows the footpath going straight through the prison, but I assumed this was some sort of mistake.
On the bank, there’s a gaggle of dodgy characters guarding the path. Shoo, sheep, shoo.
They walk ahead of me, forming an escort, until I reach a fence and a stile.
Yes, this path really does go through the prison. On the fence, a yellow footpath arrow points straight ahead. I step up onto the stile.
“Excuse me miss,” calls a voice from my left. A group of men are standing behind a tall green fence, in a yard outside one of the buildings. “Have you got a mobile phone?”
I realise the men are inmates of the prison and, for a second, I think the they want to use my phone to make illicit phone calls. But they’re only trying to help.
“Phone the number on the board, miss, and they’ll send someone to escort you through.”
I look on the board and yes, in small writing at the bottom, it does ask walkers to ring a number if they require escorting through.
I’m not sure if I do “require escorting through”, because it sounds like an optional extra service, and one I might not need. As I stand there dithering, one of the men calls out.
“You have a right to walk on that path, miss. It’s a public thoroughfare.”
He means a public right-of-way, of course. I shrug my rucksack off my back and rummage through its contents, looking for my phone. By now, quite a group have gathered behind the fence to see what I’m up to. I pull out my waterbottles, my lunch box, my waterproofs, my bottle of suntan lotion, and the kitchen sink. My phone is, of course, somewhere near the bottom of my pack.
I expect the man on the end of the phone to be resentful, but he sounds excited by the prospect of organising an escort. Someone will be with me shortly.
“He’s coming, miss.” The prisoners can see further down the path than I can. “He’s taking his time. Out of breath, miss.” They all laugh.
The unfortunate escort soon arrives. He’s a bulky prison officer, and he is slightly out of breath, but very friendly.
So, I get escorted through the prison – which consists of a large number of scattered buildings – following the officer as we both stumble along the overgrown path. It follows a raised bank, and this makes us highly visible to the many prisoners who are outside in the afternoon sunshine. Several call out and wave at us. The guard returns friendly greetings, and seems to know most of the prisoners by name. I’m keenly aware of being watched, but I feel quite safe, and have to resist the urge to smile and wave back at the men.
It’s a sleepy Saturday afternon, and I get the impression I’m the afternoon’s entertainment.
“They seem very jolly,” I say. “They’re on their best behaviour,” my escort explains. “It’s an open prison, you see, and they don’t want to be sent to a more secure unit and get locked up again.”
I comment on the tall fences I saw earlier.
“Oh, that’s just to protect those huts by the path,” he says. “We’ve had problems with the paparazzi in the past. They keep breaking in. Jeffrey Archer used to be a prisoner in that first hut, you know.”
Ah, that’s where I’ve heard the name “North Sea Camp” before. Yes, Jeffrey Archer, the disgraced politician, peer, and author, who won a libel case against a newspaper, but was later proven to have lied in court in order to win the case.
It’s ironic that the tallest fences in this open prison are to keep people OUT!
I also seem to remember a local scandal when Jeffrey Archer went out for a meal in Lincoln with some of his prison officers. I don’t mention this, of course, although my escort explains he wasn’t here during the Jeffrey Archer days. Before his time.
After taking me past the buildings, my escort is even more out of breath. The path deteriorates, becoming an uneven stumble through tall grasses. The officer decides it’s safe to let me find my own way out. Just follow the path, and get to the nature reserve. Then you’ll be fine, he tells me.
I follow the path, and end up rather lost, before I see a fence with some intimidating notices, climb over…
… and get onto a track. More signs warn me I’m leaving the prison – and I mustn’t do that without permission. Ah well, I have permission. Onwards.
The public footpath actually runs along a raised bank to the left of the path, but is far too overgrown to follow. I keep to the track, which I hope is heading towards the nature reserve, and won’t doubleback to the prison again.
To my right, across fields, is the sea bank. I would have liked to walk over there, but a barbed wire fence stands in the way. When I do come across a gate in the fence, it has PRIVATE signs.
On the bank above the track is a concrete lookout post. Nothing to do with the prison, I’m sure. Just an old pillbox from WW2.
My track continues across the low-lying ground. Ahead are buildings. Good. I really have escaped from the prison, because that must be the village of Freiston Shore.
Freiston Shore is also the name of a large nature reserve on the edge of the Wash. I haven’t seen any signs saying I’m in the reserve – presumably because few people approach it from the direction of the prison – but I must be the reserve now. Here’s a path to a bird hide.
Another concrete building looms above me. Is this left over from WW2, as well? A lookout post?
A group of women and children are on the path ahead of me. They spend time beside the fence, before moving on. I think they must be looking at a rare bird but, when I get to the same spot, I realise they’ve been petting a group of young bullocks.
The bullocks stand right up against a gate, looking friendly. I really don’t like cattle, but these ones are quite cute.
Another concrete building. Some sort of shelter, with benches inside. Can’t work out if it’s another WW2 relic, or a newer construction.
My track has served me well and provided a couple of miles of easy walking. Now, I see I’ve nearly reached the end. And, I’ve nearly caught up with the group of people ahead of me, who’ve just passed through a gate.
I follow them, up into the car park at Freiston Shore. There’s my faithful van (aka The Beast) waiting for me. I had to pay the huge sum of £1 to park here for the day, which I thought was a bargain.
The Beast was the only vehicle in the car park when I arrived this morning. My hotel – which is really just a pub with rooms – isn’t providing breakfast because of COVID. They recommended some local cafes, but none seem to open before 10am. So I drove here, brewed up a cup of coffee in my van, and ate a croissant for breakfast, before setting off back to Boston on my bike.
Prisons visited = 1
Walked today = 8.5 miles
Total around coastline = 4,582 miles
Route (morning in black, afternoon in red)