449a Freiston Shore to Friskney

[This walk took place on the 11th July 2021]

I leave my Scooty bike chained up against a fence in the car park at Freiston Shore. It’s nearly midday already

It took me some time to find somewhere for breakfast, then I had drive further up the coast and find a place to park and, after that, I had a convulted cycle ride along minor roads – stopping to check my Garmin regularly – to get here.

But at least I’m familiar with this car park, because I was here yesterday. Full of confidence, I stride down the footpath towards the sea, walking past a bird hide…

…safely past a field of cows, until I climb up onto the sea bank.

I’m nowhere near the sea, of course. From the bank I look out over a large expanse of grass and marshland. At least the path on the top of the bank is nice and clear.

There air is clear this morning too. Out there, beyond the edge of the marsh, is The Wash and, on the other side, is a line of higher ground. I must be looking at – I briefly check my map – the north Norfolk coast and Hunstanton.

I’m unable to make out any details, but I take a photo of that distant line of sea and land.

After walking for a mile or so along the bank, I come to a place where the wall has been breached. This is a surprise, because I was expecting to walk all the way up the coast for many miles along this footpath.

At first, I think I’ll simply wade across the inlet…

…but the ground is very slippery and, as I get closer to the water, the mud coats my boots and grips my feet with unnerving suction. Each step becomes an effort, and my boots sink deeper into the gloop.

Oh dear. Is there another way around? I’m sinking in mud and I daren’t stand still, so I slip and slide back to the bank, where I pull out my map.

If only I’d looked at my map to start with! The footpath doesn’t run this way at all, but follows an inner bank. I’ve come the wrong way.

The proper path curves around on a raised bank that encloses the inner side of an elongated, rectangular area of marsh. I draw level with the point where, on the far side, the sea wall has been breached. You can see the definite gap.

Must have been deliberate, and I guess done to extend the marsh for the benefit of sea birds and migrating birds. Hmmph. There’s already acres and acres of unwalkable marsh around the Wash. And I can’t see any birds out there anyway.

What about us coastal walkers? Nobody ever thinks of us!

I’ve wasted an hour. It’s nearly 1pm. On the other side of the marsh is another car park, accessed via a narrow roadway. I was hoping to find a bench here, but there’s no sign of one, so I sit on the stile and eat my lunch.

A couple get out of their car and give me a friendly wave. They pull a hamper out of they boot. Oh, they’re off to have a picnic too.

I watch them make their way along the bank that leads to the outer edge of the marsh.

I wonder if I should follow them and try to continue along the outer bank? I’m past the breach now. But who knows what further obstruction I might find?

While I’m eating, the skies get darker, and it feels like rain. I decide to stick with this footpath along the inner bank, which continues on the other side of the car park.

I walk past a row of three WW2 pill boxes. Although they’re a common sight around the coast, I’ve not seen them situated so close together before.

I guess this is one of the likely places where the German army could have come ashore, if they’d decided to launch a ground invasion, in WW2. Although, I think our best defence wouldn’t have been a handful of soldiers defending the bank from these boxes, but the boot-trapping, tank-swamping efforts of the marsh itself.

A track appears on my right, lined with a beautiful row of sycamore trees. The track looks like easy walking, and is tempting, but I decide to stick to the proper public footpath – which continues straight on along the top of the bank.

I’m heading towards another pill box. But the path is invisible on the ground. Worse still, I come across cow pats – yes, they look reasonably old, but where are the cows?

Here’s a gate that doesn’t open, and a stile – in such an atrocious condition I don’t dare put my weight on it. The grass on the other side is several feet high.

I place my feet on some of the wider supports and pull myself up. But I only get as far as straddling the fence, before I decide I’ve had enough. No path, unusable stiles, and the threat of cows ahead… I turn back and return to the start of the track. From now on, I’m going to choose the easy way!

With firm ground under my feet, I can make speedy progress. And I really enjoy this part of the walk, despite the incredibly boring views. The marsh on my right has been replaced by miles, and miles, of vast arable fields. Do we really need so many cabbages?

Further along, and I spot the cows. Yes, they’re sitting on the bank, right in the middle of the public footpath. And they have a lot of teeny, weeny calves with them.

I’m glad I turned back. Wouldn’t have wanted to try to walk through this cattle nursery.

Onwards. Along the track. There’s a constant clack-clack noise from the sycamore trees, marking my progress like a rollling percussion orchestra, caused by startled pigeons rising from the branches.

I walk past another pill box. The field of cattle on my left is replaced by a field of horses. the cabbages on my right are replaced by a waving field of wheat.

Under darkening skies, I come to the end of the sycamore trees, but the track continues on. And on.

After three miles, I finally reach the point where the track curves round and rises over the bank. The bend is marked by a cylindrical green tank – a water bowser, I think.

Here, on top of the bank, is a large stone with something engraved on it. I climb over a stile, and take a closer look. It’s a memorial stone to John and Dulcie Saul.

[Later, a brief search of the internet, reveals that John Saul was probably a local farmer, leaving behind an eponymous company which now farms 3,000 acres around Leverton and Friskney. In fact, I would imagine they farm all the land I can see around me at this point on my walk.]

The track leads inland, running between enormous fields.

But I’m carrying straight on along the bank. Over this stile.

The grass over here looks well-cropped. I worry about meeting cows, but instead I meet a group of horses. Oh, how lovely. And with young foals too.

I stop and take photographs. There is something so wonderfully endearing about baby animals.

I think of my own daughters. You never stop worrying about them, even when they’re grown up, but I have plenty of reasons to worry at the moment. My eldest is waiting for her urgent appointment for a dodgy mole – which I’m convinced is a malignant melanoma. Meanwhile, my youngest is undergoing a battering six months of chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Life can seem very unfair sometimes. And seems much too short.

Onwards. I’m nearing a pumping station, where someone has driven up the access road and parked their red car on the top of the bank. Can’t see anybody around.

A sign against the marsh fence tells me this area is reserved for the South Lincs Wildfowlers Club. “Private Shooting”. Maybe the man who drove here in his red car is out there on the marsh, somewhere, with a shotgun.

The pumping station has a new-looking sign, telling me this is the Wrangle Sea Bank, and this flood-defence was partly funded by the EU. Why would you use EU funds to protect hundreds of acres of a private farmland? No idea.

Beyond the pumping station, I pass through a gate, and continue along the bank.

The sky over The Wash is dark, and a line of grey mist suggests rain is falling over the water. But, luckily, it’s still dry here.

I keep an eye out for wild fowlers with shotguns, but instead I see a man in a white suit. Because of Covid, my immediate reaction is “What is a man in a Hazmat suit doing out here?” Oh, no, silly me. It’s a bee keeper.

The bank continues, in a series of gentle curves. The land to my left does look as if there’s been recent construction going on. Maybe they’ve been deepening or widening the drainage ditch?

A mile or so further and the bank makes a sharp V turn inland. This gives me a clear view of the terrain ahead and – uh, oh – cows.

They’re across the top of the bank, and along the slopes on either side. I really do hate walking near cattle, and this group looks as though it might include bullocks too. What am I going to do now?

[To be continued…]

Route so far today:

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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15 Responses to 449a Freiston Shore to Friskney

  1. Chris Elliott says:

    Hi Ruth – I think the construction you saw was of the bank you were walking. In 2019 I could not walk on the bank near Wrangle as it was new and re-sown. Obviously 2 years later the grass has grown but all the ditches and ponds they dug for spoil for the bank look new. In 2019 there were signs saying not to walk the bank for 18 months. You were obviously well beyond that. Glad for you as walking the fields back then was a nightmare!!! All best.

  2. jcombe says:

    I think the bit of coast between Kings Lynn and Skegness must be the dullest on the whole coast! I did still enjoy it, but I do remember it as something of a slog at times.

    • jcombe says:

      Sorry to hear the worrying news about your daughters. Cancer is horrible and I hope she makes a full recovery. Ditto if the mole turns out to be serious too.

      • Pleased to report that my eldest daughter has since had her clinic appointment and it is benign. Such a relief. I’m sure I over reacted because of my youngest daughter’s breast cancer. She wasted time before referral because her GP couldn’t believe someone so young could have a malignant lump and wanted to review her after 3 weeks. I was seething afterwards at the thought of those wasted weeks, and I didn’t want my oldest daughter to be similarly delayed.

  3. Alice F says:

    Hi Ruth, nice to read your experience of our neck of the woods. The breaches you describe are part of the flood defences, not for the farmland but for the towns and villages in the area. The idea being that if the water is allowed to spread out over a large area it won’t go so high. Building higher and higher banks won’t work. Its like corsetry, if you squeeze something in one area it will just spill out elsewhere.

  4. Jean says:

    I enjoy your blog, I’m sorry to read the worrying news about your daughters. I do hope the daughter receiving chemotherapy recovers completely. I also hope the mole is not malignant. It is devastating when children are ill. I’m sending good wishes.

    • 2021 has not been a kind year. The mole WAS benign, although at the time of this walk I didn’t know that and was very worried. My youngest girl is still undergoing treatment and we hope for the best. Thank you for your good wishes.

  5. Chris Elliott says:

    Hi Ruth – just had a further thought on Walking Lincolnshire. I believe at the last election the Conservatives (I am not one!) had the creation of the English Coastal Path in their manifesto. Some counties have progressed quite well. I think it was Cumbria that had a lot of signs for the ECP. You would think withe creation of this path on the agenda that Lincolnshire might be doing some preparatiry work? For example what on earth are they going to do at Gibralter Point? They are going to have to build a new bridge. I saw absolutely nothing about the ECP in Lincolnshire. Pity as it might have made the walking easier!!!

    • I always thought the 2020 deadline for completion of the whole ECP was wildly optimistic. They blame Covid and an EU directive for the delay, but it was clear most of the sections being completed were the easy sections. In Lincolnshire, the ECP is only open between Skegness and Mablethorpe, which turns out to be completely superfluous as you can simply walk along the beach between the two anyway!

  6. Pam Ley says:

    Oh Ruth I’m so sorry re your 2 daughters problems. Wishing the best for them both, (and for their worried mum). Xx You’ve certainly had a grotty couple of years! Thank goodness you’re continuing with this journey, and hopefully the sea will soon become more visible as well, giving the chance to lift the spirits again. Incidentally I think changing your finish point, albeit through Covid reasons rather than choice, has been a wise move. This wouldn’t have been the nicest sections after such amazing scenery.

    • Yes, I’m glad I decided to walk “backwards”, Pam. As I’ve mentioned to the commentators above, my eldest daughter is fine, thank you. In retrospect I overreacted completely, but when the unthinkable happens to your youngest daughter… I guess I can be forgiven for expecting the worst.

  7. Karen White says:

    Thank goodness for the good news about your daughter’s mole, and very best wishes to your other daughter for successful treatment.

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