[This walk was completed on the 12th July 2021]
Well, England didn’t win the Euro2020 cup. We lost on penalties, again. Such bad luck.
Bad luck was going to stalk me for a couple of days. But I didn’t know that, when I returned to Friskney Flats and cycled up to the end of Sea Lane, to take a better look at the mysterious tower.
I’m interested in people who live in towers, because I’ve been living in a windmill on Anglesey. But this tower is weird, and I can’t decide if it’s now a private house, or is still being used by the military. The exterior is far from appealing, with high fences, barbed wire, security lights, a collection of ugly outhouses and, of course, the plane parked on the artificial lawn.
In the end, I decide the place been bought by an eccentric millionaire with a passion for planes and military equipment. A loner, and almost certainly unmarried, because few people would feel comfortable in such an inhospitable-looking place. Needs a proper garden. Get rid of some of the worst of the outhouses. And I would paint the exerior white.
As I am standing taking photographs, my bike slips, and a pedal catches the back of my calf as it falls. I’m riding my ebike, Scooty, today, which weighs over 20kg – so this is quite painful. I pull the bike up, cursing myself for being so careless. Bet I have a bruise tomorrow.
Cycling back down the road, I am more concerned about the weather. In the flatness of the fens, you can see rain clouds rolling in from miles away, and those ones look ominous.
I chain my bike up against a barrier – one that looks as if it hasn’t been moved for months, judging by the height of the weeds growing around it.
While I’m doing this, I feel something trickling down the back of my leg. Realise what it must be even before I pull up my trouser leg to take a look. Yep. That pedal has taken a chunk out of the back of my calf and it is bleeding. Quite a lot.
I press with a tissue to stem the flood, and clean myself up as best as I can. Luckily I’m wearing dark trousers, and the stains aren’t too visible. Then, I hunt through my rucksack and find the only first-aid equipment I carry – a blister plaster – to patch the wound.
We lost the football, and now I have a bloody leg. Two pieces of bad luck. Good job I’m not superstitious, because if I was I’d know I am due for a third.
I’ve decided to try to walk along the inner sea bank today. It’s not a designated public footpath, but there is a lovely clear track, and I saw someone walking their dog along here yesterday.
The area inland is called “New Marsh” on my map, although it doesn’t seem marshy to me. I look out over miles and miles of fields, where tractors with trailers are busy under a dark sky. Luckily, the rainclouds seem to have missed this part of the coast and are dumping their rain over there.
I’m walking on the inner sea bank, which runs parallel to the outer sea bank. The two banks are separated by an enormous field – a kilometre wide – full of cabbages.
Ahead, I can see a point where tractors are crossing. They pull trailers laden with something, and are dumping it on the seaward side of the bank.
When I get nearer, it looks as though they are dumping muck. Doesn’t smell too bad, so I’m not sure if it is manure, or dredgings from a drain clearance operation.
Sadly, at this point, the way ahead is blocked. Two enormous concrete containers create a barrier. I could walk around them, but the bank beyond is covered shoulder-height in weeds. Nettles. Thistles. The occasional bramble.
I stand and have an internal debate with myself. To continue or not to continue? I don’t have my walking pole with me to thrash the weeds. My calf is injured. Even if I get through this section, I have no idea what lies ahead. Could be another dead-end.
Eventually, I decide this is my third stroke of bad luck today. I must turn back and follow the roads into Wainfleet.
It’s a mile back to where my bike is chained to the barrier near the end of Sea Lane. Two miles of wasted walking!
I head down Sea Lane. Past a pair of semi-detached houses on my left, with the name “Coastguard Cottage” on the wall. Past an older house on my right with the name “Coastguard Cottage” on a post, above which someone has added another sign that hangs at a jaunty angle. “Old”.
Battle of the names. I wonder if the two sets of neighbours get on with each other?
Onwards, down Sea Lane, past more fields of cabbages. Now, cabbage isn’t my favourite vegetable (I’m still scarred from eating overcooked cabbage at school and in the hospital canteen!) but someone must be eating all these vegetables.
This field is being picked. I’m always amazed at the ingenuity of farm machinery. Here a special conveyer belt holds a chain of yellow cups, into which the cabbages are placed before being transported into the covered trailer at the rear. Somebody has to pick the cabbages, of course. And here they come.
The workers are wearing orange high-vis jackets which, from a distance, reminds me of a prison chain gang. They all seem cheerful. A mixed bunch of men and women, laughing and chatting in an Eastern European language. They carry fierce knives in their hands.
It’s a mile along Sea Lane to the main road, with scattered houses lining the lane, growing in number as I reach the end.
There is a pub on the corner. The Barley Mow. A sign in the window says “Sorry, we are closed.” I’m not sure if they’re just closed until the evening, or if they’re permanently shut.
Covid has been tough, especially for pubs. First a dramatic loss of business during lockdown and, now they’re allowed to open, a continuing lack of customers due to social distancing and people keeping away due to fear of disease. Like me. I’m not sure how many pubs will survive this.
I’ve reached the A52, a busy road running between Boston and Skegness. There are no pavements, an unkempt verge, and far too much traffic to risk walking along the gutter.
So I cross straight over the A52 and continue down the lane (which now becomes Eau Dike Road). At the first opportunity I will turn right – here, at Sickling Lane – and now I can walk the back roads into Wainfleet.
I know the way, because I cycled along here this morning. It’s such a pretty area, with winding lanes, farms, the odd isolated house.
The winding roads are unusual in the fens, where everything tends to be laid out in a grid system along dead-straight drainage dykes. So this is very pleasant.
I see a T junction ahead, where Sickling Lane joins another road – Low Road.
Low Road will take me all the way into Wainfleet, where my van (aka the Beast) is parked. I should point out that there is a proper public footpath that I could have followed to Wainfleet. This footpath runs parallel with Low Road – somewhere there, across the field, where more people in high-vis vests are working.
The trouble is, I don’t trust the footpaths in Lincolnshire anymore. It’s mid July and they are often overgrown. Or I might have to traipse across an endless ploughed field, which is very unpleasant if the ground is soft.
Anyway, I’ve decided to stick to the road. A cyclist whizzes past me, and I remember my Scooty bike and wish I’d decided to cycle the coast instead of walking it…
…but the moment passes. Walking is really the best way to travel. You get more time to SEE things, like this beautiful garden with its display of cheerful flowers in front of a very ordinary brick house.
The fields give way to more houses. I must be approaching Wainfleet.
Here’s an interesting little hexagonal building. The notice board outside says “Wainfleet St Mary’s Parish Council”, alongside another sign that says “N, Ducks crossing road”.
The “N” looks odd, until I realise the rest of the word has peeled off. It should read “CAUTION.”
Anyway, what a nice building to hold your parish council meetings in. Although a bit small… oh silly me. The “Parish Council” sign probably just refers to the notice board.
I pass mums with pushchairs, and children in tow. The schools are out. More houses. Now, here is Wainfleet with… a windmill!
I cross over the Steeping River, via a bridge, and discover the windmill is part of Bateman’s Brewery. I think you can look round it, but I keep walking, past a church, and then past Wainfleet Station and over a railway crossing.
Hang on. A railway crossing? I don’t remember cycling over one on my way here, and that really is the sort of thing you remember on a bike. Bumpety-bump.
There is a bench outside the church, and I sit down, shrug off my rucksack, and consult my map. Oh, yes. This is Wainfleet All Saints, and I’m actually parked in Wainfleet St Mary’s, which is a small area further down the road on the other side of the river.
Silly me! Forgetting where I’d parked. A little-old-lady moment.
A rough road leads down beside the church, past a warehouse, where I spot something in the open doorway. Is is… yes, it is… a full suit of armour. Of course, I go down the road to get a better look.
This turns out to be the Riverside Salvage and Reclamation depot. A fascinating looking place. I resist the urge to go in and poke around, and carry on down the road, which I think must swing round and follow the river back to the bridge. Yes, it does
It’s a pleasant walk back up to the bridge, which I cross over, and begin heading back down the other side towards Wainfleet St Mary’s. There’s a lovely thatched cottage on the other side, which I must have walked past a few minutes earlier without noticing.
The Steeping River is also called Wainfleet Haven at this point. Not the first river I’ve met with two names. [Later I find out, Wainfleet Haven was once an important harbour in the middle ages but, like a number of other old ports on the east coast, the harbour disappeared when the river silted up and Wainfleet Haven lost its shipping route to the sea.]
Someone has planted some lovely roses beside the road. An act of altruism, because the roses can’t be seen from inside the house – due to the high wall.
I reach Wainfleet St Mary’s, which is basically just a few side roads running close to the A52. My lovely Beast is parked just here, along Toft Close.
I take my boots off to change into shoes more suitable for driving. And discover I’m wearing odd socks. It’s my second little-old-lady moment of the day.
I stop at a corner shop on the way back to Boston and, just as I’m handing over my card to pay for my chocolate, a very loud female voice yells, “RETURN TO THE ROUTE”. The shopkeeper looks startled, and for a second I wonder who is shouting at us.
My Beast doesn’t have satnav, so I’m using my phone. It’s turned to full volume because the Beast is somewhat noisy. I blush and apologise. It’s my third little-old-lady moment of the day.
Bad luck always happen in threes, too, they say. The obstructed route along the inner sea wall was obviously far too minor a set back to count as my third episode of bad luck. That happens the next day when I get home. I heave my Scooty bike out the van and realise he is very muddy, so grab a cloth to wipe him down. I must have caught his stand, because it ratchets up with great force and somehow manages to slice the tip off my thumb. The pain is immense and blood shoots everywhere. I feel quite sick and faint.
After pressing for half an hour, the bleeding slows down. Luckily, I have another blister plaster handy, and follow this up with a huge wad of gauze dressing. A few days later, my youngest daughter bandages it properly for me. Ten days later, I snap a photo of the healing thumb, which is now hypersensitive and feels like it is encased in a block of ice.
More than 2 months after the injury, my thumb looks completely better, but the tip is still numb. I’m not sure it will ever recover fully.
It’s taken me some time, but I have forgiven Scooty. It really wasn’t his fault.
Friskney Tower doesn’t belong to an eccentric, loner, millionaire after all, but, as David Cotton pointed out on a previous blog, is available for holiday lets.
The Barlow Mor pub remains open, thank goodness. But is closed on Monday, the day I walked past.
Miles walked today = 7 miles, but two in the wrong direction
Total around coast = 4,601 miles