[This walk was completed on the 18th August 2021]
I follow the track from the car park. It runs southwards towards Gibraltar Point along the edge of a wide area of vegetated dunes. Once upon a time, the sea would have probably reached this point.
But, now, the water is some way away… across a hundred yards or so of waving grasses, where I can see a family crossing the last ridge of dunes and heading towards the beach.
I realise I’ve rarely walked the coast in August, because I usually prefer walking in the spring or early autumn, when accommodation is cheaper and easier to find. The summer flowers are fading, although I can’t resist stopping to take photographs of flower heads – some well past their best blooms.
I wish I knew more about the names of plants. This one has delicate pink/lilac colour flowers.
And I spot a busy fly, feasting on this bright yellow flower. Fly? Or is it a wasp? Or a type of bee?
About a mile after leaving the car park, I come to an information board, half hidden in the bushes. “Gibraltar Point. National Nature Reserve.” I must be nearly there.
Another sign is fixed to a nearby post, standing sentinel on the path itself.
I continue onwards, along the edge of the dunes. The land flattens out, and the path becomes harder to trace through clumps of grass and patches of scrubby bush.
This morning, I spoke to a fellow guest in my B&B, over breakfast. He told me he’d tried to walk to Gibraltar Point yesterday, but reached a stream that he couldn’t easily get over. He wasn’t wearing walking boots and, fearful of the sticky mud, had turned back.
Is this the place he turned back? Although the stream looks easy to cross, the muddy banks on either side are treacherous. It’s the sort of mud that appears to lie in a thin layer on the surface, but turns out to be deep enough to grip your feet and swallow your boots.
I backtrack to find an easier crossing place, and then follow the bank of the little stream – working my way carefully across mud and through weeds – until I pick up a clear path.
I thought I was nearly there. But there is still some way to go.
After another mile, or so, the path runs closer to the shore. The tide is out, and I can see several layers of sandbanks, a grey line of sea, and a host of silent wind turbines further out in the water.
Continuing parallel to the shoreline, I reach the banks of a tidal creek. There are people walking in the distance, along a raised spit of land. The first people I’ve seen for some time.
I check my map, and realise I’m approaching a viewpoint. This is it! Gibraltar Point. At last! Quickly, I make my way along the edge of the creek, until I reach the raised area of land.
Sadly, it turns out to be a bit of a disappointment.
I’m not at the Point itself, which is some way further along the sand. But, this is as far as I can go. The rest of the beach is cordoned off, because it’s a “Shorebird Sanctuary” – a nesting area for Little Terns.
I stare across the Wash and try to make out features on the opposite shore. There is Hunstanton over there, and Heacham, and Snettisham. That’s the route I followed on my first ever coastal walk, 11 years ago! But the far shore is too distant, and the air too hazy, for me to make out any landmarks.
Feeling a little despondent, I turn away from the beach, and follow the path inland. It’s a crowded route, with families returning from the viewpoint.
The path leads to a car park, and a Visitor’s Centre. I check my watch. Nearly 2pm. Excellent timing for lunch.
Stopping at the Visitor’s Centre for lunch turns into a mistake. I queue for 40 minutes and, when I get my food, find there is nowhere to sit. (That’s one of the downsides of eating alone. You can’t “bag” a table while queuing for food!) It is too cold and windy to eat outside, so I stand against the wall with my tray and glower at a group of four people who have long since finished their coffee and are chatting. They seem completely oblivious to the fact the place is crowded and people like me are desparate for tables.
Eventually, another couple finish their coffee and move on, and I grab their table. Standing for 50 minutes is always more tiring than walking for 50 minutes, I don’t know why. So, by now, I feel quite exhausted and in a bad mood. Also, my food is quite cold.
After lunch, I walk further along the track, hoping I can get to the end of Gibraltar Point itself. This must be Wainfleet River. Near its mouth, which also doubles as a marina, its banks are lined with an eclectic mix of smart yachts and decrepid fishing boats.
The track ends at a viewing station. A lady inside is busy spotting birds, or something, through her binoculars.
Beyond the viewing station, the marsh continues. Low-lying land intercut by tidal channels. I can’t see the end of it. Can’t see where the land ends and The Wash begins.
I would have liked to walk further, but I’ve run out of track, and a sign tells me to “Keep off the Marsh”.
Oh well. This is clearly as close to the end of Gibraltar Point as I am going to get. Time for a self-portrait.
I return past the viewing station, past the marina and the Visitor’s Centre, and walk back through the car park. There are several walking routes through the nature reserve, and I decide to take a different path back to Skegness.
I begin to feel better. After days of apparently getting nowhere, I’ve finally achieved my mission and reached Gibraltar Point – well, as close as I’ll ever get to the point itself. Now, I have plenty of time to stop and take photographs of flowers – and of the butterflies which seem to be going crazy in the watery sunshine this afternoon.
Some, like this cabbage white, refuse to stay still long enough for a decent photograph…
…while others pose obligingly. A lovely small tortoiseshell.
I walk past pools of water, past bird hides, past families strung out along the path, and reach the road. I take another walking route on the other side of the road, past more lakes and bird hides. A group of cormorants (one of the few species of seabird that I can actually recognise!) look weirdly out of place here, for some reason.
Back on the road, I head northwards towards Skegness. It’s the only road in and out of Gibraltar Point, so I can’t go wrong or get lost again.
I pass the beginning of the Seacroft Golf Course…
…and stop by the sign at the end of a road. What a wide, and inviting, stretch of tarmac. This must be the end of the private road – that one I turned back from – which begins a mile or so after Havenhouse Station and ends up here.
Oh, well. Too late to ruminate over the choice I made to turn back. I may have taken the long route round (the MUCH longer route round!) but I’m here now.
Onwards. Past an open field with planning permission for new houses. The sign promises “Stunning views of the coast and The Wolds”. Hmmm. Yes, it would be possible to see the coast, I assume, from the top floor of these proposed houses, but The Wolds are a faint ridge on the distant horizon. The designs look stunning though. Yes, I could live in one of those.
I fantasise for a few moment about living on the edge of the Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve. But, I have a perfectly nice place to live – a lovely windmill on Anglesey – so I’m not in the market for a new build.
Further along the road are some rather fine, and more traditional-looking, houses. These also look like nice places to live. And expensive, I’m sure.
A footpath strikes off to the right, across the golf course. I climb the stile, and make my way cautiously across the fairways.
On the other side of the golf course, the footpath crosses a field. Oh – something moves – it’s a deer! I swing my camera up and take a shaky shot, before the deer realises I’m there and bounds off into the bushes.
I cross the open field and follow the path through the bushes, where I find a familiar noticeboard. Oh, yes, I passed this earlier.
I’m back on the strip of vegetated dunes. This time, instead of following the track, I make my way across the dunes and up the final ridge…
…onto the beach. There’s Skegness, only a mile away. I’ve nearly finished my walk.
I have found Skegness to be a busy place, full of fast food outlets and rowdy people. But, the beach really is lovely.
It’s taken me a long time to get here, and the past few days of walking have been particularly frustrating – too many blocked routes, private roads, and overgrown paths.
Tomorrow, I will be walking along the England Coast Path – the only stretch to be completed, so far, in Lincolnshire – which runs from Skegness to Mablethorpe. A proper coast path! I can’t wait.
Miles walked today = 12 miles
Total distance around coast = 4,620 miles
Route (morning in black, afternoon in red):