455b Saltfleet to Donna Nook

[This walk was completed on the 8th September, 2021]

I’ve reached a dead end. In front of me, the sea wall continues, but apparently there is no way through to Donna Nook.

To my right, a track leads towards the sea. But this is MOD property and there is no access when the red flags are flying. I can’t pretend I haven’t seen the red flags.

To my left, a farm track stretches across an endless Lincolnshire field. Where does it lead? I don’t know, but a sign says it’s a private track and there is no right-of-way.

I sit down on the bank and do what I usually do when I don’t know what to do. I have a snack. Then I make use of a gate post and take a self-portrait with the timer on my camera.

Finally, I decide I have no choice. I’ll have to back-track and find another way off the sea bank and to Donna Nook.

On the way back, I pass a couple who’ve come to see the seals. I explain the red flags are flying and they can’t get to the beach. They look very disappointed.

After a mile or so, I meet a young man with a light pack and walking boots. A proper hiker. I tell him the way ahead is blocked, but he just grins and says he’s not afraid to trespass, and I can come with him if I want. This is very kind, but I decide against it. Firstly, I’ve already walked back a mile, and if we’re turned around by some irate farmer, I will add even more unnecessary miles to today’s walk. Secondly, he is a good foot taller than me and, I’m sure, will walk twice as fast as I can.

There is no way off the bank – only more private tracks with barriers. So, I plod all the way back to the car park with the unlikely name of Howden’s Pullover, and from here I follow the track towards what I assume is the main road.

On the way, I pass an airfield where a couple of helicopters are parked up.

After 1/2 mile, I reach the main road. The A1031. It’s not particularly busy, but busy enough to make walking along the verge an unnerving experience.

I pass several holiday camps. This one is sheltered in a pine forest, and looks quite attractive in the sunlight.

A sign tells me I’m entering North Somercotes.

These giant metal balls wouldn’t look out of place at the entrance to some high-tec industrial estate – but in fact this is another holiday park.

Peering through fences, and Lakeside Park looks actually very nice, with lodges arranged around a pretty lake, and lots of trees.

I reach the village of North Somercotes just as the school has broken up for the day. There are mums with pushchairs, and father’s tugging the hands of reluctant toddlers, and excited children running around with school bags. I’m glad those days are over for me, but it’s nice to see children out in the street, and I don’t mind the crowded pavements.

It’s hot, and I’ve walked further than I intended and I’m running low on water. So I decide to buy a drink from the local shop. Somercote Stores.

This is a stressful experience in COVID times, as it involves finding my face mask – which must be somewhere in one of my many pockets? No. It’s at the bottom of my rucksack, of course. And the shop is crowded with children buying after-school snacks, so social distancing becomes a tricky dance.

It’s worth it. I sit on a bench and enjoy a rest and a cold drink, while watching the last of the schoolchildren make their way home.

I turn off the main road, heading back towards the coast and Donna Nook. On the way through the village, I pass a house where they have some unusual hanging baskets. A couple of very patriotic cycling helmets.

A PO van passes me, and the postman leaps out to deliver letters to one of the houses, and gives me a friendly wave.

Love PO vans. They’re a reminder that we’re all connected through a shared network of roads and services, even when you’re trekking miles from anywhere, such as in the wilds of Scotland. In fact, there was a time when you could hitch a lift with “the postie”, for a small fee, in the more remote areas. Sadly, this sensible arrangement seems to have come to an end and I’ve never been able to experience a ride in a postbus.

I turn right along Marsh Lane. Try not to feel too resentful at these extra miles of road-walking. At least it’s a nice day.

That’s an interesting wind vane. At first I think it’s a farmer with a huge scythe. Then I think it might be the Grim Reaper. Only later, looking at this photo again, do I decide it probably represents Father Time.

The road ahead is blocked. This isn’t a surprise, because I’ve already experience this diversion when I drove here this morning.

I turn right, along another long, straight, fen road.

At this point, I realise I could have cut out three sides of a rectangle (and a lot of road-walking) by following a public footpath across the fields directly from North Somercotes. I was too tired, and dispirited, to look at my map properly. Oh, well. Too late now.

After 1/2 mile or so, at the point where the foot-path-I-didn’t-take joins the road, I make a left turn towards the “Overflow Car Park”. This is down another very long fen road, Donna Nook Road.

If I’d carried straight on, I would have probably reached the end of the private farm track where I came to a dead-end earlier, another path-I-didn’t-take. I wonder if the young hiker made it safely along this forbidden route.

Onwards, along the road, and past a mysterious line of cones. A bit like PO vans, these red and white cones seem to get everywhere.

On my right is an animal sanctuary. The Ark Animal Rescue Centre. The dogs inside must have got a whiff of my presence, because they set up an orchestra of barking and howling.

I speed up, hoping the dogs are all securely locked inside. A faded sign asks me to “Please slow down for the Ark cats.” I realise I must have whizzed past this sign in my van earlier. The letters are too small and too faded to read from a moving vehicle.

Past the animal rescue center, and the road stretches on. Such a beautiful day. I take photos of the telegraph poles, the wild flowers by the side of the road, the…

…endless fields of growing cereal. Oh, a red flag over there – that must be the sea bank I was walking along earlier. That must be the place I came to a dead end. So near, and so far.

Finally, I reach the overflow car park at Donna Nook and spot the reassuring sight of my van – the lovely Beast. This morning the place was crowded with people with cameras, now there are just a couple of dog walkers.

In fact, it’s eerily quiet. No sign of aerial bombardments or any other military activity. So, what’s the point of the red flags? I feel angry about the long and seemingly unnecessary detour I’ve just made.

I sit on the step of the Beast to ease off my walking boots, and a woman of about my age, with two little dogs, comes up and asks if this is the sort of place I would spend the night in my van. I confess I’m actually staying in a B&B but, yes, it is the sort of place you could park-up for the night. The woman explains she is just about to pick up a new campervan, and we get chatting.

She tells me she left her abusive alcoholic husband a few years ago – taking only the dogs and the clothes on her back – and went to live in a refuge. Meanwhile, her husband’s drinking got worse and he became ill. Her family ostracised her when she made the entirely reasonable decision not to return and look after this abusive man. Finally, he died, and she has used the little money she inherited to buy a camper van.

She is excited – and anxious – about the freedom this van will bring her and the adventures she will have. I wish her well, and feel close to tears as she walks off with her dogs.

Three years ago, I left my husband (who I loved very much) after discovering his serial infidelities, and still feel profoundly sad and lonely at times. But this lady’s story made me realise how truly lucky I am. I have my health, a nice house, a good pension, and a loving family who have supported me through all my troubles. My youngest daughter has just completed a course of chemotherapy for breast cancer and has had a staggeringly good result. Life is really rather wonderful!

Miles walked today = 11 miles

Total around coast = 4,654 miles

Route: (first part in black, this section in red)

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 23 Lincolnshire and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to 455b Saltfleet to Donna Nook

  1. Josie Arnold says:

    Hello there, I absolutely love your posts about your walking on the coastal path. You are so brave, fearless and patient! I would have been tearing my hair out with all those dead ends, given up and headed for the nearest cake shop! You mentioned your husband again – and I feel for you.
    Power to your feet and to your fab writing!!!!!
    Best wishes
    Josie Arnold

  2. Rita Bower says:

    I remember those long straight roads that seemed to go on forever & the red flags! I too remember a huge detour! So pleased that the results from your daughter’s chemotherapy are good. And I hope you’re enjoying life in your Anglesey windmill. (Is that right, or is my memory playing tricks?!) I loved walking around Anglesey – seems such a long time ago now – such a beautiful place. Are you living there permanently?

    • Hi Rita. Yes, I have a windmill on Anglesey. Unfortunately recently sustained some storm damage. I divide my time fairly equally now between Manchester and Wales… just can’t settle down in one place, I suppose 😀

  3. Russell White says:

    Good as ever Ruth , but Great news it seems for your daughter- that’s fantastic
    Wishing you and the family all the best – Cheers Russ

  4. Eunice says:

    I know exactly where you were for most of this as I’ve stayed at North Somercotes a few times in the past at Pigeon Cottage, a nice little site with a fishing lake just out of the village. It’s nice to see that The Ark is still there, I almost adopted a little blind rescue dog the last time I was there 🙂

    • Ah, Eunice. I can imagine you wanting to adopt a little blind dog… you have a kind heart! North Somercotes was rather nice, but I was in a bad mood due to the long diversion, so probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have.

  5. Good to hear the news about your daughter. In the middle of the winter season I long for those warm summer days that appear in your photos. It is great to be enticed by them in the midst of the current deluge of gales and storms.

    • Hi Conrad. I think I deliberately put off writing up these posts because it’s a way of prolonging the summer walking trips 😀 The recent storms have been pretty horrendous. Glad you’re OK.

  6. Roger Browne says:

    Great post, Ruth! The first sign says it all, unfortunately. I came across that sign when I walked that stretch.

    But … when it says “Head to front of dunes” it means to the close side of the dunes, not through the MOD land to the seaward side of the dunes. Poorly worded. Anyway, at the base of the dunes there is indeed “continued access towards Donna Nook”. But there’s a catch!

    The dunes have been planted with every type of thorny bush, I think in order to provide a habitat for birds. And many of these thorny bushes have spread to cover parts of the right-of-way. So I emerged three hours later, and only a couple of kilometres onwards, scratched and bloodied. And then, because I had diverged to avoid the worst of the scratches, I emerged on someone’s driveway. But I did emerge at Donna Nook.

    Thanks for the interesting writeups of all your walks. I rarely get around to writing up mine, but in this case I did post my route over at Wikiloc:

    • Hi Roger. Thanks for this info. The signs were very misleading because there was no suggestion of an alternative way but, in retrospect, I’m glad i didn’t try it. The annoying thing is that I’m not sure there was any military activity going on, because I think it had finished. But you can’t risk your life!

  7. 5000milewalk says:

    Oh that sounds like a frustrating set of diversions! I think I would have trespassed like the young man in that instance… using the “It’s Easier to Ask Forgiveness Than It Is To Get Permission” principle. I do feel a little nervous doing it, but in the rare times when I have got caught I’ve ended up with very nice conversations with the landowners, after apologising profusely for my “accidental incompetent map-reading” 😂.

    I’m so glad your daughter’s chemo has been successful, it’s such a brutal thing to have to go through I know, after being so close to it only recently, so to have a good result is such a relief. All the best to her and you.

    • I would have trespassed if the “Private” sign hadn’t been so obvious. The problem with fenland fields is they are surrounded on all sides by water-filled dykes, so it’s obvious there is only one way onto the field, and you can’t claim just to have wandered through by mistake! Yes, my daughter is doing very well and finger’s crossed that she remains in the clear.

  8. Jacquie Butler says:

    Such good news about your daughter. I felt for that woman. I too left an abusive alcoholic husband but by then any love had gone. Leaving someone you love must be worse, I think.
    Donna Nook is amazing in winter when the seals have their pups so close to the path and the big bull seals are rampaging around in anticipation of getting their ‘wicked’ way.
    Do hope your windmill is not too damaged.

    • Hi Jacquie and very sorry to hear about your experience with an alcoholic husband. How awful for you.
      It was a shame not to have been able to visit the beach at Donna Nook. I’ve seen plenty of seals along other parts of the coast – but none in Lincolnshire. Disappointing.

  9. Chris Elliott says:

    Hi Ruth – just for info I was given a lift by a kind Postie on the Mull of Kintyre when I had to abandon my coast walk for the day as the mists had come in and there was zero visibility – not good when walking cliff tops. The kind Postie took me to Maccrihanish and then on to Campbeltown. Later I flagged another Postie down when near Kinlochteacuis to try to get a lift but he was more officious and said it was against the regulations. So you can be lucky. Even though against the rules, some Posties still oblige !!! Glad all is well.

  10. jcombe says:

    What a shame the Army Ranges were in use. I was able to follow the beach and it looks like is so much easier than all the back tracking and road walking you are having to do. I was surprised how tricky this section of coast was to walk in terms of logistics and route finding, I hadn’t expected Lincolnshire to be that hard.

    Glad to hear the news about your daughter and hope you are able to get back up to Scotland this year.

    • This was an immensely frustrating day, Jon, and I really hope they sort out a decent route for the England Coast Path. You would think it would be easy, wouldn’t you, with so many artificial sea walls and such a rural area. I’m planning to get back up to Scotland again, once the weather improves. I have a new van!

  11. grahambenbow says:

    I think you made a wise decision to recommence your walk from Kings Lynn, to think that had you continued where you finished off in Scotland and complete your walk along this stretch would have a huge anti-climax. “Keep on Treking”

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