[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)