456am Donna Nook to Tetney Lock

[This walk was completed on the 9th September, 2021]

There is still a red flag flying at Donna Nook. I leave my Scooty bike chained up to a fence post in the long grass at the edge of the overflow carpark. In the absence of an obvious hiding place, I decide leaving it in plain view is the best option.

I’m not sure if the red flag is left over from yesterday, or whether futher military activity is expected this morning. There are cars parked and groups of people walking around – and many are looking upwards in an expectant manner.

Hoping I can get through safely, I follow a path up towards the top of the ridge of dunes, where people are standing by a red flag and watching the skies. Some have binoculars and cameras. They must be expecting military planes. An older man has even brought a chair to sit on.

From the top of the dunes, I look out towards the coast. The sea is a long way off – across a flat area of scrubby grass and muddy waterways. Warning signs tell me to keep out if red flags are flying and not to pick anything up. I can see groups of red and white barrels, perched on metal stands. Targets?

There is a clear path running just below the dunes, and families are strolling along it, some with young children and pushchairs. So, it must be safe here, even if the red flags are flying.

This path isn’t marked on my map, and I kick myself (mentally) over the long detour I took yesterday. I bet this path goes back all the way through to the point where I turned around. How stupid not to have taken the risk, ignored the red flags, and walked down towards the dunes!

Oh well, too late now. Yesterday’s long detour was disheartening and, yet again, I failed to make as much progress along the Lincolnshire coast as I intended. But, it’s another beautiful day today, and my spirit lifts. Onwards

I follow the clear path, past signs advertising a seal sanctuary and information boards about the Donna Nook Nature Reserve. The path heads up over dunes, and inland, to skirt around a waterway. I walk past an empty car park (empty because the road that leads here is closed) and then I’m back on the sea wall again.

Oh no! The path is closed.

I stand for a while and examine the signs. “Public foot path CLOSED at Pye’s Hall. NO THROUGH ROUTE.” A nearby map shows an alternative route, along a “new sea bank”.

At first I’m tempted to ignore the CLOSED sign. Check my map. No sign of a new sea bank or footpath on my map, and no sign of Pye’s Hall, although there is a Pye’s Farm further inland. I study the map, and notice that a mile or two ahead the footpath crosses over a waterway (called Seven Towns South Eau). If there is no bridge across the water… well, it will be a long and dispiriting trudge back.

So, in the end, I decide to follow the diversion.

The path joins a track, which takes me further inland, and then up towards a ridge.

Oh. So THIS must be the new sea bank, stretching in a huge curve around an area of water and marsh.

It’s clear, from the top of the bank, what has happened. They must have deliberately destroyed (or failed to repair) the original sea bank, in order to let this area flood with sea water. Creating another waterfowl and wildlife habitat, as if this part of the Lincolnshire coast needs yet more marsh!

A wide path, a track really, runs along the top of the bank. I pass a man with binoculars – bird-spotting this time, not plane spotting.

An information sign tells me all about Pye’s Hall, and the man who built it – Henry Pye.

Pye’s Hall was built on iron pillars, in anticipation of flooding, which sounds very sensible to me. I look around, but all remains of the original hall have vanished. Henry Pye turned out to be a swindler and went bankrupt in the end. His hall was demolished in the 1960s.

I walk past a pumping station. A reminder that the dry fields on the other side of this sea bank would soon flood if the drainage system failed.

The track leaves the bank, and runs along the landward side. It’s not clear if the diverted footpath continues along the track, or along the bank. But I keep to the bank, which curves ahead.

Apart from the bird-watcher at the beginning, there isn’t a soul in sight. I begin to relax and enjoy the wide open spaces, the empty sky, and the patches of bright water where flocks of sea birds wheel and squark.

Over to my left, a lonely tractor trails a cloud of dust. Making bales from the harvested stalks. Slow progress in such a large field

The new sea bank has swung round in a giant arc and, eventually, joins the original bank. A sign, half-hidden in overgrown bushes, reminds me that the old bank is closed.

I’ve enjoyed the diversion, but I’m glad to be back on track again, following the original sea bank. My map shows this area as full of watery tributaries and marshy creeks – The Fitties – but the ground looks fairly solid to me!

I follow the bank, walking along the ridge towards where I can see a distant building.

Movement in the fields… ah, a cyclist.

He is moving faster than I am (of course) and reaches the sea bank ahead of me, near the building, which turns out to be another pumping station. I pass him leaning against a wall and probably thinking, as I have done so many times in Lincolnshire, “Where’s the sea?”

I check my map again. Think this place is called Grainthorpe Haven where another waterway (the Seven Towns North Eau, this time) empties into the sea. It was one of those points on the map where you hope the footpath continues without interruption, but it wasn’t clear. Pleased to see it does.

Beyond the pumping station, the bank stretches onwards. Flat, straight, featureless.

Some time later, just as I’m beginning to see signs of people ahead, I hear a faint rattling sound behind me… and the cyclist whizzes past.

Soon I reach an area where a few people are walking on the bank – and here is a car park, with a couple of cars parked. This is Horse Shoe Point.

Signs explain this section of the Humber Estuary is a Marine Protected Area because of the eelgrass that grows here. Eelgrass forms thick underwater meadows, and is an important habitat. Sadly, these marine meadows are in decline.

Another sign warns me of the disappearing beach. I guess, people go in search of the sea and run into trouble when the tide comes in, waters rising swiftly as they sweep across the flat area.

Reminds me a little of Morecambe Bay, and the same sense of menace lurking just out of sight.

I stand beside a pillbox and look out over the marsh. Disappearing beach? Yes, the beach certainly has disappeared!

According to my map, the footpath continues for a few hundred yards beyond Horse Shoe Point, and then comes to an abrupt end. I’m hoping to be able to continue along the sea bank, but I’m not sure if I can. The alternative is a long detour inland, and a lot of road walking.

I would like to ask someone, but there are no other walkers to be seen. Oh well. I’ll give it a go. Onwards.

Walk past the point where the public path officially ends. So far so good.

I see a bright gaggle of construction vehicles ahead, doing something on the landward side of the bank, and… uh, oh! There’s a gate ahead.

Feel a sense of dread – is this yet another dead end? Will need to see what the signs on the gate say, but they look large and intimidating. I walk forward on reluctant feet.


[To be continued…]

You can read more about Henry Pye on the Grimsby Telegraph site, and about Pye’s hall on the Heritage Gateway site:

Route so far:


About Ruth Livingstone

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

24 Responses to 456am Donna Nook to Tetney Lock

  1. Paul Sennett says:

    I remember the beach with the sea miles out
    How is the overall
    Walk going. We are working on the Cumbrian coast stretch intermittently

    • Hi Paul, and nice to hear from you. Hope to get back to Scotland this year. I feel the route up to Cape Wrath has become a very difficult and big thing in my mind. So need to get back up and start tackling it. Hope you’re enjoying Cumbria. It’s a beautiful county, although the coast path is non-existent in places!

  2. Margaret Wyatt says:

    Hi Rith,
    We ignored the red flags as we saw the path with people on it so didn’t make your mistake but…….
    we (unlike you ) ignored the sign saying Closed at Pyes Hall and then had to trudge back to the new sea wall.
    At the time there was a lot of construction going on and the old wall was being breached.
    Looking forward to Part 2

  3. tonyurwin says:

    I always like a picture of Scooty bike, hiding in the undergrowth. You ended with a cliff-hanger!

  4. ANDREW CONWAY says:

    Hi Ruth
    I have been reading your progress for some time now and have to admire your
    doggedness in the face of adversity.
    I myself have been walking the English/Welsh coast for the past 20 years and now have only
    about 200 miles to go.
    Just something to help if it comes up again – walking the sae embankment when there are red flags
    is, as I understand it, allowed but you can’t venture into the marsh beyond. Thus in general no need to detour.
    I also in general walk beaches where possible, subject to doing so at low tide (unless they are clearly signed as off limits). I find this can sometimes avoid detours where there are no other routes.

    Anyway the very best of luck with the rest of your adventure and wow including Scotland really
    impresses me

    andrew conway

  5. jcombe says:

    Looks like another rather frustrating day. I followed the path you mentioned but the red flags weren’t flying then. I don’t think I would have done if they were unless I saw plenty of others doing likewise.

    is that sign you have ahead the one about it being a permissive path when not in use by a shooting club or something like that. I think I remember that somewhere along the Lincolnshire coast!

    • I think the red flags are very misleading. Sometimes they just leave them up to deter people, I think. The Lincolnshire Coast has certainly been challenging… but for all the wrong reasons!

  6. Russell White says:

    Well, I never. A Cliff Hanger in Lincolnshire !!!!!…………..Can’t wait for the next episode.
    (As ever wishing you well and apologies for the poor humour) Cheers Russ

  7. Roger Browne says:

    Like Margaret Wyatt, I too ignored the sign saying Closed at Pyes Hall. But this was in a dry spell in summer, and I managed to muddily slosh across the breach where the old footbridge had been removed. I was so relieved not to have to do the long trudge back!

    • Glad you made it across, Roger. So frustrating, isn’t it, when you’ve already committed some miles to a route, and then find it blocked. I still feel a bit aggrieved that they are creating NEW marshland in Lincolnshire, when the areas of existing marsh are being allowed to silt up.

  8. Rita Bower says:

    Intrigued to know what you did next! I remember what I did last June, but then I am a very cautious Capricorn! 🙂 I must catch up on my blog sometime….you’re putting me to shame!

  9. Nick says:

    We did this walk a couple of months before you but in the opposite direction. We wasted much time continuing along the outer bank to find our way blocked by the breach. Having retraced our steps we searched for a sign and found it in the overgrown hedge. You could only see the sign because I took my frustration out on the hedge reducing its height!

  10. Mike Otoka says:

    Hi Ruth, your blog continues to be a great resource for us & let me amend our plans to walk the Lincolnshire coast in May.
    Keep going 😀

    • Nick says:

      Mike. We did Lincolnshire last year and Donna Nook on a Sunday. Having walked a number of MoD areas it seems there are no red flags on a weekend and this also applied to Donna Nook. There is a well trodden path at the outer edge of the MoD area that made it easy walking.

    • You’re walking it in May? Hopefully the weather will be good and you’ll enjoy it. There is something wonderful about the wide spaces and the uninterrupted light.

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