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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Walk 47 Boston to Wrangle (Lincs)

Walk 47          Boston to Wrangle (Lincolnshire)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 131 and 122
Distance: about 14 miles
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths, some pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular weekday service to and from Boston bus station to Wrangle (carries on to Skegness) check boards at the bus station.

This stretch is quite popular with people strolling along the north side of the river as it progresses towards The Wash. When I went it became more of a solitary experience on the northward stretch alongside Boston Deeps.

The walk out of Boston along The Haven is varied taking in views as diverse as a sewage works and a country park. About three miles along, just before Hobbhole Drain, there is an interesting memorial to the Pilgrim Fathers. They set sail from this point, now known as Scotia Creek, in September 1607. Unfortunately, they did not get very far on their first attempt. The small community from Scrooby (just over the Lincs. border in Nottinghamshire) bribed a Dutch captain to take them to religious freedom overseas; however he informed the authorities of their plans and the whole lot were returned to Boston – several ending up in the cells of the guildhall. A second attempt was more successful and after living in the Netherlands for several years the group set sail to join the Mayflower at Southampton.

At the end of the estuary, near where it meets The Wash, is a brick built ‘hide’ where you could spend a little time looking at the nearby sea-life. The marshes of The Scalp can be seen to the south and Black Buoy sand (and Mud) straight ahead and to the north. A couple of eastern European girls asked me how far it was to ‘the beach on the ocean’ – I think their expectations may have been dashed when they got there!

A diversion to the path was in place when I went - this may be permanent and the latest OS map may have changed as a result. The walk passes close to North Sea Camp (about half a mile inland). This has been a prison since 1988 and prior to that was a borstal. A cone type brick built structure near to the coast celebrates the work begun manually by the boys of North Sea Camp in 1936 which resulted in 500 acres of land being claimed back from the sea.

A couple of miles further up the coast is Freiston Shore with its RSPB nature reserve and lagoon. The walk from hereon alongside the marshes of Wrangle Flats is rather bleak. Inland there is productive arable farmland and cows often blocked the path resulting in a muddy diversion!

The end of the walk is at Wrangle. The name comes from the Scandinavian ‘Urangr’ meaning bent or crooked – a reference to a stream long since gone. Centuries ago there was a harbour here but it silted up. The accumulation of seaward marsh and enclosure of pasture land means that the village is now well inland. St Mary and St Nicholas Church dates back to the fourteenth century and will be of interest to those who enjoy visiting old churches.

Photos show: the estuary of The Haven, part of the marshy walk described above and a view of the village of Wrangle.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Walk 46 Spalding to Boston (Lincolnshire)

Walk 46          Spalding to Boston (Lincolnshire)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 131
Distance: about 16 miles
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths, some pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Rail and bus services at both ends

There is a stretch of walking omitted here. I initially started walking the stretch that starts at Sutton Bridge goes around The Wash and ends at Spalding. However, the military had the red flag flying and I decided to turn back. The part that I did walk was featureless and a glance at the map suggested it may well remain that way. Let me know if you know better! The River Nene (opposite bank done in the last walk) looks like a canal and was the result of large scale drainage of the Fens in the 17th century.

The main walk is bit longer than I usually attempt but it is flat and easily done within a ‘summer time’ day. Spalding is an attractive town with Georgian houses and river walks nestled along the Welland. Look out for the thatched White Horse pub, the medieval church and Ayscoughfee Hall. The latter is a fifteenth century manor house with attractive gardens. It is now a museum which includes a section on local explorer Matthew Flinders – he surveyed the coast of Australia in the eighteenth century. Spalding is famous for its annual flower festival.

The walk out of Spalding starts on the east bank of the River Welland and continues north for a few miles past Surfleet Seas End on the opposite bank. The whole of this area battled against floods until 1739 when a sluice was built. At Fosdyke Bridge, a few miles to the north, there is a crossing to the opposite bank to join the Macmillan Way around The Wash and into Boston.

Much of this area is a National Nature Reserve especially around Frampton Marsh. The many enthusiasts with their binoculars underline what a fantastic place it is to spot sea birds and birds of prey. Barn owls, kestrels and sparrow hawks are among the regular visitors. The saltmarsh here is regularly flooded by the sea and this is vital to maintain its variety of wildlife.

The path turns left to follow the banks of The Haven into Boston. The river bank changes from a rural outlook to an industrial one. Boston is a busy port which exports cattle, coal and vegetables and imports timber, fruit and fertiliser. Boats come the 5 miles inland up the Haven from The Wash. On the walk into Boston a railway appears to drop straight into the river but further examination shows it to be connected with a swing bridge on the opposite bank.

The river near the centre of Boston was low and muddy when I went – look out for The Pilgrim House near the river bank. In the 18th century several Boston men took part in the exploration of Australia and it was around this time that floods and the silting up of the river channels reduced the town’s importance. However, the construction of the docks and deepening of the river revived the town in the 19th century.

It is almost impossible to miss St Botolph’s Church with its famous tower known as ‘The Stump’. This is the tallest church tower in the country (272 feet high) and was begun in 1309. It can be seen for many miles in all directions across the marshes. The large church reflects the past wealth of the wool producing merchants in the town. The Market Place is well worth visiting with its variety of architecture. The impressive statue is of Sir Herbert Ingram who was born in Boston and became the MP. The classical figure of a water carrier beneath the statue refers to his influence in bringing piped water to the town. Unfortunately, Sir Herbert drowned in Lake Michigan in 1856.

Photos show the River Welland at Spalding, Fosdyke Bridge, view in the centre of Boston with Pilgrim's House and The Stump alongside the river at Boston.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Walk 45 Kings Lynn to Sutton Bridge (Norfolk and Lincolnshire)

Walk 45          Kings Lynn to Sutton Bridge (Norfolk and Lincolnshire)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 132 and 131
Distance: about 12 miles
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths, some pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: 505 bus between Kings Lynn and Sutton Bridge every 20 minutes Mon-Sat and once an hour on Sunday.

If you are going by car you could take a quick diversion to Snettisham Scalp. A pleasant enough beach – a scalp is an oyster or mussel bed. A German prisoner of war camp was near here in World War 2.

The walk starts on the north east side of Kings Lynn (or Lynn as it is called by locals) on the bank of the Great Ouse. The town was an important port from the eleventh century. It continues to receive shipping although pilots are necessary to navigate the hazardous channels and sandbanks of The Wash. You can’t walk too far up this bank before encountering light industry so retrace the walk back into Kings Lynn.

The Tuesday Market area of the town (originally a thriving trading market) is surrounded by some impressive buildings. For two weeks, starting on February 14th each year, there is a fair and music. Traditionally this is the first fun fair of the year in the showmen’s calendar. The town was named ‘Kings’ Lynn when it became the property of Henry V111. Further along the quayside is the old customs house fronted by a statue of Captain Vancouver. In 1792 this Kings Lynn resident landed on the north west coast of America to declare the land British Columbia. Vancouver is now the largest port in Canada and the birthplace of container shipping.

Further along the quayside going inland is an impressive sculpture of a seaman. A further area of interest is the Green Quay with its old buildings. An 800 year old cod skeleton found in Lynn shows that they grew up to 51 inches! The Campbell Food factory is in the town.

The path continues until it meets the bridge which crosses over to West Lynn and progresses northwards up the Great Ouse; the edge of The Wash is on one side and Terrington Marshes on the other. It is a bleak walk which should have at least the merit of being peaceful. However, there is the regular scream of low flying jets practising manoeuvres in The Wash - a bit scary and sinister.

The path around to Sutton Bridge is called the Peter Scott Walk as a tribute to the famous naturalist. It progresses several miles before turning inwards down the River Nene. A short way along is a lighthouse attached to living accommodation. It was opened in 1831 and was meant as a grand entrance to the new Nene Channel which had just been been dug out. There is a similar building on the opposite bank. Neither of the lighthouses was ever lit. Sir Peter Scott lived in this eastern lighthouse from 1933 to 1939. It was from here that a number of his wildlife studies and paintings were undertaken.

Further down the path Port Sutton Bridge, a successful trading area, dominates the opposite bank. At the end of the path is the impressive Cross Keys Swing Bridge. There have been three bridges on this sight including one designed by Robert Stevenson son of George Stevenson who designed the 'Rocket'. The current bridge was opened in 1897 as a road (and at that period rail) swing bridge. It is hydraulically operated and in its heyday would open about 900 times a year. It now opens no more than 2 or 3 times a week to let shipping up the river to Wisbech.

Snaps show: The Peter Scott Walk and lighthouse; Captain Vancouver statue at Kings Lynn; Cross Keys Swing Bridge at Sutton Bridge; Kings Lynn buildings and Tuesday Market.