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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.

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