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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Walk 50 Theddlethorpe St Helen to Saltfleet and back

Walk 50   Theddlethorpe St Helen to Saltfleet and back (Lincs)

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

Map: 113
Distance: about 8 miles return
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths alongside dunes and some road
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport:  There was an infrequent bus service but it is not clear on the website whether this is still running (you could walk to and from Mablethorpe adding another 6 miles or so).

Coastal walking from here to Cleethorpes is difficult with much of the sand dangerous due to unexploded shells and other ordnance. The walk is possible, but there are lengthy diversions inland and I only walked the section described here. I also drove to Donna Nook to have a look around.

The area around Theddlethorpe St Helen is part of a national nature reserve. The sands and saltmarshes are home to an array of birds and wildlife. It is one of the few remaining habitats for the Natterjack toad recognised by the pale stripe along its back and its way of running instead of hopping. At low tide the sea seems to disappear along this stretch of coast.

The walk along the edge of the sands to Saltfleet is 3 to 4 miles. Care needs to be taken on this stretch – keep to the path to avoid possible dangers of explosives. A notice at Saltfleet shore warns walkers not to veer from the path because of unexploded ammunition. The area was used as an RAF bombing range.

Saltfleet Haven is a quiet place dotted with boats. There is a lot of samphire or glasswort growing around here. It was once burnt to provide ash for use in the glass making industry. It was also known as poor mans asparagus – washed and soaked to remove salt, boiled for a few minutes and served with a knob of butter and lemon juice.

Saltfleet village has some interesting old buildings. These include a manor house, St Botolph’s church (not used now) and two pubs. In Roman times Saltfleet was a port.

I drove up to Donna Nook to look around. This is now a national nature reserve on the Humber estuary and an important site for wintering waders, ducks and geese. The mudflats are rich in bird food e.g. worms and crustaceans. The area is named after the ‘Donna’ a ship from the Spanish Armada which sailed off the ‘nook’ (a corner). A notice says that the nature reserve lives in harmony with the military planes.

Photos show: Saltfleet Haven; Saltfleet Shore; the sands at Theddlethorpe St Helen; Donna Nook with warning notice.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Walk 49 Chapel St Leonards to Mablethorpe

Walk 49   Chapel St Leonards to Mablethorpe (Lincs)

(First leg of English Coastal Walk - Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland)

Map: L/R 122
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty: easy to moderate depending on the amount of sand walking
Terrain: pavement/road/sand
Access: parking at both ends
Public transport: buses at both ends

Rejoin the walk at Chapel Point and walk either along the beach or on the road - once you have made the choice you will need to stick to it for a couple of miles or so as I wouldn't recommend crossing the marsh!

At Anderby Creek there is a unique 'Cloud Bar' on the foreshore which is well worth a visit (free). It was constructed by the Cloud Appreciation Society and is Britain's only cloud spotting platform. An information panel gives guidance on how to spot the different types of clouds with comprehensive guidance on how they are formed and where to go for further information. Looking along the beach you may well see horses ridden along the soft sands.

Further up the beach either by sand or road is Moggs Eye/Huttoft Beach. This beach is recommended by surfers as being particularly good in the winter when the wind is usually from the west. (It is also featured in the Good Beach Guide). John Betjeman loved Lincolnshire and the nearby village of Huttoft provided the inspiration for his poem 'A Lincolnshire Church'.

A few miles further north is Sutton on Sea. A handsome new Edwardian resort was once planned for here but the plans were scuppered by the outbreak of the First World War. The names of the  beach huts along this stretch reflect the usual bracing weather here -  a few examples of those I spotted: Goosebumps, Wind Rush and Chill Out.

At Mablethorpe there are gated flood defences. The sea walls have regularly been breached right back to the time of the Romans. In the 1953 great floods 43 of the 307 people killed lived between here and Skegness. Three further floods have hit since then and several projects including dumping millions of tons of sand to create higher beaches have been tried.

I do hope the strange looking beach huts are still there - they are odd but fascinating. In 2007 there was a contest to explore different designs of beach huts and over 100 exhibits were entered. Some of them were left in situ and provide a great talking point.

Lord Tennyson used to rent a cottage in Mablethorpe for his summer holidays. He often returned to the town sometimes to see the spring and high tides and at other times when he was feeling despondent. However, it is said that he was disappointed when he found the area colder than his childhood memories.

It is worth exploring the northern part of Mablethorpe, first on the cliffs from some odd, but surprisingly comfortable, concrete seats, and then on  the sands. The sand train runs along the beach to the north and has being running in season since 1952. It was still doing good business when I went in October - a trip to the end on the train and a walk back along the delightful sands are a pleasant way to end the walk.

Photos show: the beach at Chapel St Leonards; the centre of Chapel; the cloud bar at Anderby Bank; one of the strange beach huts at Mablethorpe and the sand train at Mablethrorpe beach.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Walk 48 Skegness to Chapel St Leonards

Walk 48          Skegness to Chapel St Leonards (Lincolnshire)

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

Map: 122
Distance: about 11 miles
Difficulty:  quite easy, flat
Terrain: paths and some road/pavement/sand
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport:  No 1 and No 3 buses go regularly between the two points.
It is probably worth walking a mile or so to the south of Skegness to enjoy the views of the extensive sands which continue to Gibraltar Point. Most of this area, from which the sea has been retreating for 300 years, is part of a national nature reserve.

Retracing the journey back to Skegness two wind farms form a prominent part of the seascape. Skegness comes from the Scandinavian word ‘Sheggi’ meaning the bearded one. It is likely that Sheggi was a Viking leader whose force invaded and settled here although the original settlement was washed away some time later.

Skegness has impressive wide sands with a typical British resort seafront; fast food, outlets, amusements and holiday parks feature strongly. In fact the town is home to the first Butlins Holiday Camp built in 1936. The camp (which is near to the coast walk north of the town) has been updated to meet modern needs with one of the original chalets preserved as a listed building.  One of the original slogans for Butlins was ‘A week’s holiday for a week’s wage’.

Once the railway arrived in Skegness in 1863 visitors arrived in ever increasing numbers. Watch out for pictures of the iconic ‘Skegness is SO bracing’ railway posters – reflecting a time when this would have been an attraction! There are well tended flower beds adjacent to Skegness sea front, one of them contains a sculpture of The Jolly Fisherman - the character used on the railway posters.

The road from the beach into the centre of Skegness features the clock tower - a significant local landmark. It is 50 feet high and was built in 1898 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. In 1998 a time capsule was buried under the traffic island beneath the tower to celebrate 100 years of laying the foundation stone.

Further along the front is Skegness Pier. It was opened in 1881 and was originally 1845 feet long, one of the longest in England. There were kiosks, seating, refreshment rooms and a concert area. Paddle steamers also crossed The Wash from here to connect with Hunstanton via Kings Lynn and Boston. Unfortunately, they stopped operating in 1910 when sand banks built up making it unsafe. In 1978 the pier was badly damaged in a storm and the end was removed in 1985. It is now much shorter but is still an attraction.

The walk along the promenade leaves Skegness then there is a choice between walking on the sands or going by road around the golf course before returning to the coast at Winthorpe. From here there is an almost continuous concrete barrier built after the devastating floods that hit the east of England in 1953. The path eventually arrives at Ingoldmells, not an attractive place unless you are a fan of massive holiday parks, caravans, amusement arcades, fast food outlets etc.

The walk into Chapel St Leonards is a pleasant one which passes alongside large stretches of sand. Continue to Chapel Point to the north which was once part of a major coastal defence during the Second World War. The gun structure and surroundings have been restored here to capture the views of the east coast. Walk back to Chapel St Leonards. The town became popular in the twentieth century with the advent of the car. Visitors used to pitch tents on the beach until chalets were built along the sand dunes in the 1930s. It is known locally as ‘Chapel’ and is named after a chapel dedicated to St Leonard built in ancient times. The church was rebuilt in 1572 then amended periodically and is the only one with a red steeple in Lincolnshire. A modern bell structure on a well kept green near the front provides an attractive oasis compared to the nearby modern buildings.

Photos show: Skegness sands, the clocktower at Skegness, Jolly Fisherman and flower beds, Skegness front and Imgoldmells.