Walk 6: Friday 4th–Saturday 5th August – more or less cloudless, Theddlethorpe to Mablethorpe.
After getting dropped off I haul my small but heavy pack through the dunes to the beach. It’s greener than expected – samphire time. There are riders out too, lots of them. I count at least a dozen and there are more way off at the water line. It’s an impressive sight and obviously a great deal of fun. Full gallop, all weight and energy. It’s a cliché but they really are thundering along. I imagine the same scene has occurred for hundreds of years, perhaps even squires and knights trained here – there’s room for a whole division to charge.
I walk south a little keeping an eye out for suitable spots. The plan is to camp and rise before the sun. Finding a little patch where a driftwood log makes for a handy table I set about making some tea and begin drawing.
There are a few people about. Dog walkers mainly. A woman with a pair of wolf hounds makes her way to the sea. After sitting for half an hour or so, I stash my gear under a nearby clump of buckthorn and walk east to the edge of the water. The further out one gets the better the view. Spurn point is clear to the north and I can make out the turbines off Skegness some twenty miles to the south. Mablethorpe is closer and I can see that the beach there is busy. A nice day for it. There are flags flying and children running, shelters for the wind and a handful of kites. A perfect scene really but such gentler coastal matters can wait.
Low tide – landed jellyfish, differing strata of sand, differing textures too. Some is yielding to the foot and some packed hard – ideal for walking along. In 2015, I walked from Grimsby to Boston along the coast in one go. The easiest walking was always along the tide line – hard sand is better for the feet.
Sitting for a while I watch a wader, a curlew I think.
I make my way back to my pack and continue looking for a spot for the night. It’s clear now and would be hot if it wasn’t for the breeze. Off at sea a far-off crab boat casts a bright wake. Stopping again I’m aware of the noise. The steady thrum of harvest machinery in the fields beyond the dunes and thorns. Clouds of wheat dust mark out of sight tractors.
Mid-afternoon. Settling in a sandy hole, just out of the sun and wind I set up my little stove. Same model as the Germans used during the Second World War and now available on the high street for less than a fiver. My pot of soup bubbles away and I scoop at it with hunks of crusty bread.
There’s a patch in the marram grass behind big enough to set up my poncho tent. Another good bit of gear. I quickly arrange camp. No fire. Not appropriate. On such nights out it is better to remain unseen. Before long I drop off in the long grass and sleep dreamless.
I wake an hour or two later. Refreshed. The light has turned to evening and the birds are in full chorus. Walking a little way to the log I found earlier, I set up for the evening. Drawings are made and I brew coffee. There are dozens of rabbits dashing out of the dunes and a flock of gulls head north. Suddenly a USAF 747 comes over along the shore – very low, matt grey, serial numbers legible with the naked eye. I wave to the airmen. Maybe they wave back.
The sun begins to set. I sip a little brandy and make notes about the changing colours. The Pride of Rotterdam ferry is heading to the continent, reflecting the amber of the last of the light. Warning signals from the wind farms pulse as their blades catch the deepening colours.
I make a few photographs through the dark grass and notice that my leg is cut in several places. The marram is like porcupine quills. A little more brandy, some cheese and an apple. This is a very comfortable place to be. As the shadows disappear I return to camp and read. A fox barks. There are bats too. It is good to be in the stillness at the edge of day. The moon rises and all around is lit in different light. Every blade of grass reflects it. The sky is clear and I lie outside my bivouac and fall asleep.
4am: Enough light to work by. Quickly packing my gear and getting myself out into the open I notice no birdsong yet. Good. Beat them to it. The sky is still clear and I’ve an hour before sunrise. Coffee is brewed and a little food taken. The night was cold but not uncomfortable. With the coffee inside me I soon warm up. Too early for dogs and horses – I have the whole coast to myself save for a tanker off on the Humber, engines turning over.
5am: Twenty minutes to sun. Still very quiet.
5:15am: The first plumes of gold on the horizon. The light is coming. I set my camera up for time-lapse. There’s nothing between me and –
The first of the sun changes everything. All birds wake at once, great flocks and squadrons call and wheel. Shadows are cast. There’s nothing between me and the sun.
Sunrise happens quickly – you can watch it move – everything becomes illuminated. It is in such moments when one realises that JMW Turner was right. In these moments, the sun is God.
It might seem like an obvious thing to say, but the sunrise is daily, free and deeply profound. There are fewer places in Britain where one can get a better view of it than here.
More coffee and I get my pack on my back and walk to the sea. Once there I head south along the water to Mablethorpe, perhaps an hour’s walking but to be honest I’m not counting time. Just some gulls and the sea and I for three miles. As I get closer to Mablethorpe, an old man waves and his dog bounds up to say hello. Closer still and a few more people are about with their dogs. A perfect time for it. One old chap asks how far I have come – I came from yesterday.
At Mablethorpe one is greeted by the silent razzle dazzle of signs and dormant illuminations. All manner of food will be available later, the sign says ‘Belgian Waffles – Fish & Chips – Bingo – Ice Cream – Slush.’ A fibreglass statue of an anthropomorphic hot dog gives a cheery thumbs up. If you are in the mood for Mablethorpe it is rather glorious. Of course, at this early hour, everywhere is closed. The sun catches aluminium hoardings and shutters. On the beach, a young man with a metal detector scans the ground for yesterday’s lost pennies. I walk south a little to where a café on the promenade has just opened. It’s still only 7am.
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