Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking – January 2022

Words by:
Maxim Griffin
Featured in:
January 2022

8th December – bitter, grey, trying to shine. By Maxim Griffin.

Storm Barra is still raging – there’s no protection on the outmarsh – the wind has a sharp, screaming edge – squalls forecast later – the ideal day to be in search of an Iron Age settlement – an ancient herringbone overcoat and a pair of boots that draw the cold, a rucksack of treats.

Slow, deliberate going – eyes down – it’s a good time to be looking for fragments of pottery – the ploughs have turned the earth and the rain has rinsed anything that settled to the surface. Everything is interesting – two stems of clay pipe? Lovely stuff! Microliths of Victorian china? Yes, please!

The gulls can’t cope – sudden great gusts cut flocks into pieces – there’s a magpie bunkering into the junctions of an ash tree – the traffic on the main road is staggered behind a tractor – the big sides of a yellow lorry ripple and rattle – there’s a bunker of flowers that mark a car crash, just holding on.

The wind has a corrosive edge – gloves would be nice – fists buried deep in herringbone – spits of rain, the odd snowflake, late leaf scatter gushing along – getting harried by the elements. A few moments’ shelter by a ruinous brick wall – a yellow sign – YOU ARE BEING WATCHED – of course – a rasping magpie and the wind are the only witnesses.

There are two monuments a little apart – one to a young Georgian lad, the other, a figure of a woman in Roman clothes, right hand missing – marble, bright – her story is uncertain – perhaps a folly – perhaps not – one tradition suggests a lost heart – Lincolnshire folklore is slippery at best – there are horses in her field in winter surcoats – steaming nostrils – unease at a stranger – the sort of place geocaches get hidden if you are into that sort of thing. The White Lady looks north over an 18th-century farmhouse and over the earthworks of two deserted villages and three monastic sites – a lot going on for a square mile or so.

Trudge on – ghosts can wait for finer weather – there’s run-off coming down the tracks – ice in the ruts – an oblivious robin, scratting for bits – hoof prints against the grain – the big fields are very dark red heading to purple – rich, thick furrows. Have a nosey – machine shattered flint and chalk for the most part, a couple of nice chunks, a couple of fist-sized pebbles – an old twist of root.

On – a church would be handy – a porch even – somewhere to brew up out of the wind – a recurring theme of the year’s adventures has been locked churches – some still yet to open since the first lockdown – so it goes – the hollow of a chalk pit provides slight cover – a gulp of flask stale coffee.

A 4×4 crests the next ridge, stops – two men get out and take a look around – they speak about something – a shovel appears – no, a metal detector – they head on over the ridge – everybody is looking for something – trudge on.

That wind comes in sideways – raw, battering – a chestnut tree has taken a pounding – recently too – bare flesh and splinters – half the crown missing, a catastrophic injury, probably a killer blow – it’ll be deemed unsafe, whittled to kindling – shame, the tree is at least three hundred years old by the looks of it.

It’s good to walk rarely used paths – the sign into Hell’s Furze is hardly there – no indication of footfall save a few indistinct tracks – deer probably – something cloven – there’s wire ahead – concrete posts with angles – a thousand phantoms of plastic rag twisting in the air. It used to be a pea factory – something of a local rite of passage – night shifts at the pea factory were easy money – there are still the warehouses and forklifts – shifting cardboard by the looks of it – tinny local radio blasts out of an open shed: Jona Lewie – ‘Stop The Cavalry’ – one of the forklifts has tinsel in the roll cage – good.

The track leads round along Black Leg Drain and under floodlights – a sign reads BEWARE AUTOMATIC BARRIER SLOW and there’s an ominous smell coming from gigantic processing tanks – an excited terrier runs up and down the length of the fence, giddy at the prospect of someone new to bark at – she is called away by an unseen voice – jingles and chunter from the radio, the promise of weather and a traffic update – the wind and the wire do funny things to the sound.

The sky is a mess – fine drizzle changing gear into shock squalls – clouds racing for supremacy. The path folds ninety degrees away from the compound just as Paul McCartney stabs at his infernal synthesiser – ‘Wonderful Christmastime’, the most occult of the popular Christmas hits, fades into the white noise of the weather – onwards.

A pair of what look like old estate cottages – fully decked up already – everyone is very keen this year – not surprising really – there’s an old fella moving things from his car to the house – he masks up, I mask up – being rural is no earthwork against the Weirdness – the Weirdness is everywhere – we exchange cautious, awkward greetings.

A flat track straight ahead flanked with ash trees that opens out either side onto large fields – no fences or ditches – no cover either – the weather howling – no rain but there’s ferocity in the blasts. A 4×4 rumbles toward the main road – those two blokes from earlier, a wave as they pass and north onto the big road north.

There’s some promising flint on the edge of the furrows – a couple of good lumps – enough to knap some arrowheads out of – something catches the sky – something alien in the clay – something made by hand a long time ago – metal – no tarnish. I wash the sod in the nearest puddle and peel away layers of muck – a cross – a small silver cross, 4cm x 4cm, a little hop to hang it from, no decoration. A magpie rasps – instinct kicks in – no good will come of this – I sink the cross back under the skin of the field – onwards.



Never miss a copy!

Big savings when you take out a subscription.

COMPETITION: Win one of 3 Family tickets for up to 2 adults and 3 children to this year’s Lincolnshire Show!Now in its 137th year and organised by the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society, the Lincolnshire Show has grown to become one of the county’s flagship annual events. Attracting over 60,000 visitors across two days, this year’s Show, 22nd-23rd June, promises an action-packed line-up after two years without the annual event.To enter please visit our website at bit.ly/winlincsshowtickets ... See MoreSee Less

3 hours ago  ·