Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking
In the first instalment of a series of articles on Lincolnshire walks, which he will be writing and illustrating throughout 2017, Maxim Griffin explores the landscape of East Lindsey.
Friday 3rd March 2017. Overcast – with heavy rain to follow. I’m walking for the sake of walking. It’s an elemental day, the right kind to get caked in mud and enjoy whatever the weather may fling at me.
Having made the appropriate purchases – two fresh pasties and a litre of water to supplement a flask of coffee – I make my progress through the centre of Louth to Westgate Fields. It’s worth stopping here to say hello to the deer in the parkland on the other side of the river. Walk on to Dog Kennel Farm at Hubbard’s Hills and take the path behind the café. If this café is open, do stop for a brew. It’s like time stopped in 1953, beautifully. Along the path a stile will lead you to the A16; cross gingerly and with care and advance along the path presented. Crossing the bypass is a symbolic act, a crossing the Rubicon moment – leaving town behind and hitting the hills. The way follows the curves of Fisher’s Hill which drops down to a junction of footpaths. You might see a small cairn of flints I made. Head along the left hand path and follow it to Halfpenny Lane.
Follow the way across the lane, looking west you’ll see the mast at Stenigot, a relic of the Cold War that stands ominously on top of the Wolds. The technical term for the ground I am walking over is ‘claggy’ – a boot loosening muddiness. There will be more of this. It starts to rain. Keeping to the path you’ll come to a bridge and a small lake, often heavy with fowl. Watch out for swans and geese. Through the gate and right.
A quick march along a field’s edge and across another bridge and you’ll see a church. Churches are always interesting. It would be rude not to have a look. According to Pevsner, this church, St Peter’s at Raithby, was first built in the thirteenth century and rebuilt in 1839. There are some good carvings pulling a variety of faces. One bears a striking resemblance to Richard III. The church is open in the daytime and is, as is often the case, quiet and beautiful in a simple way.
The rain is getting heavier. I pull my waterproof on and tramp back across the field, this time heading left to a gate. Cross the field to the old railway cottage. This field is also claggy but it’s worth keeping your eyes open for flints – a neolithic axe was found here once. Over the road is a permissive footpath following the old Louth to Wragby line. I wander up there a ways and meet a nice lady with a handsome dog. We walk back to the road together, having a nice conversation. Follow the road right towards Hallington and take the steep road. Do take care on this bit. The banks are steep and the road is prone to ice. You could easily walk back to Louth along this lane but today I head uphill along the road about quarter of a mile to another permissive path.
This is Hallington Top. Even today, in the rain and murk, the view from here is a perfect prospect over Louth, St James’ spire and, on a clearer day, out to sea. The weather today is bitter but it is exhilarating. This is the highest point for a while and the land either side falls away to glacial valleys and tributaries of the Lud. Down the chalk track. Over to the north west was a Roman villa, a big one too. There are no traces left though, save the occasional brooch and parch marks beneath the wheat in summer. The path crosses a little beck and reaches the A157. Care, as always, should be taken but the road is easy to cross.
On the other side of the road is Welton Valley. If you have Wellington boots to hand, now would be the time to put them on. The way ahead is wet and very muddy, even in drier months. This is a beautiful valley. Today, at the very edge of spring, it is greener than Robin Hood. Mossy, wet and deep. The butchered bones of mammoths have been found down here and it’s easy to imagine fur clad hunters darting along the tree line. There’s an ice house down here too, belonging to the local estate since Victorian times. Today it sits, half sunk by the stream. Pheasants are kept on the left of the path and at the right time of year it all gets very Danny, Champion of the World. At the north end of the valley there are the remains of a whalebone arch; it’s seen better days and it’s strange to imagine such a beast that roamed the seas ending up here. Continue straight ahead along the wooded path to the gate that leads over a field. There’s cattle here sometimes, but not today. Keep following the path signs over the next field to the footbridge and then up the next field to the gate at the edge of the A631. Cross the road and you’ll see the way clearly marked uphill again to some more woods.
This is Cow Pasture Wood, a former gravel quarry, sometime racecourse and occasional battlefield for the players of airsoft (think paintball without the paint). The view from the wood covers the mouth of the Humber down to Mablethorpe and beyond. You might see ships on a clear day. But today is not a clear day. The rain has become heavier still and it’s time to head back to town. The route leads you back over the Louth bypass, which can be very busy but this is an easy crossing point with lines of sight in either direction.
Once over make your way down Deighton Close and you will find yourself at the junction of St Mary’s Lane and Westgate. Either way will lead you back to town but Westgate offers a fine view of the spire and a decent pub. On a drier day I’d stop for a pint, but I’m soaked to the skin. Another day perhaps. I have drawings to make.
This walk took about 12 miles and lasted 6 hours (map not to scale – see OS Explorer 282 for a more detailed view of the area). Remember wellies for Welton Valley – there will be mud.