Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking
Walk 7: Thursday 31st August – Nothing but blue skies.
Having been dropped in Walesby by my wife and children, I make the climb to All Saints, the Ramblers’ Church. There is a grand view from the churchyard, across Willingham Woods and beyond to Lincoln. There’s a beacon erected in commemoration of the Spanish Armada. Attached is a little information under the heading ‘Fire Over England’ – quite a title and one that keeps playing in my mind; potential name for a drawing perhaps. The church makes no mention of its curious appearance in British rock history. The psychedelic folk group Forest were from around these parts and their second record, Full Circle, has a spectral image of All Saints on its cover. The record contains a strange song about the church too. The track in question, ‘Graveyard’, was something of a minor cult hit, having much airplay on the John Peel radio programme and is a mysterious slice of MR James influenced storytelling in a faux seventeenth-century style that harks back to the scores of such films as Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Wicker Man. The band Forest get a couple of pages’ mention in Rob Young’s excellent book ‘Electric Eden’, which is a brilliant history of English music from Vaughan Williams to the present. ‘Graveyard’ can easily be heard online.
I can’t hang about long as there is quite a walk ahead but the church also contains a stunning stained glass of Jesus leading two walkers across the Lincolnshire landscape. The clock strikes nine and the bells ring out the tune of ‘To Be a Pilgrim’. It is rather magical and quite stirring. By the porch is a shattered walking staff – ‘From Kent’ carved into its handle. I strike out along the Viking Way with visions of a mythic England in my head and am greeted across the fields by herds of deer in the approaching woodland.
The route ahead towards Tealby is steep and rough. I can see how that walking staff was broken. Up and down across a landscape, more akin to Yorkshire or the South Downs. Deep rollings and oaks, more deer and a flock of Lincolnshire Longwool sheep (here, I should note that my mother in law is secretary of their association)
Closer to Tealby, the path passes the semi derelict Castle Farm and a handsome patch of Scots pine. Wrong footing my way over another sheep field, I locate the track into Tealby proper. An unusual village for this quarter of Lincolnshire, all honey stone and tearooms. It’s a popular launch pad for walks in this area and I’d stop long if there was time. I greet a few walkers going in the other direction and see that they collect for a local hospice. Pilgrims of a sort. A good thing. I offer my pennies and best for their quest and move along the Viking Way past the ruins (unseen) of Bayons Manor and stop to talk dogs with a kindly older gentleman.
The way zigzags across fields with more views towards Lincoln before turning to face the interior of the Wolds. As the path meets the Caistor High Street one must walk a little way along the main road. It can be busy and caution is advised but it is only a short walk to the continuing path.
Along the back of what was RAF Ludford, re-purposed wartime buildings house dormant diggers and chickens. It is a little early for lunch but if I were to stop Ludford has an award-winning pub (The White Hart) offering simple, hearty food – it’s the kind of place where the ale is pale and hoppy and the pastry is homemade. I had many lunches here with my late parents – dishes of whitebait and boards of excellent local cheeses and pickles. However, it’s early still and I have a long way to walk yet and memories of lunches past threaten to get the better of me. Onwards through the village and cutting across the fields to the Girsby road – easier road walking for a mile or so, an unseen tractor ploughs an unseen field. Onwards still – towards Wykeham following the yellow and black helmets that mark the Viking Way.
Beyond and on the ridge line sits Grim’s Mound – one of the great Bronze Age barrows that can be found on the Wolds. The imagination stirs quickly with thoughts of a pre-Roman land, ancient kings, buried treasure – Romantic thoughts but appealing ones. I’m reminded again of MR James and his story ‘A Warning to the Curious’, in which a hapless amateur digs a barrow and wakes its guardian – “No diggin’ here” indeed…
The field to my right is ploughed and turned. Fist-sized lumps of flint against black red earth, bigger lumps still – one measures as big as my boot – unbroken too but with a slight fracture at one end. I take a large pebble and carefully tap. The great flint cleaves in two with one strike. It is beautiful, blue to gull grey then black – flint of a very fine quality. I’m no knapper but the value of such stone is obvious. This great lump has passed across time to find me at this moment – millions of years to here, as I stand in the thrall of its glassy enigma. I wrap it in my shirt and stow it in my pack. It seems appropriate to offer something in return, so I take a good-sized piece of apple cake from my lunchbox and place it at the base of Grim’s Mound and offer my regards to those within. Same as it ever was, I guess.
I make for home as clouds gather – a few miles’ walk yet and 17 in total from the beginning. You may wish to continue along the Viking Way, south to Biscathorpe and the Bain Valley, or on still by Howe Hill to Horncastle but I must head in another direction.
Reaching Louth and home, thunder peals across the Wolds and I sit the wonderful stone on my desk and begin to draw, as fat rain drops before the lightning.