Monday 29 August 2016

Viking Way, Stage 7. Bardney Abbey to Lincoln Cathedral

Our luck with the good weather that has been with us for the previous 3 sections of The Way ran out on us somewhat today.  The forecast was for overcast conditions, light rain and thunderstorms later.  As it happened, apart from overcast most of the day, we stayed dry right until the end in Lincoln when the thunderstorms arrived and even then we were nearly back at the car.  By this point of our walk we were well into the Witham Valley which is noted for the large number of religious houses established there and today's route would visit three of them beginning with Bardney Abbey where we parked the car.  There is nothing left of the abbey now apart from earthworks, but there are comprehensive information boards and good access to the site.  In the 12th century the landscape in the valley was marshy with isolated, low islands.  This presented ideal terrain for sheep farming, a major source of income for religious communities, accompanied by a degree of inaccessibility, yet having the river near at hand as a trade route.  Boston, at the mouth of the Witham, was the country's second most important port in the middle ages.  Also adjacent to the valley were the Lincolnshire Limewoods which were used for fuel and pannage.

Our route took us from the abbey across fields to Stainfield with its hall, red brick church  and, on the opposite side of the road the old fish ponds which are all that remain of the Benedictine Priory.  The church is fascinating in that, unlike most churches, it does not face east/west and it has associations with Christopher Wren who may have designed it.

More field paths brought us to Barlings Abbey, founded in 1154 and the only one of the three with any structure still standing, albeit a solitary stone column.  The abbey field was full of long horned cattle which was somewhat disconcerting, but they proved to be only fierce in appearance.

A further 3 miles took us to the River Witham at Five Mile Bridge, where for the first time we began to walk towards Lincoln Cathedral; we had so far been walking in a huge ark, at times actually walking away from the city.  The route now, however, followed the river for three miles before heading over fields to the very attractive Greetwell hall and church.

Only a mile further on the route enters the outskirts of Lincoln and follows first an industrial estate and then housing estates before emerging in the arboretum which was laid out in 1872.  By now it was raining and we were pleased to arrive at the cathedral via Pottergate and the car a further half a mile up the road.  Despite a dreary weather forecast, this was another excellent day's walking full of interest.

To view large, please click on an image.

Saturday 20 August 2016

Viking Way, Stage 6. Martin Bridge to Bardney Abbey.

Yet another day of hot sunny weather greeted us for stage 6 of our walk and, as far as stages are concerned, the half way point.  We picked up where we left off on the Spa Trail which follows the trackbed of the Horncastle to Kirkstead Railway, passing through Woodhall Spa where I was born and grew up.  A mile or so before the town we had to leave the railway and follow the path across the golf course where I used to work as a caddy in my (much) younger years.  The course dates from 1903 and is now the home of the English Golf Union with a second course constructed in more recent years.  On the edge of the course is the Tower on the Moor, a hunting tower built by Ralph Cromwell , treasurer of England to Henry V! in the 15th century.  His castle is a few miles away at Tattershall.

Woodhall grew as a result of an unsuccessful search for coal.  Instead, spa waters were found and the town developed into a spa resort during Edwardian times.  Use of the baths declined, however, and the wellsides collapsed.  The old Spa building are now a sad sight.  The area around Woodhall was well supplied with heavy bomber bases during WWII and the 'dambbusters' 617 squadron officers mess was in the Petwood Hotel.  In the centre of the town are the Royal Square gardens where once stood the Royal Hotel, but it was the victim of a German landmine during the war.  In the square now is a memorial to the famous Dambusters.

Our route now turned north to follow the valley of the River Witham to Lincoln.  During medieval times the valley was rich in Abbeys, built here due the the proximity of the river for transport and also the Lincolnshire Limewoods for fuel and pannage.  They  were also in sight of Lincoln Cathedral.  Kirkstead and Tupholme abbeys are very close to our route and well worth a detour and we pass both Bardney on this section and Barlings on the next.

From Woodhall the route led us across fields golden with ripe harvest and skirting the Limewoods, lings to the ancient primeval post glacial forest.  In Stixwould we had our lunch by the very attractive church and then continued to Southrey on the banks of the Witham before completing the day's walking at Bardney Abbey.  Towering over Bardney id the British Sugar factory built in 1927.  Now closed it was a feature of my childhood as during the beet 'campaign' from September to February each year it operated 24 hours a day and processed millions of tonnes of beet into 110,00 tonnes of sugar.  During the campaign fleets of lorries used to pass through Woodhall on the way to the factory usually losing some beet on the way.  We children used to gather these and around hallowe'en and bonfire night, we would make them in our version of pumpkin lanterns.  The smell of roasting beet was wonderful.  The route meets the Witham for the first time at Southrey and Bardney and from now on we shall see it several more times, eventually passing close its source at South Witham in the southern reaches of the county.

On today's walk were butterflies aplenty, mainly speckled woods, meadow browns and the occasional brimstone.  Plenty of dragonflies were on the wing too; largely migrant hawkers, the last to emerge in the year, and both common and ruddy darters.

To view large, please click on an image.

Common Darter
Migrant Hawker
Ruddy Darters
Speckled Wood
Meadow Brown