Our Travel blog
Saturday 1 October
Reading back it occurred to me that while writing about the journey here I made a lazy quip about there being “suspiciously few surnames” in parts of Lincolnshire. Intrigued to see if any statistics supported this stereotype I lost myself in research of a most disturbing kind. In summary police statistics published in February 2016 show 94 offences of incest in West Yorkshire, followed by Kent with 58; Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, three areas that attract ‘jokes’ of the 6 finger, webbed feet variety barely register. Of course these statistics only record crimes reported to the police but that’s the same for all counties. Research into incest is a bit of a minefield. It’s all quite upsetting and makes for grim reading, a sobering reminder that beyond our little bubble in Mavis the real world and its innumerable problems continues. It puts our moans about over engineered domestic appliances into perspective.
So with apologies to Lincolnshireites for my idle stereotype its back to Sutton-on-Sea where we decided to be up bright and early to make the most of the sunshine, before the torrential rain that was promised late afternoon arrived. That’s why at the crack of 12.24 pm we shuffled sheepishly out of the site just as most of the caravaners were returning from their morning constitutionals. Just in time for afternoon tea and a gossip about the lazy sods in the motorhome. The printed leaflet about the walk we were on promised an educational saunter around the Lincolnshire countryside where we’d get to see all manner of delights. Now, I hate to take issue with it but once we left the cover of the tree lined old railway, which as Alison pointed out had the duel benefit of shade and screened us from the rest of Lincolnshire, we entered a featureless desert where the most interesting features were roadkill.
The old railway line we started out on was closed in 1970 because the drivers regularly fell asleep and woke up in Belgium with a trainload of angry wet passengers. Actually I made that up but it’s more interesting than the truth that the line died out because people didn’t use it. The walk took us up a B-road, passed some young inquisitive foals in a field and eventually a left turn along the bank of a drainage ditch, freshly dredged and stagnant. After a while we turned left again and down a track that took us passed farms that look like farms everywhere else; a tumbling outbuilding, defunct apparatus rusting in a corner, barns with miscellaneous machinery under dusty tarpaulins and a tidy farmhouse with children’s toys scattered about the garden and washing fluttering on a sagging line.
We crossed between fields, freshly ploughed and smelling of parched earth. We could feel the crushing weight of the vast open sky and featureless landscape, stretching away to an indistinct horizon in every direction. Breaking up the monotony were two tall radio masts and to the north elegant wind turbines rotating gently in the breeze. Incidentally, nearby Mablethorpe was home to two of the first commercially operating wind turbines in the country way back in 2001, located at a water treatment works. Today there are vast arrays of turbines off these shores in the choppy North Sea. As they do everywhere else, the locals objected. Well, writing angry missives to the local rag is something you can do and is easier than actually researching renewable energy and thinking for yourself I suppose. Aside from the usual parade of climate change deniers, head buriers, not entirely unreasonable concerns for bird and marine life and some downright lies about subsidies and carbon footprints, people were objecting to the view. “Object to the view…” I wanted to scream “this is Lincolnshire, they ARE the view you dim-witted numptie!”
But I didn’t because they were built ages ago and my intervention was entirely imaginary and served only to relieve the tedium of this countryside. A countryside which was enlivened no end when we skirted around a roadside bungalow to be confronted by a gentleman trying to repair a puncture on his penny farthing bicycle. We should have been more surprised but this is Lincolnshire so we took it in our stride, watched as he gave up and with a shrug tottered off forlornly pushing his machine beside him. The last leg of the walk was along the sea front where we braved the sand for a while then walked along the seemingly endless promenade, passed beach huts of a bygone era and into Sandilands and refreshment at The Fat Seagull café. While partaking of fine coffee I remembered that near to the furthest point of our walk at Anderby there is one of the UK’s premier tourist attractions - the Anderby Drainage Museum. Located in a 1945 pumping station built to drain 9,200 acres of land it is open for 2 Sundays a year so that visitors (I’m probably being generous using the plural, but who knows) can admire it’s…”two Ruston 10HRC twin cylinder oil engines. These engines then drive Allen Gwynnes 42” centrifugal pumps which are capable of pumping 4,500 litres of water per second.” Alison was particularly relieved to know that tomorrow would not be one of the Sundays it opened.
I don’t wish to seem ungrateful to the engineers and farmers of the fens. Ever since the Earl of Bedford and his ‘Gentleman Adventurers’ set about draining the fens in 1630 these dry flatlands have become valuable arable land and the source of much needed staple crops for the UK. It’s a magnificent feat of engineering and not one we should take for granted. It’s just that in the same way that carnivores don’t want to take the grandchildren for a day out at the abattoir I don’t feel I need to understand the workings of the farms or visit drainage museums. Nevertheless if you’re the sort of person who likes looking at 10HRC twin cylinder oil engines, be they built by Ruston or not, then it’s probably a treasure trove of oily delights. I fear though that the casual visitor may be accosted by earnest men in greasy overalls harbouring an unhealthy passion for 42” pumps and have to feign a heart attack to get away. Maybe that’s why so many places around here have collection boxes for the air ambulance, to whom I contributed our change, before heading off to arrive at Mavis by 5pm, just as the caravaners were slipping into something acrylic and settling down for an evening of TV game shows and cocoa.
 The gift shop would be amazing though, little Johnny and Jessica could take home souvenir pencil erasers in the shape of their favourite offal, Dad could pick up a replica stun gun for the mantelpiece while mum mulls over the wonderful choice of sinew and blood soaps available.
Sunday 2nd October
The threatened rain fell last night as darkness descended and we fell into a gentle sleep, lulled by the pitter-patter rhythm on the roof. We really made an effort to be up early today but failed. I eventually climbed down the ladder from our bedroom around 9am, creaking and groaning away like a Ruston 10HRC twin cylinder oil engine in need of a good service. After the usual packing up routine we set sail for the return journey to Cambridge via a diversion to Grantham and a stopover in the pretty town of Stamford.
Stamford, just on the borders of Lincolnshire and is the perfect antidote for the waste lands we found to the east of the county. It’s a charming and pretty place, and on a sunny Sunday the soft limestone buildings, multitude of churches and ornate civic buildings were a delight to wander lazily around. Thanks to becoming the first town in the country to create a conservation area, back in 1967, it is largely unspoilt and has even been a bit of a TV star of late, with Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice filmed here among others. It lies just off the A1, once the Great North Road, approximately half way between London and York, where it served as a mail coach interchange and was a prosperous wool town. Today its prosperity seems to be from tourists who come to wander its streets, poke about in expensive shops, slurp coffee and eat in one of its many pubs and restaurants, which may we say appear to be reasonably priced and, if the slightly odd old coaching inn we had lunch in was anything to go by, the food is good.
It appeared that Stamford had much more to offer than we had time to appreciate. According to the town’s website we’d bypassed most of its “11 churches, 30 pubs, 20 restaurants…” not to mention the elegant greenery of The Meadows and the Tudor pile of nearby Burghley House. This vast mansion was built by William Cecil, secretary of state to Queen Elizabeth I, for his mother; a slightly more impressive gift than a mug with World’s Greatest Mum etched on I suppose. As we were wandering back towards Mavis the now familiar cry of “Alison…Co-eee” went up and a lady who had once worked with Alison came bobbing out of a coffee shop. I settled in to my familiar role of nodding sagely and desperately trying to remember who it is, in what context they are known, whether I’ve met them before and if so to speculate about whether I did anything embarrassing or awkward that I should be suitably contrite for.
Once away we sailed into Cambridge where, among the solicitor’s letters and other house buying and selling paraphernalia we were treated to the latest issue of the Caravan Club magazine, strapline “A dull read for dull people.” Actually that’s a lie, its fine, just a bit, well, caravanny. What particularly drew my attention though was the A5 magazine enclosed with it that sold all manner of attire for the debonair caravaner. I mulled over a fiesta of man-made fabrics, cardigans whose main attraction was diamond shaped detailing on the nipple area, tartan pyjamas, jeans with elasticated waists, faux fur lined slippers and cargo trousers that went up to a 56”waist. Frankly if you have a 56” waist you don’t need cargo pants, you are cargo.
From Monday we will be house and cat sitting in Rattlesden, a village in Suffolk that just about makes it onto the map. We will be holed up there for a week so we’ll post an update soon. Meanwhile there is work to be done on the book, forms to fill in for the solicitor, countryside to be explored, low ceilings to be avoided and civilisation to be searched for. Stay tuned.
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