The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. MARCEL PROUST

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. WILLIAM BLAKE

Wanderer, there is no way; the way is made by walking. ANTONIO MACHADO

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Plogsland

I've lived in many different places, but I was born in Lincolnshire, raised in Lincolnshire and for the past ten years have lived in Lincolnshire (or, to be exact, on the border between Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire). This county (one of England's largest, one of its flattest and one of its most depopulated) doesn't exactly draw me — well, not in the same way as Dante to Beatrice, or Tristan to Isolde, or Abélard to Héloïse. More like a tube of iron filings is attracted to a magnetic field, maybe — prosaically, unromantically, habitually. Today I marched another short stretch of Lincolnshire's most well-known trail, the Viking Way, and revisited once more the barren fenlands and ploughed-earth flatlands of my youth.

In Woodhall Spa I dawdled in tea rooms and bakeries, waiting for the torrential downpour to end. The uniform sky stretched monochrome-grey from horizon to horizon. I put on my Goretex gear and set off reluctantly down the path. Immediately I knew yet again why I loved walking, even in the rain. All my niggling little cares and worries had slipped away and my head felt light. I was really enjoying the simple, autumn-tinged walkway out of Woodhall Spa — across the golf course, through the woods and past this magnificent oak tree...          

The path led through woodland and over a golf course...

... to this gate with its reassuringly familiar Viking helmet marker.

I gained the old trackbed of the Horncastle and Kirkstead Railway at Sandy Lane. This disused railway line is now a cycleway, bridleway and walkers' route, known as the Spa Trail. The fallen leaves were pleasing to walk on... 

Here's a signboard highlighting the sculptures to be found along the way... 

I passed this striking artwork made of galvanised steel. It had now stopped raining and for the rest of the afternoon the sun came out in fits and starts.

Looking down at my feet (how often we miss what's happening down there!) I was struck by this random pattern of colourful leaves... 

The tree-lined pathway continued its delightful progress...

... unveiling wooden sculptures of fractal forms...

I eventually came to the small market town of Horncastle. A place, I admit, I would not like to frequent often.  You know those films where a stranger enters a pub in the back of beyond and the locals suddenly go all quiet and sinister? Well, I had a pretty similar experience entering Horncastle's Market Square dressed in a bright blue Berghaus rainshell and waterproof trousers, with a rucksack on my back and a camera round my neck. I mean, those incredulous faces didn't just latch onto mine and stay latched — their jaws dropped too, and they remained dropped...

St Mary's Church, Horncastle.

Far away I'd seen a hint, a suggestion, a faint whisper of hills beyond Horncastle as I'd approached the town.  Low — yes. Treeless  — certainly.  An illusion — probably. Yet my heart and soul yearned for some higher distance and airier spaces. 'Touch wood' I'd reach them soon. I seemed to remember that John Hillaby in his book Journey through Britain had described this part of the country as 'plogsland' — a word that had always conjured up for me a picture of plodding and slogging and bogginess. Undeterred, however, I plogged on... 

Shop in Horncastle.

21 comments:

Gail said...

This is a wonderful post and I SO enjoyed the travels/adventure and sights - beautiful Thank you for taking me away from our ravaged state from the hurricane.
Love Gail
peace.......

Martin said...

Looks like a nice walk, I'll be exploring Lincs in the next couple of months, it all looks quite hilly compared to the fens where I live ; )

Loren said...

Love that steel sculpture.

Ruth said...

Starting with that magnificent oak, I loved every step.

Dick said...

This is not a part of Britain with which I'm familiar, but although I'm not at all comfortable with the entirely flat, the descriptions here and the accompanying pictures sell it well!

Goat said...

That shiny sculpture is great! The tea rooms and bakeries sound awesome too, and remind me that it's time I headed into town for Sunday breakfast.

You know, we say "touch wood" in Australia too (well, people of a certain age do) - but try it in America and people won't know what you're talking about. It's up there with "fortnight" for its ability to mystify.

George said...

As always, I found vicarious pleasure in seeing the photos and reading about this walk. I must also remember this word, "plogland." I've plogged through that terrain on many occasions, both literally and metaphorically.

Rubye Jack said...

What a cool walk! I love the galvanized steel artwork seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, the color of the leaves and oh, how I related to walking into a country pub to the coldness and stares of the locals as they react to a stranger in their midst. And, I understand all too well that yearning for higher ground. Thanks for sharing this wonderful walk.

Dominic Rivron said...

I once walked into a village near Wendover similarly dressed. A local looked me up and down. "Katmandu's that way," he said, jerking his thumb.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for reading, Gail. And can I say right now how much we in the UK are feeling for you over there in the US, particularly for those whose lives have been so catastrophically affected on the eastern seaboard.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, Martin, there's flat, and there's very flat — and then there's Cambridgeshire!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Loren, Ruth, Dick, Goat, George, Rubye an Dominic for calling in.

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

That certaily looks like a wonderful walk to me! and on top of that the Art works sattered about how nice.
Dominic Rivron's comment madre me laugh!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for commenting, Cranky Crone! Dominic? Don't encourage him ;)

Linda said...

Greetings from Montreal, Canada. Great post! My grandparents on my father's side were born in Kent. I thoroughly love your photos.

Sir Hugh said...

I Just found your interesting blog whilst reading Postcard from Timperley, and have added you to my bookmark list.

Woodhall Spa caught my eye. I stayed there in 2010 on my attempted walk from Lowestoft to St Bees Head. The walk was aborted on day 28 after I fell descending Nan Bield Pass in The Lakes and cut a vein in my leg. I managed to walk out to Patterdale. The walk was then renamed The Broads to The Lakes.

Here is my journal entry for Woodhall Spa:
At Woodhall Spa I rejected the first site which appeared to be a mess in somebody's back yard. I found the Camping and Caravan Club site. I went into town (a sort of imitation mini Harrogate failed).
Bought some Tyrozets (thanks Tom) and some stuff called Iglu for my sunburnt lips. Iglu puts on a pseudo layer of skin which is almost impossible to get off and made me look like a monster. I ate in the tent - InstantPotato and corned beef hash followed by fruit salad, coffee and biscuits.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your interesting comment, Sir Hugh.

Your Nan Bield Pass story reminds me of my own visit there. I'd hiked half the Kentmere Horseshoe to Thornthwaite Crag, then rashly decided to descend to Mardale via High Street and Rough Crag. The climb back up to Nan Bield was arduous in the extreme, and I was very tired, so I abandoned my plan of completing the Horseshoe and retreated back down to the Kent valley.

BTW, some mates and I camped in that Woodhall Spa campsite one wet weekend just over forty years ago!

The Solitary Walker said...

... and thanks, Linda, for your visit...

The Camping Trail said...

The steel sculpture is indeed striking. I wonder how it managed to brave the harsh weather condition and still look as though it is on the same condition it was erected. Very ingenuous of the artist. Kudos to the guy, whoever he is.

Óscar said...

The most wonderful post about walking in England I never read!
Nice to meet you Mr. Solitary Walker.

Gema & Oscar (Spain)

The Solitary Walker said...

I think the secret lies in the galvanised steel material, Camping Trail...

And Oscar and Gema: so nice to meet you the other day in Corfe Castle, Dorset, and best of luck with your Blyton-esque stories...