I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Friday, 30 August 2013

Caistor To Barnetby Le Wold


Sometimes you begin a walk and you're ready to rock; other times you just feel lethargic. Today I felt lethargic. My legs were stiff and unresponsive, and my feet twinged. However, the day was another fine and sunny one — though clouds were gathering — and eight miles along an easy-going path did not sound too strenuous. Also, it was the penultimate stage of the Viking Way, so a cause for celebration. But the first person I met on leaving Caistor did not seem in celebratory mood. He looked up suspiciously from hacking at his overgrown garden as I went by.

'Where are you heading?'
'Barnetby.'
'Barnetby? That's miles away!'
'I should be there in three or four hours.'
'But are you walking all the way? Don't you jog or run?'
'I'm walking. I'm a walker. That's what I do."
'Are you doing it for charity?'
'Nope. I'm doing it for myself.'
His expression was a mixture of puzzlement and disdain. Then he sighed and turned back to his garden. I pushed on, but he called after me.
'Is this a weed?' he asked, pointing with his spade at a monstrously tall and ugly plant. 'The wife will kill me if I dig up her garden flowers.'
'It's a weed,' I assured him. He turned his back on me and continued chopping away.


The path contoured round the north-west escarpment of the Wolds, stitching together the spring-line settlements of Clixby, Grasby, Owmby, Searby, Somerby and Bigby ('by' is a Viking suffix which originally meant 'farmstead'). I passed church after church — All Hallows' at Clixby had been completely abandoned — and farm after farm. From half-way up the hill the open views of the flatlands to the west were impressive, but less so as I descended to Barnetby.


The melancholy, mildewy smell of autumn was in the air: hawthorn berries were now blood red in the hedgerows, swallows crowded the telephone wires, a murder of crows stalked the stubble fields, and corn was either cut or being cut. 


I ate my packed lunch of pitta bread filled with salad and cheese on a bench in Searby, then hastened to Barnetby railway station to catch a train back to Lincoln. I had to run the last part of the way, and I thought back to the day's earlier encounter. 'Don't you run?'

9 comments:

Dominic Rivron said...

Was it a weed or were you pulling his leg?

The Solitary Walker said...

'll have to disappoint and say that it really was a weed — it looked like some gigantic plantain — though they do say that one person's weed is another person's flower, and vice versa.

The Weaver of Grass said...

How interesting family connections are Robert - I intended to ask Dominic's question too!

The Solitary Walker said...

And this time the answer is: it was a rare Amorphophallus Titanum (http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Amorphophallus-titanum.htm).

Only joking.

Ruth said...

Good story, and congrats on the penultimate. He may have looked at you with disdain, but he knew whom to ask about the flora.

I'm always glad to hear and see what you walked.

Friko said...

You made his day, he’s probably still talking about the crazy man who wanted to walk all the way to Barnetby.

Goat said...

Love the random encounter which is one of the joys of a long walk, the fact that eight miles seems like a long way nowadays to some people when a lot of folk used to go that far for a loaf of bread (so I'm told), and Ye Olde Corn Harvester adding to the tranquil rustic bliss.

But best of all: the pitta bread & adornments. Now, that's real walking food.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Ruth, Friko and Goat for your comments.

Ah, what you can stuff into a pitta bread 'pocket', Goat! Eight miles was nothing for Wordsworth, Coleridge et al in the poetic past. Myself, I'd walk twice that distance for a bottle of French wine and good company at the end of a Camino day...

That crazy man...

dritanje said...

Ah but these odd characters are such gifts aren't they? They hand you a script, just as this one did. I agree though, that people just don't walk very much these days.
I always enjoy reading about your journeys and seeing the pictures you take!