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The Viking Way ~ Hessle to Oakham: 174.03 Miles.

12th -21st April 2019: 10 days

Introduction

Introduction

I remember catching the train to St Bees for my first walk, the Coast to Coast, without having done any preparation. I must now be over-thinking things as I started planning this one when we returned from Australia in January!

The journey

The Journey
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The taxi arrived at 06:25 and the driver expressed mild interest in our venture, but didn’t look like he walked much further than from the door to the boot. He dropped us at ‘Alty’ station where we caught the relatively empty Metro to Manchester Piccadilly. It was an uneventful trip, save for a foul mouthed woman screaming into her phone.

I bought my usual carluccio’s coffee and pastries whilst Kym guarded the bags. We waited a few minutes for the train on platform 1. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a relatively new unit, with comfy seats and a TV information monitor. We read the paper and chatted as we crossed the Pennines and passed through several stops before most people got off at Leeds. I got the maps ready as we neared The Humber so we were ready to go as we pulled into Hull Paragon Station: my first time since leaving Hull as a student in 1977!

Our driver, Sean, was waiting for us. A large chap, he gave us a friendly handshake then set off after offering me a tour of the city for old times’ sake. Sean said that he’d had the most awful last 24 hours. His Vietnamese wife had woken up in pain and was, in his words, ‘green’! It turned out she had a burst appendix, which was being operated on as we spoke. Sean told the story of how they met when he was running a Kung Fu course after she had moved to London. He drove his taxi for 60 hours a week, spent 20 hours a week on the school run and filled his ‘spare time’ running the ‘Mann Kung Fu School’: a truly remarkable chap.

12th April 2019 – Hessle to Barnetby:: 18.05 miles

Day 43

Sean dropped us at the north end of the bridge, which we then crossed via the east side footway. I wasn’t at all troubled by vertigo: it was a doddle after the Severn Crossing!

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Linking the Viking and Yorkshire Wolds Ways

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The Humber Estuary from the middle of the bridge

We dodged three cyclists half way across then descended to Barton Waterside, where we got directions from some workmen. One had walked the Viking Way and said that whilst the northern end was good, the ‘green lanes’, further south, were blighted by quad bikes. Not a ringing endorsement of the next week and a half.

We had to walk east to find the start of the walk, which was indicated by a board on an old riverside building.

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Start of the Viking Way (optimistic mileage!)

Turning west, we retraced our steps and video called Tom, who was living and working in Melbourne, as we passed beneath the Humber Bridge. We had a good long chat in which he told us that he’d been to a comedy club where one of his uni mates was performing!

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The Humber Bridge from Far Ings Nature Reserve

We passed several walkers before leaving the estuary at South Ferriby Cliff and walking through the chalky fields past South Ferriby Hall to the village.

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Pipeline to South Ferriby Cement Plant

We by-passed the village proper and climbed past a quarry which was delivering chalk, via a pipeline, to the cement works on the Humber half a mile or so below to the west. We had good views over to the bridge and beyond as we turned east along a single carriageway, but nevertheless busy, lane.

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The Bridge from Horkstow Wolds

We passed Turton’s Covert and found a conveniently sited log on which to sit and eat our sandwiches.

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Lunch on a log

It was bitterly cold so we both zipped up our jackets and put on hats, hoods and gloves! Moving on we made for the A15 at Bonby Lodge: the traffic becoming increasingly loud as we approached it. We crossed over the busy road via a road bridge then took the field path that ran adjacent to the road for a mile or so before striking away to the south east.

We had moved to the side of the path to let another large chap pass on his bike. He stopped and we chatted about long distance walks. He had done the Yorkshire Wolds’ Way in four days! We stopped for an apple on another log, then pressed on, seeing only a single dog walker in the next few miles. Kym assured me that we were further on than I thought but we then found that I was right and we both had to adjust to doing another mile that we hadn’t expected.

We passed a suspicious looking van on a dead end lane and a youth with headphones on hanging about it before we arrived at the A180, which we crossed with care. From there it was down to and across the A18 and on towards Barnetby. We turned right just before the station and followed the lane for half a mile to Rookery Farm where we were met by Elaine and her husband.

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Our room was lovely. We each had a shower and Kym watched ‘Paining Challenge’ on her phone whilst I wrote my journal. We chatted to Joe as we walked to the Whistle and Flute pub for dinner. The ‘Whistle’ was grotty outside but once inside we found friendly staff, great food and nice beer. After a chilly walk back to the B&B we went straight to bed.

13th April 2019 – Barnetby to Tealby: 20.3 miles

Day 44

I didn’t sleep badly but woke early, showered, packed and then joined three Italian coffee machine engineers in the breakfast room. They were touring Yorkshire to undertake maintenance on commercial coffee machines. We had a decent breakfast after which we paid and filled our water sacks.

We set off at 08:45 on a beautifully clear, but cold, day. We walked back to the station then wound our way through an uninspiring Barnetby. We said ‘Good morning’ to a chap who had clearly just driven 50 yards to get his morning paper: ‘I don’t know where you get the energy’ he said.

The path soon gave onto open countryside and we walked along with the Wold to our left. The first village, Bigby, was very pleasant but, having detoured to see All Saints church, we found that it was locked.

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All Saints Church, Bigby

We crossed the A1084 and ascended to an obelisk, which commemorated a 24 year marriage and around which grazed three beautiful white horses.

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Monument, Bigby Hill

Passing on to a little lane we said ‘hi’ to another horsewoman then passed the tiny church of St Margaret’s tucked into the hillside.

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St Margaret's Church, Somerby

The next building that we passed was a superb property in magnificent grounds, all monitored by several CCTV cameras. The path continued along the spring line, passing through the attractive small hamlets of Searby and Grasby. The latter was slightly marred by the abundance of fairly naff properties that had been extended in the ‘Bowdon’ style!

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St Nicholas Church, Searby

We crossed the A-road at Clixby, where we entered the disused church of All Hallows: a wonderful small building with a remarkable history.

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All Hallows Church, Clixby

Walking through the next field we came across what Kym thought was a dead wild pig, but which could have been a young badger. We passed through two abandoned villages, Audleby and Fonaby, the latter retaining its beautiful farm house, as we approached Caister.

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A rather unnecessary gate

The path took a steep descent followed by an equally steep ascent into the town.

Caister was a quaint little place, but clearly a shadow of its former self. We wandered through the market square and to the Caister Heritage Centre where we sat outside in the partial sun to each enjoy a bowl of soup. We had a quick look around the local museum then retraced our steps to the market square. From there we descended to the lovely St Peter and St Paul Church which sat opposite Caistor Grammar School.

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St Peter and St Paul Church, Caistor

Many of the buildings featured the beautiful local ironstone, which glowed amber in the early afternoon sun. Passing a two metre section of the old Roman wall and a couple of natural springs, we left the town past its red doored fire station cut into the hill. The path proceeded through a council estate and round a school as the hail began to fall!

We crossed the A46 and followed the path down to the attractive village of Nettleton. As we left the village we passed a group of ramblers coming the other way. We also saw a very amusing sign that proscribed several activities from happening on the farmland through which we were about to pass.

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A not 'permissive' right of way?

We followed the Nettleton Beck which flowed in the bottom of a reasonably steep sided valley in which Belgian Blue cattle grazed. At the chalk pit access road we climbed a little then descended through the trees, passing old abandoned ironstone mine entrances and the track bed of the old service railway.

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Old alum works near Nettleton

The track gave out into another valley through which we followed the course of the beck as we ascended. We stopped for a bite to eat on an old log and I tightened Kym’s laces, which seemed to relieve some of the toe pain she was experiencing.

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Adjusting the boots!

We passed the source of the beck and continued up to the head of the valley where we turned right to Acre House: a farm with terrific views across the Lincolnshire Plain. The minor road that we followed from there along the ridge afforded even better views, with Lincoln Cathedral and two power stations clearly visible on the horizon.

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View from highest point in Lincolnshire, Normanby le Wold

A ‘golf ball on a tee’ radar station marked the highest point in Lincolnshire. A ‘Cap’n Birdseye’ type was sitting in his car listening to a short wave radio, having rigged up a huge aerial attached to a gate. We veered off the road just before Normanby le Wold, a tiny hamlet with another lovely church: St Peter’s.

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St Peter's Church, Normanby le Wold

An elderly couple had just put the heaters on for tomorrow’s service. He complained that they’d not had rain here for months. We had a quick mosey around the church and churchyard then walked back to the track, which ran for a mile or so along the ridge. Again, the views were great and we passed a couple of young walkers.

As we descended to Walesby Kym’s knee started hurting badly so we slowed down a lot. Walesby was yet another attractive sleepy village. All Saints Church was at the top of a long steep climb out of the village.

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All Saints Church, Walesby

It was another lovely ironstone building but disused except for the occasional ‘ramblers’ service in commemoration of a stained glass window that featured walkers and cyclists.

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Hiker's window, All Saints Church, Walesby

A woman who had been sitting outside the church overtook us as we left and walked through some deer paddocks.

We descended some tricky paths then up again to reveal the splendid Risby House, with its wavy topped ironstone boundary wall. The paddocks contained rare Licolnshire Longwool sheep, which are apparently the largest native sheep breed in the UK.

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A Lincolnshire Longhorn

With Tealby in our sights we picked our way gingerly up and down the steep paths, eventually to descend the Rasen Road where we turned right and after a bit of a hunt found Pear Tree Cottage. A note from the owner, in the letter box, apologized for not meeting us but explained where our accommodation was. The self-contained garden room was beautiful and we had a quick shower before settling down to a cup of tea and some delicious homemade sponge cake. I wrote my journal and we got ready to go to the pub for dinner.

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The King’s Head pub was a cold walk away from Pear Tree Cottage. We entered this oldest pub in Lincolnshire (1369) and took a seat beneath the speaker, which was issuing forth a tinny noise consisting of ‘The worst songs from the musicals, ever!’ It was like having one’s teeth pulled. The staff and food (I had beef stroganov and apple and raspberry crumble; Kym, lamb shank) made up for it though. Half way through our meal we were joined by our B&B host Anne, who was charming.

After the meal we bumped into our taxi driver for tomorrow’s baggage transfer, David and finalized arrangements for pick up. It was a cold walk back to a nice comfy bed.

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14th April 2019 – Tealby to Scamblesby: 16.9 miles

Day 45

Slept well despite the light coming on in the bathroom each time I went to the loo. Dressed and packed then wandered passed the pigeon sitting on eggs in its nest outside our rooms, across the gardens and into Anne’s house.

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Pear Tree Cottage, Tealby

Our table was laid in the hall and we helped ourselves to cereal and fruit before Anne came in to take our drinks order. My ‘Full English’ was great. I paid and chatted briefly to Anne whilst Kym got ready. David picked up our bags and we said our goodbyes to Anne.

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We walked back up the hill to where we had hit Rasen Road. There were great views back the way we had come. Crossing the High Street we came to some little used poultry sheds and old Nissan huts before arriving at the A631 and the rather forlorn town of Ludford.

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Nissan Huts, Ludford

Its claim to fame, apart from a curiously named street, was an association with the Lancaster 101 squadron that had been based at the, now abandoned, airfield to the south. I retrieved a large umbrella that had been blown into the road by the wind and was thanked by the old chap whose garden centre it had come from.

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Ludford

We passed between the houses on either side of the main road then took a right along Grisby Vale followed by a left at Grisby Top.

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Grisby Top

We couldn’t make out the abandoned village of Wykeham but did see the grass covered outline of some building that had once been ‘East Wykeham’ once we descended to the River Bain. We headed right across recently ploughed fields that were heavy with flint and chalk After a couple of long ascents and descents we followed the windy ridge to Grim’s Mound, a rather uninspiring, but prominent, small hillock by the side of the track. We were following two other walkers who kept their distance ahead of us.

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Grim's Mound

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We crossed the A157 and followed a dirt road down to yet another abandoned village: Biscathorpe. Kym spotted the head of a hare popping up out of the long grass and I managed to get a photo.

Biscathorpe was picturesque, with its streams, footbridges, a rental cottage and the tiny church of St Helen’s, which was unfortunately locked.

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St Helen's Church, Biscathorpe

Kym was in a lot of pain from her knee so we walked slowly along the River Bain, which was dammed in places to form large ponds. The large radio mast, ahead and to the right, indicated how far we had to walk before we reached Donington. We emerged at Mill Cottage and walked along the road into the village with its attractive, squat, church and its very well received pub.

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The Black Horse, Donington

We entered the Black Horse, sat by the fire and each ordered soup, which was great. Kym applied liberal amounts of Ibuprofen to her knees and after eating and a cup of tea, started to feel better. The other two walkers, who we had passed as they stopped for a picnic lunch by the Bain, came into the pub for a drink.

We left, refreshed and exited the village through horse paddocks before crossing over a disused railway line. It started to rain a little, making us even colder than we had been in the strong wind. We passed through some attractive stands of trees, seeing cyclists and walkers coming the other way.

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Colley Hill, Goulceby

Crossing a stream and passing through one of many kissing gates along this section we emerged onto a large grassy area containing Colley Hill. Kym was ahead and climbed the hill, following Viking Way signs, despite the map showing that the path skirted the hill.

We passed onto a dirt track and saw Lincolnshire Red Cattle: very stocky with long reddish brown coats.

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A Lincolnshire Red

 Goulceby’s old cemetery lay a few hundred yards north of the village. It had been abandoned when a new church was built closer to the village. It was a quiet, pretty, spot but we were conscious of time so we pressed on. The trail passed through the quiet hamlet and out into fields once again, following one of the many shallow streams that criss-crossed the landscape.

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Boardwalk at Asterby

Kym spotted a Sita Deer on the far bank of the stream but it bolted before I could photograph it. The field ahead also contained many deer. There was no sign of life in the stream. The noise of a motorcycle race meeting at Cadwell Park, a couple of miles to the northeast, had been audible since Donnington and was now considerably louder. That, together with the traffic noise from the busy A153 meant that Scamblesby was not the quietest of villages.

We passed some horses grazing in a paddock with little grass, but funny clumps of daffodils. It was necessary to hop the crash barriers to cross the main road but once safely on the other side I called david of Tealby Taxis to tell him where we’d got to. We entered the scruffy main street of Scamblesby and Googled the Green Man pub, which was afforded two stars by one reviewer: one for the dog and one for the comedy landlord who, the review claimed, was worse than Basil Fawlty! We decided against stopping in there and instead walked on through the village to the furthest point on the trail that a taxi could get to.

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Pick up point, Scamblesby

We sat on a roadside grit container and waited 30 minutes for David to arrive. After we had jumped gratefully into his large people mover he drove us via Horncastle to Woodhall Spa. It was a long drive and the subject of tomorrow’s leg of the walk! We jumped out of the taxi, paid £45 and rang the bell of the hotel, desperately tired and eager to shower and relax. There was no answer. We made afew phone calls to numbers I had for the hotel then a girl came running round from the back to let us in. She had just completed the Boston (Lincs) half marathon, but still offered to carry our bags up two flights of stairs!

We showered and had a cuppy. I wrote my journal whilst Kym snoozed. I left her resting her knees and collected an Indian take away, which we ate whilst relaxing in front of the TV.

Day 46

15th April 2019 – Scamblesby to Woodhall Spa: 15.7 miles

I woke after a reasonable sleep and Kym told me that she had decided no to walk today. We discussed it but it seemed sensible, in view of her sore knees, for her to have a rest from what was a much more punishing schedule than I had thought it would be.

Breakfast was very ordinary. I packed my day sack and jumped into Barry’s taxi when he arrived at 08:45. We swapped our respective ‘life stories’ all the way to where Kym and I had finished our walk last night. I jumped out at the grit bin, switched on my Strava tracker and carried on in the direction we had been walking, along the lane and out of the village. The lane passed several houses and then entered fields.

I called Kym to tell her that I had started and then Mum, who couldn’t have sounded less interested in the walk. She did manage to tell me all about her morning newspaper routine and about how Roger had brought her back from Sainsburys.

I skirted Juicetrump Hill before arriving in the small village of Belchford. Here, I recognized the Blue Bell pub as the one that Kym, the boys and I had previously visited.

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The Blue Bell, Belchford

I then knew that we had all done the next section of the walk when staying in our touring caravan at Fullerby a few years ago. The trail followed the lane out of the village, across some scruffy marshland to a large upturned tree stump. I photographed this and it precipitated a punning WhatsApp exchange: ‘Right root?’, ‘Stumped?’. I called Tom in Melbourne and he told me he was off to Sydney for the day tomorrow.

I called Kym but struggled to hear on account of the wind. I was distracted so missed a Viking Way sign and had to walk back some way along the ridge to regain the trail. I could see Fullerby across the valley and eventually managed to pick up the correct path. I was just about to take a pee but fortunately spotted a girl dog walker approaching, so postponed the attempt.

I walked up to Fullerby where I kept bumping into a chap who was delivering leaflets to all the houses in the village by 4WD. I detoured to look at the caravan site we had stayed on but it seemed to have been shut down: a great shame. I then walked back through the village but couldn’t find the church referred to in the guide book, so carried on through.

The trail didn’t follow the lane we had taken when we cycled from Fullerby to Horncastle but instead descended through farmland to the west. It became quite cold and windy depending on which side of the hedge the path was following at any time. I passed the time trying to memorise the lyrics of the songs I was currently learning on guitar.

Eventually I emerged onto the lane which I followed to the outskirts of Horncastle. Here, the path went off to the left, providing a traffic free route right into the centre of town. I struggled to get rid of a ‘mini window’ that was blocking the screen of my phone but when I did, I decided to stop at the Old School House Café, which I did after buying sun screen from the chemist.

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Horncastle

The School House Café was fine: I had a coffee and a scone. An elderly, former RAF, chap sat at a nearby table explaining to his lady companion that he was writing a book about the ‘very, very amusing’ stories of his life. He sounded a total bore and the ‘very funny’ story that he related, about calling his Commanding Officer ‘Zebedee’ after the Magic Roundabout character, didn’t persuade me to rush out and buy his book!

I left the café and applied sun screen, as the sun was now increasingly exposed by the receding clouds. I made my way across the A158 and followed the path which ran next to the sports fields. Four school kids passed me coming the other way. I gave them a friendly smile and was rewarded by a mumbled ‘Paedo!’ as we crossed. I resisted the temptation to turn round and clip them round the ear!

I followed the drainage cut for a mile or so and then crossed to the west side of the channel where I picked up the disused railway line. It wasn’t too busy: just a few dog walkers and cyclists.

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One neighbouring property had tried a drastic ruse to deter trespassers.

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Keep out!

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Australian Nature

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British nature

These included several large silver depictions of British and Australian nature and one of a Viking longboat.

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Viking Way Sculpture Trail

I made swift progress and without Kym to chat with, listened  to Spotify to pass the time. After a short diversion from the old railway, along a lane, the trail headed across the very attractive Woodhall Spa Golf Course. I had to keep my eyes peeled for wayward shots as there were a lot of golfers about.

The approach to Woodhall Spa dragged somewhat, particularly as I was desperate for the loo. I negotiated some tree surgeons at work and passed a very restrictive parking space.

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I then made use of the public conveniences before arriving back at our hotel where Kym opened the door for me. A much easier day than the previous three but my legs were tired all the same.

I changed and wrote my journal. We then walked down to the ‘Kinema in the Woods’ where we watched ‘Fisherman’s Friends’. It was very enjoyable, despite the ‘popcorn and noisy sweets’ gang and the 1930s cinema very unusual.

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Kinema in the Woods, Woodhall Spa

From there we went to an Italian/Turkish restaurant on the main street for a tasty meal. I had a Turkish lamb dish whilst Kym had orzo seafood. We shared a baklava. We walked back to the hotel where we watched a Lee Mack sitcom about a parachute jump. Then to bed.

16th April 2019 – Woodhall Spa to Lincoln: 24.4 miles

Day 47

I slept fitfully and woke at 06:00 to news of the Notre Dame fire. We packed, dressed and went downstairs for a bowl of muesli. We asked Rebecca, our host, to wrap our breakfast sausage and bacon sandwiches and then stowed them in our day sacks. We paid and set off at 08:00, heading out of town past ‘exclusive’ bungalow developments. We turned right to exit the ‘burbs onto fields. It was noticeably warmer than the previous few days.

We headed in a northerly direction, crossing the first of many drainage ditches and passing the first of many derelict farm buildings. We freed two young lambs from a crush that they had jumped into. The first village of the day was Stixwould where we admired a fine house with gardens around a large pond.

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Stixwold

 From there we progressed along a minor, but busy, road, across Duckpool Bridge and past a fairly scruffy farm. We struggled to find somewhere pleasant to eat breakfast so sat by a drainage ditch after the farm and ate half of our sandwiches.

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Breakfast 'al fresco'

We decided against the one mile detour to view the ruins of Tupholme Abbey but instead walked across the fields to Southrey. Again we pressed on rather than visit the white weatherboard church with cockerel weather vane to our left. We walked through more fields and skirted Southrey Wood before seeing Bardney Sugar factory. Crossing the fields we passed a new development of little boxy houses before emerging onto the main road.

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I had been savouring a morning coffee at Bardney but a quick check on Google showed that the café at the Heritage Centre was closed on Tuesdays! Google assured us that there were no more shops in Bardney but Kym insisted on walking the length of the main street. She was, as ever, proved right when we came upon the ‘Bardney Butcher’ where a pleasant girl served us tea, coffee, cakes, a baguette and a game pie!

The Butcher of Bardney

We ate the cakes with our hot drinks whilst sitting on a bench and watching a succession of large road tankers drive past. Refreshed, we left town on a road on which yet more development was taking place. We took a quick look at the location of the ruined Bardney Abbey and walked past Kings Hill, a very uninspiring earth mound, before making for the road. We reached the road at yet another derelict farm house.

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Kinema in the Woods, Woodhall Spa

King's Mound, Bardney

The stretch along the busy road wasn’t very enjoyable, so we were glad finally to veer off towards Stainfield, even though we had to detour round a field that had recently been ploughed and through which the path should have taken us. The village comprised an old people’s home and about six houses but was nevertheless twinned with some, presumably equally insignificant, place in France.

Stainfield Hall and the ‘incorrectly orientated’ adjoining St Andrew church were pleasing.

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St Andrew's Church, Stainfield

Then, after more derelict barns, we turned left past a solitary house to skirt Foxhall Wood. The wood was full of flowers and butterflies flew up and down the path. It emerged at a drainage ditch which we followed to a small bridge by a static caravan residence where we sat and had lunch.

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Lunch stop, Sambre Beck

Crossing a road we walked northwest to reach the northernmost point of the day’s walk. Given the length of today’s expedition this was something of a milestone. We made a distinct turn to the southwest and made for a farm, stopping to photograph some Holstein cattle.

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Inquisitive Holsteins, Oxholme

As we left the farm the ruins of Oxholme Abbey at Low Barlings came into view. We had to run the gauntlet of another, very inquisitive, mob of Holsteins to get to there but managed to block them off with the gate by a bridge and walked over to the impressive stonework.

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Oxholme Abbey

We stopped by the ruins to finish off our lunch and admire the impressive Longhorn cattle.

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Longhorn

After a refreshing stop we pressed on through farm buildings made using the Abbey stone. There then followed a succession of fields which we crossed on a path that ran between hawthorn hedges.

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Hawthorn in bloom, approaching Fiskerton

Roger rang to say that Mum’s bank account was about to go overdrawn and could I fix it, so I had to log on to her account and do a bank transfer in the middle of a Lincolnshire field!

As we neared Fiskerton we passed a huge array of solar panels on the site of an old airfield. We entered the village and walked along the uninspiring main road. I took an early detour, looking for a pub, only to find we had walked along a residential ‘crescent’ and appeared back on the main road just along from where we’d left it. Eventually we arrived at The Carpenters pub which, disappointingly, as not overlooking the river as I had expected. We went in for a beer and to enjoy the company of several old soaks relating stories of how many times they had each been had up for drunk and disorderly behavior.

From the pub we quickly found the path to the River Witham which ran alongside a smaller drainage channel. We followed the path between the two water courses and caught sight of Lincoln Cathedral, worryingly distant.

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River Witham

We saw several swans and other water birds and a few people and dogs before leaving the river to cross a field of rape and climb up to Greetwell Hall. The hall and its adjoining church were fine buildings.

The path followed the railway line for a mile or so then passed beneath a bridge that appeared to be part of a major motorway construction project that ripped through the valley and off up the far side.

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Progress!

A jet plane was making regular loops over us: ILS testing? We crossed the railway line with Lincoln looking no closer and made our way through a dismal industrial estate which was busy with traffic at ‘going home’ time.

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Lincoln suburbs

The path took us through dull suburbs and above steep terraces of houses, past a hospital and through a fine park before steps led us to the older suburbs and finally to the eastern end of the cathedral.

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Lincoln Cathedral

We took photos, passed through the gate to castle square and then down ‘Steep Hill’ until we found The Rest which was our bed for the night. We were checked in to a nice room by a friendly girl. We were both shattered so showered, changed and had a cuppy. I wrote my journal.

Although we were both still very tired we forced ourselves out and down the hill to a nondescript terraced house in which there was an Italian restaurant I had found on Trip Advisor. We enjoyed a tasty Puglian meal and a bottle of Montepulciano. I finished my meal with a coffee and we then dragged ourselves back up Steep Hill and to bed.

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Day 48

17th April 2019 – Lincoln to Welbourn: 20.2 miles

I enjoyed another broken night’s sleep and opened the noisy electric Velux window roof blind around 06:30 (sorry other guests!). We packed, showered and went down to the pleasant dining area for a good breakfast: it was ‘Veggie’ today!

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'The Rest', Steep Hill, Lincoln

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The Cathedral from Steep Hill, Lincoln

We headed off at 09:15 and wended our way down ‘Steep Hill’ passing some interesting buildings, including the half-timbered Stokes Coffee Shop. 

 

We crossed over the River Witham that bisected the city and passed through a city wall gate, beneath which a scruffy couple were singing about Brexit (anti).

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Lincoln Guildhall gate

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Stokes' Coffee Shop, Lincoln

The way out of the city was pretty rough. A concrete storm drain led out towards Lincoln City Football Club ground, which we skirted before arriving at South Common where dozens of horses were grazing. We rounded the Common via the busy B1188 along which sped several emergency services vehicles, their sirens wailing.

As we reached the top of the steep ridge we detoured to the new museum and memorial to Bomber Command. Both were very impressive but we only had time to have a quick look.

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Bomber Command Memorial, Lincoln

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I returned a call from the taxi company with which I had arranged for our bags to be transferred from Lincoln to tonight’s stop, a pub in Welbourn. The driver, for whom English was a recently acquired skill, berated me for not paying for his services. He said that he was at the pub but would not drop my bags until he was paid. I explained that full payment had been made several weeks before today when I had made the bag transfer arrangements with his office.

The driver claimed otherwise and proceeded to berate me, in the style of English normally used by those who telephone me on a regular basis to inform me that my PC was infected and only they could help me fix it. He explained, as though I were a simpleton, that in order to benefit from a service it was necessary to pay for that service: “no pay, not get!” he screamed. I tried to contact the taxi company but without success. The driver called back to inform me, in the most condescending manner that he could muster, that he had made the pub landlord pay the fare for transporting our bags and that I should ‘do the right thing’ and pay him back! In exasperation I finally got through to his office and after an extensive trawl through their records, they confirmed that payment had been received some two months earlier! It was then that I realized that I had been carrying on this increasingly loud and angry conversation in the quiet confines of the memorial to the fallen of Bomber Command.

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The taxi company left me feeling confused

We followed the track around the ridge skirting Bracebridge Heath with views eastwards across a new housing estate and the city of Lincoln to the Lincolnshire plain. The path took us to Waddington and we walked through the pleasant village past the new church that had replaced the medieval one that was bombed in WWII.

As we walked across more fields to Harmston we heard a large jet warming up. Harmston was a very attractive small village with a mix of old and new properties built of the lovely local honey coloured stone. We pressed on to Coleby, approaching the village past the impressive hall with its stone arch gateway.

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All Saints Church and the entrance to Coleby Hall

The church was, as seems to be the case with most in Lincolnshire, locked, so we wandered down to ‘The Cliff’ for great views across the plain below. The path came back into the village and we found ourselves at The Tempest Arms, where we sat at a lovely outside table for a beer, crisps and nuts. A light aircraft flew over us five or six times as we enjoyed the view in the afternoon sunshine.

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The Tempest Arms, Coleby

We walked on past lovely old farmhouses to the next village, Boothby Graffoe, where we could just pick out Somerton Castle two miles to the west. There followed another walk along the ridge: it was refreshing to see young, unaccompanied, children enjoying themselves in the countryside. Navenby was another attractive village but the church was again locked.

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A fashionable street

We made our way up to the main street to see the Kings Head pub with its intricate coat of arms plaque.

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The King's Head, Navenby

We debated whether to make straight for Wellingore along the A607 but decided instead to walk back to the ridge path which passed ‘Clint’s Farm’ with its collection of antique tractors and cars.

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A warm welcome to Clint's Farm

Another large bend along the ridge brought us to Wellingore where we crossed the main road and took the path through the fields of bright yellow rape towards Ermine Street.

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The idea was that we would cut the corner and shorten the distance to Temple Bruer.

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A nod to Bomber Command

The fields occupied the site of a former airfield and we came across old taxi ways and pill boxes.

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Pill boxes at Navenby former airfield

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We emerged from the fields onto the old Roman road, Ermine Street, before doubling back to a smart collection of buildings at Griffins Farm. One had a red bi-plane in a hanger with a grass airstrip out front. We followed the dusty white track down to Temple Farm where we explored the Knights Templar Tower. This was a remarkable construction in the middle of nowhere. We looked at the ancient graffiti carved into the stone and climbed the spiral staircase to the first floor.

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Temple Bruer Perceptory

 It was approaching 18:00 so we left the tower and walked the long, long, boring road back towards Welbourn. Temple hall, a huge new mansion to the south of the road, provided the only real point of interest on the entire walk back to Welbourne. The road seemed, at the end of a long day’s walking, to go on forever: its crossing of Ermine Street being only a third of the way back to the village. Eventually we got to the B road and then dropped down to the A607 and into yet another attractive village.

We followed Google directions and sighed with relief as we saw The Joiner’s Arms ahead. We made the acquaintance of landlord Jeremy and apologised profusely for his having to pay our taxi driver. He showed us to our room where we freshened up and lay on the bed. We went down to the bar at 19:30 and were served a portion of cottage pie that had been cooked for a visiting golf society. We chatted with a few interested bar staff and locals before returning to our room where I completed my journal and watched Manchester City v Spurs.

Day 49

18th April 2019 – Welbourn to Marston: 16.05 miles

I managed some sleep despite being up several times in the night and finally woke around 06:00. I played solitaire on my phone whilst drinking a cup of tea then we went down for breakfast. Jeremy served us a fairly basic ceral/crosissant/toast affair. We chatted with him and briefly with his partner, Sal, who was recovering from a car accident she had yesterday.

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The Joiner's Arms, Welbourn

I double checked our taxi arrangements then we paid and set off back through Welbourn and up the hill from the A607 to the top road. Kym had eyed a track that avoided the boring road that we had walked down from Temple Bruer yesterday. We detoured to the track only to find that it was gated and private, so we had to walk all the way back to where we started: an extra half a mile already!

We spoke to Tom as we walked up to Ermine Street where we turned right and started a long straight walk along the heavily rutted track.

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Ermine Street

There was little of note along the way other than the odd glimpse of the central tower of the main Cranwell Airfield building. We saw little of the airfield other than a couple of planes. There were signs on the verges stating that this was an area of botanical interest: presumably to keep the 4WD brigade at bay.

After an age we came to the busy main road which we crossed to Byard’s Leap. We saw the four large horseshoes, said to belong to the horse that featured in the local legend.

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We stopped at the roadside café by a used BMW garage for a coffee and cake. It was a lot walmer than of late and we were glad of the shade afforded by the gazebo beneath which we sat. Some old bikers pulled up and limped across to an adjoining table.

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Byard's Leap

There then followed one of the worst sections of the walk to date. Ermine Street turned into the B6403, which we followed in a cutting beside the busy road. Our boredom was relieved by a large pig farm and a fly tip whose contents included a lobotomized garden gnome!

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Lobotomised gnome with pig farm beyond

After an age we turned off the road and followed an equally uninteresting, but less busy section across the plateau. We were aiming for a BT telecom tower that took forever to reach.

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BT Tower, Normanton Hill

When eventually we got there, we descended the ridge on a steep lane to meet the A607 which we followed into Carlton Scroop. We passed a nice looking food and drink outlet at the golf club and walked past St Nicholas’s church until we found a seat in a nice shady corner. We perched there and I removed my boots and socks as we tucked into our ‘banquet’ of cereal bars, almonds, apricots and banana.

Following a little lane and then a gravel track took us past a horse paddock and up a hill to a minor road where we turned left. We had to step aside for several cars as we passed Red House then descended the hill. We were apprehensive about a tractor spraying the field alongside which we walked. After half a ile or so we turned left again and followed a curving track down to a drainage ditch where we doubled back and walked towards the River Witham. We were pooped but a last push over a hill brought us back to the river where we sat and rested to the sound of the babbling walker. We watched a raptor annoying some crows and saw several butterflies. We had seen many yellow, white, red and black butterflies along the route.

We got up with difficulty and pressed on towards the main east coast railway line. Several GNER express trains passed as we approached and passed under the line. Just after the underpass we came to a sewage treatment works. The bad smell got worse as we moved downwind. We then noticed what could only be described as ‘murmurations’ of insects around the trees.

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Insect murmuration, Marston sewage treatment plant

Never having seen anything like it before, I took video footage of the black plumes as they tumbled out of the trees: amazing! We walked around a large area that seemed to be some kind of a natural soak for the treated sewage before it found its way back into the river.

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Sleepy Marston

I double checked our accommodation at the Olde Barn on the Booking.com website and followed the directions past some stables and along a lane into the village of Marston. We then noticed that we could have short cut across the fields to our hotel, which was on the road heading out of the village. We ran the gauntlet of cars and trucks before finally arriving, in a dusty state, at reception. We were booked into room 107 but I mislaid the key card between reception and the room. Returning to reception they apologized for ‘their mistake’ and upgraded me to a superior room. I felt guilty when I eventually found the room card in my rucksack!

Our superior room was great. We had a cup of tea then went to the pool for a swim, sauna and jacuzi. Back in the room we changed before a quick beer in the ‘Gravity’ bar, which had about as much atmosphere as outer space! We ate a meal in the huge empty restaurant to the sound of ‘Smooth Radio’ then retired to our room where we passed out in front of the TV.

Day 50

19th April 2019 – Marston to Croxton Kerrial: 16.57 miles

I woke early but, having gone to sleep at 20:30 last night reckon I got quite a long sleep. We decided to go to breakfast in ‘normal clothes’ and were first into the large restaurant. Breakfast was a decent affair. We packed and left our bags with reception before heading back down the lane to Marston.

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The Olde Barn Hotel, Marston

We didn’t take any detours to the church or to the manor but instead turned left to start a four mile straight walk towards Westborough. We phoned Joe who was in the car with Jess travelling to Betwys-y-Coed.

There was nothing much to see along the gravel road. We debated the best way to enter the village of Westborough as the Viking way sign had been removed and eventually chose to cross to cross the River Witham as it flowed south under a footbridge. The river also flows north, west and east at different points on its journey to Boston.

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River Witham at Westborough

We sat on a bench in the sun and watched the river roll by. We then walked into the village, passing people milling outside the church before walking through houses and out onto the fields across to Long Bennington. We crossed the river again by the back of some large houses then walked along the front of them noting the old circus wagon in Priory House.

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Old wagon, Priory House, Westborough

We walked through the village and down to the church, which was closed for repair. We sat in the graveyard and ate the croissants that we had taken from breakfast.

We made for the A1 and passed over the busy Easter traffic via the slip roads. This brought us to Sewstern Lane, as old droving route that runs north-south through South Lincolnshire. It started as a metalled road, which passed between a couple of houses. Beyond the very scruffy Thackson’s Well Farm it became a dusty track: very boring to walk along. As we approached a rise in the track we saw a couple coming towards us. They were doing a circular walk but the 72 year old male of the partnership, with heavily bandaged knees, told us of his plans to do the Yorkshire dales Abbey Trail. They warned us of the poor condition of the track ahead and sure enough, as we crested the hill, the trail became very rutted from 4WD bashing.

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4WD damage to Sewsten Drover's Route

We nevertheless cracked on towards the railway line, stopping just short for a break and a cereal bar. We then crossed over the line followed by the A52 and continued along the Sewsten Lane, which took a rare turn to the left through a wood before crossing a minor road. A stile on the far side of the road led on to a path that took us to the Grantham Canal. Access to the towpath was restricted as renovation work was underway. We followed the course of the canal on a footpath that ran parallel, letting a pony rider and several cyclists pass.

The path brought us to a bridge over which we walked to arrive at The Rutland Arms or ‘Dirty Duck’ canal-side pub. It was absolutely heaving with pre-Easter crowds. Kym found a patch of grass by the canal whilst I joined a lengthy queue to buy drinks and crisps. We sat in the sunshine and enjoyed our refreshments.

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The Dirty Duck, Woolsthorpe

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Woolsthorpe Wharf

We moved on, trying to avoid the crowds by taking a track which turned out to be a private drive. This meant we had to backtrack and follow the canal for half a mile or so to a bridge which we crossed to begin the ascent of a hill above Woolsthorpe by Belvoir. We passed a few walkers before reaching a minor road at Brewer’s Grave, which was opposite the rear entrance to Belvoir Castle. We caught glimpses of the castle along the next stretch of the walk.

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Belvoir Castle

Another boring section of the drover’s way brought us to a minor road. The Viking Way went straight across but we turned right and followed the road to the small village of Harston. Turning left in the middle of the village we descended along another lane before a final long steep ascent of a hill, at the top of which we saw Croxton Kerrial.

Passing the cricket club and the church we descended towards the main A607 road, asking a lady for confirmation that we were heading in the right direction. We found the Geese and Fountain pub, with its eponymous sculpture above the door, went inside and met the landlord, Nick, who showed us to our room in the annex.

I showered after Kym then we lay on the bed and had a cup of tea whilst watching TV. We went back down to the pub shortly after 21:00 and sat at the bar chatting to Nick and a pleasant local lad who looked like a cross between Jack Walters and Elliot Kerl. The beer was very good.

I ordered ravioli then burger: the latter slightly disappointing. Kym had Thai fish cakes and chicken pie. My onion rings, which by then I couldn’t face, cam at the end of my meal. We had a game of darts which Kym won after we resorted to ‘nearest the bull’ when neither of us could hit a double to finish (I said the beer was good!). We returned to the room to watch TV and go to bed.

Day 51

20th April 2019 – Croxton Kerrial to South Witham: 12.2 miles

After a reasonable sleep we took it easy until 08:20 when we went down to the pub for breakfast, which started at 08:30. There we found the landlord and his equally hairy wife having a cuppy. Breakfast was fine and after a chat with our host and settling the bill we gathered our bags and left them in the pub before setting off back up the main road.

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The Geese and Fountain, Croxton Kerrial

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We thought about buying lunch from the community shop but decided to stick with our cereal bars. A minor road led south out of Croxton Kerrial on which we paused to look at a disused windmill.

We took a left onto a small lane that led to King Lud’s Entrenchments. We tried to find these in a small copse but couldn’t find any trace of them so carried on to the end of the lane. Here we picked out some embankments that could have belonged to old King Lud, but of more interest were the numerous WWII shelters, the entrances to which were just visible above ground.

A small diversion brought us back on to the interminable Sewstern drover’s track where we turned south east. An information board told us that this was an area of special scientific interest (SSI) so thankfully blocked off to 4WDs.

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Anti 4WD defences, The Drift SSSI

The grassy verges were full of primroses and butterflies abounded. Shortly we came to Saltby airfield where the path took a dog-leg around the end of the runway.

We saw a couple of light aircraft and gliders but none was moving. A small group of Chinese arrived in a taxi, looking a little out of place with their suitcases. Further around the airfield we found a couple of benches either side of a fine rock memorial to the WWII operations at Saltby. These included the glider and paratroop forces that had been involved in D-day and Operation Market garden. We sat and enjoyed cereal bars in the sun and watched a light aircraft depart..(illegal emigrants?)

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Saltby Airfield Memorial

Moving on, we passed the storage area for the gliders and some caravans before a dire section of track that took us past Skillington and to a large water tower where the track became a lane.

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4WD damage, Skillington

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The lane led to Sewstern, which was presumably the southern end of this uninspiring former drover’s track. I thought the decision to stick to the Sewstern Track was something of a cop out by the designers of the Viking Way as they could have chosen any number of alternative attractive routes to cover the twenty miles between Long Bennington and here.

Pre 4WD

We passed very close to the Leicestershire border and came across a very unseasonal advertisement for potatoes.

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We detoured into the village and found the Blue Dog pub where we sat at a table on the front patio for a beer and some nuts. It was yet another tired, scruffy hostelry but the people were friendly enough. When I emerged from the loo Kym was talking to a farming couple from Worksop who asked us if we knew of any ‘good pubs’ nearby!

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The Blue Dog, Sewstern

We left the pub and made for the track, which we picked up south of the village. This was another boring stretch with some bad 4WD damage. We stopped for a snack sitting on a large fallen tree then walked on encountering an oik on a scamble bike. We passed Crown Point Farm, which had been renamed ‘Blue’ and onto litter strewn lanes with fast moving traffic. We then left the Viking Way and followed Mill Lane towards South Witham, our destination for tonight.

Mill Lane was long and boring. As we neared the village we stopped to look at a large limestone quarry on the right. Just to the west of the quarry was a strange man made cliff, along which seemed to run the course of an old quarry railway with drops straight down into the fields. We saw a huge housing development on the left as we approached South Witham. The village didn’t look much to write home about.

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South Witham quarry

The Blue Cow pub appeared on the right and we entered to be greeted with total indifference by the couple at the bar.

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The Blue Cow, South Witham

We were shown to room 1, which was very shabby and had what looked like a double camp bed. After showering and changing we had an ice cream that Kym had bought from a nearby shop. After a while we decided to move outside to the beer garden. Some of the staff, maybe the owners, sat behind us f’ing and jeffing as they babbled on about inconsequential rubbish. A ‘chef’ character kept appearing and being told to cut up cabbages. They all smoked incessantly, the chef included. It was all most unpleasant.

We went inside and watched more TV before going down to the bar/restaurant to eat at 19:00. The bar was full of raucous locals, including two girls who insisted on singing incessantly. We were shown to our table next to an elderly couple who hadn’t eaten any of the main courses they had been given and looked most displeased. Our meals were ok. We chatted to a chap dining alone who had recently returned from managing the Afghan border for the UN and EU. A French family joined us also.

As we left the bar we were asked to pay for our drinks, the meal and our room: “You can’t pay tomorrow!” We returned to our room where I wrote my journal.

Day 52

21st April 2019 – South Witham to Oakham: 14.47 miles

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We slept surprisingly well in the low bed. I awoke at 05:45 and got up at 06:45 to shower. Kym slept in a while and we went down to the dining room for breakfast around 07:30. The owner, who we found had only recently taken on the pub, served us a good breakfast in an attractive part of the restaurant. It transpired that the pub was 13th century and that our room was in that oldest part of the building. That explained the many unusual angles of wall, floor and ceiling.

Our half-timbered bathroon, Blue Cow, South Witham

We packed and left our main bags for pick up. I suggested to the new owner that she push the age of the pub and its proximity to the Viking way in any future marketing. We left and took a footpath south across the railway embankment where we tried to call Tom. He was on the bus back from Port Arthur to Hobart so we had a text exchange.

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The long trail ahead

We followed the trail to Hooby Lodge, where we passed the end of the enormous RAF Cottesmore airfield that had been abandoned in 2011. The path gave onto a metalled road where we sat on a bench for a short while before walking down to Greetham: a small village, outside which lay a Catholic cemetery. We passed by a house with a façade constructed of bits of churches and other old buildings.

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Crossing the road we followed the path up and past a caravan site and a large chicken farm and horse paddocks.

We pressed on to Exton where we took an incorrect turn to the right that fortuitously gave us a look at some beautiful thatched cottages.

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Cottages in Exton

We then retraced our steps to the village green with its fine old pub. After the pub we passed the ‘Druggist’.

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R Kimsey ~ Druggist, Exton

We turned right along a track to St Peter and St Paul church. It commanded a lovely position but we were unable to enter as the Sunday service was in progress. We wandered around the graveyard and soaked in the views of the old and the new manor house.

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St Peter and St Paul, Exton

Back in the village we followed the road through some new housing out to and across another minor road and out into the fields. We stopped at a copse of fir trees for some shade, which was such a noteworthy meteorological event on our walk to date that I asked Kym to photograph it!

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Shadows!

I was feeling a little seedy, so ate nothing. On from there we descended to Whitwell, a pleasant village that was, unfortunately, now bisected by the busy A606. We crossed that with care and made of St Lawrence’s church which sat on a hill above the far side of the highway. Like many other churches on the Viking Way, it was locked shut.

From there we walked down the busy access road to the car park adjacent to Rutland water. The park surrounding the car park was chock a block with a predominantly ‘chavish’ demographic. We walked through the car park and onto a mixed use trail where we kept to the left to avoid the many cyclists. We managed to find an empty public bench so stopped for a snack and a view over the lake. We spent some time admiring the lovely drifts of bluebells through the Barnsdale Woods on the right of the path.

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We then walked on and through the Barnsdale Lodge car park, where some tosser drove right across my path! A fairly boring stretch of track brought us back to the lake where we sat under a shade tree for a while. Setting off again we rejoined the A606 and followed the parallel tarmac path along its southern side with good views out over Rutland Water. It was, I have to admit, a fairly dismal way to end quite a walk.

Eventually we arrived at the outskirts of Oakham. My map was indistinct as the Viking Way overlapped the Hereward Way. We took, what turned out to be, the latter route into town through a housing estate. This arrived first at Oakham Castle and finally at Oakham Public Library, which was said to be the official end of the trail. We searched around for a plaque, but found none. Kym found a brief reference to the Viking Way on an ‘Oakham’ sign so we took photos of that and called it the end.

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The southern end of the Viking Way, Oakham

I Googled the Admiral Hornblower Hotel, which was just down the road. We checked in, looking scruffy, but suitably freshened up after a shower, we went into the pub garden. We enjoyed a bottle of Chenin Blanc whilst sitting in deck chairs in the sun and ordered the first course of a three course meal, which we ate in the garden. I angered Kym by adding a ribald comment to a photo of her that I sent to the Bowdon Biker Chicks. Kym left for the bedroom: I wrote up my journal.

I went back to the room to make up then we went into the restaurant for the second and third courses of our well spaced meal. I had lamb and carrot cake: Kym cod and ice cream. We returned to the room where I had my worst night’s sleep ever on account of an adjacent plant room, constant traffic noise and local yahoos who paraded the street outside until 04:00. As the Yahoos finally retired to their beds somebody in the room above ours began to seemingly haul sacks full of coal across their floor.

Afterward

Afterward

I must have drifted off to some sort of sleep as dawn broke but soon woke again and lay in bed for a while. We got up and packed before wandering down to breakfast. We were clearly the final room to appear. We rushed too quickly into the cereals and juice on the breakfast bar then realized that we could have chosen from the menu so selected yoghurt granola and a hot option each. The waitress brought the hot option first ‘so that the chef could get away’. We didn’t really feel much like eating granola when it came but forced it down!

We checked out and I got £15 off the bill on account of my poor sleep. Leaving our bags with the hotel we did the Oakham ‘Culture Trail’. This really scraped the bottom of the barrel in some cases, but there were some interesting things: a railway signal box and the house that belonged to England’s smallest man to name just two!

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Oakham cultural highlights

We then sat in the porch of All Saints Church to listen to a superb organ concert before visiting the old castle and its Norman great hall. We had been in before but reacquainted ourselves with its collection of ceremonial horseshoe plaques.

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The Norman Hall at Oakham Castle

Back in town we tried to find the true route of the Viking Way but in vain. We gave a chap directions to the station then stopped off for a cold drink at a petting farm. We returned to town and had another look around the library for a Viking Way finish marker but couldn’t find any more than we had yesterday.

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Market Square, Oakham

We bought a tea towel for Fiona who had been looking after our post etc then collected our bags from the hotel and made for the station. We had to carry them over the footbridge to platform 2. The train was on time and fortunately we had booked seats together on the first leg to Birmingham New Street. We changed there and caught an equally packed train to Manchester. We decided to alight at Stockport and splurge out on a very fast PCG taxi to take us home.

All was well with the house. We unpacked and relaxed!

Musings

Musings

  • A great way to pass ten days (I immediately started planning my next walk on returning home)

  • Not the most scenic of the walks I’ve done so far, but still plenty of interest.

  • Let down by long, boring, straight stretches

  • Pub accommodation was below par: you wonder what some people are doing choosing a career in the hospitality sector

  • No thanks due to the person who dropped paper tissues every half mile or so

  • Equal opprobrium to the fly tippers and ‘off roaders’ who despoiled the lovely countryside

  • Writing this a week later: how lucky we were with the weather. It was cold to start with then hot, but now its cold, wet and windy

  • It was great to do the walk with Kym. Her 160 miles in nine days was an amazing achievement. After a rest on day four Kym was the stronger of us to the end.

  • Roll on the next leg!

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