A challenge to sanity

Stage 208, 22nd October: Freiston Shore to Fosdyke Bridge

Thankfully the wind had dropped overnight to a stiff breeze and though it was chilly it wasn’t anything uncomfortable and certainly nothing to worry about. On the other hand, I was worried about having to walk mile upon mile of grass topped sea-bank and I knew it would last more than the odd day.

To start the day I had an experience, which I suspected, could only happen in Britain. The nice grassy open footpath aimed straight at and then took me right through the middle of a prison. It wasn’t edged with twenty-foot high fencing nor was it edged with any fencing, or security gates, or check points of any kind. I couldn’t see any CCTV, nor could I see any prison officers. But I did have a little chat with an inmate who thought my appearance a little peculiar, though not unheard of. He questioned whether the prison authorities were wise to allow free access like mine as anyone could bring drugs in. I apologised for not having any on me and decided it might be best if I got out pretty quickly before they thought my stick was a weapon and my rucksack was actually an escapees kit. As I crossed back into civvie street I just checked a few things: Camera, phone, wallet, Tedz. All were present and correct.

Not long afterwards the sea-bank turned right and headed up The Haven following the river Withern to Boston. I nipped into town for a scene change and a pie from Greggs before making for the top of the Macmillan Way, a 286 mile long distance trail running Southwest to Abbotsbury – a place I visited back in week two. It wasn’t a great start to the trail though neither was it grand for me in trying to head back down the other bank of The Haven as the footpath was closed and I had to find my own diversion around an unloved and unkempt industrial estate.

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Back on the sea-bank I made my way around Frampton Marsh and bumped into a birdwatching couple who showed me a very rare bird whose name I immediately forgot. Instead I carried on, clueless to the value of my sighting, as the curving bank straightened to make its way up the River Welland and a meeting with Aaron for a rare, swift and truly tasty beer in The Ship at Fosdyke Bridge. It didn’t count as the best pint of the trip so far, but certainly the best half.

Stage 209, 23rd October: Fosdyke Bridge to Sutton Bridge

Days with nothing to look at can seriously drag. Days with a flat almost bleak landscape have always tested my mental fortitude. Days with nothing but level never-ending featureless path also seem to exaggerate my physical niggles and I had spent the last week getting increasingly worried about the condition of my left Achilles. It had been tender since I slipped down a hole in Southwest Scotland but had recently become quite sore and taken to occasionally sending a ripping / stabbing pain right through my foot and ankle. I’d been telling myself that it was psychosomatic and so far it seemed to have worked. Nonetheless I called upon the ibuprofen that hadn’t seen a proper outing for anything more than a headache since I solved my foot discomfort back in June. Fingers were crossed.

With the exception of a couple of miles of tarmac skirting the RAF bombing range it was sea-bank all the way. Sea? I could barely see it. Occasional glimpses of distant sand and mud banks in the distance were the best I got and if it wasn’t for a couple of brief chats with some workmen replacing a sluice gate and Biddy walking his two rescued greyhounds I might have just forgotten today. The sky was grey, the scene was bland and it was all exceptionally flat. A gang picking vegetables in a nearby field didn’t cheer the mood. They all look thoroughly dismayed and resembled an enslaved chain gang. I assumed they weren’t, but I couldn’t help wondering if they really had any choice.

The red flags flying on the range gave me hope that I might be able to watch some aircraft practising their bombing. They did, but I only know that because I heard them about two hours later when I was halfway up the River Welland and long gone. Today was just a shame all round really. At least the woman at Bramley Caravan & Camping Park gave us a generous and welcome night parked in the peace of their orchard.

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Stage 210, 24th October: Sutton Bridge to King’s Lynn

From Sutton Bridge it was back down the opposite bank of the River Welland and more, yes more, sea-bank. I was now following the Peter Scott Way. I think that a founder of the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) deserved more of a spectacular path than these soulless miles but he probably got this one for also being a founder of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. Yes I saw plenty of geese and a pretty marsh harrier, but without far-reaching binoculars I couldn’t name anything else.

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The view inland was of a farming landscape on an industrial scale. The fields were vast tracts of unbroken cultivation with barely a hedgerow or rough inch of grassland to offer any sanctuary to wildlife. I reckon I had probably been exposed to more chemicals in an agricultural setting than I had through all the Teeside and Humberside chemical works put together. All this so that we get nice even perfect looking but tasteless vegetables at a ridiculously cheap price that is 1p a kilo cheaper than the rival supermarket next door.

Once again I got brief glimpses of sand banks and mud on the seaward side but barely any of the salty wet liquid. Now in Norfolk, I headed inland again from Admiralty Point and up the Lynn Channel towards King’s Lynn. It was a huge relief to see something other than ploughed fields and flat marshes but the crowds of people were aliens again even though I was the one who undoubtedly looked more alien and maybe even a little trampish too. Trivial conversations were fascinating to overhear even though many seemed ridiculously banal. Civilisation was back again and it was very much welcomed in King’s Lynn.

Rest Day, 25th October: Nr King’s Lynn

Having dropped Aaron off at the station with my warmest thanks to another good new friend, it was back for some shopping and a grand cooked breakfast care of one of the rivalrous supermarkets. Without the benefit of Kate around this weekend it was back to the chores of washing and cleaning and preparing for the reappearance of Sharpie and a chance to relive our ‘Max & Paddy’ week back in March. Note to self. Not so much beer this time Pete.

 

Miles to Date: 4,288       Height Gained: 506,908ft

 

 

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