The contrast is stark as I stand upon the sea bank, wild marshland on one side and cultivated Farmland on the other.
I was searching for a different walk
I have only once been over to the east side of the country for a walk when I was trying out some sandals. It is not a part of the land that I have heard much about in the walking world. I presume because it is mainly flat open lands it is not very interesting or spectacular.
When I was thinking about doing a walk recently I really fancied doing something different, perhaps exploring a different landscape. So I dug out a road atlas of Britain looking for new possibilities. Mainly my walks take me north and west of where I live, The Peaks, or Wales, so maybe I should look south or east I thought.
“I want to see the sea” that was the thought that came over ridingly to my mind. The nearest sea to my home is on the east coast, that was the direction I would head in.
Gradually my plan was forming, Boston area is the nearest sea to me so I started to look for anything interesting around there. Hence the plan to walk along the sea bank just south of Boston where the River Welland flows into the Wash.
It was a wild and windy day
I arrived at the car park on the other side of the River Welland from the village of Fosdyke. The forecast for the day was wet and windy which seemed to encapsulate the barren wintry landscape that surrounded me.
A track led me to the bank that imprisons the River Welland. Straight as a plumb line the river flows towards the sea with the two banks guarding it along its route. It looks very unnatural, more like a canal than a river, it must have been some feat of engineering to force this river to conform to mans control, taming the rivers wild flowing course of many years.
On the other side of the bank where ditches and canals in a chess board pattern of more straight lines, dug into the flat landscape. It was not long before I came to a sluice gate allowing water to run from these drainage channels under the bank and into the river. The river was low (I guess it must have been low tide), so water was pouring into the Welland. There were heavy-looking gates in front of the outflow pipes which must close when the river is high to stop water flowing back into the drainage channels.
The feat of land engineering which was all around me was quite impressive in its scale and mixture of technology and simplicity. Man had forced the mighty rawness of the sea and its wild sources to retreat. Reclaiming land that was now some of the most fertile and productive in the country. It looked like a mighty task to keep a fragile hold on this ‘bread basket’, it would not take much for the sea and its water to take back what was rightfully its own.
The drainage of the land has caused it to sink several feet below sea level over the years making the task of keeping it free from being waterlogged ever more involved.
Walking along the sea bank
Initially I walked along the old sea bank with its concrete WW 2 bunkers still stationed along its crest every few hundred meters. When the extra land was claimed by the current sea bank I do not know. It did not take long though before I reached the present bastion against mother natures wild lands.
Before me was a wide open space, I could just about make out the sea in the distance but before me was the marshlands of the Welland Estuary. Tall sandy coloured grass spread out before me carved into islands of varying sizes by deep muddy banked channels with a trickle of water running through them. As I said before, I think it was low tide and I guessed that later these channels would be full of water.
It was a haunting and attractive wild land that I was looking at. Its eerie atmosphere was encapsulated by the call of the birds that inhabited it. It was a drawing landscape for the adventurer, a place where you could easily loose your path (if there were any) and even more easily get stuck. I loved it but decided that I was definitely going to stick to the sea wall even though I did see some paths entering the marsh a bit later on.
I really enjoyed walking along the sea wall. The sky was as wild as the land, threatening clouds rolled across the sky occasionally allowing the sun with its bright blue background to shine through. The wind was up along the coast, and every now and then it brought a dousing of light rain. It all seemed to match the untamed marshlands more than the carefully managed fields which lay on either side of the bank.
It did make me wonder what the land would have looked like before it was all drained, I think it may well have been a traitorous but exciting place to explore that was rich in wildlife.
RAF Holbeach/Air Weapons Range Holbeach
As I walked south-west along the sea wall I came to the RAF Weapons Range. Large signs along the path warned not to pick up anything that looked like any kind of ordinance. I kind of hoped that anything like that was not anywhere near my path, it could all stay far out in the marshlands as far as I was concerned.
I could see some objects out towards the sea which I guess were targets, today though it was very quiet. There were no loud planes thundering overhead or loud bangs of bombs being dropped. That was a shame – it would have been quite exciting. Maybe though they would not have allowed me to walk along the wall if the range was live.
Partway along the sea wall I came to one of the RAF observation towers. It was just in the right place to take advantage of its shelter from the wind to sit and eat my lunch. Out of the wind it was incredibly tranquil and I loved the feeling while sitting eating my sarnies looking out over the marshlands. Suddenly this wild aggressive place became completely different, lonely and silent, haunting in its emptiness, these marshlands have many faces.
Making my way back to the car
Just past the tower was a small RAF base, it looked like a maintenance station with several garages. There was a road behind this that led inland which was the start of my route back to the car.
Walking back was along tarmac roads, this part of the walk I did not find easy. The roads are straight and the countryside not very stimulating, I cannot imagine that they get many walkers around here!
The walk became a bit of a mental challenge, looking a mile or so straight in front of you is not very motivating, along with this, all around me were flat fields with scraggy hedge rows, not much to distract the mind. It felt a very lonely place vast open spaces with the occasional isolated farm socially it felt very limited. I do not think it was the kind of place that I would like to live in.
I was very happy when I eventually reached my car, walking for miles along tarmac in my heavy leather boots had made my feet very sore. I had really enjoyed walking along the sea wall, but the route back had not been the best; still, I wanted to do a walk that was different – and it had certainly been that.
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