Hull to Boston

Our vanWe hired a motor van to go to the Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone, where we had a very exciting but wet and soggy weekend in monsoon conditions. We decided to spend the rest of the week in the van, continuing down the east coast through Lincolnshire. We drove along the north of the Humber to the roundabout in Hull where we had left the coast a month beforehand.

Donkeys at SkeggyThis time we had two new mountain bikes on board so we could venture to the places where it was difficult to get the van.

The weather was kinder than on the weekend but still not what one would expect in July. Although we assumed the seaside resorts to be full of holiday revellers the start of the season was very poor and most places were still deserted.


Hull Our first impressions of Hull were of numerous dual carriageways with pedestrian walkways over them and well kept flower beds down the middle - and the white phone boxes. The A63 runs alongside the Humber estuary with huge docks in between.

Hull has grown from a small fishing port to a large city. The maritime heritage can be traced back to its origin in Wyke, a small trading port at the mouth of the River Hull.


It was acquired by King Edward in 1293 and became ‘The King’s Town upon the River Hull’. It was an important medieval centre for the wool trade and made a gesture in the English Civil War by refusing entrance to Charles I; it became a city in 1897.

There is an area of old town with narrow streets and the derelict port areas have been revitalised as a waterfront marina (another one!) and the Princes Quay Shopping Centre which is built on stilts out of the former Princes Dock.

Humber BridgeThe Humber Bridge is the crossing from Yorkshire into Lincolnshire and is a very impressive structure. When opened on the 17th July 1981 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world - nearly a mile. We stopped on the north bank in the country park at Hessle and walked to the middle where two men were doing repair work high above on the main cable. The cable is 27 inches in diameter and made from 14,948 filaments - 44,000 miles in total.


Lincolnshire is flat. It is a rural county with extensive market gardening in vast fertile areas dissected by long straight canals they call ‘drains’ and surrounded by dykes, started here by the Romans - who else? They called it Lindum colonia. It is bypassed by most main roads and the coast is all sand, mud and marsh. The small villages can be spotted from a distance by their church spires sticking up like needles.


Barton upon Humber

We crossed the bridge, paying a toll of £2.10 for the privilege, and entered Lincolnshire at the pretty village of Barton upon Humber.

Viking WayStopping at Barton waterside to take photographs, we came across the ‘Clay Pits project’ where abandoned excavations and delapidated tile works have left pools that are now being turned into a nature reserve.

Goxhill HavenA footpath follows the dykes along the estuary in both directions and to the east is the start of The Viking Way, running 140 miles to Oakham. The ferry over the Humber used to go from New Holland but all that is there now is a vandalised railway terminus.

We drove to the north-east point to a place called Goxhill Haven. There wasn’t much to see except long straight roads through wheat fields - it was rather eerie. An old airfield is now being used as a lorry park.

Thornton Abbey

Thornton AbbeyWe came across a pretty picnic spot in an isolated place and stopped to admire the ruined gatehouse of Thornton Abbey, founded by Augustinian monks in 1139. Most of the abbey is now in ruins, but the sculptures over the 14th century entrance were beautifully preserved. A real gem in the middle of nowhere.

ImminghamA mile on to East Halton and the change of scenery was significant to say the least. We were travelling between the tanks and flare stacks of a massive oil refinery belonging to Conoco and Kinetica.

The brash metalwork continued around the modern deep-water docks of Immingham and could be seen across the ripe wheat fields all along the coast. The Pilgrim Fathers sailed from Immingham Creek to Holland in 1608 before crossing the Atlantic in 1620.


Grimsby tower
National Fisheries Heritage Museum This scenery persisted all the way into Grimsby where the major landmark is a 300ft folly at the harbour entrance, modelled on an Italian tower.

We stopped to go to the National Fisheries Heritage Museum which was quite interesting. Great Grimsby was once the world’s greatest fishing port but the industry has declined alarmingly.

There is a fish auction each day at 7.30 am and the fish are unloaded the night before but most of the trade now is in Danish dairy products and bacon.

GrimsbyAccording to the history books, Havlock, son of a Danish king was pushed out to sea in a boat after his father was murdered and he was rescued by a Lincolnshire fisherman named Grim. When Havelock grew up, he regained his kingdom and richly rewarded his rescuer, who used his wealth to found the port of Grimsby.

The Humber estuary to the north is called Grimsby Roads and further north is Sunk Roads.


CleethorpesOriginally a small fishing village, the 3 miles of sand encouraged a sea-side resort to develop a hundred years ago. Although it looked a boring place, they had made a considerable effort with the flowers, parks and attractions. The pier is in good repair and the beach is really nice. The weather was not conducive to holidaymakers but a few people were walking about.

There is a telescope on the promenade for excellent views to Spurn Head and Patrington Church. Bull Sand and Haile Sand Fort are situated in the water on either side of the estuary - these were constantly patrolled by submarines during the last war.

North SomercotesTetney marshes are a sea bird reserve and we toyed with the idea of staying at Tetney Lock on the Louth Canal as it sounded rather nice, but when we got there it was rather a dead loss so we pushed on through Marshchapel to North Somercotes travelling 3 miles from the coast across parallel drainage dykes. This marshy area has names like Grainthorpe Fen, Conisholme Fen and Porter’s Sluice. Two road names were ‘Sea Dike Way’ and ‘Coal Shore Lane’.

There are acres and acres of hedgeless wheat fields and some growing spinach and broad beans. Along the shore for 20 miles there are barren sand flats 3 miles wide and part of the area is an RAF bombing range.. Saltfleet didn’t look too exciting, just a derelict windmill, and the only interesting feature at Theddlethorpe was the gas terminal although the sea pinks and sea lavenders on the marshes are supposed to be a blaze of colour.


MablethorpeMablethorpe is a small resort that can trace its origins to Roman times when a settlement was founded by the 9th legion, but all the ancient remains were claimed by the North Sea centuries ago.

MablethorpeThe last surge disaster was in 1953 and massive concrete sea defences have since been built which now form a long promenade behind the dunes.

MablethorpeAll the way along the coast to Skegness groynes have been built to provide splendid sandy beaches which now attract holidaymakers.

After trying in vain to park in Mablethorpe - double yellow lines and horendously expensive car parks (but no-one in them!), we quickly passed through another ‘thorpe’ - Trusthorpe. This is supposedly a different town but is a continuation and smaller version of the last resort with its ‘holivan’ estates, one with a pub aptly named the Tow Bar.

Sutton on Sea

Sutton on SeaA mile down the road is another lookalike at Sutton. To be fair, it did seem a wee bit more upmarket, ‘low rainfall and a place to retire’. It used to be known as Sutton-in-the-Marsh and when the railway was completed in 1884 the holiday traffic began. Nearby at Sandilands, is a golf links.

The caravan club site was tucked away on the outskirts and was of the usual high standard. Just by the site is a dismantled railway line which used to join the route that now stops at Skegness. It has been turned into a footpath and made a pleasant evening stroll (even in the dark).

Andy with bikes

The next morning we took to the bikes for a 25 mile round trip to Skeggy along the promenades and small coast roads. It was a lovely day but a plague of minute spiders hung in the air waiting to land on all and sundry leaving white threads in their wake. It was like being a human windscreen.

Anderby Creek

buried stepsWe cycled along the deserted sea wall past decrepit beach chalets and buried steps and handrails to Moggs Eye car park and then by road to Anderby Creek. As we entered the village there were several static van parks and we were able to get back on the beach.

Anderby CreekThe outflow from the ‘Main Drain’ runs through the village and there is a small museum at this point.

Wolla BankAs the path was so sandy we wheeled the bikes beside the sea where the sand was firmer and rejoined the road at Wolla Bank.

Chapel St Leonards

Chapel St LeonardsAlthough this is another resort with tin-van estates, we were impressesd by the trouble the locals had taken to make it neat and friendly. There is a small green with several seasidy shops and an excellent public loo. There were donkey rides on the beach and a small amusement area.

We sat outside the pub for lunch and ate the best chips and cheese rolls you could wish for - an excellent pint of local Bateman’s as well !! A group of Mitchell Brothers lookalikes were also enjoying the brew - or was their's lager?


Static van parkTearing ourselves away from the pub we cycled on down the concrete promenade to Ingoldmells. It was getting worse and worse, the static van parks looked like prison camps with amusement parks on site. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry as it was so grim. Nevertheless, there were people who looked as if they were enjoying themselves even if some of the mothers were a little fraught.

DonkeysWe could see a huge pyramid and metal tower amongst the various big-wheels, waltzers, pubs and sea of caravans; this is ‘Fantasy Island’, a theme park......we were debating what actually is the theme in these places. The tower, called Volcanic Eruption, appeared to contain a seat that is propelled at vast speed to the top where the punters can immediately throw-up or die of an explosion of blood to the brain - great fun and worth the fiver for the trip! I don't think so.

Funcoast World

The pinnacle of holiday excitement is Funcoast World which is the original Butlin's Holiday Camp built in 1936. Sandwiched between the A52 and the beach and heavily fenced with metal railings and barbed wire, this mile long horror of barrack-like buildings with its own monorail, houses ‘budget’ and ‘county’ self-catering villages as well as the usual holiday camp full-board accommodation. There were numerous numbered blocks, huge buildings and check-in points and the side facing the road was all fun-fairs and car parks.

We decided NOT to pay £12 for a day visit and rode past quickly, returning to the campsite fairly saddle sore where we collapsed onto the grass.


Shopping in SkeggyThe next morning the weather worsened and we took to motorised transport again, picking up the road at Skegness. Parking by a huge bungy jump tower, we walked along the road by the ‘Front’. It was windy, wet and deserted. The man selling doughnuts said it was the worst start to the season he can ever remember. There were small hotels along the way with old ladies looking over the sea and the Arnold Palmer Putting Centre which was actually crazy golf.

Skegness pierWe walked towards the 90 year old Clock Tower and visited the pier which was built in 1881 and was 1,843 feet long. Now it doesn’t reach the end of the beach and is stuffed full with arcade machines. With all of the machines switched on and no punters the electricity bill must be higher than the profits.

Outside, the fun-fair was also deserted and we decided that the runaway train must have run away. We saw the pirate ship swinging high but empty.

Embassy Theatre

At the Embassy Theatre different shows are put on nightly with big names such as Ken Dodd, Susan Maughan, Maggie Moon and Mark Rattray....Who?

Eventually we found out where everyone was -- shopping -- well it’s not everyday you can go shopping is it, so why not go on holiday to do it? We bought a gnome called Eric, had a doughnut (I refuse to spell it donut) and decided to get the hell out of it.

Reading Paul Theroux’s book about the coast I came across his view:

"And then Skeggy itself - it deserved its ragged-sounding nickname. It was a low, loud, faded seaside resort. It was utterly joyless. Its vulgarity was uninteresting. It was painfully ugly. It made the English seem dangerous. And, at last, it made me want to leave......."

--- a bit harsh I think

Gibraltar Point

Gibraltar PointThe most amazing thing about Gibraltar Nature Reserve is that it is so close to Skeggy. Taking the south coast road named Bramble Hills past the golf course we came to this beautiful oasis of wildlife. There is a small visitor centre and field station and acres of saltmarsh, mudflats and freshwater pools. We spent a sunny afternoon wandering the paths through varied plant life, onto a duney beach, and visited a bird hide overlooking a tranquil freshwater mere. Beside the Steeping River, the area was carpeted by purple sea lavender.

The area was rescued from being a caravan site by the Lincolnshire Trust with help from Lottery money and at numbered points you can follow the guide book to identify the plants and birds. It was glorious.

Friskney FlatsTo the south the Wainfleet Sand and Friskney Flats form mudbanks around the Boston Deeps at the north of The Wash. These are more bombing ranges. Landward, the marshes are transversed by hundreds of parallel drainage ditches and there aren’t any footpaths so the only way south is by the main A52 through Wainfleet and Wrangle.

Wainfleet used to be a sea port but is now 3 miles inland, it is now a market town and home to the Batemans Brewery. The Romans built Vaiona here and extracted salt from the sea water. We played ‘spot the crop’ as we drove through this most fertile part of the country ..... cabbages, potatoes, broad beans, spinach, winter greens, onions, barley, wheat and more; all in tidy rows in massive fields, grown for national supermarkets

Freiston Shore

Freiston ShoreA few houses huddle on the landward side of the sea wall, which protects the shore from Boston northwards to Skegness. The full distance of the wall can be walked and on the seaward side are vast, muddy marshes overlooking the Wash that are popular with birdwatchers.

The road down to the nearest parking spot is a muddy track full of pot-holes. The outer sea wall is about 15 feet high and dotted along it are concrete pill boxes. It was all rather dismal. Dredging and reclamation take place as the area gradually silts up and large signs warn of the danger of the tides that sweep in over the flat bogs.

Havenside Country Park

Pilgrim Fathers' Memorial We drove from Fishtoft through acres of ploughed fields to a strip along the north shore of the Haven, Boston port's link with the sea. This is a wildlife haven, home to waders and sea birds including oystercatchers and cormorants. The river channel has been deepened and the walls strengthened for ships to make their journey into Boston. In the distance the sun picked out the tall spire of the Boston Stump.

The HavenIn the corner of the park, a stumpy granite pillar known as the Pilgrim Fathers' Memorial marks the spot where 13 Puritans were seized while attempting to flee to Holland in 1607. After a brief spell of imprisonment, several of them eventually made it to America aboard the Mayflower in 1620. Why bother imprisoning them if they wanted to leave anyway? Later migrants, who left Boston in 1630, founded Boston in Massachusetts.


Boston Stump GuildhallThe first sight of Boston is the 272 ft. tower of St. Botolph’s, known as the Boston Stump. This is a landmark from 20 miles away and it is the largest parish church in the country, dating back to the 14th century.

The River Witham has played an important part in the development of Boston, being Britain’s busiest port in the 13th century. Floods and silting have caused the town’s prosperity to wax and wane. A new port has been built down river and it is now busy again with a fishing fleet. There are moorings and a quay in the town.

Maud Foster WindmillThe name is thought to be a corruption of St Botolph’s Town, a shadowy Anglo Saxon Monk who has 80 churches dedicated to him in England. The Pilgrim Fathers were imprisoned in the Guildhall, where their cells can still be seen.

To me, the most impressive building in Boston is the Windmill standing alongside the Maud Foster Drain.It was rescued and put back into working order fairly recently and is a beautiful sight with its five white sails spinning in the sunshine.

Maud Fosterflour bagsWe were lucky enough to visit on a windy day and climb the seven floors by some precipitous ladders, very close to moving machinery. On the outer balcony the sails whip past a few inches from your head! There are three sets of millstones so when the wind picks up they can all be used at once.

The mill grinds several sorts of flour, some of which is sold in the shop and some used for baking in the vegetarian tea-room. We had a delightful cream tea and left the building covered in flour.