Earlier on the year, in an effort to make sure I made time for some long walks before I attempt the Lyke Wake Walk in June, I earmarked a number of Saturdays when I wasn’t at work or doing anything else and blocked them out. The calendar appointment for most of them says “Long Walk”. Strangely for last Saturday I’d actually written “Walk 20 Miles”. I’ve no idea why. Maybe I thought that with just a few months to go I should make sure I could walk half the challenge distance. Twenty is also a nice round number, isn’t it.
Anyway, in a bit to obey my own diary, and thinking ahead to the challenge walk which was going to be impossible unless I got off my backside and actually did loads of walking between now and then, I got my OS map of the area out and planned a route using string (the old ways are sometimes the best ways). I could have taken myself somewhere for my walk, but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered to drive anywhere first, then walk for several hours, and then drive home. Instead I decided to do my walk from and to my own front door, and explore nature’s spaces in Lincoln.
I don’t know where you live, but if you live in a city you will know that it is very easy to walk a lot of miles on concrete. Not nice – boring, rubbish air, and really hard on the feet. Thankfully, being in Lincoln I am blessed with having countryside right on my doorstep, so I made this an opportunity to explore some of the parks and meadows in my city I haven’t made time for yet. Armed with my map, some music and some snacks, I headed off into town.
The Viking Way
The Viking Way is a long distance footpath which starts on the banks of the Humber in the north and winds its way through Lincolnshire to finish on the shores of Rutland Water, a total of 147 miles (235km). The route passes through the Wolds, Horncastle, the Lincolnshire Limewoods, Lincoln itself, the southern Lincolnshire Edge and the Kesteven Uplands before entering Leicestershire and Rutland.
I am very lucky that the Viking Way passes within one mile of my front door, and it is one of two footpaths my hiking boots know incredibly well – a small part of it anyway. One day I’d love to walk the whole thing (yes, all 147 miles), but this time I just did a couple of miles from Waddington down into Lincoln. The views from the Lincolnshire Edge are awesome especially on a clear day, although you are not sheltered from the wind so it can be cold and hard going!
The South Common is a large area of common land that lies on the south-eastern boundary of Lincoln, bridging the gap between the built-up area of the city, the nearby villages of Canwick and Bracebridge Heath, and the agricultural fields beyond. I reached the common via the Viking Way – I took the way marked path all the way to Canwick Road before walking back across the common. The common itself is natural scrub and grassland with a few trees dotted around and an area of woodland around the edge.
There are horses grazing (thankfully nowhere near me!) and it’s very popular amongst dog walkers. The ground is pretty much left to meadow, and so there are signs of other wildlife about, too, lots of rabbit holes, mole hills, bird nests, and the like. It’s quite steep in places and there is a fantastic view of Lincoln Cathedral and the south of the city – it’s like being in the middle of the countryside and the middle of the city at the same time.
Boultham Park is a 50-acre park just outside Lincoln city centre in the middle of a residential area. It has a large lake, lots of paths, many climbable trees, remnants of old formal gardens, woodland, and other amenities. I skirt around the edge of this park every day on the way to work – even closer when I walk or cycle – and so the fact that this was my first proper visit is quite embarrassing!
It’s a quite lovely green space in the middle of a very well paved area of the city and it was lovely to walk around the lake. Boultham Park houses the weekly Park Run in Lincoln, too.
Hartsholme Country Park and Swanholme Lakes
Hartsholme Park is a full on country park with visitors centre, café, campsite, parking, play area and everything else you expect from a well-run outdoor space. It covers more than 200 acres and offers lakes, ornamental gardens, woodland and grasslands to explore.
I think of all the natural spaces I visited on Saturday this was the one that surprised me the most. It was vast; I only scratched the surface as I wandered through the middle. It’s a well-used park; I watched some Scouts take part in an orienteering exercise as I walked along one side of the reservoir – it looked like fun although they were doing a lot of arguing! I will have to go back another time and have a better look around all the different areas – I imagine with all the trees and water around it looks different every month of the year.
At the bottom of Hartshome Country Park is an area dedicated as a local nature reserve – Swanholme Lakes. This is another series of lakes, formed from flooded sand and gravel pits. As it is dedicated as a nature reserve it offers protected habitat for a number of wildlife and plant species, so you can see things as they are meant to look. Apparently there are 24 species of butterfly living at Swanholme – would make a nice Sunday afternoon project!
Millennium Green, which is technically in North Hykeham, was not on my planned route around Lincoln, I actually stumbled across it as I was making my way from Harstholme County Park and Swanholme Lakes towards Whisby Nature Park. I was looking around when I spotted what looked like a lake between some houses, and a path, so I headed to see what was there. A lovely large boulder greeted me with “Millennium Green” chiselled out of it.
I now know that this is basically a large lake with a one mile long path around the outside – perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll after dinner. It was developed and opened in 2000 (I bet you couldn’t guess that!) and seemed very popular with people walking and running. Since then I have discovered you can walk from there all the way to Whisby Nature Park along the bank, but I didn’t do that… one for another day.
Whisby Nature Park
One of my favourite places in Lincoln to visit, but normally by car, Whisby Nature Park is a few miles out of the city and was the last stop on my tour of some of Lincoln’s natural spaces. I normally go for a brisk walk around one of the many lakes and a homemade cake in the Natural World Centre Café, always a pleasure. This time, though, I walked to Whisby, walked around one of the lakes, and didn’t even look at the cake before I headed back towards my house on the last handful of miles of my hike.
It really does feel great at Whisby – despite having the busy A46 running along one side and every view being broken by an electricity pylon, it is a beautiful place. There is a lot of bird watching to be done, and on this particular occasion I was rather deafened by the noise of what must have been a thousand (or more) guls making a racket. The new railway bridge means the whole park is open again and so I will be back soon to remind myself what’s over there having not been allowed across for a few years.
By the time I got back to my front door I had walked exactly 20 miles, so it was mission accomplished. It took six hours and ten minutes including a couple of loo breaks and many photo stops; a pretty good pace. To be completely honest with you I could have very easily given up and come home between miles six and eight – I even studied one of the bus stops to see how close to home that route went. Thankfully (and with some help from my sister via text) I kept at it and was able to achieve both goals – doing a decent length training walk and discovering some un-visited spaces where I live. Another admission is that when I got home and took my boots off I cried a little knowing that there was no way I could have gone out and walked the same distance again straight away; but that’s the point of these long walks, building up the time on my feet. Once I’d had something to eat and drink I was happy with my efforts – I slept well on Saturday night!
What’s your home town like for walking in? Have you explored all its parks and meadows? The Easter long weekend is coming up – the perfect opportunity to find an open or natural space close to your home and have a good explore. Have a look around nature’s spaces where you live. Enjoy!
If you have any advice for me and my Lyke Wake Walk challenge please do get in touch – any and all help/suggestions gratefully received!
Interested in other posts about days out? Alison over at Dragon’s and Fairy Dust has an “Out and About” link up you might want to take a look at. Click on the badge to see.