We passed a peaceful night in New Ellerby, there being one other camper parked up, but other than the usual pleasantries we gave each other privacy. The next morning promised good weather, but never really quite delivered; the cloud cover not really allowing the sun to get a toehold for any length of time.
We were carrying out our morning routines, squaring off the van when a horse box drew up alongside and two cheery ladies unloaded their mounts and headed off for a trot along the disused railway. We had decided that we wanted a little more variety today and mapped out a short circular route along the country lanes that took in the stately home of Burton Constable. This was a pleasant peddle which stretched out our legs which were still a little tired from the long and sometimes arduous peddle of the previous day.
Our route had us circling around to pick up the disused rail track leading back to the van, which being a shared cycle/foot/bridleway was a little muddy and slippery in parts.
It did not take us long though to return to the van, and we packed up and were on our way south again, and soon crossing over the Humber Bridge.
We headed into the Lincolnshire Wolds, still relatively early in the day and made our way to Louth, where we intended to make use of the launderette, before seeking out the highly recommended park4night spot to set up camp. Louth was much as we remembered it from when we lived in the area, and the launderette provided what it said on the tin. By the time we had finished our washing, the weather had improved considerably and indeed it was becoming positively warm by the time we drove off to the Wolds. The spot we had identified was at the Red Hill nature reserve which afforded spectacular views across the Wolds, which are a designated area of natural beauty. We made our way to Red Hill intending to make camp in the late afternoon and explore the nature reserve. As anyone who is familiar with Lincolnshire will know, the overriding topography of the landscape is flat, indeed it is often referred to as ‘big sky’ country. The Wolds though are a more undulating bucolic landscape and as we reached the parking spot we could see that it gave lovely views over the surrounding area from all directions. Unfortunately, there appeared to be an event that afternoon so the car park and indeed surrounding parking places were full, so we had to have a quick re-think and looked to identify any nearby village where we could stop for a couple of hours to see if spaces then opened up. As is the way with the law of sod, there was a distinct dearth of anywhere suitable to stop and the lanes were rather too narrow to just pull over and consider options, so I had to navigate on the hoof and decided that we should circle back around to Louth and visit Hubbard’s Hills, a place which I used to frequent with the children when they were young and we lived in the area.
The afternoon and evening had become decidedly hot, after a couple of missed turns, we found the free car park for Hubbard’s Hills, which was clearly where those walking dogs parked. We were fortunate enough to be able to tuck ourselves into the corner of the small parking area and had a pleasant stroll through the hills, which are a recreational area within the chalk valley with a small river/stream which runs through it. It is a popular picnic spot, and on this lovely evening there were a number of groups enjoying the area with children playing in the shallows of the stream.
As it was early evening by the time we returned to the van, we thought that this would actually be as good a place as any to stay for the night, rather than drive all the way back to Red Hill and find that there was no space. We studied the not inconsiderable number of signs around the parking area, though there was a number of prohibitions in respect to dogs and dog owners, there was nothing which said that we could not park overnight, so once we were ready to settled down for the night we deployed stealth mode.
We were up and sorted early the next morning, as we were intending to peddle the Water Rail Way, or at least the portion of it which goes from Woodhall Spa to Lincoln. This is an area that we know quite well, having lived in the nearby town of Tattershall in the days when we only had two children. The disadvantage of our stopover spot had been lack of mobile/4G signal, and as we started travelling, my phone started pinging with messages from the previous evening. We had dropped a line to some friends who had been our neighbours and now lived in Woodhall, and after some back and forth messages to sort out meeting up, Keith, who had been due to cycle out with his own cycle club, decided that he would actually catch us up on the route (as by this time we were already due to set off peddling).
Having parked up in Woodhall, we found our way to the Water Rail Way, and conscious that we had a head start on Keith, leisurely peddled along enjoying the scenery and sculptures along the way. The old city of Lincoln itself had been built around the cathedral which was atop the only hill in the landscape, so could be seen for miles and miles in every direction.
We had been going for about an hour at this slowish pace expecting to see Keith (on his ultralight road bike) looming in our wing mirrors, however, we were perplexed to discover that he was somehow ahead of us and so we had to hasten our pace. It seems that his local knowledge had meant that he was not constrained by the designated route, but his shortcut and speedy bike had meant that he had overshot us and had to wait for us to catch him up!
Once united, we peddled on towards Lincoln itself, for us much had changed in the intervening twenty or so years in respect to the surrounding area and roads, but heading towards the cathedral area, we were back in familiar territory.
We stopped here for a coffee break before peddling a little circuit around the area and then heading back to Woodhall, retracing our steps on the whole, but also benefitting from Keith’s local knowledge, cutting out a rough stretch through some farmland, which we had noted on the outward journey was referred to as the ‘summer route’, evidently it is impassable for the rest of the year. Keith worked us hard though on his super light road bike, he was hardly breaking a sweat as we were well and truly making up for our more leisurely outward journey.
We headed straight home with Keith where Julie was waiting with a delicious lunch-spread for us. Though we had kept in touch over the years with Christmas cards/notes etc, as is the way, life gets busy and time ticks away without us really realising; we had not actually seen each other since all of our children were quite young and they had travelled up to spend some time with us when we lived in the Highlands. Thus followed a full catching up and re-calibration of the respective mental images of each other’s children, who are of course all now adults, and each making their own way in the world. Despite the intervening years, what was so lovely was that we were able to just pick up the friendship again as if it had been no time at all, and we have resolved to get together soon, and may even get Julie peddling too!
Before leaving the charming town Woodhall Spa, a little later than intended as we availed ourselves of the kind offer of hot showers at Julie and Keiths’. We also stopped in at the deli to buy some of the local cheeses that we had with lunch. Julie did not exaggerate when she waxed lyrical about the deli and I was also seduced by a couple of cakes, but in truth could have spent a fortune such were the delights, so feel I exercised considerable discipline.
We had been thinking to skirt around the north Norfolk area, and indeed borrowed a cycling map from Keith, but on reviewing our timescales have decided that we will make a dedicated trip in the future in order to fully explore Norfolk and instead headed for a stopover spot that we had identified in the Thetford Forest. By the time we arrived, it was getting quite late into the evening, the parking area had a couple of other cars, but there was plenty of space, so we parked up and had a light supper and thoroughly enjoyed our cakes with a steaming cup of tea.
Mr V had identified a Constable inspired cycle route for the next day starting at Dedham allegedly following country lanes, so we settled down for the night so that we were fresh the next morning. Things though seemed a little strange as darkness fell, there were numerous comings and goings of vehicles making their way to the far end of the parking area, headlights and indicators giving a flash here and there and sending confirmation of arrival for what, we can only guess. We turned off our internal lights and hunkered down, glad of our stealth!