Some Lincolnshire Villages

11 02 2007

For yesterday, I had made quite ambitious plans. I thought I’ll see the Cathedral in the morning, take a bus to Boston and spend the afternoon there before finally ending the day at Wainfleet. From here, it was a short walk to Havenhouse Farm where I was to stay for the night. None of it happened as planned. So after leaving the Cathedral, I remained in Lincoln for another hour to have dinner. Then I took a long bus ride to Skegness. At Skegness, I could find no buses to Havenhouse. Because of some technical problems in the Grantham area, all trains had been cancelled.

Here lies the greatness of public services in this country. Because of train cancellations, bus replacement services had been arranged. Although the next bus did not really stop at Havenhouse, the officer in-charge instructed the driver to drop me along the main road from where I could easily walk to Havenhouse. Despite the fact that I had no train ticket to Havenhouse, and though the officer knew this, he went out of his way to assist me in every possible way. I met an employee of National Express. His main job was to arrange and coordinate bus replacement services. He was based in Birmingham and travelled often as required by his job. The bus drivers themselves work odd hours and even sleepless nights. I have heard first-hand stories of their long drives with no passengers, unfamiliar roads and night naps at the back of the coach.

As arranged, I was dropped off along the A52, about a kilometre from the farm. Fortunately there was a good road to the farm. I say fortunate because soon after leaving the highway I was plunged into darkness. I could see little specks of light somewhere on the horizon. I had no idea of the terrain through which this dark country road led. I knew it was flat country. I knew it was farming country. I knew it was fen country and it had rained most of the day. Keeping to the tarmac road, the terrain did not matter. I had my torch and that became the most important item at that moment.

Close to Havenhouse is Gibraltar Point where there is a nature reserve popular with birdwatchers. I had planned on walking to this reserve and then make my way along the coast to Skegness and beyond. It turned out that once again my plans were thwarted, this time by clear signs that claimed private ownership of land. So although I was quite close to the reserve I couldn’t get to it. So I took to inland roads and public footpaths. What followed was a lovely walk passing little quiet villages of Lincolnshire.

The first village en route was Burgh-le-Marsh. Here I found a windmill with five sails. It was neatly painted and kept in such good condition that I must conclude that it serves mainly tourism. It represents an instance of restoration and maintenance rather than preservation. True preservation can only happen if original motivations persist. In this particular case, it no longer makes economic sense to have a mill that has virtually no economies of scale; it no longer makes sense to use inefficient machinery even if there is a case for using renewable energy sources. Having said that, it is a beautiful windmill with a black tower, white sails, white windows and a white door. Without this simple and contrasting colour scheme, it would not be half as appealing. Without the windows, it will not be half as beautiful. Interestingly, I had expected the sails to be straight. In fact they curve slightly. Each sail is composed of eight segments, each one nail to the next. In each segment there are two shutters. With so much wood and iron nails, each sail must have considerable weight.

Getting to Burgh-le-Marsh had not been easy. I had to cross what had once been water-logged fenland that could have been crossed only by boat. Today it is well-drained but still the soil softens quickly after long periods of rain. With every step my boots gathered more and more of this cohesive mud. With every step my feet got a little heavier; and I had to periodically shake of this mud that seemed determined to take me down with it.

The next village was Orby. There was no village centre to speak of. It was no more than a group of houses built on either side of a road that had perhaps one or two side roads. Even such a small village had a church with a tower. The village contained some nice houses with large front gardens. The place was neat, quiet and peaceful. It was a village in which one could live comfortably. At Orby, I noted two things. The first was a road sign that read, “Elderly people”. Not just UK, but Europe as a whole, is aging. Unless one is willing to commute long distances to work, only the elderly and the retired can live in a village like Orby. The second item of note was a neat array of glass recycling bins managed by the East Lindsey District Council. There were separate bins for green glass, brown glass and clear glass. Development and consumerism in the modern age needs such recycling. Developing countries feel the need to grow economically but they must also take an active part in global environmental concerns. Development need not be at the expense of the environment. If India and China complain or give excuses, it is only because politicians lack the commitment to enforce what is desirable but less profitable.

From Orby, it was a short walk to Gunby Hall, a National Trust property that was closed for winter. The house is set in a large open parkland. The sloping ground is gentle and green. Trees have been planted in a planned manner. They are neither too formal by being planted at regular intervals or into forced perspectives; nor have been planted in a wild and haphazard manner. The overall scheme has been to achieve easy walks that naturally yield pleasing perspectives. I noted two shooters carrying off dead rabbits. There is also a locked church at Gunby. At its entrance I found the following note:

It is with regret that we have to keep our
church locked. It is upon the advice of the
police to prevent thieving and vandalism. If
you call at the Hall the church will be
opened for you.

So although it was locked, it was still possible to gain access. However, I did not think it was proper to trouble the caretakers simply to satisfy my curiosity. If my intention had been greater and there were prayers that needed to be said, I would have made an attempt. For today, I was contented with walking.

The next village to welcome me was Candlesby. I approached this village by a field laid with rolls of hay. I wondered how long these rolls will remain and to what use will they be put. By now it was well past noon. The rain had stopped and the day was developing beautifully. I was hungry but I did not wish to stop for a long lunch. So I sat on a bench and finished some cake and cookies I had with me. The toilet at a local pub was reserved only for customers. I could find no public toilets. Well, I wasn’t really desperate and so I did not search enough.

A typical scene before the coming of spring

A typical scene before the coming of spring

The next village was Scremby, where I noted a windmill without its sails. I had seen a similar windmill in Burgh-le-Marsh. A windmill without its sails makes an eccentric structure. It might be that these days such buildings are put to alternative purposes, even as residential spaces for equally eccentric people. The real treasure of Scremby was a thatched cottage named “Moat Cottage”. Unlike many other cottages I have seen elsewhere, there are no gables in this one. It does not strive to imitate any style derived from classical forms. It is truly a cottage that comes out on its own. Its facade is semi-circular, like the apse of a Gothic cathedral. The windows in this facade are framed in arches of the Early English style. The shutters open out like a triplych commonly found at high altars in churches. The roof is reed-thatched. When we look at it from the front, it is like an upturned bowl. The eaves project out a couple of feet and they are supported by wooden poles. This facade connects to the main building at the back which has nothing elaborate in its design but does look a great deal comfortable. Overall, the cottage is charming. It has a primitive appeal that comes from its simplicity.

An easy country road connects the village of Scremby to the village of Skendleby which announces itself by this sign:


Two icons of Britain

Two icons ofEngland

It is unlikely that drivers who hit the local speed limit of 30 mph will have a chance to read so many words. Moreover, there’s ambiguity in these words. Perhaps, there are unknown dangers lurking in this village to surprise a casual visitor. Perhaps, visitors are only to drive through the village and are not to stop at all. Perhaps, the locals hereby make known their rightful claim to a village that’s their own. It would have been simpler just to say, “Narrow Road Ahead”. Skendleby has some good-looking houses including a mock-Tudor house which has even a timbered gable over its garage. Walking along the main road, I noted two red icons of England right next to each other – a Royal Mail post box and a telephone booth.

Skendleby was yet another village in today’s trail of villages ending with the suffix “-by”. Lincolnshire, as in Leicestershire, is one of those areas where many old Norse settlements existed. Those early names have somehow continued to this day. From Skendleby I made my way to Partney. En route I had a chance to piss into some bushes. At Partney, I found the church locked but as in Gunby there were directions and even phone numbers to get the key. On its notice board there was a monthly rooster for brass cleaning. I wondered what it could possibly mean. There was also a rooster for flower arrangements. On this church tower was a weather vane in the likeness of a boat with sails, though Partney is many miles from the sea. Weather vanes by themselves form an interesting study of art.

After a short wait at Partney I boarded the bus to Lincoln. The flatness of this part of England is remarkable. Approaching Lincoln, I could see the towers of the Cathedral and the Castle from a great distance. With the sun setting beyond, and in the golden light of the hour, I counted no less than seven aeroplanes in flight. Their white trails caught the light against a bluish sky. They appeared to move slowly, almost suspended in the sky. Taken together it was like a dance of comets. Like comets they streamed, each one to its home, each one on its own path.




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