& its Wolds

Flat, monotonous, uninteresting - perhaps even a little boring!

That just about sums up many people's views of Lincolnshire, the bit of land you pass through between North and South. We had never considered a caravan trip to Lincolnshire - until, we thought, "Why not?"

A week there showed us that we had been wrong - it turns out that the county is less flat (at least in parts), more pretty and a lot more welcoming than we had imagined. Our stay, based a mile or two outside Market Rasen, provided a range of interesting things to see and do.

Throughout the region farming is still a major industry - we saw many sheep and cattle, and large fields of wheat and potatoes. The countryside is, in the main, very pretty - this is especially true in the area of the Lincolnshire Wolds, a line of gentle, rolling hills running through the county like its backbone. To the east of the Wolds the land spreads out in a flat plain several miles wide to the coast with its magnificent long, flat, sandy beaches (and, it should be said, the occasional strong wind).

Towns still have a feel of 'completeness' - generally a good range of shops in High Streets that have not yet been replaced by too many out-of-town superstores. Those of us from the south might find this a welcome change - many towns have a regular street market.

For visitors the city of Lincoln has as its focal point at the Cathedral and, alongside it, the Castle. The Cathedral is very well presented, with lots to see including the ancient library and beautiful cloisters. We particularly liked a display of wooden sculptures - modern designs based upon the Stations of the Cross - and the Gilbertine Corner with its emphasis on quiet meditation. On this trip we did not have time to tour the Castle.

We were not short of things to see and do throughout our stay. For the energetic there are many walks (including the Viking Way which can be accessed at Tealby, close to Market Rasen). For others there is a wide range of visitor attractions. Grimsby, once one of the major trawler ports of the UK, is still a centre for fish processing but these days there are fewer trawlers and much of the fish arrives by road from elsewhere.

Close to the centre of the town the National Fishing Heritage Centre has an interesting display of the history of the deep sea fishing industry. We toured a former trawler, the Ross Tiger, now moored permanently alongside the Heritage Centre. Our lady guide explained the cramped working conditions, the hardships and dangers faced by the crew - it was only at the end of the tour, when we asked whether she had ever had the opportunity to go to sea in a trawler, that we learned that she had spent several years as a trawler captain. No wonder she made it seem so real!

During World War II the region had one of the greatest concentrations of airfields, for obvious reasons considering its position in relation to Germany. In Lincolnshire there were supposedly 46 airfields, slightly more than half of them home for the large bombers that took off nightly to fly to their targets across the North Sea. The remainder was split between fighters and 'others', such as reconnaissance aircraft.

Some of the most famous names of the war were here - Scampton, for example, the base for 617 Squadron (The Dambusters) and later The Red Arrows. Most of these airfields are long gone, but some remain in active service. Waddington is now the home of the UK's AWACS early warning and radar reconnaissance flight, and it is often possible to see these strange looking aircraft coming in low over the area after a practice run, the enormous radar dome perched high above the fuselage.

For those interested in looking at the country's wartime aviation past there is the Aviation Heritage Museum at East Kirkby. Here refurbished aircraft sit alongside recovered aircraft sections, amidst stories of the wartime exploits and difficulties of the air and ground crews. A Lancaster bomber carries out occasional taxi runs around the airfield, and tea is served in an old hut reminiscent of wartime days.

RAF Coningsby is still an active base that today also houses the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. A small museum, with a guided tour of the hangars where the old aircraft are restored and maintained, offers the opportunity to get close to a combination of Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane, and Dakota. In our case the tour was led by a former Lancaster bomber pilot who served on the Berlin Airlift in the years after WWII - his personal memories and experiences made the visit come to life!

Lincolnshire has a beautiful, if flat, coastline with well-known resorts like Skegness (we had never seen so many static caravans in one place) and Cleethorpes with a traditional promenade and the opportunity to sit and watch the large ships heading into the Humber Estuary. Our personal favourite along the coastline was the area around Saltfleetby, to the east of the town of Louth. Here are long, golden beaches, sand dunes, and white foaming seas breaking in the distance.

Other places to see? We enjoyed Louth, a small bustling town with small side-streets named after the trades of long ago. Market Rasen has a race course, and it is possible to walk the course except when meetings are scheduled. There is an unusual 5-sailed windmill at Alford, where we bought flour. We stumbled across the pretty church at West Keal where, by chance, members of the congregation were decorating the interior (we had never seen a church being treated to a new coat of paint before) and where we were invited to climb up the inside of the tower to see the clock, the bells, and the local views. (We saw the clock and the bells, but our courage failed when we saw the ladder that must be climbed to reach the viewing platform and we returned, shamefaced, to ground level!) With plenty of friendly pubs and other places to eat we thought Lincolnshire was much more enjoyable than expected, and we decided to go back. We already have, just a few weeks later - give it a try!
© GDS 2002
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The old streets
of Lincoln
Lincoln Cathedral 
The sands at Saltfleetby
West Keal Church
Street market in Louth
The Ross Tiger trawler at Grimsby
Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby
The 5 sailed mill at Alford