Walking Class Hero: Before the deluge
Taking regard of the old country wisdom ‘ne’er cast a clout til May be out’ me and Clare decided to head out of London for the long bank holiday weekend in June. In the saying, May, of course, refers to hawthorn and not the month. However, the phrase has come to mean don’t put away your winter clothing until June, just in case there’s a cold snap. Well the weather has been mighty strange this year and while winter may be gone we’re still waiting for summer.
It wasn’t just the weather mind, we were keen distance ourselves from the excesses of a bunting bedecked capital. I don’t hate all bunting – I’m quite keen on reed and corn buntings for example – just Jubilee related sycophancy. There’s been much chatter about the nature of Englishness lately – well for what it’s worth here’s a random list from me. The Levellers and Diggers, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Emmeline Pankhurst, William Wilberforce, Annie Besant, Benny Rothman, Linda Smith, Mark Steel, PJ Harvey and Frank Turner.
Our destination was the Lincolnshire Wolds – not free from Jubilee fever but certainly more subdued. I’d never been before and had booked a self-catering cottage in Hemingby, which is on the southern edge of the Wolds. Hemingby is small – a pub, a church and a few houses with mercifully little bunting. The cottage from Bainvalley Cottages was fabulous – loads of room, marvellous kitchen and plenty of space to dry wet clothes. It had rained on and off all the way up and it was settling in for a long stay as we unpacked the car. We strolled down the lane to the Coach and Horses for some food and drink. It’s one thing to avoid the flags etc but getting away from the Jubilee themed beer is quite another. What I wouldn’t give for a president ale or a regicide beer – couldn’t even find a Kings Head to drink in.
Sunday dawned wet and windy and while most of the nation was glued to their TVs watching the river pageant we went for a suitably republican ramble. Close by was the English Civil War battlefield of Winceby. So armed with OS Explorer map 273 and an English Heritage route card Battlefield Hikes volume 2 we suited up in our waterproofs and headed out. Don’t think we saw another walker but the skies were full of swallows and the skylarks provided a tuneful soundtrack alongside the raindrops.
Winceby was an early skirmish in the war and the two forces were roughly the same size and composition. The ground though is far from ideal as it falls away sharply one side into hollows and gullies. Oliver Cromwell feigned a retreat and lured the Royalists from a good defensive position onto flat ground. In the ensuing charge his horse was shot from under him and he was briefly held captive by the King’s men. There’s a ‘what if’ alternative history for you right there.
Cromwell rejoined the fight after securing another horse and the Royalist line eventually began to collapse. This in turn led to them fleeing in confusion until they stumbled upon Slash Hollow. What today is a line of trees was a ditch and hedge marking the parish boundary in the 17th century. The troops got stuck here and this allowed the Parliamentarians to kill or capture the majority of the 1500 cavaliers. It might have only lasted 30 minutes but like many fights of this conflict it was bloody and brutal.
The rain was hammering down by now but it was still fascinating to gaze across the sodden landscape and try to picture the noise and carnage of nearly 370 years ago. It goes without saying that for me this is one of the real joys of walking – it puts you in touch in a very real way with the past. With the wheat waving in the wind as far as the horizon and birdsong echoing in the air it wasn’t difficult to imagine Roundheads and Cavaliers charging across the fields.
The next day was sunny and we joined Grimsby & Louth Ramblers for a 10 mile circular walk from Calceby Manor that was part of the successful Lincolnshire Wolds Walking Festival. That was the last of the sun we experienced for a while. As we headed back to London with the windscreen wipers beating fast time I was reminded of a sign I’d seen in Horncastle that marked the height of a flood back in 1960 – it was about 2 foot above my head.
- The Ramblers
- English Civil War
- Lincolnshire Wolds
- Tolpuddle Martyrs
- Emmeline Pankhurst
- William Wilberforce
- Annie Besant
- Benny Rothman
- Linda Smith
- Mark Steel
- Frank Turner
- Battle of Winceby
- English Heritage
- PJ Harvey
- Grimsby & Louth Ramblers
- Lincolnshire Wolds Walking Festival
Jackson Browne – Before The Deluge
The Levellers – Dance Before The Storm
Frank Turner – Rivers
PJ Harvey – The Glorious Land
John Fogerty – Have You Ever Seen The Rain?
Terry Jacks – Seasons In The Sun