I was looking for a winter walk I could do this weekend, one that wasn’t too muddy and didn’t involve a long car journey, and I discovered a series of walks based around a local railway line.
The Poacher Line is the name given to the section of mainland railway that runs between Nottingham and Skegness. Lincolnshire County Council has designed a set of seven walks linking the railway stations along the route – called The Poacher Line Railway Walks.
You don’t have to be a railway enthusiast, as the walks don’t necessarily follow the railway line. The theory is that you can undertake a linear walk from one station to another, and then catch a train back to your start point. And, as everyone knows, linear walks are much more satisfying than circular walks, because they give you the feeling of being a proper traveller, as opposed to simply going for an aimless amble.
The section I walked was a 10 mile stretch between Grantham and Bottesford, following the Grantham Canal for much of the way, and then walking along bridleways and quiet roads to the village of Bottesford.
Here is a brief summary of the walk, in a series of photographs:
I started from the Earlesfield Estate in Grantham, following the cycle track as it led under the A1 and turned into the towpath.
The Grantham Canal path has the double attraction of water and woodland, a narrow strip of land creating a corridor through the rural landscape.
The canal is disused now, but there are numerous old navigation markers to tell you how far you are away from Grantham, Nottingham and the River Trent. And the canal bridges are still in place and have a logical numbering sequence.
In places the surface of the water was covered by a weird pinky-red weed. It was cold today, and the weed lay on top of a surface of ice – forming a dry coating that sparkled like gravel. I nearly fell in, mistaking it for a solid surface.
I met a trio of swans, breaking the ice. This was such an odd sight that it is worth recording in a separate post.
I came across a lock that was in the process of being renovated. It gave the illusion that the canal might be navigable, but later on I came across a series of waterfalls in place of locks, and realised it isn’t. What a pity.
The only place along the 10 mile walk for lunch was the Rutland Arms Inn, conveniently situated right on the bank of the canal. For some reason, the pub has two other names – the Mucky Duck or the Dirty Duck.
The pub menu is limited but the food is good – fish and chips, steak and chips, fish cakes, etc. After leaving the pub, the towpath changes from firm gravel to muddy grass. It became rather slippery underfoot and I wished I’d brought my walking poles.
After a mile or so, a hard-track cycle route begins, winding through trees just to the right of the grassy path. Now there is a choice of firm track or soft mud!
After Bridge no. 59 the grass towpath continues, but I am not sure how much further you can get along the canal, because at this point I turned off and followed a bridleway up to the village of Muston.
(If you follow this same route, at this point don’t make the mistake I did. Don’t walk along the road. Instead, at the bridge you should turn immediately to your right and follow a rough track, almost doubling back the way you have come, and then, again almost immediately, take the first path you see on the left. This is the bridleway.)
The bridleway follows a disused railway route and provides a short, but lovely, wooded section of the walk.
A short time later, I reach the road and walk into the village of Muston. Here I follow the suggested route by turning off the road and heading down a track marked as a dead end.
Just before I turn off, I meet my husband who has been cycling. We walk/cycle together. This involves him cycling very slowly and me walking at top speed.
We cross the busy A52 – a road I have travelled down numerous times. It’s good to be walking, not sitting in traffic!
And we make our way, via a series of footpaths, through the village of Bottesford .
We are finishing our bike/walk just in time. The sun is about to set. The Bottesford church spire is impressive and catches the last of the rays.
This was an excellent 10 mile walk for a winter’s day. The only muddy section was the short stretch of grassy towpath just beyond the pub at Woolsthorpe Quay, and that was more slippery than deep.
If you want to follow this walk yourself – or any of the other Poacher Line Railway Walks – you can download a PDF file from the Lincolnshire County Council Website .