Boston and beyond
“When in Boston…” When in Boston climb up the Stump and look out to sea. After last Tuesday’s thrilling narrow boat crossing of the Wash it seemed appropriate to get some perspective on the journey. (Follow the blue line from the right hand bottom corner bottom of the chart (King’s Lynn) to trace the route taken.)
Wide views across Boston and the surrounding landscape are possible if you climb the 209 steps up the Stump, the tower of St Botolph’s parish church.
“Are you in good health?” asked the steward in the church shop. “Here’s the number to ring if you get into difficulty…” The Captain and Boatwif were guided to a small inconspicuous door which was unlocked – and then locked behind them. A key turning in a lock behind you has a rather unnerving effect… Up the spiral steps, many of them, rest breaks taken periodically. At last the gallery level was reached and grand views north, south, east and west could be seen. To the south stretches the river, twisting and turning its way through the town, past the docks and out to sea. Far away in the distance towards the south east is the Norfolk coastline. Look north and there is the Grand Sluice through which the Witham drains and through which boats must pass en route to and from the sea. See where the boats are moored in the distance, on the right, Cleddau‘s mooring for three nights. To the west the land is flat, the town buildings more modern. Right below is the market place with just a few craft stalls on a Thursday.
Time to return to ground level, down a different spiral this time – and a mere 206 steps. Two way traffic on these narrow spirals would be impossible!
The parish church is large and nowadays the altar is placed in a more visible position closer to the congregation. In a corner at the tower base is a plaque commemorating five men associated with the church who had become Governors of Massachusetts. Boston’s history is indelibly entwined with that of Boston, Massachusetts. Outside on the south side of the church are twelve “stones” representing twelve members of this church’s congregation who between 1630 and 1634 sailed to the New World where they set up the Massachusetts Bay Colony and named their settlement Boston. Pilgrim House (not far away by the Quay) and Pilgrim Hospital also serve as poignant reminders of those who left this place for a different life in the New World.
At the West Door flood marks are recorded in the stonework. The highest recorded floods were not that long ago, 5th December 2013. A brief article in a local magazine picked up in a coffee shop reminded householders that there was still time to apply for funding to help them overcome last December’s flooding.
Apart from the flooding Boston gets reported by the media for its influx of foreign workers. Certainly there are plenty of shops selling East European goods. In an unproven non-scientific poll, ie voices overheard in the streets, it would seem that 45% of the population speaks heavy rural East Anglian burr, 45% speak a language other than English and 10% speak clear Standard English.
There are some charming old buildings and some quaint street names. There is more litter than elsewhere but one area is breathtaking in its simplicity and its sincerity. Veterans Way has 50 memorial plaques recognising the participation in various military conflicts of forces associated with the locality.
Friday: Time to get back to boating. The C&RT lock keeper arrived just before 10am with a tale of doom and gloom: not able to give advice as such he provided a virtual tsunami of information for boaters. Low water and dense weed were making the way ahead difficult- and it could become impassable… Details there were of fish passes, a faulty weir, ground water levels, pumping capacity from the Trent, spring rains, deep aquifers. Cleddau and Tentatrice stuck to their plan and set off up the Witham Navigation.
There were no sailing boats being moved by paddle power as on previous evenings; no sign of the resident seal at Boston Rowing Club, just miles and miles of embanked straight channel. Regular features are the kilometre posts (very helpful for map-reading) and sightings of occasional overnight mooring pontoons. Not far below Bardney Lock a weed cutter was in operation; then came another sight to relieve the tedium, the sugar factory. Along this stretch where villages are barely visible any building becomes a matter of interest!
After an overnight stop above Bardney Lock there remained about 11 miles to Lincoln. Water levels, if slightly low, were not problematic, and though the odd green island floated by the blanket weed was not yet of the vast sludgy field-size proportions seen back in Cambridgeshire. There’s a cycle track on the west bank and occasional sculptures. The Navigation passes Fiskerton, Cherry Willingham, Washingborough, names very familiar decades back in a long ago Lincolnshire life. Slowly the massive cathedral on top of appropriately named Steep Hill grows clearer.
Stamp End Lock, on the outskirts of the city, has an unfamiliar layout in its lock operating box. Only a few hundred yards along from here is the heart of Lincoln. The Witch & Wardrobe on Waterside, the Millennium Sculpture, the Glory Hole, Brayford Pool and a mooring a short stone’s throw from the university.
City dwellers now (albeit floating ones) until Thursday…