Shore leave in Lincoln
The Captain manoeuvred the boat carefully from her mooring, a tight right, a wriggle right, then a mooring against the fuel jetty. Bills paid, there was a push off from the stern, a holding tight at the bow then, with Cleddau’s nose pointed at the marina exit it was OFF.
There was a tiny thrill in leaving behind surveillance cameras and key fobs, security gates and designated parking spaces… To be out on the cut again, away from the crowds of white and shiny cruisers seemed an expression of independence, almost an expression of defiance… Why wouldn’t one want to be out on the open water road, rather than cwtched up, cheek by jowl, fender by fender, with one’s neighbours…? There can be a claustrophobic feeling in being safe behind locked gates…
The day’s cruise was short – and purposeful. A mooring outside the Pyewipe Inn allowed for a quiet stroll (with distant glimpses of Lincoln’s fine medieval cathedral and the windmill near Burton Road ) and for an evening meal at the inn. The Tentatrice crew have a history of visiting this place ; suffice to say the Cleddau crew were well satisfied with the menu options, flavours and service on their two visits here.
On into Lincoln – and out the other side – was the plan for Thursday. Boatwif begged for some shore leave, a request that was granted on the usual provisos of there being somewhere to tie up and a departure time from the city by 4pm… From the outskirts into the city the south bank is lined with vessels of all sorts of ages and configurations.
Then there’s the huge Brayford Pool, dominated on the south side by the University and on the north by retail outlets, eating establishments and a cinema. From the far corner of the Pool the waterway streams under two bridges, the second being the famed Glory Hole. Above the arch is the High Bridge café, Marks and Spencer right next to it.
Moored up, shore leave was granted. Often (in the long ago past) Lincoln had been the local town … and sentiment and nostalgia were quick to kick in. First a wander round the market area and then a loop back into the High Street. Red Arrows were strung in aerobatic pose across the street. This is Lincoln, a city irrevocably associated with the Royal Air Force. Just north is Scampton, home of 617 Squadron of Dambusters fame and now the home base for the Red Arrows. Back beside the Pyewipe Inn this wing shape had been spotted – and there are many more of them (100 actually) throughout the city, marking in 2018 the hundred years of the Royal Air Force’s existence. On each wing is a story or description of Lincoln’s association with the RAF. On one is a most amusing account of The Battle of the Hats…
High on top of Steep Hill sits Lincoln’s magnificent cathedral. It has a magnetic force that pulls pedestrians up the very steep incline, past the shop that sells aircraft flight instruments , past The Jew’s Court (remembered as a fine antiques centre) on upwards past galleries, boutiques and tearooms, the buildings exuding their quirky charm. The hill broadens out at the top, the Cathedral on one side of Castle Square, the Castle on the other. There’d been a climb of some 52 metres (172 feet) from the downhill part of the city.
Scaffolding encases part of the Cathedral’s West Front; stone cleaning is in progress. And what a difference: remembered as a dark stone the contrast now between the cleaned stone and the stonework on the south tower is pretty striking.
Back under the gateway from Minster Yard into Castle Square, a quick snoop along the first of the Bailgate shops and then a stroll across to the Castle entrance. Its stunning position, and its status as the home to one of only four surviving copies of the Magna Carta make it a popular visitor attraction. Excited squeals came from the medieval walkway above the Gatehouse, pupils on a field trip no doubt.
Musn’t miss the boat, time was creeping on. Slowly, camera still in hand, Boatwif began the downhill return to the Glory Hole and the boat. A delivery van struggling to turn interrupted the view. Each step produced a different vista, rooflines, windows, cobbles, street names. A chattering school party was being led down the hill, pupils in pairs, rucksacks on backs. As the last adult escort passed by Boatwif could not resist a question:
“Are you a Lincoln school?” she asked.
“No, we’re from Winterton,” came the reply.
Gasp! “I know where that is!” (Probably most of the population in Lincolnshire does too, of course). Out it came. “I taught there, it was my first teaching post – a long time ago!” There was a brief exchange of recollections down the rest of the hill, till the school party veered left to their next appointment and Boatwif continued ahead, bemused at yet another set of memories which had been stirred by a chance remark*
Time for one more reminiscence. Not far off the main route back to the High Street is the New Theatre Royal on Clasketgate, a small and intimate theatre where many happy hours had been spent in pre-parenthood days…
Back to the boat, shore leave over. Memories from various pasts had collided during the few brief hours – but now it was time to cast off, cruise under the Millennium Arch and head downstream towards the sea…
Distance and locks since leaving Aqueduct Marina, near Nantwich: 177 miles, 80 locks
Distance and locks remaining to Bedford from Burton Waters, near Lincoln: 145 miles, 19 locks
*Winterton is about 30 miles north of Lincoln, close to the Humber Estuary