Spring is on its way, and there are plenty of walks and cycle paths to enjoy without straying too far from Woodhall Spa. One of the most interesting is the Water Rail way, which is now open from Lincoln to Boston, mostly following the old railway line alongside the River Witham. The name is a neat play on words; the water rail is also the name of a bird described by the RSPB as “….a fairly common but highly secretive inhabitant of freshwater wetlands”. (So don’t bet on spotting one here……)
You can pick up the path at Kirkstead Bridge, under two miles from The Petwood Hotel along Witham Road (B1191) toward Lincoln, or via Green Lane (nicer but longer walk, 1.8 miles). You can either walk, ride or catch the Brylaine bus from the village centre, or park your car on the old Witham Road opposite the garage, just before the bridge, near the old Kirkstead rail junction (now a private house), where the railway used to divide to take folk to Woodhall Spa and Horncastle.
A few weeks ago we walked about half way to Stixwold on one of those beautiful sunny winter days we get here in Lincolnshire – cold, but not much wind – talked to some iron sheep and bumped into some old friends. I could almost hear the ghostly sound of the steam train at my back………..
As you face the river from the old railway track, turn left if you want to head for Boston via Tattershall, or you can take a right toward Lincoln, via Bardney. Either way you are in for some pleasant surprises; as you walk the old railway track bed, the path is furnished at intervals with some unusual man-made features, such as life-size iron or wooden farm animals and other artworks inspired by the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson and by the local environment.
There are also plenty of well designed information panels evoking the past and giving valuable information on wildlife, and some welcome seats for walkers or cyclists to take a break, have a picnic, or, who knows, even snooze.
Make sure to walk or cycle within your own capability and time frame, and dress for the conditions – the Witham valley can be quite windy at times so it’s wise to check out the weather forecast if you are going far. The track is well surfaced most of the way, and it is shared by cyclists and walkers. If you are interested in wildlife make sure to take your binoculars, and in any case don’t forget to take some water with you.
There’s a lot more to find out about this excellent trail, so here are a few websites to visit: