Miles walked: 13
Weather: Rain, lots of rain.
This was the day the weather gods stopped smiling on us. It was chucking it down, and predicted to carry on doing it for most of the day. And the next day too. We consoled ourselves with The Waterfront Inn’s excellent cooked breakfast while we glared out of the window.
To be fair though, we probably picked the best three weeks of the year to do this walk in. Three days of rain in three weeks is pretty lucky.
The Aegir was due again this morning, at 10.17am here in West Stockwith, according to the Environment Agency. Based on yesterday, we therefore expected it a bit after 9am. We were trudging along, discussing whether to try to record the sound, and how to stop the recorder getting wet, when it came.
You know when there’s a car coming and two people comically try to get out of the way in different directions? Ross ran to the water’s edge. I ran up the embankment where I thought I’d get a better view. Neither of us thought to get our phones/cameras out in time, never mind the recorder. We’d be rubbish reporters.
I got to see more than I had yesterday, but it was only a one star and not half as dramatic as ones you see on YouTube. The swell was maybe 1-2 foot high. It was cool to properly see it though, and for Ross to see it too. It would be a shame to spend three weeks on this pilgrimage of homage to the river, and not see it. Although we talked to a woman in Gainsborough who’s lived there 16 years and never seen it. ‘I’m not good at mornings’, she said.
The lovely couple from last night lived in the next village north – funnily enough called Gunthorpe, the same as my parents’ village. They’d invited us for tea, and we were very happy to see them again. And also to get out of the rain for a bit. We even got to meet Beaky, their pet blackbird. We told them about Molly Leigh and her pet blackbird last night. Dad wants to meet them now and play them his Molly Leigh song, ‘Because how often do you meet someone who’s got a pet blackbird?’ I can’t fault his logic there.
Apparently Beaky was fractious because he likes to come out of his cage and fly around in the mornings, but they’d kept him in because of us. I asked what they did about him pooing on things. ‘Follow him around with a cloth. What else can you do?’, they said.
It was lovely to see them again and hear more of their stories. They were such a kind, happy, sparky couple. As we left I asked Ross if we can be like them when we’re old, and he said OK, so fingers crossed.
Even though we were plodding along in the rain, we talked about how much we’d loved West Stockwith and this part of the river. We’ve been saying for a while we want to spend a week or so relaxing after this – writing up notes and taking it all in. We’ve been trying to think where and how to organise it and suddenly we found ourselves wondering if we could rent a cheap holiday cottage round here. Subsequent googling hasn’t turned up anything though. It’s not really the sort of place people have holiday cottages. What sort of idiot goes on holiday to the River Trent? There’s a caravan park, but we don’t have a caravan. I don’t suppose anyone wants to lend us one for a week?
We marched along through the rain – you don’t want to be hanging about in it, do you? We were going along the road which runs alongside the river here, and were making good time. You end up entering a sort of zen-like state where the miles just melt away. In a couple of hours we were at West Butterwick, with only about 3.5 miles to go to Keadby Bridge and 2 hours to get there. Of course this meant time for more tea.
The rain had stopped and the sun come out by now, sort of. We sat in a beer garden, bemoaning our wet socks and lauding the reasonably-priced tea. How so many places can charge £2 a cup I really don’t know – it’s mainly just hot water. In this part of the world it seemed it was £1 a cup everywhere. Very sensible. We entertained fantasies of buying the broken down farmhouse we’d just passed and doing it up…
We made it to Keadby Bridge on schedule, and walked across it, which I didn’t like. I don’t mind being high up per se, but I get vertigo if I can see down near my feet (like if there’s gaps in stairs, or those glass walkways you get in some buildings). I’ve talked to a lot of people who are the same, god knows why they put those things in buildings. I had to make Ross hold my hand.
It was an impressive piece of engineering though. It was originally built to open, for tall ships to come through. We were told by locals that the bridge worked by water poured into a counterweight at one end, but if I’m reading wikipedia right, it was actually electrically powered. We were also told that they stopped opening it when a railway line was added to the bridge in the 60s. Wikipedia says that’s wrong too – that it was last opened in 1956, but had been a railway bridge ever since it first opened in 1916.
There’s a great Pathe newsreel of it in 1933 here. No sound though, you’ll have to imagine a plummy-voiced presenter for yourselves.
Lovely Sadie, who we were staying with, picked us up the other side of the bridge and drove us to the Arts Centre, which is partly in an old church. It was another small but appreciative audience, and the first outing for my new fringed storytelling cardigan.
We asked what they found the most surprising thing about the show and one of the girls who was there on work experience said, ‘That anyone would walk all the way along a river.’ Yeah, I wonder about that too, my dear.
Scunthorpe’s was tiny until they started mining iron ore there in the late 19th Century, then it grew massively in size. It’s a town built on iron and steel, not based around the river at all. In fact, the river’s a couple of miles to the West. This was the first town we’d been to since about Stoke where the river wasn’t something people had a relationship to. Most of the people at the talk never go to the river or even think about it. They were friendly though. This is the North after all.
Sadie picked us up again after the talk and took us home. They’d got an amazing bath with the taps in the middle, so we had a bath where no-one had to have the tap end. What a fantastic invention. I want one. It was a lovely evening, and we were fed up handsomely on lamb, mashed potato and veg. After all the cooked breakfasts and sausage rolls we’ve been living on, we’ve started craving vegetables. Sadie even did our washing, and Rob told us stories about meeting Tony Benn at the Tolpuddle Festival. We couldn’t have felt more at home. We went to bed feeling a bit sad though, that tomorrow is our last day.