Friday, 30 October 2015

Exploring Lincolnshire

This is going to be a two part blog as there's a lot to tell you!

We've just come back from a four night holiday in Saltfleet on the Lincolnshire coast.

Now it might not sound like the first choice of holiday, four nights in a caravan at the wrong end of October on the windswept east coast, but we had a fantastic time. We packed an amazing amount into the time we had available.

I have a theory that you get more out of a short break than a longer one. When you know you've only got three full days, it focuses the mind. There's no time to waste lounging about or taking a day or two to settle in. You've got to be full on from the start. And you've also only got to make your money last four days, so you don't have to eke it out so much as you do on a longer break.

There was an ulterior motive to taking this break. As I've mentioned previously, we have for some time been scouring the country looking for somewhere potentially to relocate to. Why? Well the high cost of living and housing here was the initial reason, but to be honest, in recent months I have begun to feel more and more that I want to move on in any case. I've been here 25 years and I feel ready for a change. I want to find out what it's like to live in another county, in another town.

So far our travels around the country have not yielded any positive results. I have said all along that I wouldn't move unless I found somewhere that really felt right. I knew that when I found the place I would know. Travels around Norfolk and Devon proved fruitless. Nowhere did I find somewhere that I could hand on heart imagine one day calling home.

So it was very much third time lucky this time and after months and months of research on countless towns across the UK and turning them down for various reasons, my sights alighted on Louth in Lincolnshire. This sounds like a bit of a cliché, but as soon as I saw it on the map, I almost felt it calling to me. I knew I had to go and check it out.

Louth is not far from the coast, and as luck would have it, I found us a very cheap caravan by the sea at Saltfleet, about 12 miles away. So it was a perfect opportunity not only to have a nice half-term break, but also to check out Louth at the same time to see if it was everything I hoped it would be. And was it? It certainly was, everything and more. But let's deal with the surrounding area first.

Louth is situated roughly halfway between Lincoln and Grimsby, places I had never been. In fact, Lincolnshire as a whole was a closed book to me before this week. Quite how I had never strayed into the area is surprising really as during my time with Nielsen, I travelled the length and breadth of the country visiting clients. There are very few major towns and cities I haven't been to. I also used to travel a lot around the country meeting friends I'd met on holiday. But none of these trips ever took me to that particular part of the country.

I didn't know much about either city, but had made the assumption that Grimsby, having "grim" in the name was probably just that. The other major place of note in the area is the seaside resort of Skegness which I'm ashamed to say, I'd also assumed was a dump. That famous poster Viz once posted of Skegness had stuck in my head (Google Skegness Viz and you'll see what I mean), and the name Skegness itself doesn't conjure up a picturesque scene in the way that say "Bourton-on-the-Water" does. This does pose a question. It is just me or is it a human trait to make assumptions about a place purely based on its name. It's tantamount to discrimination when you think about it.

Well all I can say is, after visiting both Grimsby and Skegness, I'll be making a conscious effort never to discriminate against a place based on its name again.

Take Grimsby, for example. On the route we drove in, we were on a wide tree lined avenue, with lovely big houses on either side. Seriously, I could have mistaken it for Woodstock Road or Banbury Road going into Oxford. It was exactly like that except you could knock a zero off the end of the house prices. We didn't spend more than a couple of hours in Grimsby, but we didn't see anything grim about it. I've seen a lot rougher in cities further south, put it that way.

As for Skegness, well, I was hugely impressed. I have been to many British seaside resorts in recent years, and Skeggy knocks them all in to touch. It's not dissimilar to Yarmouth, which I quite like, but better. It's one of the few such resorts I have been to where it doesn't feel tired, run-down and in decay. It was lively, fun and with a lot more going on than in Yarmouth. And this is in October, remember, not the height of the summer season.

The children were even more fearless than in the summer when it came to the rides on Skegness sea front. They continually surprise me, particularly Ollie, who despite his reticence in other areas is a complete thrill seeker when it comes to rides.

Riding fast and high.

The other seaside resort worth a mention is Mablethorpe which has a lovely beach. As far as I could see it was perfect golden sand from one end to the other, no seaweed, no stony bits, nothing horrible at all. It's how I imagine a beach should be and quite refreshing after several recent disappointments. The boys had a good run around on it which helped to keep warm - it was a tad chilly to say the least.

Mablethorpe beach. Too cold for my speedos I'm afraid, girls.

The highlight of our tour was undoubtedly Lincoln. We parked in the centre, down by the canal, and immediately on emerging from the car park were greeted by a welcoming scene. There was a large square with old fashioned carousel, next to a canal with a floating cafe on a barge, lined with various period buildings.

Fun on the carousel

As we wandered through the shopping streets, the paths began to turn uphill as we headed towards the castle, eventually leading us to the aptly name "Steep Hill", a beautiful cobbled street lined with all sort of interesting boutique shops - from antique book shops to a specialist Russian doll shop. Ollie has been asking for some Russian dolls for years, and here was the perfect opportunity - we were able to get a traditional hand painted set made in Russia, and he and Jamie have been playing with them ever since.

Jamie and Ollie on Lincoln Castle walls

The whole area is quite stunning, and quite hard work getting up the hill which is almost 1:2 in places, but well worth  it. At the top lies the castle and cathedral, steeped in history. With about an hour of daylight left to us, we just had time to do the walk of the castle walls before we headed back. The views from up there were amazing.

So, Lincoln, what a lovely city to visit, and we will definitely be going back to spend more time there when we get the opportunity.

So, what about Louth? Well that's going to be covered in Part 2 of this blog, which I am going to start writing right now. Give me an hour or so and it'll be up.

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