March 2016

Viking way rece 2

Four weeks out from the Viking Way I set out to recce the first ~85 miles from Hull to Lincoln. This time I stayed in hotels/B&Bs to avoid carrying camping gear and hopefully move a bit faster. I did at least manage to jog from the Premier Inn over the Humber bridge to the start of the route. The first ~15 miles weren’t too muddy and fairly flat, so I continued to shuffle along. South of Caister (where I stopped for water and cheese & onion pasties) the route got surprisingly hilly though. Lincolnshire really isn’t as flat as you think. At one point, in a muddy field full of rare sheep, I had to use my hands to avoid slipping backwards down a steep bank.

Ludford, where I’d booked a room for the night, came a few miles sooner than I was expecting. Meaning that I’d left myself more miles than I thought for day 2. I set off early, along what should have been nicely runnable roads. But they were coated in a sheet of ice, so instead I had to inch along the verge. After that it felt like I was making good progress, and when I stopped for lunch (more cheese and onion pasties) in Horncastle I was pretty confident I’d make it to Lincoln by early evening. The disused railway track to Woodall Spa was (apart from the occasional sculptures) dull, but it made for fast going. Woodall Spa was surprisingly posh, there were even proper wooden Viking Way signs! The next stretch involved some more fast going tracks, past a sewage works and a sugar factory to Bardney and the infamous ‘field with no escape’. In the daylight it was fairly easy to spot the exit (a section of electric fence with plastic protectors) but encountering it for the first time in the dark would be a different story.

Lincoln cathedral had been tantalisingly in view for several hours. But first the route went South of it, and now it headed North. I was tempted to take a short cut along roads, but that would defeat the purpose of the recce. The next 5 miles were grim, miles of muddy fields interspersed with fiddly navigation. It was also becoming clear that I’d significantly under-estimated the distance (forgetting to add on the couple of miles over the bridge to the start, and not realising that the Lincoln checkpoint is actually right on the outskirts) and I was at risk of missing the last train home. I ground-out 11 minute miles alongside the waterway (not fast, but not bad for me with a big pack at the end of two days of run-walking). I’d been envisaging a nice gravel cycle track, but instead it was uneven grass, and the cathedral never seemed to get any closer. Eventually I hit the outskirts of Lincoln and headed straight to the station, rather than following the route up to the cathedral. I was desperate to stop for chips but didn’t want to risk getting stranded in Lincoln. I made it to the station with ~5 minutes to spare and instead spent all my loose change on crisps from the vending machine.