Catching up: Lincoln Green
A few weeks ago, I took a trip up to Lincolnshire to see some friends of mine who moved out that way at the beginning of the year. They previously lived near Redditch; whilst Andy worked (and still works) in IT, Elaine ran a business from home, alternating this with visits to the allotment to produce fresh vegetables. Their house was quietly bulging at the seams, so when a former railway station, complete with platform and booking hall came onto the market at a reasonable price, they were highly enthusiastic. Andy was spending a lot of his time travelling to meetings in London anyway, and now that so much IT work involves moving electrons rather than people, Lincolnshire was as good a place as any. For trips to the Smoke, Newark on the East Coast main line was a fairly easy drive; so it was that in the worst winter weather for a considerable number of years, they packed all their worldly possessions into a van and headed for rural Lincolnshire. This was my first opportunity to visit.
Obviously, after six months they were still getting settled in, but the station was looking very smart even though they had plans to get it just as they want it. But apart from the appropriateness of the location, for me the interesting thing was the opportunity to explore a part of the country l’ve only touched on briefly up to now. I visited Newark and Lincoln back in the 1970s, and when we were tracing some of mum’s family tree, we made it as far as Bourne, on the edge of the Lincolnshire Fens, where the trail went cold. But now there was a base of operations for an interesting part of the country, so it was with pleasure that we took to the open road.
First port of call (after a fine cooked breakfast from a roadside café) was Spilsby, a small market town whose greatest claim to fame was that it was the birthplace of Sir John Franklin, the 19th Century navigator who explored the North West Passage and who was lost in 1847 in mysterious circumstances trying to perfect the mapping of northern Canada. His eventual fate remains a mystery to this day, but a fine statue to him was erected in Spilsby market place. Otherwise, Spilsby is a fairly unspectacular place, though not without its charms.
Our next destination was rather different – Boston, bustling market town, location of the famous ‘Boston Stump’, visible across the fens for many miles, and a landmark for bomber crews of both sides during WW2. Boston has a rather nice station building (like so many others, now put to different use), whilst the town itself has a mixture of different building ages and styles, and a rather spectacular industrial building, Swan House, which rather contrary to expectations is nothing to do with the well-known brand of matches, but which rather used to be the Fogarty Feather Factory (you try saying that quickly!), built in 1877 and now converted to flats. We found a rather fine model shop, browsed the market, and raided two of the many Polish supermarkets for essential supplies such as horseradish mustard (though Elaine could find no-one offering the more unusual beetroot mustard, which is a delicate pink colour and best resembles spicy blancmange).
Thence to New York, which is a scattering of houses along the road that runs past the end of the runway at RAF Coningsby, and onwards to what claims to be the UK’s premier bubble car museum. This is a rather fine collection of various bubble- and microcars, from the obvious BMW Isettas, Heinkels and Trojans, via the iconic Messerschmitt, to the British three-wheelers such as the Reliant and Bond. They also had a selection of lesser-known British and European microcars (I was surprised to see the Berkeley included), and a remarkable French contraption called an Inter 175, which looked like nothing so much as a fairground ride rocket on wheels. I was a little surprised at the range of what they claimed as ‘microcars’ as the definition stretched to include the Fiat 500, the Citroen 2CV and the East German Trabant – but not the Mini. They also had a selection of utterly ugly machines, many of which had a cyclopean appearance, such as the Peel, the Frisky and the Bamby.
Amongst these unknowns, one name stood out – Ligier. Yes, the French racing car manufacturer tried to break into the microcar market with a vehicle so divorced from the cars that made the name famous that it provoked in me a reaction so strong that I almost cried out “KILL IT WITH FIRE!”
All in all, it was an interesting collection, but also a reminder that we view classic cars nowadays with the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia, forgetting that the roads in the 1950s and 1960s could also harbour examples of ugliness, nastiness and utter lethality. Not all the exhibits in the National Bubblecar Museum fell into these three categories; readers may remember the 1970 Bond Bug, the wedge-shaped bright orange three-wheeler that epitomised the era and whose popularity surprised even its makers; a prototype four-wheel version, the Bond Sprint, was built but never made it into production. It would have been rather akin to the Smart Sport of the present day.
After this, we went to see the last remaining World War 2 Chain Home radar mast on the East Coast, high on the Lincolnshire Wolds at Stenigot. This is a remarkable survivor, which is now Grade II listed. It survives mainly to train RAF aerial riggers and it has (or so I am told) a memorial to an RAF Aerial Erector at the top… The Lincolnshire Wolds give the lie to the idea that this is a flat county; the view from Stenigot is quite amazing.
After a hard day’s sightseeing and (some) shopping, we finally made our way home via Louth, so I could photograph the remains of the station (now part of a housing development) and a massive grain silo next to the station, which has defeated attempts to either redevelop it or demolish it. Louth is also another attractive market town, with a range of buildings including a fine market hall, an Art Deco cinema, and a particularly good curry house…
Sunday was mainly spent chilling, with lunch at a very pleasant pub in the village, complete with a visit by a local traction engine (which looked well-used rather than over-prettily restored) and a diversion to a local pickle shop – a local resident makes their own pickles and preserves, and sells them from an old shop on the side of the road. Don’t tell the Food Standards Agency….