Reasons to travel to Boston

In Eric’s case it was simply “why not?”  We have come so far, why not complete the trip as far as we can navigate.  After all it is our plan to see as much of the country as possible. And I agree with him. Boston gets mixed reviews but as always we like to make our own judgement.

Ian and Cherryl would like to take Seren Rose out onto the Wash and around the coast, they wanted to look at all the practicalities before planning their big voyage.

Me? I’d done my homework and googled “events”. I wanted to attend the “fisherman’s feast festival” happening over the weekend.  I was keen to find the TIC to pick up details, because there didn’t seem to be any posters advertising it.

Ian and Cherryl were first off the boat because they’d also done their homework and knew it was high tide at 10am so wanted to see the lock keeper. The Grand Sluice lock is a bit of a muddle to understand, it’s underneath the rail and the road bridge. And there’s particular ways of passing through depending on the time tide and size of your boat. They picked up a lot of useful advice and contacts, but we just observed, Unlike Seren Rose, Firecrest is a canal boat and although we could make her seaworthy, it isn’t something high on our priority list right now. But never say never, there’s usually a handful of intrepid travellers who do it each year.

Having done the boaty bit we set off to see more of Boston and find out what it’s all about. The TIC is in the Guild Hall. But funnily enough, they didn’t seem to know anything about the fisherman’s feast, but as I insisted, the website said it was on this weekend and the grand procession carrying statues of the Madonna to bless the fishermen, had taken place every year since the early 1910.  The penny dropped and the smiles emerged. Wrong Boston. I’d looked at Boston Massachusetts, USA and there was no way we were taking our boats across the Atlantic for a fish and chip supper.But undeterred by my apparently common mistake, we had a good look around.

In 1390, the religious order of St Mary formed a guild for the wealthy wool merchants.  Unusual for it’s time, it was a 2 story brick building, downstairs was the chapel and alter over which deals were struck. Upstairs were the banqueting rooms, to celebrate the deals. I looked somewhat surprised at this arrangement, but it made sense when the guide explained that deals done in church were made in the sight of God, therefore neither party dared renege on the deal.

At the time over three million sheep fleece were being exported which meant that other luxuries such as silk, fur and wine could be imported creating the opportunity for Boston’s fairs and markets to become an integral part of the town. Sadly over time, the value of fleece declined and the river silted up, until the agricultual revolution in the 18th century when Georgians revitalised the area and its waterways.

Today Boston still benefits from agriculture and has become home to a large number of Eastern Europeans. Sadly as manual field labour doesn’t command high wages, it has left Boston with a somewhat run down feel to it. Hence the reluctance of some boaters to journey this far. In our opinion quite sad because Boston has a fascinating history and some beautiful buildings. One thing it lacks is plentiful mooring for narrowboats which meant that we only stayed 2 nights, even though I suspected there was a lot more to explore.

Leaving Boston has to be carefully thought out if you want to go out onto the the sea, that nice deep river we saw at full tide, looks like this on the retreat. The Pilgrim Fathers also had trouble leaving Boston during the reign of  Elizabeth I. They were a group of likeminded families, known as the Scrooby Separatists, who were being persecuted for wanting a more Bible centred faith as opposed to following the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer that Henry VIII had introduced. They had secretly arranged passage from Boston but were betrayed by the captain. Luckily for them, the people of Boston had some sympathy for them and although they had all their belongings confiscated they were only held under house arrest in the Guild Hall until they were sent back to their villages penniless.  In 1620 they made another bid for freedom. On two ships, the Speedwell for passengers and the larger Mayfair for the essentials needed to build a new life in America. The Speedwell began taking on water before it had even left the British coast, the intrepid settlers had to set sail once more from Plymouth on board the Mayfair. But after 2 months at sea they made it, and built a new colony called Boston in honour of their starting point. I’m not sure if the Pilgrim Fathers would have approved, because of its Catholic roots, but some years later fellow immigrants to Boston Massachusetts began a festival called the fisherman’s feast, which I believe is an event worth attending.

The Stump, what a view.

The good folk of Lincolnshire certainly like to make a statement. And just like Lincoln, our first sighting of Boston was the church, St Botolphs.  Known affectionately as “The Stump”.  This towering beacon guided us along the river to the visitor moorings, where a fellow boater said “….you do know you can go up to the top….” of course I didn’t need telling twice.  Despite the clouds, the forecast suggested this would be the clearest day for the best view. So with my eager accomplice Cherryl, we persuaded our boys that it was only 220 steps and off we went. Only 220 steps indeed, we were both looking for the oxygen cylinders by the time we got to the top. But then we realised it was the view that claimed the breath taking prize. We were able to stand outside on all 4 aspects of the tower. Looking down we could see the market and some of the grand Boston properties built in its thriving heyday. And if we followed the river west, in front of the Grand Sluice, Boston lock, (under the rail bridge) the tide had retreated revealing uninviting mud going out to the estuary, but Seren Rose and Firecrest were moored safely upstream in non tidal water.Looking straight out we could see over to the Norfolk coast and the in/off shore windfarms (we’re still debating which term is correct).To the north was a “proper” 1820s windmill, this is one of the largest still operating in England. Looking to the west were the great, soon to be redundant, cooling towers of the coal power stations on the Trent and medieval Tattershal castle. On a good day you can see over 30 miles and Lincoln cathedral but it was too hazy for us.I don’t usually like heights but the stone balcony encased us safely. We had climbed 145 feet up, the remaining 100 feet was closed to public access.Coming down was harder than going up, narrow spiral stairwells are good for the defending soldiers wielding swords. Ian and Eric obviously didn’t meet the enemy as they practically flew down. Cherryl and I took a more ladylike descent, and emerged triumphant and in need of a cuppa-provided by a very pleasant cafe in the church. St Botolphs seems to be a very welcoming and inclusive church. Lots of beautiful architecture but more importantly full of people.There were several community activities going on, the local art club had an exhibition, there were some spinners and knitters creating a WWI remembrance display of red poppies, there was a replica of St Botolphs being made out of Lego, a wood carving group working on church restoration, a cafe and a large second hand book area. The following day I had the joy of attending an organ recital, but sadly as we only had 2 nights in Boston we missed taking part in any of the many Christian worship activities also advertised.