In times gone by, in order to move the potato harvest more quickly from Boston to Lincoln, a railway was built. It followed the river and was built on the retaining levee, and being slightly elevated it must have been a lovely sight seeing a steam train chugging along. The tracks are all gone now and have been replaced by an enticing footpath and cycle route; ie it’s flat. It’s known as the Water Rail Way promoted by Sustrans.
Many of the stations and junctions have been turned into beautiful homes.
And there are several sculptures to enjoy. Some can be seen from the river, Some look like they’ve escaped from the River And some I saw when I got to walk after we’d moored up for the day. This one is engraved on both sides, “For men may come and men may go, But I go on forever.” Which was taken from Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Brook. Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire. I would have liked to have seen all the others, another time maybe.We have enjoyed being in Lincolnshire. The actual cruising has been a little tedious, long straight stretches with restricted views and limited mooring opportunity, but once we climbed up onto the path we could see for miles, all the way across to Lincoln cathedral.And for part of our journey we had dramatic storm clouds billowing overhead rather ominously.Thankfully the rain fell on someone else.
The Packet Inn mooring is the perfect place to go and see the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, as that’s where they hang out. And from Monday to Friday volunteers will take you on a Hanger tour at RAF Conningsby. Being summer not all the planes are on base as they try to get out for displays, but we were lucky. The Lancaster was on the runway just about to take off on its way down to Southampton.
The Lancasters played a vital part in Britain’s war effort. They were the huge heavy duty bombers, capable of night flights, and often, if they had been hit, able to limp home on only 2 of their 4 engines. Sadly being part of a Lancaster crew was still one of the most dangerous places to be in the RAF. Out of the 7377 built, 3249 survived and only 35 completed more than 100 sorties. The crew of 7 had only a 15% chance of being able to bail out if hit, and due to the cramped conditions in the turrets, the gunners would often have removed their parachutes. Life expectancy of a rear gunner was rummered to only be 4 weeks, exposed and unable to escape they were very vulnerable. Unlike today’s stringent rules with supervised flying hours before obtaining a pilots licence, some of these men were lucky if they got 2 weeks training. Consequently a lot of the tragedies occoured when landing back on home ground due to sheer lack of experience. Probably the most famous Lancaster mission was delivering the Dam Busters bouncing bombs. The Spitfires were midgets compared to the Lancasters. They were the short range high performance single seat fighters. They often flew photo reconnaissance missions unarmed because they could fly higher and faster than the enemy. Their design was streamlined and although costing a lot more, the air force insisted on flat rivets because it allowed an extra 15mph. We wonder if some boaters realise this, as there is a trend for having raised rivets added to hulls purely for the aesthetics. Going 15mph faster might not actually be possible but going 15mph slower would have a very negative impact….
Although the Spitefires have captured the public’s affections, the Hurricanes were responsible for 60% of the enemy losses during the Battle of Britain. They were essentially a fore runner of the Spitfire using tried and tested cheaper manufacturing methods. They were straightforward and easier to fly, also easier to repair, but the agility and speed of the Spitfire was too beneficial to ignore. The Douglas Dakota was used primarily as a military transport plane but looks equally impressive when seen as part of the team.The BBMF has to undergo strict and rigerous maintenance throughout the year. The cogsand pistons gleamAnd each time the planes are repainted, the colours of the various countries that played a part in the allies victory are chosen, this shows the Polish Boxing Bulldog. The French Spitfire is silver with the French Flag but this plane isn’t flying this season. The pilots also undertake many hours of additional training before they are allowed to fly any of the BBMF. There is only one Lancaster left in Britain that is able to fly and the RAF is doing their best to preserve it for as long as possible. It certainly gave us a huge thrill every time we saw it flying over. The deep rumble is quite unique. And as we were in Lincolnshire for nearly a month we got to see and hear it many times. It’s been a highlight of our summer and in true narrowboat life totally unexpected experience.
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.