The Way of the Vikings

One of the most satisfying aspects of country walking in Britain is that you discover interesting nooks & corners that – in many instances – you would never find otherwise.

And so it proved when Stilton Stumblers emerged from the gloom of Covid lockdown to enjoy a weekend in the Lincolnshire Wolds, arguably one of England’s best-kept secrets for sheer rural tranquillity.

Donington on Bain is a quiet little village sitting on the Viking Way, a trail that runs 147 miles between the Humber bridge and Oakham. Ideal walking country! The first treasure we found was The Black Horse Inn; everything an old English pub should be, with a roaring fire in the bar, excellent food and drink and comfortable accommodation.

The Viking Way meanders pleasantly through good farming country, pretty villages and past ancient churches. In fact, the weekend became something of a ‘church crawl’. At nearby Goulceby we found a small cemetery, seemingly abandoned next to a farm track. Investigation showed that it had once been a churchyard, but the church, All Saints, had fallen into disrepair and was a bit too far out for its parishioners. So nothing loath, they rolled up their sleeves and in 1880 began to demolish the church block by block and rebuild it – very well – about ¼ mile down the hill. It took them 20 years! This was certainly something that you would only ever discover on foot. Even several locals we spoke to didn’t know about it!

On the Sunday, we enjoyed a six-mile stroll along high ground with expansive views across rolling countryside to Lincoln cathedral on the distant horizon. Bangin’!

An Anglesey Adventure

After last year’s Spanish expedition we fancied something nearer to home but still fairly unexplored. So after much discussion we chose Anglesey for our annual getaway. Most of us had never been there and those who had confirmed its quality walking.

Heading towards the remains of a pumping engine on Parys Mountain

So off we went! Thanks to Shirley for finding us a nice hotel in Beaumaris, and to all 11 Stumblers who made it such an enoyable weekend. Especially pleasing that Chris & Vickie could come and that John & Gil came over from Buxton to tell us all about their progress in settling in to their new home.

The weather forecast had been pretty dreadful, with Hurricane Irma scheduled to land on top of us, but happily we only had to put up with overcast skies and a strong wind on the Monday.

No, this image hasn’t been recoloured!

Welsh Chris had encouraged us to visit Parys Mountain, so that was first on the agenda. And what a sight it is! Dating back to the Bronze Age, it’s the world’s oldest copper mine and was the main source of copper to the Roman Empire. Ancient volcanic activity had concentrated an extraordinary quantity and variety of valuable minerals here, resulting in a bizarrely coloured moonscape of abandoned diggings. So much to explore.

Gannets at Beaumaris

Sunday’s weather, and some Stumblers wanting to head home in the afternoon, kept us close to Beaumaris, with a delightful morning’s walk along the beach and back through bosky woodlands. We explored the remains of a castle first built in 1088 by the Normans to suppress the Welsh. Some hope; the islanders simply burned it down!

Monday’s gale-force winds deterred us from any serious walking so we drove out to visit the South Stack lighthouse, which is not only an interesting landmark but also an important RSPB reserve for a variety of seabirds. The nearby Ellin’s Tower houses an excellent birdwatching facility, with knowledgeable RSPB volunteers on hand and a number of telescopes for visitors to use.

South Stack lighthouse

With such good company, good food, good walking and interesting new places to discover, Anglesey 2017 was a really great adventure. Thanks everybody!