The river Welland in Lincolnshire is 65 miles in length from Stamford to Fosdyke where it finally reaches the wash. We only walked a small section of the river Welland but it’s oh so peaceful. Our walk took us 15 miles from start to finish but if the clouds hadn’t rolled in looking menacing, we had an extra 6 miles planned taking us to a river crossing at Spalding, and a return walk along the opposite bank to Fosdyke bridge where our walk began.
Walking the river Welland in the Lincolnshire fens is a refreshing experience, surrounded by natural beauty and farmland it is a really quiet and relaxing experience. All along the river we spotted egrets foraging in the silty banks as the tide receded and in the fields a farmer was ploughing his land into tidy rows while gulls followed in hope of a free meal.
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The walk from Fosdyke Bridge
Fosdyke bridge on the A17 was our starting point for this walk and we had decided to walk the river Welland in the opposite direction from the marina, since we had already walked along the river towards the wash earlier in the year during a storm, which we had enjoyed in the bracing winds and the dramatic clouds forming as we walked, our heads into the wind as the storm increased. The landscape was still beautiful even in the stormy weather, at least on top of the flood bank on the flat open spaces there are no risks of trees falling. It was a type of wind that could hold you up as you lean into it. Not everyone’s kind of day but for us was a good fun experience. So, it was decided on a much sunnier, calmer day to walk towards Surfleet to explore the next stretch of the river. We parked on the section of road near the little cafe and booted up ready to explore.
The Lincolnshire fens are amazing and although very flat, you can see for miles around, but be aware of the weather and be prepared because it is so open without any coverage so the wind blows like crazy sometimes. The sunny weather surprised us and to be honest the breeze coming across the river was quite welcome on that day. The village of Fosdyke is near the mouth of the River Welland, and the parish extends across the river to include both ends of the hamlet of Fosdyke Bridge.
There are no shops, and the nearest post office is in Sutterton. Next to Fosdyke Bridge and The Ship public house is the privately owned Fosdyke Yacht Haven, a pleasure boat marina and boat yard, developed from a previous commercial port. The marina has dry dock facilities for sailing craft. The river Welland has been known to have been a trading route for centuries and Fosdyke, a port since at least medieval times, the area all around would have been marshland for miles.
The Lincolnshire Fens or Fenlands
This is a naturally marshy region that supports a rich ecology and plentiful species, which helps absorb storms. Most of the fens were drained centuries ago, leading to a flat, dry, low-lying agricultural region with a system of drainage channels and man-made rivers (dykes and drains) there are automated pumping stations at regular intervals.
There have Unfortunately been unintended consequences to this reclamation, as the land level has continued to sink and the dykes have been built higher to protect it from flooding. There is now less than 1% of Lincolnshire’s wild Fenland remaining un-drained. There are 170 species of bird noted and 63 species recorded as breeding or presumed breeding including lapwing, redshank, snipe and marsh harrier. In the winter large numbers of wildfowl are attracted to the flooded Washland areas including wigeon, teal, mallard, shoveler, tufted duck and pintail.
Riverside walk on the Lincolnshire fens
The riverside path has very well kept and the access is rather easy, speaking as someone who’s managed a few walks on crutches and by wheelchair in 2019. I found the track very good, it’s something I notice these days.
All along the river Welland there are wildflower and a whole wealth of insects, from butterflies, bees and beetles to ladybirds to watch if you have the time and patience to stop and notice them. We watched birds of prey hunting and the gulls dipping in and out of the river looking for little fish. We spotted a couple of lovely herons fishing at the edge of one of the drains too.
We wondered whether they caught many fish for their dinner. The first part of the walk took us to a small village called Surfleet where there’s a nice little pub where the opportunity for some refreshments is a temptation, they have some outdoor seating space if you arrive on a sunny day.
Surfleet village was once just two miles from the sea. It is mentioned in the doomsday book, the entry mentioned two salt pans in the area, which was a good source of income at that time, using an evaporation process for salt production. In an attempt to overcome silting problems in the Welland and Glen, a sluice was built in 1739 to reduce the chances of flooding in the area, by order of the honourable adventurers of Deeping Fen in the grand basin, known now as Surfleet reservoir. The sluice was designed using the model by Messrs. Smith and Grundy and was replaced in 1879 by the current structure. The river provided an important transport route for many years, taking agricultural goods including locally grown barley which would be landed at Surfleet Bridge and used at the Surfleet maltings which was once attached to the Mermaid Inn where ale was brewed in large quantities.
Walking to Fosdyke bridge along the Welland river
The return walk along the river seemed quicker somehow. We had walked, according to my tracker app 7.5 miles after reaching Surfleet and an extra mile afterwards toward Spalding until we decided not to take in the extra miles to cross the river. The two terriers didn’t mind how far we walked or in which direction, they were just pleased to be there and very well-behaved walking at heel and sniffing all the smells on route as terriers do. Even though the clouds in the distance looked ominous they didn’t do more than drop a few spots of rain before blowing off, leaving us in gorgeous sunshine yet again.
The return journey back to the bridge was just as enjoyable and the whole day was an absolute pleasure. We’ve found Lincolnshire walking to be quite enjoyable lately and so we will be returning again for sure, and I hope I’ve inspired you too.