Walk 2663 - printer friendly version
Moulton Marsh and The Welland from Fosdyke Bridge Walk
Author - Hugh Marrows
Length - 9.5 miles / 15.4 km
Ascent - 50 feet / 15 metres
Grade - easy/mod
Start - OS grid reference TF318323
Lat 52.872038 + Long -0.043254302
Postcode PE20 2DD (approx. location only)
Vast skies dominate Moulton Marsh, part of The Wash and Lincolnshire's last great coastal wilderness to make this walk equally good on a summer's day or a bracing winters one; but note that the route is exposed and without shelter in inclement weather. There are great rewards however including panoramic views, close-ups of boats heading to and from the marina at Fosdyke and an abundance of birds.
This whole area was once the marshy delta of the River Welland, which in historical times stretched inland beyond present-day Holbeach where the first settlements were made around the C7th on a string of low-lying islands. The name "Holland", used by the Local Authority, does not refer to the countryside bearing any resemblance to Holland but comes from the Old English for these islands. (i.e. the "highland") With abundant supplies of fish and wildfowl to sustain a growing population it became necessary in the early Middle Ages to consider land reclamation. Many C12th. and C13th. sea banks survive to be named on modern maps and the resulting parishes are the longest in England. As an example Holbeach is nearly 18 miles long from the Cambridge border to the Wash.
The Welland itself has for centuries been an established trading route, and possibly even since prehistoric times. Boats could once get as far inland as Stamford, which had a canal to Deeping as early as 1673, with the river then providing access to the North Sea, the Baltic and northern Europe. Following early reclamations the laws relating to the maintenance of dykes and embankments, first drawn up in the Middle Ages, remained largely unchanged until the 1930's. The present-day system of drainage channels was well established by the late C18th, but improvements have continued into the C20th.
Fosdyke, from the Saxon for Fotr's Dyke, has been a small port since at least mediaeval times. Silting has always been a problem and there are records of boats being hauled overland to Surfleet in the early C17th. Crossing the marsh hereabouts was hazardous too and only possible with a guide or by ferry until the first wooden bridge, designed by Sir John Rennie, was built in 1815. That was replaced in 1836 and another new iron one was erected in 1911. The present bridge dates from 1980. The river at Fosdyke is now used as a yacht haven and marina.
The Horseshoe Nature Reserve is jointly managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and Spalding Wildfowlers and was created 20 years ago from an old landfill site. Its 90 acres includes lagoons and bird hides.
Beyond The Horseshoe our outward route follows an old sea bank and on your right (especially near GR373343) you can clearly see its predecessor. Our return follows the most recent bank. Evidence of C20th drainage work is at the sluice at GR348340 built in 1955. Note too that the fields are lower than the marsh and contain isolated remnants of former creeks. (e.g. at Halfway Run at GR360347.) The WWII pillboxes on the inner bank served a variety of purposes as gun batteries, ammunition stores and sleeping quarters. At the time they would have looked out over the marsh and sea but in 1948 a further 1,500 acres of land was reclaimed between them and the river.
Notes For the main route parking is possible to the west of Fosdyke Bridge, on the river's north bank. (Grid ref. TF318323) At Fosdyke Bridge there is an inn and a transport café that opens weekdays only. Binoculars are a must! And keep off the marsh; it is dangerous for the unwary. A shorter route begins from the Horseshoe Nature Reserve carpark. (Grid Ref. TF343335) - see walk 3313
Carefully cross the A17, then go over the river and take the signed footpath on the left beyond the inn; the River Welland will now be on your left. After about two miles you will reach the nature reserve at The Horseshoe. When confronted with trees turn left through the reserve following the path to the riverbank and round to the fenced compound of Stone Quay.
Shortly beyond Stone Quay you will cross a deep drain. Drop down to the right here at the footpath signpost to continue along the drain bank, which soon turns left to a WWII pillbox. Now keep ahead following a good grass track for almost 2 miles and turn left at the first of two footpath signs near a third pillbox. At the outer bank turn left again to return to the nature reserve. Your view will now extend many miles across the Wash towards the bird observatory at Cut End beside the Boston Haven at Cut End and will include Skirbeck church, Boston docks and the "Stump". As you near Stone quay again the view encompasses churches at Fosdyke and Sutterton.
Return to Fosdyke Bridge by retracing the outward route.