Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cycling the Water Rail Way (Boston to Lincoln) part 2

Thursday, 1st August 2013: I had certainly lucky having picked a lovely day for a ride and once I’d found my way to the Water Rail Way it was pretty much plain cycling all the way to Lincoln.

One of the challenges with Sustrans routes is what do you do if you stray off them. As happened to me in Boston. Once you are off the trail then it can be tricky finding it again. Once out in the countryside it tends to be easier, there are less opportunities to stray. I have gotten lost near Peterborough. I was following once NCN route and then found myself on a different one. I had overshot.

Which is why I tend to map the route, using Bike Route Toaster. I don’t do it all that often though and always run into slight snags. One of the snags is that no matter what the file name, once loaded onto my GPS (Garmin edge 605), it seems to be called “course”. I sorted it though. One piece of information the SatNav gives is how far away the “course” is.

I don’t generally bother with using my SatNav for directions, I just display the route as an overlay on the map. Sustrans routes can change and sometimes I just like to explore, before returning to the route.

Having said all of that this particular route is very easy to follow. There aren’t too many opportunities to stray and for a lot of the way there is a river guiding you. Having said all that and although I had both my SatNav and Smartphone with me I still printed out a map – in this case the Water Rail Way artworks Lincoln to Boston map as well as other bits of the route.  They are all available here. They are quite light and would have given me something to read on the train – which was what I had been hoping to do.

The shared-use path mainly follows the route of the Lincoln to Boston branch of the Great Northern Railway, which followed the River Witham. The River Witham provided a cheaper and more convenient way for travellers to get between Lincoln and Boston. The alternative would have be rough country lanes by horse drawn carts of the mail coach.

The steam packet journey was capable of making the return journey in one day. But it did take 6 hours. So the Railway Train provided a much more convenient alternative, it cut the journey time down to one hour and twenty minutes. Railway trains are not able to easily climb steep gradients and given they were trying to replace existing routes I suppose it is to be expected that they built some railway lines alongside existing river routes.

The railway line was built in the 1940s and the last packet boat ran between Boston and Lincoln in 1863. The railway line was part of the Lincolnshire Loop Line, the line opened in 1848 and closed in sections with the first being the  Woodhall Junction to Boston link which closed to passengers in 1963

The first 7Km/4.5miles out of Boston follow the route of the old railway line. It had rained over night and as the path runs through trees there were places were the path was a little slippery. It is also quite popular for parents and children. So don’t expect to go taking along. The route is right alongside the River Witham and does open out. The quality of the path is pretty good – it is flat and there aren’t too many places where tree routes and caused sharp ripples.

With the wind behind me I made good progress. I had decided to take most of my pictures on the way back and so make good progress to Lincoln and then slightly slower progress on the way back, into the wind. Somehow it feels good to get some miles under you belt, you can then relax a little for the remainder of the journey.  The plans sounded good and I did get to Lincoln pretty quickly. The journey back was a lot harder than I had thought. The wind slowed me down and all the stopping to take pictures tired me out.

This was taken somewhere between Anton’s Gowt and Langrick Bridge (I think – link to the map).

The Water Rail Path alongside the River Witham – near Langrick Bridge

When you reach Langrick Bridge you leave the line of the railway. Presumably the landowners wouldn’t consent. That would have taken the shared-use bit up to Dogdyke. At Langrick Bridge you cross over the river (via the bridge) and take to the roads. When I was cycling the other way, for the first time I struggled to find my way as you seems to cycle through a car park. Going the other way is easier and as I emerged there was an NYPD Police car parked.

This is Witham and Blues an American Style restaurant with good reviews on Trip Advisor.

Witham and Blues – Langrick Bridge

The route then moves onto a country road – Ferry Road, leading onto the North Forty Foot Bank, a straight road, until Chapel Hill. There are quite a few caravans at Chapel Hill and a bridge over a river called Kyme Eau, which also seems to be called River Slea further upstream. When there were masted vessels on the River Witham ferries were the preferred way of crossing the river. There are quite a few ferry roads between Boston and Lincoln.

Kyme Eau – to the River Witham

The next landmark it Tattershall Bridge (Langrick Bridge to Tattershall Bridge is 13Kms/8 miles). There is an old brick bridge and a modern steel bridge. You can see the old brick bridge in the distance. The River Witham is quite a wide river.

The only trouble about my type of cycling is that I tend not to read about the places I visit until I’ve visited them. The Wikipedia entry for Tattershall mentions a castle  and college, although the college is in ruins.  Next to Tattershall is Coningsby with RAF Coningsby. As I was cycling I occasionally caught glimpses of Typhoons (and certainly heard them). I wasn’t quick enough to get pictures though.

Narrow boat approaching Tattershall

You can just about see the new bridge on the other side of the brick bridge.

The Old Tattershall Brick Bridge

After another 8Km/5miles you switch back onto a shared use-path alongside the river and the course of the old railway line at Kirkstead Bridge. The station here was called Woodhall Junction and there was a spur built through Woodhall Spa to Horncastle, a nearby town.

Woodhall Spa has its own Water Rail Way information.

Woodhall Junction Station (dis)

After cycling alongside the river for a further 6km/4 miles there is a choice of two routes.  According to the Sustrans map the route next to the river is the Summer Route and the Route that detours through Bardney is the Winter Route. Mind you the map also warns of glass on the Summer route. Although I use the word detour, actually both routes are pretty similar in length, less than 5Km. There is also a disused airfield near to Bardney, (RAF Bardney).

The detour was rather pleasant and took me past this church that reminded me of a Mid-West type of church. Try a Google image search and you will see what I mean.

St John the Divine, Southrey

I took this picture, to bookmark my location and to remind me of the name of the church. Apparently it was bui9lt in 1898. The road is – Ferry Road.

St John the Divine – Southrey, Ferry Road

The view was just a tad different, with wheat in the fields and woods around me. That is Birch Wood.

The Winter route passes through Bardney, which looked like a rather nice place, but my plan was to reach Lincoln and then take the journey back a bit easier.  As you might have guessed the route re-joined the river by Bardney Bridge. There was then just under 14Km to reach the end of the path in Lincoln.

Birch Wood, Southrey

I didn’t go up to the cathedral. I did take some pictures though.

Lincoln Cathedral

Along Waterside South there are the old warehouses alongside the river. At least that is what they look like. I didn’t realise but the Railway Station isn’t far away and I had cycled under the  railway line heading North-East.

River Witham – Lincoln

Nowadays  there the buildings seem to have been converted into office space.  On the OS map it is all called works.  I took this picture from a footbridge.

Works – Waterside South – Lincoln

So the next thing on my list is to drink a load of water, eat some jelly babies and wend my way back at a more leisurely pace – taking more pictures on the way.


To recap the one-way distance is around 35miles/ 56Km and it is flat. There are alternate routes at Bardney/Southrey – so I used one going up and the other coming back. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. The route is flat, there are places to get refreshments along the way, but I would recommend taking something to drink.

Both Lincoln and Boston have stations – although Boston is a little bit off the beaten (railway) track.

Boston to Lincoln


  1. Re BikeRouteToaster, obvious question is: are you filling in the Course Name box on the page you download the file? It works for gpx. My Garmin Dakota doesn't support tcx so I've not tried that.

    It does truncate the name of the gpx route. I always end up opening the file in an editor, finding the ... section and editing that. Slightly hacky, but easier than editing the name on the gps.

    1. That is a good question, I think I did, but I was in a hurry so could easily have forgotten. The courses have had names in the past - so I think you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is that most of the time I tend to use my GPS as a ride logger and only plug routes in when I am not exploring. I ought to write some step-by-step instructions for myself.

  2. Hi thinking of doing this in august, can it be done on a road bike rather than a mountain bike

    1. Yes - I don't think it would be a problem no problem - my bike is a hybrid with 25mm tyres - I have also done it on my touring bike (drop handlebars, similar 25mm tyres).

      It is really good to cycle a decent distance away from traffic.

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