Spires and SteeplesAs I am writing this, the day after the 2014 Spires and Steeples, it has been throwing it down all day. It is really wild, wet and windy out- a proper autumn day- and I have had the luxury of observing it from a nice, warm (maybe too warm) office.

It’s not too often us endurance nutters can feel smug about the weather, but as yesterday was one of the most glorious days we have had for a while, and certainly the best day of the week, I can admit to feeling rather smug!

Although foggy, I could see the stars as I drove to Sleaford to catch the coach, which boded well for a clear day and certainly a contrast to last year’s event! Parking up, I walked to the National Centre for Craft and Design to locate a toilet, meeting up with Sue, who I finished the White Peak Walk with in 2013. Sue was walking the Spires and Steeples with her mum, a fit 72 year old, who was a little apprehensive as she had not completed a walk of this length for some time. I was really pleased to later learn that she completed it, which was a fantastic achievement.

The sun had come out and the mist was dispersing as we clattered through the castle gateway, past the cathedral and down the cobbled streets of the medieval city. It was quite eerie to see Lincoln this quiet. As this is the furthest I have walked since my foot problems (and I am unfit) I decided that I would take today fairly steady.

The court house in the castle grounds

The court house in the castle grounds

The mist persisted along the two mile stretch of the Water Railway towards Washinborough where we were accompanied by swans who flew noisily over our heads. There was a surprise waiting as I neared the railway line in the village; usually the track is crossed by a somewhat rickety and slippery set of steps, but these had now gone- replaced by a new concrete bridge so we could walk under the line.

The new railway bridge

The new railway bridge

There was also a slight route change here as instead of walking through a rather pockmarked cattle field, the route now crossed the field next door with a delightful path alongside the tree line- a great improvement.

Autumn mists and colours

Autumn mists and colours

I had a nice surprise at the first checkpoint at Branston- for some reason I had got it into my head that this checkpoint was at 3.5 miles but on looking at the route description realised it is actually 6.5 miles… bonus! The sun was now well and truly out, showing the autumn colours at their best.

I had been concerned about the next section as the ploughed fields towards Potterhanworth were an absolute quagmire last year, but they were slightly sticky but firm. There’s not too much climbing on the route; it’s all typically flat Lincolnshire countryside of fields and woodland.

The ploughed fields last year...

The ploughed fields last year…

... and the same fields in 2014- much better!

… and the same fields in 2014- much better!

Some easy walking through fields and along roads brought me to the half way point at Metheringham (or Meg as it is affectionately known by the locals) where I found a metal bench for a sit down and sandwiches and coffee. A chap sat nearby to open his sandwiches and said he had nipped into the pub for a swift half.

Blankney Church

Blankney Church

As I left I was pleased to feel remarkably good… it wasn’t to last!! I was looking forward to reaching Scopwick as it is a lovely village, with a beck running through the middle of the main road with little stone clapper bridges. I sat and had a relaxing coffee in this lovely peaceful spot, watching the ducks.

The stone bridge at Scopwick

The stone bridge at Scopwick

There is quite a long road walk into the next checkpoint at Digby, and my legs suddenly started to announce that they felt they might have walked far enough, thank you very much. As I left the checkpoint the chap I had seen in Metheringham came through and promptly went into the pub! I caught up with a lady who had walked part of the last stretch with him and she asked me if I wanted some company for the last 9 miles. It is good to have someone to chat with, especially towards the end, so I eagerly took her up on her offer. Her name was Claire and this was the first time she had walked the marathon distance so she was doing brilliantly.

Sculpture and clapper bridge at Digby

Sculpture and clapper bridge at Digby

I was really pleased to find that the ploughed fields near Ruskington, which had caused so much grief last year, were mostly firm, and after accepting a cereal bar we left the checkpoint for the last stretch.

We passed through a couple of fields with loads and loads of free range hens- I honestly have never seen that many in one place but it is lovely to see them having the space and freedom to be hens.

Lots of free range hens!

Lots of free range hens!

I always find the last few miles along the Navigation rather tedious but it made a difference having someone to chat with even though my body felt like it was falling apart- the legs were screaming at me by now and my feet had also gotten in on the act. I regretted not bringing any painkillers but had to resort to mentally gritting my teeth and hauling my body onwards.

We finished in just over 8 hours, which, considering the weeks I lost due to my foot problem and the fact that I haven’t been doing distances at all, was not too bad. The bonus is my foot feels fine- it’s just the legs that don’t want to move today!

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