spires and steeplesAlthough I have walked the 26 mile Spires and Steeples Challenge many times before, this time it was different. I had brought a friend with me. Helen had decided to join me for a little jaunt through the Lincolnshire countryside.

The Spires and Steeples Challenge is a different kind of challenge walk as it is a linear route- we were taken by bus to Lincoln and let loose to walk the 26 miles back to the car at Sleaford through fields and villages. It is not the most spectacular of routes, but thanks to the Autumn colours it can look quite charming when the sun’s out. Unfortunately it stayed dull and overcast all day.

Arriving in Lincoln, Helen and I set off to locate the public loos, where we were treated to an unfortunate and ill-timed conversation between two lady walkers already in situ, discussing that they had brought the Vaseline and how it reduces friction… at least I hope they were walkers!

The start has previously been in the castle grounds, but this venue has apparently now become prohibitively expensive, so it has been moved to the nearby Lawns. We set off, clattering over the cobbles and down the steep, narrow streets of medieval Lincoln, before leaving the city by way of the Water Railway towards Washingborough.

I had been concerned that the route would be muddy, but as we headed off across the fields to the first checkpoint I was relieved to see that the paths were quite firm. Rather unfortunately, the runners set off an hour after the walkers, which means that we first started to encounter them as we approached Branston. After the first checkpoint there are some narrow paths and tracks, and so the novelty of having to give way to groups of runners constantly coming past grew old very quickly!

The water tower at Potterhanworth

The water tower at Potterhanworth

The first half of the route, towards Metheringham, is more interesting as it passes through pretty little stone villages, with the odd sculpture and water tower at Potterhanworth adding interest. There is a cut off point at Metheringham, which I had been concerned about as it was only Helen’s second challenge walk, but we made it with an hour to spare, thanks to the flat terrain and good paths.

We stopped for a lunch of cold pasta salad in a small memorial garden in Metheringham, entertainment provided by watching a lady tend her blisters, before setting off towards Blankney.
A walk along a stony track which was surprisingly hard going brought us to one of my favourite villages- Scopwick, a delightful little spot with a stream running through the centre which is crossed by an ancient looking clapper bridge.

Scopwick

Scopwick

Shortly afterwards we caught up with a couple of ladies, and realised that one of them was obviously hurt and really struggling to walk. I tried to cheer her up by telling her it wasn’t far to the next checkpoint, but after we left them (having had assurances that they were fine) I realised that it was actually quite a bloody long way! A St John’s ambulance passed us, so I flagged it down and told them about the lady but they advised me that they were already on their way to her.

Digby

Digby

The second half of the route involves a lot of field walking through Dorrington to Ruskington where the checkpoint usually has some edible goodies- this year it did not disappoint, and I left munching a Brunch bar.

I think my favourite part is the field of free-range hens just after Ruskington- hundreds of them, all very healthy looking and scratching and pecking freely as hens should. We couldn’t resist making chicken noises as we walked through!

Free range chickens!

Free range chickens!

The last few miles, along the River Slea Navigation, is my least favourite part, and very quickly became Helen’s too. It is boring, with no real views and just a case of putting one foot in front of the other. Things were starting to ache at this point and we had both reached the point of just wanting to finish now, thanks very much. Things became slightly more interesting when we reached the canal and played spot-the-huge-rat.

Field of flowers

Field of flowers

I kept assuring Helen that we had nearly finished, but I don’t think she believed me until we crossed the final bridge and saw the finish line, both feeling rather embarrassed by the rousing applause we received from the marshals. We received a medal this year instead of a t-shirt, and I must say they are quite well made.

We finished well ahead of the cut off time- and it made such a nice change to have someone to do it with. I just hope it hasn’t put her off!

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