Peter Henshaw spends a weekend sampling the many delights of Lincolnshire
“Oh no, you’ve sold all the smoky garlic.” The middle-aged shopper seems distraught. Then suddenly she perks up. “Tell you what, give me half a dozen Tuscanies instead – I love them.” Or she could have gone for a Dambuster, a Wild Mushroom Cognac or a Fred Perry.
I’m standing in Fenwicks, the renowned sausage emporium in the middle of Louth, which sits on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds. This really is the place to find a good pork sausage. Or for that matter, an Irish (flavoured with Guinness and mixed herbs), a Louisiana (mixed peppers) or an Acropolis (red wine, olives and tomatoes).
“I give them silly names so people can’t copy them,” says Chris Fenwick, an ex-supermarket manager who moved into the super-sausage business more than a decade ago, and hasn’t looked back. All of the sausages, however exotic, are made on the premises, and all the pork is local. If these sound a bit too much like novelty food, there’s also a basic pork sausage and a Lincolnshire listed among Fenwicks 90-odd varieties.
"The views are tremendous and the walking wonderful, with a network of short- and long-distance paths to suit everyone"
Market town delights
Fenwicks isn’t the only butcher’s in Louth: this is a small town, but there are at least half a dozen of them. In fact, not for nothing has the place been described as “one of the best little market towns in Britain”, by none other than Rick Stein.
He certainly know a good market town when he sees one. Louth was bustling as we strolled around one Saturday morning (markets are held here three times a week), but better still, the place has a huge range of shops.
Walking down Eastgate, the main shopping street, is like passing through a 30-year time warp. There are small shops selling carpets, furniture, electrical and DIY goods; there’s even Eve and Ranshaw’s department store. No supermarkets, unless you count the Co-op.
Just down the road from this 21st century enclave is St James’s Parish church, which has the second-highest spire in the country; approaching Louth from any direction, it’s the first thing you see.
Not flat at all…
My wife was brought up in Louth, surrounded by sausages, only to become a committed vegetarian. Make of that what you will. She set me right on Lincolnshire’s topography. Like many people, I thought the county was flat and therefore dull and boring.
My prejudices seemed confirmed as we rolled over the flatlands east of Lincoln itself. But my blinkers soon fell away when we reached the Wolds. These rolling hills almost cut the county in two and they’re anything but flat. The views are tremendous and the walking wonderful, with a network of short and long-distance paths to suit everyone. And one of them, the long-distance Viking Way, ran right past our holiday cottage.
Motorcyclists call this God’s Own Country, but only partly because of the views and the proximity of Cadwell Park racing circuit between Louth and Horncastle.
The Wolds are criss-crossed with curvy, sweeping roads that switchback over the hills. It’s like riding a giant roller coaster, or a very small boat being tossed about on great green tidal waves. It certainly felt like that on our motorbike as a gusty easterly wind blew in from the North Sea, tumbling over the Wolds and threatening to sweep us off the road altogether.
Next day, it had abated a little, and we found a back-road route down off the hills and into Alford, where the five-sailed working windmill offers its own flour, oats and cakes. Built in 1813 to take advantage of the winds that race across this flatter part of Lincolnshire, it’s been restored to full working order.
Weighed down with Alford’s flour and millet, we set off to the east and Mablethorpe. As a traditional seaside experience, it comes a close second to Skegness. At least, the built-up seafront does, with its wall-to-wall chip shops and neon signs. But Mablethorpe beach is its own reward.
For anyone brought up on crowded south coast beaches, this one bears a closer resemblance to the Utah salt flats. Sand, sky and sea stretch to the horizon, with just a few matchstick figures strolling across the wide open space.
The beach is big country, no doubt about it. So big, that they hold regular motorcycle sand races here, right opposite the amusement arcades. If that all seems too much, then Sutton-on-Sea, just a few miles down the coast, offers a more genteel seaside experience.
It was raining when we got back to our cottage that night. And dark when my wife reminded me that we hadn’t yet tried the outdoor Jacuzzi. In summer, this offers the prospect of sitting out under the stars, glass of wine in hand.
But on a dark night, with rain drumming on the plastic roof, soaking in a Jacuzzi in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds is still quite an experience. Lincolnshire, I’d discovered, is neither flat, nor boring.
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• Peter Henshaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org