A view from the Wolds.....
I consider myself extremely fortunate to be living in the midst of the countryside that was home to, and inspired many of the early works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. This pretty, tranquil little pocket of the Wolds is almost frozen in time.
If it were not for the tarmac on the lanes, the telegraph poles and the prescence of automated vehicles you can almost without much stretch of the imagination visualise what it would have been like in his day. Avid ‘Tennysonians' visiting the area often comment that they could imagine him turning the corner at any moment.
Born in 1809 in the rectory, now Somersby House, Alfred lived much of the first twenty-eight years of his life here wandering the lanes, reciting his poetry as he went, often at night.
One of my favourite walks is a circuit that starts at Bag Enderby, follows the well trodden footpath to Stainsby, and then joins the lanes leading around to Somersby before returning over fields or leafy lane to the starting point.
Parking at the hamlet of the quaintly named Bag Enderby is on the grass in front of the church of St. Margaret's. Alfred's father, George Clayton Tennyson was rector at both Bag Enderby and Somersby and Alfred spent much time mixing with the cottagers, many of whom were illiterate and spoke in dialect.
The church is worth a visit with its stoup in the porch and ancient door, with Danish shield boss nailed to it, apparently found in a nearby field long ago. There is an interesting font, some medieval window glass with depictions of an ancient ceremony that took place at Crowland Abbey, a medieval rood screen and plaques to landowners of old.
To start the walk head for the graveyard exit near the noticeboard, pass Ferndale Manor previously a Rectory, and then Skeltons Cottage, and you will come ot the thatched mud and stud cottage named Ivy House Farm. The barns here once housed a dairy and during the winter you can see a wall of the green Spilsby sandstone which was used to build the church.
Take the footpath to the left in front of the cottage and stop at the gap about fifty metres down on your right for your first glimpse of Somersby.
Carry on down the path through Paradise Holt and cross over what is known as the brook. It is actually the River Lymn, but is known locally as Tennysons ‘babbling' brook. It is also is thought it is where the ‘Bag' is derived from. There once was a key to the church door with the word ‘Bec' engraved on it. Bec being a word similar to the Danish ‘baeck', Gaelic ‘beck', or Dutch ‘beek' for brook.
‘I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever'.
Carry on along the path and head for Stainsby House.
As you go you can enjoy views of Somersby nestling in the shadow of Warden Hill.
Once you pass the pond on your left and carry on up the hill you may catch a glimpse through the trees on the right to a view of the back of Somersby House.
Walk on through the farmyard of Stainsby House with its mix of ancient barns and modern barns and reach the signpost. Here you could turn left and follow the path to Hagworthingham with its steep climb, but spectacular views as you ascend Mount Pleasant.
However my particular walk takes me right at the signpost. Along this stretch you must stop and take in the panoramic landscape with views to Fulletby, Tetford Hill, Somersby and Bag Enderby and around to Hagworthingham.
‘As year by year the labourer tills
His wonted glebe, or lops the glades;
And year by year our memory fades
From all the circle of the hills.
We leave the well-beloved place
Where first we gazed upon the sky,
The roofs, that heard our earliest cry,
Will shelter one of stranger race'.
On reaching the lane turn right towards Somersby. As you progress do stop at the top of the first hill and take in those views before dropping down into the valley.
Turn right at the junction and carry on down to the bridge over the brook. This bridge was built in 1827, the year Alfred started at Cambridge.
The source of the brook or River Lymn is at nearby Fulletby. At Somersby it runs down through the meadow past Somersby House garden and onto Bag Enderby, then to Stockwith Mill, to Partney and at Halton Holegate it becomes the River Steeping. At Wainfleet, it flows past the Brewery and is known as the Haven, before it flows out to sea at Gibraltar Point.
From the bridge you can see the old Gamekeepers Cottage with to its left Holywell Wood.
Holywell Wood was in Tennysons day open to the public and he spent much time here.
As you walk up the hill past Brook Cottage which was once a farmhouse, you will come to the cream-coloured Somersby House, Tennysons birthplace. It is now a private home, but does open its doors or garden to the public on the occasion of fundraising events.
Next door is the castellated Grange, built in 1722 for the landowner, and opposite that you will find St. Margaret's church. Another church worthy of a visit and recently restored thanks to HLF funding and other grants, you will find George Clayton Tennysons grave to the left of the porch. The churchyard also commands some lovely views due to its elevated position.
To return to Bag Enderby you can either follow the leafy lane, or take the footpath at the White House Farm across the fields and over three stiles. There are often sheep in these fields, so please keep any dogs on a short lead.
If you follow the lane, you will pass the hollow tree trunk as you reach Bag Enderby, this is known as the Poets tree as the Tennyson siblings reputedly played on its once long, low branch. Apparently Wesley also preached here.
Whichever route you take, do stop and lap up the views of the fields and the rolling hills.
Lady of Shallott
‘On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro'the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot'.
A map for this can be found on the new Wolds Walks leaflet, ‘In the Footsteps of Tennyson'.
Debbie Jenner, leads Tennyson-themed walks for groups and schools and can be contacted via www.tennysonsbirthplace.co.uk.