One of my favourite hacks is to head off from South Willingham up Donington Road, towards the Belmont TV transmission mast. Constructed in 1965, the mast was considered to be the tallest structure of its kind in the world standing at 387.7 metres. My owner can remember watching as the top section was removed using helicopters in 2010, the mast's reduced height relegated it to 14th highest structure in the EU and second highest in the UK.
As we trot up the hill passing sheep and cattle grazing in the fields, buzzards sometimes soar in the sky above; in recent years kites had started to be a regular sight, but their numbers seem to have dropped off dramatically in the last year or so. At this time of year the verges are alive with butterflies, mainly Meadow Browns with the odd Large White or Red Admiral. There is a wide bit of verge part way up the hill which is ideal for a quick canter before slowing back down to navigate Caistor High Street.
During lock down my owner opted to continue riding to keep my weight down; the combination of rich spring grass coming through and lack of exercise can cause laminitis, a condition of the hoof where inflammation causes extreme pain. For us it was the right decision, I enjoy hacking out and conditions, from my point of view, were perfect; no traffic, no noise, no herds of brightly coloured lycra clad cyclists shouting to each other as they swoop around the corner, no fast food wrappers flapping in the roadside verge, discarded energy drinks or inner tubes, no cars parked on verges or in gateways with walkers propped up adjusting footwear, sometimes oblivious, eventually noticing a horse rooted to the spot staring at them, as the red faced rider convinces horse and onlooker that there isn't a problem and everyone can carry on. Occasionally some gesticulating traffic control is necessary but always followed with a nod of thanks and a cheery smile. It was so quiet during lock down, like going back in time 40 years, just the sound of birdsong and the rhythmic clip, clop of horses hooves.
As we carry on along the lane towards Donington on Bain a wooded vista leads the eye to Stenigot mast; this transmitter was part of a Royal Air Force Radar Station. It was in operation between 1938 and 1955. During World War 2 this was a Chain Home Station, providing early warning of enemy aircraft approaching Sheffield, Nottingham and the central Midlands.
Dropping down the hill we pass Donington Mill, which nestles on the corner of a junction housing a black and white finger post, these traditional road signs are part of a partnership project between Lincolnshire Wolds Countryside Service and Lincolnshire County Council for restoration. The old watermill is often admired by passing walkers and had a 300 metre stretch of water course re-meandered by the Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Project to improve habitat and remove impoundments, this improved the flow of the stream and enabled fish and eels to swim upstream.
We now head up the steep Welsdale Hill and at the top go left along a track with amazing views across the Bain valley, a patchwork of arable fields and grassland as far as the eye can see. Crossing the fords through Biscathorpe we can see the lumps and bumps of the deserted medieval village being happily grazed by contented cows and calves, it's not unusual for them to be turned out with the gated road shut off, they seem to find it mildly amusing to follow us, crowding round to watch the ungainly antics of my owner as she tries to navigate a horse through the gate and shut it again without dismounting or allowing the cows to escape, she hasn't lost one yet!
As we head towards home crossing back over Caistor High Street, itself dotted with Bronze Age round barrows, another fabulous view unfolds in front of you; the whole of the Witham valley with Lincoln Cathedral perched on one side and Lincoln Edge stretching along the other, I don't have a favourite view, just a favourite area of outstanding natural beauty!