Saturday, 5 July 2014

Along the Witham via the forties and fifties

The wonderful Kinema in the Woods
Boating along the River Witham is like stepping back in time. And not just because the 3G phone and internet connection is rubbish. No, as one local boater put it, Lincolnshire is a friendly, safe sort of place – a bit like most of Britain was back when when we were young.
But the past is not always what you expect. It certainly wasn't at Langrick Bridge, our first mooring after Boston. There's not much to Langrick Bridge except a friendly little boatyard and shop – and an American roadhouse bar and grill. We didn't so much see that as hear it. There's no mistaking the deep throaty roar of a V8 so I climbed the bank from the moorings and discovered the 'Witham and Blues Bar & Grill' and outside it a collection of hot rods and performance motors to make any car enthusiast drool.
Americana at Witham & Blues roadhouse
Now that's what I call a car engine
Next stop for us after Langrick was supposed to be Kirkstead Bridge, a mile walk from Woodhall Spa, but the moorings were full so we went on to Southrey where there are moorings – and pubs – each side. Take your pick. We picked the north side for the village (actually just a handful of houses) and Riverside Inn – a slightly sleepy but very friendly pub with good value pub grub.
Sculpture celebrating the Water Rail Way at Southrey
Nicholson's Guide remarks that the village has a 'little white wooden church built by the villagers in 1898 and clearly cherished.' Sadly, now it looks like an advert for a bad upvc double glazing company with its plastic windows and plastic t&g effect cladding. Oh dear, oh dear.
Along this bank of the river runs the Water Rail Way, a tarmac cycle and footpath along the route of the old rail line from Lincoln to Woodhall Spa.
Next morning we headed back to Woodhall Spa. This is a delightful oddity of a place, part holiday centre for caravanners in the numerous sites, part genteel retirement village. It was a spa town, though the old spa baths have long been empty and derelict. These days its chief claim to fame is as the wartime base for the legendary 617 Squadron - the Dambusters who operated from the now vanished Woodhall Spa airfield (though not for the dam busting raid itself).
The village square has a fine memorial garden with two large memorials to members of the squadron who lost their lives in WW2 and in later actions. The WW2 theme is everywhere in the Spa, from other memorials to a cafe to books and memorabilia.
The other great attraction is the Kinema in the Woods. Opened in the 1920s this lovely little cinema has two screens and its own Compton theatre organ in the main one. But it was Screen Two (or Kinema Two, to be precise) that we went to to see the excellent Jersey Boys, the Clint Eastwood directed tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
It's a super little place beautifully painted with scenes of rural Lincolnshire in trompe l’oeil style. And - like everywhere round here - it's the way cinemas used to be: no noisy audience members, no mobile phones going off, just appreciative watchers. Mostly of pensionable age..which is maybe why we had an intermission. For a wee break as much as an ice cream break.
Now we are at the isolated mooring in Fiskerton Fen nature reserve hoping that this evening, as we did on our last visit, we will see owls patrolling the banksides.

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