I suppose that pun is completely overused if you live in Lincolnshire. The Wash, for those who don’t know, is much more than an inlet. On the map, it is a square chunk taken out of the east of England, above the rumpy bulge of Norfolk and Suffolk. On the road atlas, it seems quite far from Boston on the west to King’s Lynn at the southeast corner, up to Hunstanton at the northeast corner. But on the ground, when you actually see it, the Wash is vast. You think you are seeing across it, and then realise that you are just seeing one small corner of it. It is big sky, over a big, big, big inland sea. Giant tankers loaded with stacks of cargo boxes disappear into it like gnats into the night sky / a football stadium.
Oddly enough, going to the Wash was the one thing I definitely wanted to do when I was in Lincolnshire. ‘You must go to the cathedral,’ said my friend from Lincolnshire, meaning of course the one in Lincoln, where I never set foot. No, for me, as usual, it was the tiny village, the road to nowhere, the non-event, the empty stretch of beach that drew me. Lincolnshire is not exactly busting with attractions, not ones that you might have heard of if you happen to live outside of Lincolnshire, anyway. And I avoided them all. The cathedral, the galleries, the industrial heritage museums, Scarborough, and a country park lake that all signs and brochures seemed to point to, promising walks, cycle paths, canoeing and a limitless variety of other water sports, teahouses, ice cream, parking, and of course, endless crowds. No, I was to be found in a hostel that has barely survived, in a village that didn’t stock any Ordnance Survey maps in the local shop but was staffed by an owner who wondered why I had the temerity, or indeed the need, to ask for one, in a region so flat as to be ideal for cycling but boasting no cycle rentals for a good twenty five miles. Having found an excellent cycle shop and purchased their cheapest folding cycle, I set off down dead end lanes passing between endless rows of electric yellow rape, the sweet scent drifting on the wind, and ended up hearing the cuckoo call from amidst a thicket of trees at the base of the raised dam flanking a canal, now the MacMillan Cancer Walk heading off to the horizon.
It was nice to be under such an open sky.