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The Spa Trail

There are currently 1 comments and 4 photos online for this walk.

The Spa Trail
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 07 Dec 2015 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Lincolnshire, Horncastle
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
The Spa Trail
Length: 7 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 7 mile ‘there and back’ walk along the mid section of the old Horncastle to Woodhall Junction railway line in Lincolnshire, known as the Spa Trail. The trail, part of the Viking Way long distance path, passes through a mix of woodland and open countryside. Along the way you will discover impressive sculptures made from wood, stone and metal, all reflecting local wildlife and links with the past.

The full walk is 7 miles but, as it follows the same route for the out and return legs, you can shorten it to any length you would like. The trail is a flat surfaced path with no stiles, gates or other obstacles, making it ideal for wheelchairs, pushchairs and disability buggies. The route is a bridleway and so you will be sharing the trail with cyclists and horse riders. The path is fenced for the entire route and dog waste bins are provided at intervals. The stone surface is very firm, but there can be a shallow amount of mud and leaf litter in the autumn and winter months. There are no toilets or other facilities along the trail. Approximate time 3 to 3.5 hours.

The walk starts and finishes from the free Thornton Lodge car park situated on a minor road, about a mile from Horncastle in Lincolnshire. Head north on the A153 towards Horncastle, pass the junction with the B1183 on the right and, soon afterwards, turn left into a minor road. Follow the minor road over the river bridge and the canal bridge and you will find the car park on the right, opposite The Gatehouse on the left. The nearest post code is LN9 6JN, which will guide you to a point on the A153 just north of the junction with the minor road.

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Walk Sections

Start to Viking Milestone
Start to Viking Milestone

Start point: 53.1949 lat, -0.1202 long
End point: 53.1869 lat, -0.1264 long

Leave the parking area back to the minor road, cross over and take the path straight ahead, passing The Gatehouse on the left and information boards on the right (these confirm that you are heading in the direction of Woodhall Spa).

The path leads you past Thornton Lodge Farm (set back on the right – look out for the Highland Cattle here too!) and then on between open fields. Very soon on the left you will pass the first of many sculptures, a tree stump carved into the shape of an otter diving down to catch a fish. Running to the left are the banks and reeds marking the line of the Horncastle Canal.

The next sculpture, on the right, are three wooden benches carved with embossed leaf prints on each of the seats. Just a few metres later you will come to a stone carved Viking Milestone, marking the distance to Woodhall Spa as 4.5 miles.

Viking Milestone to Viking Long Ship
Viking Milestone to Viking Long Ship

Start point: 53.1869 lat, -0.1264 long
End point: 53.1789 lat, -0.1431 long

Continue along the old rail line. The next sculpture you will discover is an impressive collection of water birds including a very tall grey heron. This marks one mile into your journey. It was crafted by blacksmiths based near Sleaford. The Horncastle Canal, still running to the left, is a haven for waterfowl who feed on the fish, insects and plants of its water.

Further along, the canal swings away to the left with the canal and old railway now going their separate ways. The next landmark on the right is a piece of wood carved into an unfurling fern and creating a beautiful chair.

Fairly soon afterwards, just before the road bridge overhead, you will come to the largest sculpture along the trail, the Viking Long Ship with a dragon on its bow. This sculpture designates that the Spa Trail forms part of the Viking Way long distance path. The flat marshy land of Lincolnshire was a particularly tempting target for Viking raids.

Viking Long Ship to Plant Hunter Sculpture
Viking Long Ship to Plant Hunter Sculpture

Start point: 53.1789 lat, -0.1431 long
End point: 53.1751 lat, -0.1536 long

Pass under the road bridge, Martin Bridge, and continue ahead on the Spa Trail for some distance. Eventually you will come to a parking area (marked with vehicle barriers). NOTE: There is direct access to the main road here so keep children and dogs close. This marks two miles into your journey. Simply keep ahead, through the parking area and continue along the surfaced trail.

Soon you will pass the next Viking Milestone (3.25 miles to Woodhall Spa) and then you will reach another large metal sculpture on the right. This sculpture celebrates the work of Sir Joseph Banks, a botanist who accompanied Captain Cook’s south pacific expedition. The plants magnified in the sculpture are some of those discovered by Banks on the trip. Be sure to notice the beetle on the lower leaf.

Plant Hunter Sculpture to Sandy Lane
Plant Hunter Sculpture to Sandy Lane

Start point: 53.1751 lat, -0.1536 long
End point: 53.1658 lat, -0.1811 long

Beyond this point, the trail leads you through the edges of two section of woodland, White Hall Wood and Highall Wood. The woodlands are known for their carpets of wild flowers in the spring.

In the early 1850s, Horncastle was an important regional centre which serviced a highly productive agricultural area that supplied corn, cattle, wool and other produce to the industrial areas of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It also held an important annual horse fair and other large stock markets. All it lacked was a rail connection. So it was that the Horncastle and Woodhall Junction Railway was opened in 1855. This branch line was an immediate success with a wealth of freight carried and passengers travelling to the horse fair and markets. The passenger service closed in 1954, but the freight line was operative until 1971. There are many information boards along the trail that give more detail about the use of the rail line in terms of passengers, goods and also military personnel and equipment as part of the World War II effort.

Within the woodland, you will find another Viking Milestone (2.5 miles to Woodhall Spa). Beyond the woodland you will come to the next large metal sculpture, depicting the leaves of trees and plants found in British woodland, topped with a beautiful butterfly.

The next stretch of old railway leads you past a single property on the left and then another unfurling fern chair on the right. Continue ahead, passing horse paddocks on the left, and you will come to a wooden gate ahead. This marks the junction with Sandy Lane – the far end of the surfaced Spa Trail.

Sandy Lane to End
Sandy Lane to End

Start point: 53.1658 lat, -0.1811 long
End point: 53.1952 lat, -0.1202 long

From this point, simply turn round and retrace your steps all the way back to the start of the Spa Trail (about 3.4 miles). The easy level trail gives you opportunity to test your fitness (should you wish) and/or to really appreciate the countryside surrounding the trail. The trees and hedgerows lining the Spa Trail make an excellent habitat for wildlife. In the winter months, look out for flocks of visiting fieldfares which feast on the bounty of berries.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


1 responses to "The Spa Trail"

Done this walk many times with the ramblers and ourselves. Never tire of - its a lovely winter walk even without your walking boots on. Well worth a visit and with pubs & tea shops either end you cannot fail to enjoy.

By bittern4464 on 2015-12-09 22:53:30

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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4 images to "The Spa Trail"

5278_0Richard1449560400 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
We walked the route in December 2015. There was still plenty of landscape colour to enjoy.
5278_1Richard1449560401 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
Work on the line in the 1900s.
5278_2Richard1449560401 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
A goods train using the line in 1960s.
5278_3Richard1449560402 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
The Sandy Lane Crossing - the furthest part of the walk - taken a few years ago!

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