A GRAY evening mist hung like a still ghost above the soggy green fields where my father spent grueling days digging ditches that were plugged more than half a century ago.
That primitive smell of cattle dung and damp grass filled the air as I walked along an ancient path near where he had toiled for so long.
Like the spectral fret itself that had crept in from the nearby North Sea, my memories of those distant days flickered faintly as I remembered its comings and goings in these dreamlike fields.
I was not in the rugged west of Ireland, the homeland he left as a curious boy at 14, but in the midst of the chalk hills and valleys of England’s fertile, hidden gem , the Lincolnshire Wolds.
Born to Irish parents just 20 miles away in the market town of Gainsborough in Trentside, I was on a journey of discovery, for the Wolds have always been those unfamiliar hills that stood lonely guard over a county as flat as a plaice. Grimsby.
While the pandemic still made vacation abroad a stressful lottery, my motorhome tour of this haven of buzzing villages, Christmas card market towns and well-plowed fields teeming with scootering rabbits and screaming pheasants, was an uplifting revelation.
It was easy to understand why countless young Irish people, like my father, were drawn here to farm work and chose to hang their hats among the savvy country people and pretty thatched cottages that reminded them so much of their home- self.
For me it was really home – a fact that became clear when I got out of the van parked at Binbrook and heard that familiar accent: “You are being taken by the most cyclist. far from the world ”.
The joke came from a smiling old man in a yellow hi-vis jacket, struggling on a wobbly bicycle, as he passed and saw me admiring the tall wheat-brown tower of the village church, nicknamed the Wolds Cathedral for its dominant appearance.
I was there to awaken one of my favorite memories when, as a young trainee journalist from the 1970s, I took an adrenaline-fueled flight through the north of England in an RAF Lightning jet similar to a rocket from the village air base, which closed in the 1980s.
Any visit to the Wolds cannot escape such examples of the supposedly prominent role of the “county bomber” in the country’s aviation history, particularly during World War II, when its proximity to the Europe turned it into a patchwork of military air bases.
And so my journey, along with my partner and photographer Sue Mountjoy, led to the most iconic of these bomber units, the top-secret Dambusters, and the Petwood Hotel, which became the officers’ home after the legendary raid on the dams of the Ruhr. in May 1943.
As we sat in the dark-paneled squadron bar, surrounded by a treasure trove of memorabilia, including a tree branch that became embedded in one of the squadron’s low-flying Lancaster bombers. , it was easy to imagine the scenes of savage celebration, as well as of pity, among those brave young people in blue who lived lives so brilliant and, mortifyingly, so short. The exception Johnny Johnson, a bomber and now 99 years old, is the last surviving flying member and still appears from his Bristol home for meetings.
The nearby Woodhall Spa lost its popular mineral springs when the well collapsed in 1983 (a new one is being built), though the village’s quirky air of kindness has long attracted coaches of aviators aging people and their loved ones, as well as many day trippers. , to its shops and cafes.
Among the latter, the tireless Janet Hunt, whose teahouses are named after her, told me how, for many years, she helped clean up the Dambusters Memorial, which receives visitors from all over the world, all of whom come from drink tea and cake among his piles of war flags, hats, medals and other memorabilia.
“A veteran Lanc pilot told me he was playing cards with a colleague when they had to go on a raid,” she recalls. “His friend was killed but the pilot didn’t check the hand of cards he left on his return – he just shuffled them.”
The magnetism of Woodhall is easy to appreciate for visitors with its wide appeal, from the heated outdoor swimming pool in Jubille Park to the 99-year-old Kinema in the Woods (with resident organist) and the Hotchkin Golf Course based on the heathland – still ranked in the top 100 worldwide.
Indeed, my memories were stirred when I read that my childhood golf hero Tony Jacklin, born and raised in Lincolnshire, could never do better than a score of 70 at Woodhall Spa. As he said later: “Winning the Open Championship, winning the US Open and beating 70 at Woodhall Spa – two out of three isn’t bad!
WHERE TO STAY:
Goboony is a sharing platform connecting motorhome and motorhome owners with travelers. They have over 1000 vehicles available for hire in the UK which can accommodate between 2 and 8 people. For more information visit www.goboony.co.uk or call 0203 856 3048. Prices average £ 90 per night (June to September) / £ 60 per night (October to May).
The Kenwick Park Hotel, Louth (01507 608806; kenwick-park.co.uk) offers double rooms from £ 79 B&B.
The Elm Tree, Hundleby (01790 753534, elmtree.co.uk) is a charming, multi-award-winning luxury B&B nestled in the south of the Lincolnshire Wolds. Doubles from £ 100 B&B.
Brackenborough Hall Coach House (01507 603193, brackenboroughhall.com) is a perfectly located self-catering accommodation perfect for young families from £ 168.
The Old Granary, Owmby (01652 462482, theoldgranarylincolnshire.co.uk) is a newly converted high quality detached barn in North Lincolnshire. Ideal for couples from £ 95.
For more information on all there is to do in the Lincolnshire Wolds, visit lovelincolnshirewolds.com.