A WALK ALONG THE WINCEBY BATTLEFIELD

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Hugh Marrows Walk

OCTOBER 11 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Winceby, fought during the English Civil War; and this month’s walk explores the battlefield site.

During the English Civil War there were numerous indecisive skirmishes throughout Lincolnshire – in Riby, Stamford, Alkborough and Gainsborough - but only one proper battle.

Indeed it is debatable whether Winceby was really a battle for it lasted less than half an hour.

In early October 1643, the Parliamentarians were besieging the ‘Royal’ castle at Bolingbroke when they heard about a Royalist force approaching from the Horncastle direction, intent upon ending the Bolingbroke siege.

Cromwell gathered his troops, cavalry with infantry behind them, on the hilltop above Asgarby - seen to the southeast from Winceby House -and saw the Royalists before they saw him.

He charged first, thus gaining the advantage, the two sides meeting headlong roughly where Winceby House now stands, catching them with the steep valley of Snipe Dales to one side and the boggy ground (as it was then) of the valley of Winceby Beck on the other.

The Royalists, only briefly withstood the charge until one flank of their cavalry turned to flee, quickly followed by the rest, only to become entangled with their own infantry following behind and with only one route of retreat.

They were soon impeded by the Winceby/Scrafield boundary hedge, thick, high and stock-proof in what was to become known as Slash Hollow.

Disastrously, the only gate opened towards them and the mass of men and horses held it shut as the Parliamentarians caught up and massacred them.

Accounts say the blood of a thousand dead ran ankle deep.

Cromwell, who had his horse shot from under him in the early charge and was in imminent danger of death or capture by the Royalist commander Sir Ingram Hopton, gained another mount and survived.

Generous in victory, he made arrangements for Hopton, who was killed, to have a funeral in St Mary’s Church in Horncastle with full military honours.

Our walk begins more or less where the battle began, crosses the line of the Parliamentarian’s retreat and visits Slash Hollow.

In the next valley, we pass through the deserted village site of Scrafield and join the grassy track of Merebalk Lane, which forms the local parish boundary.

The name derives from the Old English maere - a boundary - and balc - an unploughed strip.

At Hameringham, we see the delightful little church of All Saints, re-built in 1894 using greenstone masonry of the former church.

There is a quaint bell turret and a brick Victorian chancel, now plastered over.

As we head back towards Winceby, we pass another Battle of Winceby information board and arrive back close to the Victorian Winceby House.

Notes: The start is not at Snipe Dales Country Park.

Take care on the section along the B1195 down into Slash Hollow.

About the walk.

START : Snipe Dales nature reserve carpark, Winceby. (GR319684)

MAPS : OS Landranger 122 (Skegness) : Explorer 273.

DISTANCE : 5½ miles : 9 kilometres.

REFRESHMENTS : None on route.

The walk

Leave the carpark from the back right hand corner and walk down a track until just before the entrance to Snipe Dales nature reserve.

Climb the stile on your left, cross a small paddock to a second stile then head across a meadow aiming left of the house seen ahead.

After a third stile, cross another paddock and join a lane.

Turn left.

At the main road (B1195) turn right for just over a quarter of a mile (there are good verges) into a hollow and when the road begins to bend right uphill look for a footpath sign on your left.

This is roughly where the fateful gate was situated!

(For an optional 100 yard detour keep ahead to a large boulder – possibly part of the base of an ancient post mill – dragged from the adjacent field in the 1970’s and a Battle of Winceby information board.)

From the footpath sign head over an arable field.

(There may be an uncultivated strip marked with canes!)

From the hillcrest head down slightly left of a prominent hedge gap, turn towards it and at the road turn sharply left through Scrafield.

Half a mile beyond Scrafield House Farm turn left again along the grassy Merebalk Lane.

Follow this over one road and at a second road turn left.

In another half a mile, just after a shallow double bend, take the signed track on your left. When this goes left keep ahead on a short, fenced path to a footbridge and from it angle left up an arable field to 3-way footpath sign in a farmyard.

Go left up a lane to a junction and cross the road into Hameringham churchyard.

Walk round to a stile in the back corner and go diagonally over a paddock to another stile. Join a grass track and turn left following it to a 3-way footpath sign; then turn right.

At a road go straight over and from another information board veer slightly left to reach a stile situated in the hedge to your left and about 200 yards from the road.

Once over, bear right alongside the hedge to a way mark at the field corner and there turn left uphill, soon with another hedge on your right.

Continue to a small wood at the hilltop and join the road in Winceby.

If you wish, you may detour right here for 200 yards to see the Battle of Winceby memorial outside Winceby House - then return.

Otherwise simply turn left back to the car park.