Benches 98 - 117: Spout Yard

Mid-morning Saturday. Post office, Co-op, and now here. I've skipped breakfast, so I've gone for that cost-conscious repast of the urban wanderer, the supermarket meal deal. An encapsulated BLT, a pouch of apple slices and grapes, a Diet Pepsi. I also pick up a coffee from the not-bad-at-all little Co-op cafe .

Spout Yard lies just beyond Enginegate Walk. A park space with the river running by. It's new; it only opened in 2007. There's an element of management; the park's locked up out of hours. There's a kiosk though it's never seems to be open whenever I'm passing through. The back of the shop doubles as a small stage. Two play areas; one for toddlers, another for more rambunctious running and sliding about. And plenty of places to sit.

Almost too many, really. I count twenty benches, plus there are picnic trestle tables as well. I let the latter slide. No shortage of seating here, that's for sure.

The park's quiet this morning. Two girls in the larger of the play areas. They seem like sisters. Plenty of scrabbling the wrong way up the slide. A guy struggling with his iPad. The June sunshine's playing merry hell with visibility. He shifts position two or three times, then gives up and sits on the other side of the picnic table. He resumes his pecking at the screen.

I take a slow walk round after I've finished my sandwich and fruit. Both taste mostly of chiller cabinet cold, but it's a humid day and the cool dampness of the grub isn't unpleasant. Coffee was a poor choice in this weather, but I'm committed now. The children scamper off, giggling. Behind me, they skedaddle over the Enginegate Walk bridge across to Spaw Lane. I'd assumed that Mr iPad was their Dad. It seems not. He pecks on, affecting disinterest in all but his business.

Much of the bench work is straightforward municipal seating, but there are exceptions here too. A few bear dedications. A couple are hidden away; recessed and private. These, also, are to the memory.

Now that's the way to be remembered.

The urge to anchor ourselves and lost others seems irresistible. Cave paintings and graffiti. Tattoos and monuments. Maps and direction markers. Photographs and scrapbooks; bundles of love letters and saved, favourite texts. Selfie sticks, come to think of it. All ways of trying to preserve the ephemeral and insubstantial. You can do it, after a fashion, but it's never quite the same as the real thing.

The difference between jam and summer fruit.

New housing clusters in. This side of the river it's all recent redevelopment. Apartments and three-storey townhouses. In one corner, the town's only full-time purpose-built art gallery; there's nothing being advertised for today. Maybe it's still too early for them to have the doors open and the A-boards out.

This was all unreclaimed industrial land as I remember it. I've no firm childhood memories of here. According to Cait Green, Spout Yard was levelled after the 1920 flood and thereafter used as hard standing. The kiosk's got a plaque indicating the height of the flood waters; the self-congratulatory promotional message underneath is a bit much.

Before the flood, there was a tannery here; there's evidence of the leather trade and of coach-building works here throughout the 19th century and up to the flood. Archaeological finds indicate medieval and earlier activity; a still-sharp flint scraper from two millennia before the Romans. Hides have been worked here, on and off, for four thousand years.

I duck into shade; a bench not unlike the one up on Linden Walk. That mottled surface that might just be hammered metal, but instead reveals itself to be medium-density fibreboard; MDF with a gloopy layer of resinous paint over the top to give it colour and a dose of protection from the elements. It's perfectly sited; the view is of the upstream Lud. Clear water over pebbles. Sunlight through leaves. The river chortles by, amused by something it just remembered.

I even like the warning sign. The jutting hand is a suitably parental touch. Don't you go wandering out of sight.

It's getting warmer. Heading towards midday. My drained coffee cup slips into a bin. I exit the park by the Ludgate exit that'll take me up past the old telephone exchange and out by the corner of Chequergate and Nichol Hill.

Stopping off at Lakings the butchers is an inevitability. Signs point to the purchase of a pie.


Here's the entrance to Spout Yard from Northgate, courtesy of Google Street View. The image is dated June 2009.

And here's the updated Benches of Louth map.

Eamonn Griffin

Field notes for a personal geography of a Lincolnshire market town. You can find me here on Twitter: @eamonngriffin and also here:

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