Benches 63 and 64: Riverhead


I'm about three months and a hundred yards away from Bench 15. Closer to Riverhead Road than its neighbour; the Woolpack pub (one of Louth's best, with decent beer and well-regarded food - try the fried chicken - is on offer) is just behind us. To the left, and opposite the pub, the Louth Navigation Warehouse, home to the trust that looks after the canal in front of us.

The road behind is Riverhead Terrace. Modest Victorian terraces give way to new builds the further down the road you go. Again, that feeling of pleasant unhurried shambolicness that often accompanies the periphery of urban environments; rules don't matter quite so much out here. Let the kids play in the street. Where else are they going to go, and besides, cars have brakes, don't they?

A path from car parking by the warehouse building takes you up to the benches; a gentle incline designed by committee. A once-gravelled surface gone the way of displacement, gravity, and children's eager missile-grasping fingers. Non-slip maybe, but awkward for chairs of the push- and wheel- variety. Time has done this place some good. The restoration work was completed about the turn of the millennium, and this viewing spot has benefited from time and use since.

A pair of trestles greet you. Space between them to lock off the wheels on the buggy you've got with you. Enough room for there to be a couple of separate parties here, and for them to not get in each other's faces.

The semi-awkward chitchat over toddlers. Initially-hesitant smiles and nods and a bit of fuss, an exchange of compliments about the young 'uns, and then back to minding your own.

They stopped the canal short of the middle of town because of costs. That gave space for an industrial zone to develop. There's signs of it if you look; the residential tendency hasn't quite taken over. Granted, there's more of this on the opposite Thames Street side, but it's here as well.

It's worth walking round to Thames Street though. A splendid spasm of new flats, an abandoned scout hut, older terraced housing, still-working factory units (powder coating, mysterious metalwork at odd hours) plus car breakers, a micro-brewery with accompanying pub (the somewhat miraculous Gas Lamp Lounge) and a builders' merchants and a recording studio. All Thames Street lacks is a shop and then you'd have the lot. I daresay you'd get by with snacks from the Lounge in a pinch. There's a good range of crisps, plus jars of cockles and best of all, pickled eggs scooped individually to order and served out of the vinegar into cupcake cases.

But back to this side of the water. The benches face out to a viewing platform, angled so you get a choice of up- and down-stream as well as the opportunity to re-enact that bit from Titanic at the apex. That's the back of the old scout hut dead ahead. The flats to its right? Used to be the site of a dairy.

The water stirs slow. Sullen brown today; a teenage stream. There's usually ducks, but if that's your quarry you'd best get here early. All that bread soon bloats even the most ardent poultry, and there's nothing more disappointing to a three-year-old than a bird that won't gladly seize the crust that's been lobbed at it. Ungrateful quackers.

There's an information board too; a bit of learning doesn't go amiss. You could - just - nip over to the Woolpack and bring a pint back without causing any fuss, but maybe not today.

Then again, the walk around, crossing the canal by the Town Lock bridge (and we'll get there soon enough) is a half-hour round-trip at absolute most, and you've got the utility of a pair of licensed stopping-off points on the route. So perhaps a swift half on the way back. There is, after all, no particular hurry here.

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The Google Street View image is from July 2011. The benches may be glimpsed through the trees.

The map of bench locations to date is here.

Eamonn Griffin

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