Benches 118 - 122: Hubbard's Hills - top path
Hubbard's Hills was carved out in the ice age. It's a mile-long scoop out of the ground, slowly widening and flattening as it comes out of the Wolds and heads towards Louth. The Lud runs in the bottom of the valley. Both sides are steep inclines, wooded. On the flood plain, the park. Open mown fields, paths that more-or-less track the river.
if you want to get technical about it, it's a glacial overspill channel. This paper gives you the skinny on that and the wider geomorphology of the area, and includes some interesting stuff about the 1920 Louth flood too.
I'm taking the top path today, from the Crowtree Lane (and thus, town) end of things. The top path runs along the southern escarpment of the valley. On my left hand side side, Louth golf club, and on the other, the valley of Hubbard's Hills, the town's best-known park.
The path begins before you get to the Hills. A raised lip by the roadside at the far end of Westgate Fields, just past the last run of cottages and before you get to the old mill house. The path's perhaps a foot and a half wide; chalky soil and jutting tree roots. You need to watch your step a little.
You disappear out of sight from the road. Already you're climbing, and the tarmac is dropping way under you. Behind a run of green-painted metal fencing and a low wall, and into the tree cover you go.
The roots help; they make for shallow steps up the incline. It's been raining overnight, but the early morning sun is out. This makes for humid going. My glasses have steamed up once or twice on the walk across town. Under the canopy there's a steady drip-drip of trickle-down residual rainfall.
There are rabbits everywhere. Always ten yards or so up front, always curious. Always too quick for me to catch on camera. Their traffic is left-to-right, off the golf course and down the escarpment.
There are five benches along the path. Each of them is a low wooden trestle. They're all scarred with generations of lovehearts, initials, little scratched attempts at permanence.
At a couple of points the path splits; more-or-less official byways created over time. One leads you down to the beginning of the park; the other brings you out through the trees to a raised patch of land that overlooks the stepping stones and the main picnicing area. Each is steep; the slope is well over forty-five degrees in places. In a couple of spots there are runs of handrails, but for the most part you're on your own. This is not a place for reasonable access adjustments to be made.
At one point I glimpse the Hubbard's Hills cafe by the car park. A fantastic place; unchanged for generations. Normal lollies, cheese rolls, ice cream sandwiches, coffee and tea still served in smoked glass Arcoroc cups till recently. The kind of set-up where you can buy a flimsy kite, a cricket set in an onion bag, or a styrofoam Spitfire model for fifty pence.
The path meanders. It dips and rises, ducks left and right. The tendency is for it to bend slow around to the left. Sometimes it's broad, open, wide; in other places it's a tight squeeze through clumps of cow parsley and damp nettle. It's soft underfoot. A thick mulch of still-rotting nut shells.
The path's perhaps not quite a mile long; it's a fifteen minute walk. Maybe twenty if you're taking it easy. It's too early to expect fellow walkers; not long after five in the morning. This is the time to be here.
The path comes out at an abrupt set of concrete steps. A handrail's been added since I was a youth, and it looks as though they've patched up a few of the crumblier concrete patches. These take you down to the Halfpenny Lane entrance to the park. Often as not there'll be an ice-cream van here in the daytime; parked-up teens with spliffs and McDonalds at night. Now, though, a single chunky hatchback; a wannabe Range Rover. Someone'll be walking their dog.
The trees are still ticking with run-off moisture. Rustlings above indicate there's birds that I can't see and wouldn't have the names for if I did. Low morning sunlight illuminates the dewy fairways, but I turn my back on the golf course and leave the rabbits to their business.
I go down the steps. This is where PE teachers would lurk, having biked here or taken the minibus, to make sure the shortcut from Horncastle Road that cuts across the golf club wasn't being taken by their cross-country running charges. No joggers here today yet. Just the bass swoosh of cars on the bypass.
A slug of water, a shuffle of the backpack - not that there's that much in there to be carting around - and back home, this time, back through the park.
Being a park, there's no Google Street View, so here's the Halfpenny Lane car park, the far end of Hubbard's Hills. No ice cream truck today though. Then again, this was taken January 2009; a damp winter's day.
Here's the updated map of locations visited.