Explore two beautiful Lincolnshire villages through their contrasting churches on this quiet circular ramble.
Distance 4.2 miles (6.8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 721ft (220m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Field paths, some steep and others muddy, 16 stiles
Landscape Undulating chalk hills, deep valleys and woodland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 282 Lincolnshire Wolds North
Start/finish TF 157907
Dog friendliness On lead near livestock, fine on hedged tracks and lanes
Parking Front Street, Tealby, near tea rooms
Public toilets None on route (nearest in Market Rasen)
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1 From the Tealby Tea Rooms walk down Front Street as far as B Leaning & Sons, one of two butchers in the village (remember to call in later and check out their special 'Lincolnshire Viking' sausages). Turn right into Church Lane, which becomes a walkway. At the top, turn left and cross over Rasen Road to follow the public footpath that runs between houses on the opposite side. As far as Walesby you will be following the Norse helmet waymarks of the Viking Way.
2 Walk out across rough open pasture, aiming for the stile in the far bottom corner. Go over this and along the path ahead, ignoring a footbridge to the left. Walk up the open hillside ahead to reach the corner of Bedlam Plantation above Castle Farm.
3 Turn right and go over a stile for a fenced path beside the woods. At the far end strike out diagonally left and down an undulating grassy field to pass below Risby Manor Farm. Carry straight on, crossing a deep valley, to reach the right-hand edge of Walesby Top Wood. Beyond a stile the path leads straight out across a field of crops to reach All Saints Church, Walesby .
4 From the church, continue along the Viking Way as it drops down a wide track then a lane into the village. When you reach Rasen Road at the bottom go straight on, past the 'new' parish church of St Mary until you reach the junction with Catskin Lane.
5 If you need refreshment, cross the road to visit Walesby House. Otherwise turn left and walk along Catskin Lane for ¾ mile (1.2km) until just past a right-hand curve, then turn left at the entrance of a farm drive and go over a cattle grid. This is in fact a public bridleway that leads back up to the hilltop, but you should turn right in a few paces and join a footpath route (not defined) across rough pasture, initially parallel with the road. At a large ploughed field go along its left-hand side until you meet the drive to Castle Farm.
6 The public footpath now continues almost due east across the vast sloping field beyond. The path is waymarked at either end, and at the time of writing had recently been ploughed and the line of the path indicated by sticks. When you reach the far side of the field, cross over yet another stile and drop down to cross a wooden footbridge. Turn right on the far side of the bridge to rejoin the earlier route back into Tealby, this time turning left up Rasen Road to visit All Saints Church.
The villages of the Lincolnshire Wolds have many interesting and attractive old churches, and one of the most remarkable is the 'Old Church' of All Saints, remote on a hilltop above Walesby. It's 'old' in that it was replaced by a newer version in 1913, and in the succeeding years became dilapidated and run-down. But it was never deconsecrated and, in the early 1930s, a local rambling club began making an annual pilgrimage to the church. Twenty years later the Grimsby and District Wayfarers' Association dedicated the East Window of the Lady Chapel to 'lovers of the countryside', with a stained-glass depiction of walkers and cyclists. Local ramblers still hold an annual service at what is now referred to as 'the Ramblers' Church', and most appropriately the Viking Way long distance footpath passes through the churchyard.
Although repairs have been carried out over the last 20 years to protect All Saints from further weathering and decay, it retains its simple medieval character, a splendid example of what's known as the Norman-Transitional period. Several old, boxed pews remain, while another interesting feature is the old stairway behind the pulpit which leads to the well-preserved rood loft - the name for the gallery above the rood screen which separates the nave (the main part of the church where the congregation sit) from the chancel (where the clergy and choir sit).
From the church, the glorious views can include the towers of Lincoln Cathedral on a clear day. A Roman villa was unearthed to the east of the church, and a simple Saxon building almost certainly pre-dates the present church (built mainly between the 12th and 15th centuries). Its admirers include John Betjeman, who described All Saints as 'an exceptionally attractive church, worth bicycling 12 miles against the wind to see'.
Down the hill in the village of Walesby, St Mary's is a neat and simple affair by comparison, an example of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The then vicar had campaigned laboriously for 30 years to get a new church built in the village, only to drop down dead on the very day that the work finally started.
The charming village of Tealby is associated with Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Lincolnshire's very own Poet Laureate. His brother, Charles, was rector at the church for a while, and the impressive 1930s Tennyson D'Eyncourt Memorial Hall is named after another relation.
The parish church of All Saints in Tealby dates from around 1100. It was extensively rebuilt for the Tennyson d'Eyncourts in the 1870s as a shrine to the family - notice the invented heraldry and imitation medieval tombs. The church also has an impressive collection of over 100 tapestry 'kneelers' embroidered by local women and depicting people and places around the village.
The Tealby Tea Rooms on Front Street are open weekday afternoons and all day at weekends - try their pheasant Poacher Pasty! Tealby's two pubs (the Olde Barn Inn and thatched King's Head) both serve good food, while in Walesby the 'Maps to Treasure' tea rooms at Walesby House also welcome walkers, and include an upstairs sales room of old maps and prints.
A glance at the map of the area will reveal an obvious trend in local place names: Tealby, Walesby, Normanby, Claxby, Thorganby. The suffix 'by' is an indication of their Norse ancestry, since this area was settled by the Danes in the 9th century and administered under so-called Danelaw, where Danish laws and customs were observed. The ending 'by' literally means farm or settlement belonging to so and so.
Market Rasen is a busy little town, once briefly famous as a staging post for the men on the Lincolnshire Rising. Its heyday was in Victorian times after the railway arrived, when most of the grander buildings were built. Today Market Rasen is best known for its racecourse on Legsby Road, a small and family-friendly place with a picnic site, camping and caravan park, and public golf course.