Follow in the footsteps of the Fishtoft pilgrims as they attempted their first ill-fated journey to the coast – and ultimately America
Leave the main entrance of Boston railway station and walk down South Street, then turn right into Trinity Street. At the end, turn left into West Street then left into High Street. Cross the river and bear left into the Market Place to reach the mighty Church of St Botolph.
Boston grew up around the crossing point over the Witham and the harbour that was built here in the Dark Ages. By around the year 900, work had started on the church, although the present structure dates only to 1309. The trade with the Low Countries, especially in wool, made the town’s fortune and by 1450 it was the second busiest port in England.
In 1633 the vicar here was John Cotton, who was to sail to the American colonies to become the first Governor of Boston, Massachusetts. Inside the Church is a memorial to Cotton and the pulpit from which he preached, plus tributes to the Pilgrim Fathers who began their first abortive attempt to leave England from Boston. From the church, head south across Market Place to South Street.
1 ¼ MILE
On your left as you walk down South Street you will see the Guildhall, which contains the cells in which the Pilgrim Fathers were incarcerated after their arrest at Fishtoft.
Continue along South Street to cross the A52 then continue into South End, turning left into Skirbeck Road. Cross the Western Drain waterway and turn right down the canal side lane. At its far end, climb steps to reach the river embankment.
To your right you will be able to see the modern Boston Docks. Turn left and follow the footpath that runs along the top
of the embankment.
2 ONE MILE
After 100m you will see the church of St Nicholas, Skirbeck. This church is older than the main one and is definitely worth a visit, but is sadly usually locked. The riverside path then skirts factories, before emerging into open countryside – you can see the village of Fishtoft across the drained salt marshes to the left. Several stretches of the wetland are retained and offer fine opportunities
3 FOUR MILES
The path eventually emerges through a kissing gate into a small car park with an information board and benches. Beyond these is the Pilgrim Fathers Memorial. This stone obelisk was erected to mark the spot where, in 1607, the Pilgrim Fathers made their first attempt to leave England to seek a new home where they could practice their form of Christianity in peace.
Oddly, at that time it was illegal to leave the kingdom without permission. The captain of the Dutch ship on which they were travelling informed the authorities in Boston that he had passengers without the proper papers and the Pilgrim Fathers were arrested and taken to the Boston Guildhall for trial. It was not until 1620 that the emigrants were able to board the Mayflower at Plymouth and set sail over the Atlantic to found their long dreamed-of new home.
Return to the car park. Follow the narrow lane as it winds across the fields and wetlands to the village of Fishtoft.
4 SIX MILES
Just beyond the Red Cow pub turn left into Fishtoft Road, then bear left. This road heads back to Boston and eventually becomes Skirbeck Road and leads back to the station.
Flat footpaths and lanes with generally good surfaces, though some riverside stretches can be muddy after heavy rain.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car: Boston is on the A52 east of Grantham.
By public transport: The walk starts at Boston railway station, which is served by trains from Grantham.
The Red Cow Inn
Fishtoft, Boston PE21 0SF
Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 131.
Grid ref: TF 327 440
Pilgrim Fathers Memorial – open daily, dawn to dusk.
No entrance fee and the car park is free, too.
FIND OUT MORE
Boston Tourist Information
2 South Square, Boston Lincolnshire PE21 6JU
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