Rivers born from chalk have an ethereal quality. From deep beneath the hills, pours spring water of dazzling lustre, delivered at a constant eleven degrees Celsius all year round. There are only two hundred chalk streams in the world, and well over three quarters of these flow across the downlands of southern and eastern England, providing a haven for wildlife that is of international importance.
Having splashed in the chalk waters of Wiltshire, Hampshire and Norfolk; I was mesmerised by the thought of finding the perfect chalk spring and pool, hidden and harboured within the unassuming vales of the Lincolnshire Wolds.
So, in urgent need of respite from the thronging crowds at Lincoln Christmas Market, where desperate hawkers seemed almost to tear at the change in my pocket with their ‘Matilda’ glares, we left the masses behind and drove uphill to Louth: ‘Capital of the Wolds’.
Something in Louth reminds me of Norfolk. Perhaps the coasts of Lincolnshire and East Anglia were once the same; or maybe it is the quaint streets, the red-brick windows with tiny panes of glass, the towering church spire, or the branch of the Norwich and Peterborough in the High Street.
At Hubbard’s Hill, where picnickers paddle in summer; the pristine River Lud sneaks behind the perimeter fence of a fisherman’s lair. Within is a lake so clear, it looks frozen.
Chalk is wonderful trout territory, and the anglers know it. But it is not for the fishing that I love chalk streams, merely for the water itself. When summer’s leaves shrivel and sink, the chalk river, the ‘Dorian Gray’ of the watery world, retains its youthful looks.
Crumbling brickwork, jagged fences tumbling into a meander; and a once charming watermill speared the scene. I may have found Lincolnshire’s water, but the perfect pool remains elusive.