COAST AND MARSHES
Flat coastal plain to east, rising gradually in
west to more undulating land at foot of of the Lincolnshire
Predominantly open, medium-scale agricultural
landscape. Tendency to smaller farm units with pasture
in east. Some remnant areas of ridge and furrow,
and mixed arable to west.
Woodland and hedge cover sparse yet increasing
to west at foot of the Wolds.
Dispersed settlement pattern through most
of area. Concentration of larger settlements towards
Land drained to coast by combination of irregular
ditches, streams and dykes. Louth Canal is major
Coastline experiencing both erosion and accretion.
Major coastal dune systems and saltmarshes and artificial
sea defences along the coastline. Extensive shallow
Brick and pantile vernacular architecture
to the west. Coastal strip significantly altered
by discordant 20th century development including
seaside resorts, theme parks, bungalows, caravan
parks and industry.
is a coastal area bounded by the mouth of the Humber
Estuary and the North Sea, from Grimsby in the north
down the coastline to Gibraltar Point at the edge
of the Wash. To the west the boundary is marked
by the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds. To the south
there is a junction with the Fens along the Steeping
The broad coastal plain can be divided into three
sub-areas which run broadly parallel with the edge
of the Wolds. To the west is the Middle Marsh which
comprises a softly undulating arable landscape that
gently climbs up to the foot of the Wolds at the
ancient Barton Street. This is a more enclosed landscape
containing a greater number of woodlands and hedgerows.
To the east lies the Outmarsh, a land of rich pasture
land, including some remnants of ridge and furrow
divided by narrow dykes, with brackish water. Thirdly,
the coastline itself; this is an area subject to
continual erosion and accretion and which as a result
is vulnerable to high water and flooding. Artificial
sea defences between Mablethorpe and Skegness are
a significant feature of the coastline. Elsewhere,
sand dunes and sea buckthorn follow the coast and
two of these areas are designated as National Nature
Reserves in view of both their flora and fauna.
To the north, the offshore gradient is so slight
that at low tide, extensive sand flats are exposed.
Settlement is concentrated on the coast, including
the resorts of Skegness, Mablethorpe and Cleethorpes
whose fine sandy beaches and low rainfall have attracted
holiday makers for generations. To the north the
large industrial town of Grimsby is situated at
the mouth of the Humber.
At first appearance this may be a generally undistinguished
landscape with a strong sense of geographical isolation.
In contrast to the Wolds, the appeal of the rural
areas and the wide coastal flats is more subtle.
The influence of the North Sea is significant in
concentrating economic and recreational activities
which are summarised by the old railway poster:
"Skegness: Is so bracing"!
the last Ice Age, the eastern edge of the Lincolnshire
Wolds marked the general limit of the ice front.
Later, as the ice melted, glacial tills were deposited
across the Middle Marsh. These produce slowly permeable,
seasonally waterlogged fine loamy soils, good for
cereals. Mixed with the clay tills are more localised
areas of outwash gravels. Occasional 'blow wells'
occur where sand and gravel lenses allow water from
the Chalk to reach the surface. The Outmarsh by
contrast, is composed of marine alluvium of similar
character to most of the central fens, being created
by the higher sea levels following the Ice Age.
It is believed that, until the 13th century, the
coastline was protected by a line of offshore islands
of moraine from the retreating ice sheet. These
barriers of boulder clay gave relief from coastal
erosion and allowed the development of extensive
lagoons and marshes. Here, the soils are now deep,
clayey and calcareous and good for permanent grassland,
cereals, potatoes, field vegetables and sugar beet.
Areas of dune sand and marine shingle are found
at Gibraltar Point and North Somercotes. These are
of little agricultural value but important for wildlife
and coniferous plantations.
A complex series of rivers and small streams drain
slowly east across the plain towards the sea. Some
are natural water courses, for example The Great
Eau and Waithe Beck, while others rely on numerous
man-made drains. The proximity of the sea, and the
low-lying land, has caused permeation of the saline
water into the coastal drains.
The influence of the North Sea has continued over
recent centuries. Land and salt marshes have been
reclaimed, those between Saltfleet and Somercotes
in the 19th century; conversely, high tides and
erosion pose an ongoing threat to settlements in
and Cultural Influences
relatively elevated land of the Middle Marsh proved
more attractive to the earlier settlers. The village
names in the locality, ending in by, like Thoresby
and Utterby or thorpe, as Grainthorpe and Hogsthorpe,
indicate the Danes were main settlers in the region.
During the 12th century the coastline south of Grimsby
was several miles further inland following what
is now the A1031 road. However, settlers slowly
drained and reclaimed the land. Ground level archaeology
on the marshes consists mainly of medieval and post-medieval
features, eg. saltworkings at Castle Hills, Tetney
and Somercotes. Evidence of earlier activity in
the Iron Age and Roman periods often lies buried
under the silts which have subsequently been deposited.
Dyke clearance work has unearthed saltern (saltmaking)
sites. During the medieval period and up to the
18th century, the rich pasture created was extensively
used to fatten livestock driven off the Wolds. Since
then, a mixed pattern of farming has developed.
Louth Canal a major artificial water course with
its marked embankments was built in the 18th century.
Louth Grammar School had two famous pupils: Alfred
Lord Tennyson, born in the neighbouring Wolds, attended
the school from 1816 while the explorer, John Smith
born at Willoughby was a pupil until 1595. In addition
to John Smith, the area was also home to other New
World emigrants, including Thomas Paine who contributed
to the American Declaration of Independence, and
Anne Hutchins - America's first woman preacher.
traditional building materials on the Middle Marsh
are brick and pantile. Spilsby Sandstone is used
in a number of the churches, for example Alford.
The use of mud and stud, and plaster walls with
thatch, although common 150 years ago, has now died
out. However, a group of brick properties with thatched
roofs are located in Alford.
There is a dispersed settlement pattern throughout
the agricultural areas. Historic market towns include
Alford, Burgh le Marsh and most notably, Louth.
At the foot of the Wolds the majestic 100m spire
of St James' Church, Louth built in Ancaster stone,
is reputed to be the tallest parish church in England
and stands as a prominent local landmark. In contrast
the elegant red brick Georgian town houses of Westgate
cluster around the church. The town is still complete
and unspoilt, with small squares and a market hall.
There are a few parklands and houses in the Middle
Marsh. These include Gunby Hall (National Trust),
Well Vale Hall and Brocklesby in the north. The
remains of Thornton Abbey (English Heritage) mark
what was once one of the great ecclesiastical buildings
of England yet only the impressive brick and stone
gatehouse is still complete. Three good windmills
in working order at Alford, Burgh le Marsh and Waltham
help break the skyline on the coastal plain.
The extent of 20th century settlement has been considerable.
Grimsby, famous for its fishing heritage, is a modern
sprawling town which has absorbed outlying villages.
Several fine houses exist in the suburbs of Cleethorpes,
reflecting the wealth produced by the fishing industry.
The docks and oil refinery at Immingham, although
in the Humber Estuary character area, dominate the
skyline for miles and creates a major intrusion
on the flat Outmarsh. On the coast, Cleethorpes,
Mablethorpe and Skegness developed as tourist centres
for holiday makers from the East Midlands over the
last century or so. The Victorian and Edwardian
villas of the towns have been added to during the
20th century by clusters of caravans, mobile homes,
holiday camps and theme parks along much of the
coastline. The Sandhills Act of 1932 effectively
controlled the expansion of built development on
the coast at Gibraltar Point and Saltfleetby. Most
of the built coastline between Mablethorpe and Skegness
is now protected by massive concrete seawalls following
floods, including those in 1953. Within the agricultural
landscape, the villages have suffered from sporadic
and unsympathetic infill development, notably bungalows.
Middle Marsh comprises regular rectilinear fields
bounded by occasional hedgerows. Cereal cropping
and field vegetables predominate, with many of the
crops bound for the neighbouring frozen food industry
at Grimsby. Two areas of wooded open farmland persist,
firstly around Claythorpe, and most noticeably around
Brocklesby where the Wolds slide imperceptibly down
to the clay drift landscape. Towards the centre
of the Outmarsh field sizes are smaller and a more
ancient drained landscape exists. Here there is
a relatively high proportion of grass and rough
grazing alongside vegetable crops. Traces of ridge
and furrow can still be seen often containing a
rich ground flora. However the influence of grazing
and hay meadows has been in decline for decades.
Woodland on the Outmarsh is almost non-existent,
except around farmsteads and settlement edges. A
large proportion of the north Outmarsh is under
the direct influence of built development.
Between Cleethorpes and Mablethorpe accretion has
produced a wide shore of shingle banks and beaches
backed by extensive saltmarshes and dunes. Here
saltmarsh occurs on the open shore between sea and
dune, the result of the offshore Sand Haile Flats
which provide protection from the full force of
the sea. Sea buckthorn is dominant on the dunes
and provides shelter and food for birds.
Specific areas of the coast are protected and managed
for wildlife, notably between Saltfleetby to Theddlethorpe.
Species include water shrew, natterjack toad, common
lizard and a colony of breeding grey seals. South
of Saltfleet Haven an ancient calcareous dune system
contains freshwater marsh, and maritime fen. South
of Skegness at Gibraltar Point another series of
extensive dunes and saltmarshes exist.
Marked agricultural intensification and farm amalgamation
particularly of smaller farms, on the Outmarsh.
Increase in field sizes through extensive loss of
hedgerows in Middle Marsh.
Marked decline in grazing coastal banks and
marshes, by ploughing traditional ridge and furrow
meadows, cropping and reseeding.
Field and cropping patterns influenced by
growth of refrigerated food industry in neighbouring
settlements eg Grimsby.
Accretion of dunes and erosion of coast.
Spread of holiday resorts at Cleethorpes
and between Mablethorpe and Skegness. Increase in
holiday homes, caravans and theme parks.
Development of infrastructure corridor, including
A180(T) dual carriageway and power supply cables.
Following tidal flooding and rising sea levels,
coastal protection works formerly by major engineering
and now by beach nourishment.
The creation of small to medium sized deciduous
woodlands, linked by hedgerow reinstatement and
tree planting would reinforce enclosure in Middle
Marsh area and visually contain the built edges
of sprawling settlements. The management of existing
woodland is important.
Tree planting would help to emphasise the
river courses. There are opportunities for the re-creation
of flood plain grasslands as washlands and the enhancement
of ditches and dykes for wildlife.
The use of traditional brick and pantile
in new building would help the integration of both
infill and more substantial development in rural
The retention and management of traditional
ridge and furrow meadows for grazing is important.
There is scope for ongoing management of
coastal dunes, nature reserves and vulnerable lengths
Association (1978), Illustrated Guide to Britain,
Drive Publications Ltd
Bennett, S. Bennett, N. (1993), Historical Atlas
of Lincolnshire, University of Hull Press
Countryside Commission (1995), Countryside Stewardship
Targeting Statements for Lincolnshire, Countryside
Gillespies (1995), Humberside Landscape Assessment/First
Draft, Gillespies, Altrincham
Lincolnshire South Humberside Tourism (1995) Welcome
to Lincolnshire, Lincs S. Humberside Tourism, Lincoln
Lincolnshire Tourism (1996), Welcome to Lincolnshire,
Lincolnshire Tourism, Lincoln
Pevsner, N. Harris, J. (1989), Buildings of England
- Lincolnshire, Penguin Books, Middlesex
Smith A.E. (1996), Nature in Lincolnshire: A biodiversity
strategy, Lincolnshire Trust for Nature Conservation,
Thorold, H. Yates, J. (1965), Shell Guide to Lincolnshire,
Faber Faber, London
Barley M W (1971) Lincolnshire and the Fens, EP,
Robinson D N (1981) The Book of the Lincolnshire
Seaside, Barracuda, Buckingham (- standard reference
work on all aspects of the coast)
Rogers A (1985) A history of Lincolnshire, Philliomore,
Start D (1993) Lincolnshire from the air, Heritage
Trust of Lincolnshire, Heckington