Tom Hanks draws applause just for appearing at the entrance of his hotel [White Hart Hotel] in Lincoln and crossing the road to work on key scenes for his latest film, The Da Vinci Code, while on location in England. -- Garth Pearce

We believe that only sausages produced in Lincolnshire, by Lincolnshire butchers, should be known as Lincolnshire Sausages, and that's why we've launched It's Our Sausage! -- It's Our Sausage campaign

Two hundred years after the official abolition of slavery we are treating foreign workers like slaves. We are only interested in them as economic commodities. -- Reverend David de Verney, Boston-based chaplain to migrant workers

Lincolnshire, more formally known as the County of Lincolnshire (informally as Lincs), is, after neighbouring Yorkshire, the second largest county in England.

Lincolnshire was formed from the merging of the territory of the ancient Kingdom of Lindsey with that controlled by the Danelaw borough Stamford. For some time the entire county was called 'Lindsey', and it is recorded as such in the Domesday Book. Later, Lindsey was applied only to the northern core, around Lincoln, and emerged as one of the three Parts of Lincolnshire, along with the Parts of Holland in the south-east and Kesteven in the south west.

Much of Lincolnshire is very open and flat, former fens, first drained by the Romans.

The countryside either side of the River Witham, and broadening out into The Wash, is fen country. Rich black soil.

Travel from Lincoln, out past the little cliff-edge village of Washingborough, towards Bardney, or via Heighington and Branston, Metheringham, and onwards to Woodhall Spa, and you will find the land is flat as far as the eye can see. The land gently rises beyond the flat black fields of the fens. Until it was enclosed this was former heathland and is still reflected in many of the place names.

The flatness of the countryside can also be experienced by catching the slow train from Peterborough to Lincoln via Spalding and Sleaford. At times it feels as though you are in a boat crossing the open sea, not on a train passing through the Lincolnshire countryside.

The Fens stretch beyond Lincolnshire into Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Initially drained by the Romans and again in the Middle Ages, the first large-scale drainage works were in the 1630s. The success had the roots of their own demise. Dry fenland soil shrinks. The level of the land sank, and eventually became inundated with water. The fens were again drained in the late 18th and early 19th century. Powerful steam pumps replaced windmills, then diesel-powered pumps, and finally, after WWII, today's electric pumps.

The problem of shrinkage still remains, exacerbated by modern industrialised farming resulting in massive loss of top soil as it blows away in the wind. In the long-term the Fens will have to be returned to their natural pre-agricultural state.

Fenland towns grew from settlements sited on slightly raised parts of the Fens. The market town of Spalding is one such fenland town. Other towns arose in the creeks, for example Boston.

Running north-south is the Lincoln Edge (or Lincoln Cliff), a limestone escarpment of oolitic limestone. The escarpment is breached by the River Witham at the Lincoln Gap. It was here that the Romans established Lindum Colonia, now the County Town of Lincoln.

A string of villages are on the steep escarpment, the centre of each village on the spring line.

The Lincoln Edge runs as far north as the Humber Estuary. Perched on the cliff edge is the remote village of Alkborough. Within the village, overlooking the Trent Falls where the River Ouse and River Trent merge to form the upper reaches of the Humber Estuary, is a medieval turf maze known as Julian's Bower, one of the few remaining medieval labyrinths in the country.

The Fosse Dyke (or Foss Dyke), a Roman canal constructed c 120 AD, runs from the Brayford Pool to the Trent, connecting the Witham and the Trent. Henry I deepened the canal in 1121.

Brayford was the very reason for Lincoln's existence. In the Middle Ages, Brayford Pool was after London one of the most important ports in England.

Up until the 1960s, many of the old warehouses survived around the edge of Brayford. These could have been renovated and provided a very pleasant environment, as has been done in the basin at Bristol and Bath or the National Waterfront Museum overlooking the Marina in Swansea in Wales. Unfortunately Lincoln City Council is not noted for its visionary thinking, especially the planning department, and most of these buildings have been ripped down to be replaced by ugly modern eyesores. It is difficult to say which is the worst as they are all pretty bad. One of the worst offenders is the University, which has been unfavourably compared with a 1960s multi-story car park. The university buildings have also blotted out what was an uninterrupted view of the hills looking southwards.

Brayford Pool could have been the jewel in the crown, an attractive oasis at the heart of a vibrant city centre. Instead it has been destroyed by greed and crass planning decisions.

There seems to be a competition between the university and greedy property developers as to who can erect the ugliest buildings. Even the Bishop of Lincoln has joined in the criticism. The buildings block not only the view of the cathedral, but also the hillside with its rows of red-brick Victorian terraces.

Destruction of the Brayford, is symptomatic of a wider destruction in the city centre.

The old red-brick market hall, a fine old building, something of which the city should be proud, is now girdled by an ugly glass and metal monstrosity which not only hides the lower half of the building, but has lost half the market traders.

Just across the river, are two old pubs, The Witch and Wardrobe and the Green Dragon, sandwiched between the two, an ugly glass construction, the other side of the Green Dragon, towering over it and the adjacent church, an ugly tower block.

The centre of Lincoln is a city of two halves. The ghastly downhill half, clone town, the same High Street stores found in shopping centres across the country. The uphill half, starting at the top of the High Street, encompassing Steep Hill, The Strait, Bailgate and including Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral, an area of small, family owned business.

It is this uphill area that has ranked Lincoln in the top six must visit cathedral cities in the country.

The hypocrisy of the mayor is seen when boasting of an attractive city, whilst at the same time allowing the city to be destroyed by inappropriate development.

In the north of the county the hilly countryside of the Lincolnshire Wolds. Several attractive little market towns are tucked into the foothills of the Wolds: Alford, Caistor, Market Rasen, Spilsby, Louth, Horncastle.

Caistor High Street, an old Roman Road, now the course of the B1225, runs roughly north south from Caistor to Baumber across the Wolds. Bluestone Heath Road, an ancient drove road, runs east west across the Wolds. The Viking Way, a long distance footpath, runs through the Wolds.

Lincoln and the surrounding countryside are dominated by Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral sitting on top of the hill.

Housed within the Lincoln Castle is a copy of the original Magna Carta. It is currently on loan from Lincoln Cathedral, and has its own dedicated exhibition.

Dating from the Middle Ages, Magna Carta is the most important document conferring democracy and civil rights. It is embedded in English Common Law and has been quoted and drawn on throughout the ages, from the US Constitution (especially the Bill of Rights) through to the UN Charter.

There are only four surviving copies of the original Magna Carta: two in the British Museum, and one each held by Salisbury Cathedral and Lincoln Cathedral.

Founded a decade ago by Enzo Puzzovio and Richard Still, Lincoln hosts the annual Lincoln Early Music Festival. By the summer of 2005, the festival had grown to a six day event.

Lincoln's most recent name to fame was the filming of The Da Vinci Code in Lincoln Cathedral, starring Tom Hanks, with the cathedral making do as Westminster Abbey. Tom Hanks and many of the leading cast stayed at the nearby White Hart Hotel. Filmed in Lincoln in the summer of 2005, The Da Vinci Code, based on Dan Brown's best selling novel of the same name, was released worldwide May 2006.

Lincolnshire has placed itself firmly on the Da Vinci Code and all things Knights Templar tourist trail. The most recent addition is the Temple Bruer church tower, south of Lincoln, one of the most important Knights Templar sites in Britain. It is one of only a handful of sites that survived in Britain after the Templars were suppressed by King Edward II.

Many of the place names in Lincolnshire end in -by or -thorpe. These are Viking settlements. In Lincoln town centre many of the streets follow the original Viking street pattern. Several of the street names end in -gate. This does not as many people incorrectly assume indicate that the street once passed through a gate. Gate is derived from the Scandinavian gaten for street.

Lincolnshire is primarily an agricultural county, with what was once an important industrial town, Lincoln, at its heart.

An annual event, first held in 1869, the Lincolnshire Agricultural Show, is one of the largest agricultural shows in the country.

The flat nature of the countryside meant it was used during World War Two as the location for many airfields for the defence of the country and for mounting bombing raids on Germany and occupied Europe. Such was the number of airfields in Lincolnshire that it became known as 'Bomber County'.

Petwood Hotel, at Woodhall Spa, was requisitioned during WWII, and used as the officers mess. The Squadron Bar in the Petwood Hotel has WWII memorabilia. The famous Dambusters, 617 Squadron, used Petwood.

Woodhall Spa is a former spa town. Wide tree-lined avenues lead into the town, but there is little in the town apart from a few junk shops masquerading as antique shops and a memorial to the Dambuster Squadron.

Around Woodhall Spa are a number of former air bases with exhibitions on WWII and flying.

Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, founded by the Panton Brothers, Fred and Harold Panton, as a memorial to their brother, is sited on the old RAF East Kirkby. The site has a Lancaster and Spitfire, and houses many interesting exhibitions.

Thorpe Camp, near Tattershall Thorpe, looks not much from outside, but it is worth going in and having a look round as its exhibits are well worth looking at.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is located at RAF Coningsby. RAF Coningsby is still an active RAF base and has Tornadoes and the Eurofighter. The Lancaster in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was originally named 'City of Lincoln', reflecting the importance of Lincoln and Lincolnshire to Bomber Command during WWII.

Other active bases are Waddington, formerly used for the Vulcan V Bomber and now has Tornadoes and half a dozen AWACS and other reconnaisence aircraft. RAF Waddington was the first base to take delivery of the Avro Lancaster during WWII. On the edge of the base and near the perimeter fence is a Vulcan V Bomber. Waddington has since the end of WWII acted as host for the annual two-day Waddington International Airshow.

RAF Scampton is the base for the world famous Red Arrows.

Now long past their heyday, the holiday resorts of Skegness and Mablethorpe lie on the coast. Also in long-term decline is the fishing port of Grimbsy.

Transport in Lincolnshire is very poor. There are few rail lines and even fewer trains. This was as a result of the savage Beeching cuts in the 1960s. The deterioration has continued ever since. Lincoln, for example, lacks a direct rail service to London. Passengers have to change at Newark, on the East Coast Main Line, and often the connecting train is composed of a single filthy carriage, which has to be seen as a sick joke. Prior to the Beeching cuts, there was a direct line to London via Grantham. In its heyday, even the record-breaking steam locomotive The Mallard was seen on this line.

Post-privatisation, the train service got a whole lot worse. There is supposed to be a connecting service from Newark to meet the London train, but should the London train be a few minutes late, the connecting service for Lincoln leaves, leaving passengers stranded for an hour or more. The service to Lincoln is operated by Central Trains, regarded by those who use it as one of the worst train companies in the country. Now, passengers on arrival at Lincoln, have to negotiate barriers, be treated as though they are common criminals. The £200,000 spent on installing the barriers would have been better spent on improving the abysmal train service.

Lincolnshire is an agricultural county, therefore we expect it to have its own county food. Our expectations do not let us down. [see Lincolnshire fare]

The best known Lincolnshire fare is the Lincolnshire sausage. These sausages are a pork, herb sausage best cuts of meat, bread crumbs, a mix of herbs, encased in a natural case.

Lincolnshire sausages are regarded as the finest in the land. The market area in the centre of Lincoln used to be lined with butchers, including specialist pork butchers. Sadly all have gone bar two at the last count. Every butcher has his own recipe. Each year a competition is held to see who can make the best Lincolnshire sausages. Two excellent butchers, one in the Bailgate in Lincoln, the other in the little village of Heighington. Excellent Lincolnshire sausages can also be had off the Lincoln farmers market.

A somewhat dumb debate is currently taking place as to whether or not only sausages made in Lincolnshire should have the right to be called Lincolnshire sausages. This ignores the fact that Lincolnshire sausages refers to a type of sausage, not from where it is sourced.

The Lincolnshire Sausage campaign has been re-invigorated by the granting of EU special protected food status for Melton Mowbray Pork Pies.

Another local delicacy, stuffed chine roasted and sliced belly of pork, stuffed with a strong sage, or parsley stuffing (plus other highly guarded secret ingredients) is served cold.

Other local specialties besides Lincolnshire sausages include Lincoln Red beef, Longwood sheep and Poacher cheese.

Batemans Ales are brewed at Wainfleet.

Restaurants and pubs are being encouraged to serve local food. Around the county, farmers markets sell fresh produce direct from the farm. Uphill, in the Bailgate area of Lincoln, a local deli has a good variety of locally sourced cheeses. As has a cheese shop and café to the left of the top of Lincoln High Street. Curtis, a local family butcher and baker, try to source locally.

Lincoln has a regular fortnightly farmers market, but somewhat confusingly it is not in the same place or the same day first Friday of the month in the town centre, third Saturday of the month uphill. Now held on the first four Fridays of every month.

The Good Food Ride rated Lincoln as a 'gastrohub' for reaching critical mass on the number of quality food outlets and promotion of regional cuisine. [see City is the big cheese and Bad Food Britain]

Local organic farm, Woodlands Farm, near Boston, supplies local farmers markets and operates a veg box scheme (which can include eggs and meat if desired).

For more on Lincolnshire food and local producers, visit the Tastes of Lincolnshire website.

Agriculture and industrial food processing in Lincolnshire is highly dependent on cheap, casual labour, often drawn from an exploited, immigrant workforce.

The Reverend David de Verney, a Boston-based chaplain who works with migrant workers, has launched a scathing attack on employers who exploit vulnerable migrant workers. He has compared their treatment with that of slaves two centuries ago. He says many are paying £800, a year's salary in their home country, to obtain work, to be then paid low wages, less than the minimum wage, with a large debt around their necks with no way of paying it off. He has also slammed official bodies for turning a blind eye and doing nothing to help exploited migrant workers. The Reverend David de Verney estimates there to be 10,000 migrant workers in Lincolnshire.

As with the rest of the UK, Lincolnshire has been flooded with migrants from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, following the accession of ten new countries May 2004. The Lincolnshire Echo estimates the influx at 10% of the population. Some idea of the level of migration can be seen by the fact that the recently refurbished Lincoln Central Library has Romanian, Bulgarian and Polish newspapers, and three Lincoln nightclubs have engaged the services of a Polish translator.

Lincolnshire has its own dialect. Everyone is greeted as 'mate' or 'duck', with 'now then' as an informal 'hello'. 'Mardy' is grumpy or upset or angry, 'siling' is very heavy rainfall.

Those born and bred in Lincolnshire are referred to as 'Lincoln Yellow Bellies'. The kindly refer this to the colour of the tunic of the local militia, the unkindly that they are cowards.

Famous sons and daughters of Lincolnshire or those with strong connections to the county include: George Boole (mathematician and philosopher), John Harrison (watchmaker), Sir Isaac Newton (philosopher and physicist), Alfred Lord Tennyson (poet), Sir Joseph Banks (botanist), Sir John Franklin (explorer), Matthew Flinders (explorer and navigator), Margaret Thatcher (politician), Saint Hugh of Lincoln.

George Boole (1815-1864), mathematician, logician and philosopher, is Lincoln's most famous son, and yet his name is virtually unknown in his place of birth. Born in Lincoln, George Boole was a schoolmaster at a school at Doncaster at the age of 16. He was to establish a school of his own in Lincoln, which later relocated to Waddington. Boole contributed several learned papers to a Cambridge mathematical journal, and was later to become the first professor of mathematics at what was to become University College Cork in Ireland. Boole's most important contribution was that of Boolean logic, an algebraic method of manipulating logical symbols, without which we would have no computers today.

Born in the little hamlet of Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), together with Albert Einstein, was one of the world's most influential physicists. The work of Einstein underpins modern physics, that of Newton underpins classical physics. Isaac Newton carried out pioneering work in the field of mathematics, light, optics, mechanics, motion, gravity.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), poet, was born at Somersby in Lincolnshire and attended Louth Grammar School, before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge. He was appointed Poet Laureate to succeed William Wordsworth. As Poet Laureate he produced his best known work 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'. A statue of Tennyson can be found outside Lincoln Cathedral.

Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), naturalist and explorer, accompanied Captain James Cook in the voyage of the Endeavour. Banks brought back many specimens from his travels. He helped to establish the Botanic Gardens at Kew, near London. His herbarium and library in London was a centre of taxonomic research, which after his death became part of the British Museum. The Lawn, opposite the East Gate of Lincoln Castle, has a gallery dedicated to Banks. A portrait of Banks hangs in the Usher Art Gallery in Lincoln.

John Harrison (16931776), watchmaker, born at Barton-on-Humber, was an English clock designer, who developed and built the world's first successful maritime clock, one whose accuracy was great enough to allow the determination of longitude over long distances.

Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) was born in Spilsby, in Lincolnshire. An English rear admiral and explorer, his ill-fated expedition (1845) is credited with having proved the existence of the Northwest Passage, a Canadian Arctic waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This NW passage was first proposed in the late 16th century without result, attempts were abandoned after the 17th century until the 19th century. He died on 11 June 1847, near King William Island, British Arctic Islands, now known as the Northwest Territories, in Canada.

Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), born at Donington in Lincolnshire, was one of the most accomplished navigators and chartmakers of his age. In a career that spanned just over twenty years, he sailed with Captain William Bligh, circumnavigated and named Australia, survived shipwreck and disaster only to be imprisoned as a spy, identified and corrected the effect of iron ships upon compass readings, and wrote the seminal work on Australian exploration A Voyage To Terra Australis.

Margaret Thatcher, daughter of a Grantham greengrocer, was Britain's first female Prime Minister. One of the more polite names by which she was known was the Iron Lady. You either loved her or loathed her. Eventually she was more loathed than loved and her own party kicked her out of office. Her legacy has been to leave behind a party that is still tearing itself apart, and Thatcherism, a country with a widening gap between rich and poor, driven by greed and no sense of society. Thatcherism a neoliberal philosophy, the driving force behind privatisation and globalisation. Her true heir has proved to be not a member of her own party, but Tony Blair, leader of the Labour Party.

Hugh of Lincoln or Hugh of Avalon, Saint Hugh, was Bishop of Lincoln. When Lincoln Cathedral was damaged by an earthquake in 1885, Bishop Hugh was instrumental in its rebuilding and enlargement in the Gothic style, although he did not live to see his work completed. His emblem was a white swan, in recognition of a swan that followed him around and guarded his bed at night whilst he slept. Lincoln is famous for the large flock of swans to be found on the Brayford and Witham in the town centre. Saint Hugh was canonized by Pope Honorius III in 1220. He is the Patron Saint of sick children, sick people, and swans.

Lincolnshire is administered by Lincolnshire County Council. The County Council hit the headlines when its leader at the time was arrested, charged, and finally convicted on corruption. [Private Eye passim and Lincolnshire Echo passim]

Lincoln was a rock solid safe Labour council, until the Labour administration decided to impose fortnightly waste collection against the wishes of the local townsfolk. On the back of a promise to restore weekly waste collection, the Conservatives seized control of the council in the May 2007 local election. The arrogant ex-leader of the council, who lost his seat, claimed bins was not an issue and put the blame on Tony Blair! [see Lincoln bin revolt]

Maybe Lincoln should look to neighbouring North Kesteven, which has the record at 51.5% as the best performing council in the country on recycling. North Kesteven attribute their success to working with and obtaining the full support and cooperation of the local community. They also have a very simple system in place and have had a long term commitment to recycling. As they say 'It's not rocket science'. The performance of North Kesteven on recycling has since been overtaken by East Lindsey. [see Recycling a tale of two councils and East Lindsey best performer at recycling]

Established in 1893, the Lincolnshire Echo is the main paper for Lincolnshire.

The Lincolnshire Echo used to have a major rival, the Lincoln Chronicle. This once daily paper fell by the wayside, leaving its sister paper the Lincoln Standard, which was then renamed the Lincoln Chronicle, retaining the name. Now reduced to a shadow of its former self, the Lincoln Chronicle is published on a Thursday as a weekly freebie.

The Echo also publishes a weekly freebie, the Lincoln Target, published on Thursdays, containing highlights of the week's news from the daily Lincolnshire Echo.

Local radio stations are BBC Radio Lincolnshire broadcasting on 94.9 FM and it's commercial rival Lincs FM on 102.2 FM.

BBC regional TV Look North covers Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, though with the emphasis on Hull and obsession with Hull City Football Club it ought to be called Hull TV.

Web heureka

(c) Keith Parkins 2005-2009 -- February 2009 rev 11
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