In order to make some contextual sense of the seemingly mis-spelt title, I must ask you, gentle reader, to rewind with your humble author a good few years (and probably many more – memory tends to telescope with increasing maturity, I find) to a previous Knumptywagen visit to the Suffolk/Norfolk coast, possibly so long ago that it was definitely PC – and might even be PB. (Pre Covid. Pre Blog. Get with it.)
Back in Lichfield, we’re endowed with two particular lovely friends, who knowing a thing or two about such stuff, had enthusiastically recommended we visit a delightful town in the vicinity of our travels, about which all I could recall was that it began with the letter ‘S’.
Thus, on the homeward leg of our earlier journeyings, the CNO (Chief Navigating Officer – keep up) spotted Spalding on our route ahead; I immediately spewed-up vague recognition and in we drove.
A further rewind, if you please. During late teenage and early adult years, I suffered from frequent migraine attacks, often presaged by visual distortion, a classic symptom. Thankfully, in later life, the migraines have long since departed but I do occasionally still suffer with the visual issue, thankfully now in isolation of the excruciating headaches and the associated need for twenty-fours hours in a darkened room with just a bucket and myriad pills for company.
These days, the visual distortions strike without warning and in the main are now thankfully merely discomforting rather than debilitating. On this particular occasion, such was my excitement at eventually reaching the much-lauded and attractive town which we ‘simply must visit’ that, on approach, my eyesight kaleidoscoped into fragments, whence we were luckily able to park up the Knumptywagen and step out for a remedial breath of fresh air.
Spalding is a mid-sized market town on the River Welland, in the parish of South Holland, Lincolnshire. It appears to boast little in the way of tourist attractions, listing separate Romany and Engine Museums, a bowling alley, Festival Gardens, a Fun Farm and Adventure Land as its highlights. On the day of our visit, it suffered even more by being admired with a fragmentary three-quartered view through two separately functioning optic nerves, while the CNO guided my stumbling personage around a handful of streets before deciding to call it a day and take the wheel to drive her dribbling companion home.
Whence we discovered that Spalding is not Stamford.
So here we are! A ‘return’ visit to Stamford in all its single-visioned, historic, limestoned, architectural and cultural glory. Another Lincolnshire market town, some 20 miles distant from its previous incarnation and also settled on the (more picturesque) banks of the River Welland, which sinuously separates said same settlements. Flowing gently towards its confluence with The Wash, such is the geography of the area that poor old Spalding even gets it river water second-hand.
An almost empty car-park absorbed our inconsiderate bulk and we walked the streets agog with wonder. The river meadows; the fine bridges; the bustle of independent and therefore intriguing shops and mullion-windowed hostelries set amidst 600 listed buildings (including five – yes, five medieval churches, four of which are named after specific Saints while the fifth, All Saints, represents a sort-of ecclesiastical catch-all just in case any unrepresented Angels of The Lord On Earth might take offence).
A newly-awakened Arts Centre, into which high-ceilinged Ballroom we peeped through an open door to marvel at the fastidious internal redecoration underway as we watched; brunch on the pavement at a Scandinoir café, impressive eighteenth and nineteenth townhouses; a brewery; shops displaying art and musical instruments; maskless natives openly greeting each other (and us!) on the narrow flagstone pavements – and so many intriguing passageways and alleys weaving it all together into the delight which had been described to us, so long ago.
So thank you Stamford and apologies to Spalding for my initial confusion. We eventually came, we saw and we have conquered.