“The past is another country” — The Go Between, LP Hartley (1953)
The stuffy, restrictive heat and bustle of London feels a world away from here.
The landscape has changed little across the years — parched harvest fields and desiccated stately lawns still wait ready for a boy or girl delivering some fateful message to Julie Christie in The Go Between or Keira Knightley in Atonement.
Only the slow progress of the monster machines that gather in the harvest serve to tell the tale of a landscape now worked with many fewer people.
The pace of life seems slow, and it’s hard to equate this landscape with a world speed record set three quarters of a century ago and still standing firm today.
At Castle Bytham we sink an ale beside the Norman motte and bailey. In nearby Little Bytham, Mrs Bee’s shop offers wonders of a completely different kind.
A traditional village store and sweet shop would be the best description, but that fails to do fair justice.
Entering from Little Bytham’s main (and almost only) street brings a friendly smile from Mrs Bee and a sight to warm the heart of any child, however grown-up they may now be. A memory-evoking selection of magical sweets awaits in tall glass jars atop high shelves.
Mrs Bee has lived here for over 80 years, perhaps, or maybe even 90. She knows South Lincolnshire well.
She remembers finely dressed folk turning up in carriages for parties before the house was commandeered for military use in the Second World War, some 70 years ago.
The London to Edinburgh expresses roar past above our heads every few minutes, on one of the most historic lengths of railway track in all the world.
A plate beside the door depicts the sleek blue locomotive which set the world steam landspeed record here when Mrs Bee was young.
Here on 30th November, 1934, the famous LNER steam engine, Flying Scotsman, became the first steam engine to be offically recorded above 100 mph.
Four years later, and with a brave engine driver, Joseph Duddington, at the ready, another LNER engine, Mallard reached a speed of 125 mph between Little Bytham and Essendine on 3rd July, 1938.
And remarkably enough, the Mallard’s mark has never been beaten since.
Today, the locomotive takes pride of place in the British Transport Museum just an hour up the East Coast line in York, alongside the Flying Scotsman.
I’m sure that Mrs Bee will be here to greet us, and Little Bytham and its world landspeed record will stand unchanged by then.
41. A Lincolnshire legend – Sir Isaac Newton
65. In the footsteps of Brunel: Bristol Half Marathon
80. Paul Simon – lines from an English railway platform
37. Lord Beeching and me – the Worth Way
39. Woking – from Necropolis to Technology Junction
207. Running back on track — the train on Stratford’s Greenway