Day 8 – 4th June – Icklingham to Knettishall Heath – 16.5 miles

The last leg of the Icknield Way path.  Hard to believe we had almost finished.

Walking companions at the start were – Rachael, Tristram, Alice,  Bev, Linda, Den and Lucy (who had come up on an early train from London once again).   And Winnie the dog, of course.

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There was a bit of confusion about which way to go out of Icklingham, but we were soon on the right path through the impressive King’s Forest.  The planting of the trees had been started in the year of George V’s 25th Jubilee, according to the guide book. I was expecting pine trees, but in fact there was a variety of broadleaved trees as well,which was a pleasant surprise.

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The path was soft and sandy, giving us a false sense of being near the sea, and it cut through the forest in more or less a straight line for four miles.

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The last stretch was called Queen Mary’s Avenue (beeches), planted in 1935.  On reaching the other side, we arrived at our first meeting point –  the monument at Shelterhouse Corner – where we had arranged to pick up Chris (who was being dropped off by Linda’s kind husband Martin).  We said goodbye to Linda, Tristram and Alice, who were just walking with us for the first few miles. Many thanks to them for their support and to Martin for being their taxi driver.

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Continuing on our way, we crossed over the road to Barrow’s Corner.

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We hurried past a pig farm due to the very strong smell…

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The rest of the walk was largely through arable fields and woodland. We didn’t see a soul for several miles.

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Strange snail clusters on fence posts…

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I had arranged to meet my sister, Rachel, and her husband,Toby, on the A134, near D House (so-called due to its shape).  They had driven over from Rutland to join us for part of the last day’s route.  I was very touched by their efforts to be there, particularly as my sister hasn’t been well. They had brought along their lovely spaniel, Jaffa.  We all paused for lunch on Euston Drove.  The sun had burned through the clouds and it was beginning to get very warm.

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Never too far from some pigs in this part of the world…. “Pigs in there?” (ref Robert Wyatt).

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After lunch, we set off once again, refreshed.  The path led us to the pretty village of Euston and Euston Hall.  Since leaving Icklingham, we hadn’t been through any villages  -in fact, this was the only village all day. And, disappointingly, no pub stops!

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We were hoping to cut through Euston Park (described as a permitted path), but had to walk round the outside of the Park, as the Red Rooster Festival  was taking place there.  It looked like a great location for a festival and I thought it would be good to go back there next year.  We paused to chat to the man on the gate.

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Walking around the outside of the estate, the sandy path continued on to Dukes Ride, alongside fields of potatoes and woodland.

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It was becoming very hot and Winnie was flagging a bit, despite plenty of water stops.  Lucy decided to carry her for a while.

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The track led us to our destination at Knettishall Heath, passing the final milestone.  106 miles to the Ridgeway (Ivinghoe Beacon) – where we had started back in October – and in the other direction, the Peddars Way – which continues to the Norfolk coast.  It seemed strange that the Icknield Way ends there – for no obvious reason (other than it meets the Peddars Way).

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We didn’t have long to reflect on the achievement, nor the location of the end of the path, as a couple of minutes later, the cavalry arrived – my husband, Steve, and son, Louis – armed with a celebratory cream tea, including kettle and camping stove.

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A perfect way to complete the walk, sitting on Knettishall Heath in the sunshine, eating a cream tea.

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Walking the Icknield Way has been a great experience. At times, quite challenging (often because of the weather), but I have really enjoyed walking along this ancient path.  Discovering new parts of the countryside, and revisiting some familiar spots has reminded me that there is a lot to see and enjoy not far from home.  And we have observed how the landscape changes, from the rolling chalk hills and beech woods of Beds, Herts, through South Cambridgeshire and on to the sandy soils of the Brecklands and Suffolk.  I have also enjoyed walking through the changing seasons and the photos in this blog help to illustrate that.

When I set out on this walk, I imagined that I would be walking some stretches on my own, but every single month, whatever the weather, I have had willing companions joining me. Some have travelled from far and wide (North Berwick!). The camaraderie has been fantastic.  An enormous thank you to you all.

I am very grateful to the Icknield Way Association too, for producing such a useful and informative Walkers Guide, which I recommend highly  (www.icknieldwaypath.co.uk) .

And finally, a big thank you to all the donors – you have been very generous and have helped me to exceed (with Gift Aid) my fundraising target of £2,000.  I have been raising much needed funds for Home-Start Royston & South Cambridgeshire – a local family support charity that has lost all its public funding.  Many of the walkers are volunteers with this charity and we all share the belief that Home-Start is a unique and vital service that must continue.

If you would like to donate, please visit my My Donate page:               http://www.mydonate.bt.com and type “Juliet Greer” in the “Sponsor a Fundraiser” box.

Alternatively (and to find out more about Home-Start), you can visit the Home-Start Royston & South Cambridgeshire website and donate through the website: http://www.hsrsc.co.uk.

Thank you.

 

Today I know there is nothing beyond the farthest of far ridges except a signpost to unknown places.

(Edward Thomas, The Icknield Way)

 

 

 

 

Day 8 – 4th June – Icklingham to Knettishall Heath – 16.5 miles

Day 7 – Cheveley to Icklingham – 14 miles

Day 7 looked to be a good day. 10 walkers to start, 3 to join us along the way.   And a forecast of warm, dry weather.

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We met at Icklingham and then shuttled some of the cars to the start – at Cheveley. From the left, Richard, Steve, me, Lara, Bev, Den, Jean, Jane P (and a glimpse of Winnie), Rachael and Jane T.  Jane T had come all the way from North Berwick to join us.  It was wonderful to have her there and an enormous thank you to her for making the effort. I am sure she won’t mind me mentioning that some years ago, Jane had the support of a Home-Start volunteer in Edinburgh – not long after her twin boys were born.  Perhaps that had been a factor in her show of solidarity for me, as I know that she had found the support very helpful at that time.

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Setting off through the village, we passed the church before picking up the Icknield Way on the right.

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The countryside had changed so much since we had walked along the Icknield Way a month before.   Although it had been a beautiful, sunny day, it had felt like early spring and the hedges and trees were still quite bare. Today, they were mostly covered with new leaves and the fields were vibrant green and yellow, bursting with new growth.  My favourite time of year.

The path took us to Ashley and then on the Gazeley Road towards the River Kennett.

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The path followed the river to Dalham with lovely views across the fields.

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Pausing on the bridge over the River Kennett in Dalham.

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…where even the Flood Gauging Station was charming.

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Passing by an old malt kiln we continued in the direction of the church and then turned on to a beautiful chestnut-lined avenue that led us to the splendid Dalham Hall.

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According to the guidebook, Dalham Hall had been owned by  the South African, Cecil Rhodes.  I later found out that he had never lived there, as he died the year after he made the purchase (1902).  The house had been built at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and had originally consisted of 3 floors, the top one of which was destroyed by a fire in the 1950s.    Today it looked very beautiful (and in perfect proportion), as did the surrounding landscape and we paused here for a drink/snack. It was already getting quite hot and Winnie seemed to be feeling it. Nearby a smartly dressed family with young children were posing (‘naturally’) for a professional photographer.  Hope we didn’t get in their way….

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I could have stayed there for a while, but we didn’t want to get too comfortable, as there was quite a way to go, so we set off again, past the church.

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Bluebell sightings…

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And then to Gazeley.

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Following the Kentford Road out of Gazeley and on to Needham Street.

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Perfectly prepared fields reminded me that I still hadn’t planted my potatoes…Such fine soil. Slight mistake with the route here, we should have been on the other side of the field!

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We crossed the B1506 and walked along it for a short distance, before turning to pass under the A14, which seemed strangely out of place in the otherwise traditional surroundings.

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The path then took us under a railway bridge and along Slade Bottom byway, passing the works entrance to Higham Lafarge – aggregates and concrete.

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The road soon became a track and we noticed how much the landscape had changed since we had crossed the A14.  Rolling chalk fields had given way to the dry, sandy-soiled Brecklands with the characteristic Scots pines.

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Feeling slightly desperate for lunch, we found a shady spot and stopped for a break.

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I made contact with Sally, Susan and Rowena, who were due to meet us at the next village – Herringswell.  We had agreed to meet at the church. I had worked with Sally & Susan many years ago in Ipswich and was very touched that they had come out to support me and join us for some of the walk.

Restored by food and drink, we continued on our way, passing many pigs!

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And through a beautiful wood to Herringswell where we met our new companions walking towards us.  Onwards to Tuddenham where we hoped there may be a pub for an icy drink and a loo stop.  We could see the White Hart down the road, and Sally kindly went to see if it was open (so many pubs in this area have sadly closed down). Here we are waiting, hoping for a signal that we might be in luck.

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We were being watched, as we waited.

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So welcome was the signal that the pub was indeed open that we walked down the road with a spring in out step – to the welcoming White Hart, run by some very friendly people, determined to keep it open.  There was hardly anyone about, so we could fill the small garden.

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It was very hard to leave this pub, but eventually we picked ourselves up and, feeling refreshed, continued on our way, across Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve.

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We crossed over the River Lark and I became aware of the presence of other people – it felt like this was for the first time all day.  Like us, they were out enjoying the warm afternoon.

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The track led us into Icklingham – and here we are back where we had left the cars earlier, in front of another closed pub….

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What a lovely day’s walking in gorgeous weather, at a perfect time of year. Although not the longest stretch of the Icknield Way, the heat of the day had made it quite tiring and I think we were all pleased to reach our destination.

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As ever, a huge thank you to my companions for the day.  And apologies to Winnie if it was a bit warm.

I look forward to the next walk on June 4th and hope that some of you will be able to join me for that final stretch.

For donations, please visit: http://www.mydonate.bt.com and type “Juliet Greer” in the “Sponsor a Fundraiser” box.

Thank you!

Day 7 – Cheveley to Icklingham – 14 miles

Day 6 – Linton to Cheveley – 16 miles

Perhaps it was the forecast of good weather that meant that the largest group so far turned out for Day 6 of the Chalk Walk for Home-Start Royston & South Cambs.  12 people and 2 dogs! Here we are at the start in Linton.  A combination of walkers who had completed some (or all) of the earlier parts – Bev, Den, Jean, Chris, Philippa, Linda and new to the Chalk Walk:  Hero and Elizabeth (friends of mine),  plus Linda’s friends Alan & Jean and her daughter-in-law-to-be, Alice.  Oh and dogs, Winne and Bruno.

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A chilly start, but by the time we had walked through Linton and picked up the Icknield Way path uphill out of the village, the sun had broken through and the sky was blue.  I think that this was the first time we had started out in weather like this and I felt ridiculously excited.  It couldn’t have been more different from the start a month ago when we had bravely walked out of Royston with snow falling around us.

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The path led us past a water tower – a landmark I can often see from where I live in Haslingfield.

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Pausing for a drink and snack.  What an obedient Bruno!

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We walked past Chilford Hall and on to Balsham,  mostly following green lanes, including a stretch of the Roman road that ran from Colchester to Godmanchester.  At Balsham, I remembered we had started a sponsored walk for Home-Start there a few years ago.  I don’t remember seeing this caravan then!

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On the triangular green, there was an Icknield Way milestone.  I had covered 63 miles from the start of the Icknield Way (where it joins The Ridgeway at Ivinghoe Beacon) and had 43 miles to go before I reached my final destination (at Peddars Way in Norfolk).  It felt good to be well over halfway and somehow seeing it in stone got me thinking about how much I was enjoying being part of a tradition of walkers who had followed this same path for hundreds of years, or nearby versions of it.  Of course the landscape has changed over time. Walking the Icknield Way is not a case of following a white line across a green ridge for 110 miles. We have walked on pavements through towns and villages, over motorways and mainline railways.  You can’t pretend to escape the signs of modern life for very long, but completing this route on foot is a reminder of how the old and new stand side by side.

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Continuing through the village, we passed Balsham Church, with its 13th century tower and 400 year old bell.

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We picked up the path that runs along the edge of the village and then on to Fox Lane, which is a wonderful green lane that runs for about 3 miles.

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When we reached Green End Farm, we said goodbye to Linda, Alice, Jean and Alan who set off in the direction of West Wratting where they were being picked up.  Big thanks to them for their support.

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The rest of us carried on, walking past Crick’s Farm.

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It wasn’t long before we reached Brinkley.

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And found a perfect lunch spot outside the local pub. We bought drinks and (with permission of course) ate our sandwiches outside in the warm sunshine.  (That isn’t our group in the photo by the way).

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Before we got too comfortable, we decided it was time to move on, somewhat reluctantly, and retraced our steps back through the village, picking up the Icknield Way once more opposite the village hall.   On to Burrough Green and past the 17th century school house that now houses the local Playgroup.

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The path continued to Dullingham Ley.  First sightings of bluebells in Marmer’s Wood.

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We were definitely in horse country now.

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The next village was Stetchworth which has its own community shop, but we pressed on, turning out of the village and back on to the Icknield Way. This was a lovely part of the walk and we paused for a drink and a snack, not wanting to linger too long in case we couldn’t get moving again!  Winnie was getting quite tired too,  but her young friend Bruno was still darting about as if he had just started out.  I reckon he must have travelled at least twice as far as the rest of us that day!

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The path led us to Devil’s Dyke or Devil’s Ditch.  Here is Winnie standing on it, clearly affected by the significance of what lies below her feet.  The guidebook says that this is one of five long dykes that lie at right angles with the Icknield Way. It dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, is believed to be the finest earthwork of its kind in the country and may have marked the edge of the Iceni territory.

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We continued on to Dane Bottom.

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And then to Woodditton Church (no more photos I am afraid). The path led us between paddock rails and hedges with horses all around….”Bruno!!”

By about 5pm we finally arrived in Cheveley,  where we had left some of the cars at the start of the day.  Tired, but very happy to have had such a wonderful day’s walking, in perfect weather.

As ever, many thanks for everyone for joining me on Day 6.

Only 2 more stretches to go!  I look forward to the next one on 7th May:

Cheveley to Icklingham – 14 miles (or part thereof)

If any readers would like to donate but haven’t got round to it yet, please visit: http://www.mydonate.bt.com and type “Juliet Greer” in the “Sponsor a Fundraiser” box.

Thank you!

Day 6 – Linton to Cheveley – 16 miles

DAY 5 – 5th March – Royston to Linton (18 miles)

18 miles was always going to be pretty challenging, but it looked like it might be even harder than I first thought when I saw the weather forecast. Wet and cold wintry showers predicted, all day.   So, reluctantly, I decided to leave my trusty canine friend Winnie at home and set off before 7am.

Jean and I met outside Linton Zoo and I left my car nearby, went with her to Great Chesterford, where we met Bev and Den, who drove us all on to Royston Sports Club, where we met Linda – a slightly complicated arrangement with cars, due to people doing different sections of the walk.

P1050771.jpgOnce we were all equipped for the day, we set off following the road eastbound through Royston.

P1050776.jpgI was later reminded by the guidebook that the (man-made) Royston Cave contains mediaeval carvings cut into the chalk.  I have never been to see it, but made a note to self to make sure I do.

The first few snowflakes…

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And a few more….

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Another reminder of why we were there…

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As we left Royston, we crossed the Greenwich Meridian and then left the road at the drive into Burloes Hall.

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At this point, I phoned Angela and Reg, who wanted to join us for a short stretch of the walk, as the path goes very close to their house.  I couldn’t believe that they were prepared to come out on a cold and wet early morning.  We walked along a path for a short distance and met them at a corner of a field. Angela was determined to show her support and Reg, perhaps less keen to come out, but ever loyal to Angela, was there waiting for us too!

Angela never fails to amaze me.  Her commitment to Home-Start is phenomenal and her determination to keep doing things, despite her ongoing health difficulties, is inspirational. For those of you who don’t know her, she was a Trustee and Treasurer for many years and continues to attend the majority of fundraising events.

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Fortunately the snow had stopped and so we set off again, with our new companions joining us for about a mile.  We then said our goodbyes and they went home, while the rest of us continued on our way.

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Towards Heydon. Despite the biting wind, I could hear a skylark.

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At Heydon, we said goodbye to Linda who had made an arrangement to be picked up there.

The church had an unusual brick tower, because the original one was bomb damaged during the war.

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We headed out of Heydon and back on to the path – crossing into Essex soon afterwards.  This took us to Broad Green and then on to Chrishall.  Too early for a pub stop, so we trudged on, but it was so cold and muddy at this point, it was really hard work.  The piercing wind seemed to blow straight through us and some of the fields were very muddy underfoot.   It was a relief to reach a more sheltered green lane – “Dark Lane” – bordering this wood.

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This led us to Elmdon, where we saw this lovely (now sadly closed) pub.

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And a reminder that there had been other pubs there in the past…

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We went into Elmdon Church and waited in the porch for Chris to join us, as arranged.  It was blissful to sit inside for a short while and we took the opportunity to put on some more layers, and have some drinks and snacks.

It was lovely to see Chris and we soon set off again, deciding to wait until we got to Strethall to eat our lunch.

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On to Firewood Farm where we saw a fabulous herd of Jersey cows.

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Walking along the edge of a wood at this point, there were some fantastic open views.  Some of the group spotted a deer in the wood and I saw a buzzard overhead.

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Our lunch spot was inside the porch of Strethall Church.  There was just enough room for us all to shelter there and it seemed quite cosy compared with the outside world.  Where are the pubs with their roaring fires when you need them?!

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We all felt a lot better after lunch, even though  I had forgotten my sandwiches… Fortunately I had a lot of snacks with me and received some much appreciated donations from everyone else.

We continued on our way, out of Strethall and back on the path across the fields.

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These two hedges apparently mark the line of the Roman road from Braughing to Great Chesterford.

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Views of the M11 and Great Chesterford beyond.

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We crossed over the motorway and into Great Chesterford.  I was sad to say goodbye to some of the group here (Bev, Den and Jean), but it had been a long and arduous day’s walking and I don’t blame them for stopping there.  I had been very grateful to them for their company. Chris and I continued through the village, under somewhat ominous  dark skies.

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We had arranged to meet Jane and Colin at the pub – the Crown and Thistle – and there they were waiting for us.  Chris and I nipped into the pub to go to the loo, but didn’t dare to stop long to warm up, in case we couldn’t get going again. While we were inside, there was a dramatic hail storm.   Thank goodness our new companions were suitably dressed…

 

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It was a real boost to have them with us for the final leg of the walk to Linton.  I was feeling quite tired and am not sure that I was very good company really, as I just wanted to put my head down and complete the last few miles as quickly as we could.  The weather improved though, and we had some spells of clear blue sky, which helped.

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Such sticky mud…

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A glimpse of our destination….

 

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Final descent.  Path or stream?

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We had made it.  It felt like an epic day’s walking, in really harsh conditions, but all the more rewarding to have got to the end.  Collapsing into my car, we headed back to the others’ at Great Chesterford and then Elmdon.  Thanks to everyone for their support.  It had felt like a real show of solidarity for HSRSC – with different people braving the adverse weather conditions for different stretches.  A particularly big thank you to Angela and Reg for being there.

For donations, please visit http://www.mydonate.bt.com and type “Juliet Greer” in the “Sponsor a Fundraiser” box.

I look forward to seeing some of you further down the Icknield Way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 5 – 5th March – Royston to Linton (18 miles)

Day 4 – 20th February – Ickleton to Royston – 16 miles

A slightly delayed fourth day of the Chalk Walk, as I had been unwell earlier in the month.  Friends Rachael and Jane had hoped to be with us, but sadly couldn’t make it because they had both picked up a virus too.

So a select group of enthusiasts braved the early morning start: Winnie and I met Bev, Den and Philippa in the car park of Royston Sports Centre at 7am.  We drove to Hitchin and picked up my wonderful friend Lucy, who had travelled up on the train from London to meet us.  She had got up at 4.45am!  Now that’s dedication.

We headed to the start, leaving my car at Ickleford.  Another grey day, but luckily no rain to begin with.

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Outside Ickelford Church.

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Over the mainline railway.

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Through the outskirts of Letchworth.

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Along the edge of the railway track…. lovely…..

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Past the wonderful Grade II listed, Arts & Crafts Spirella Company building – the highlight of our walk through Letchworth.   Corsets are no longer made here, but it has been restored to house offices and has manicured gardens.

 

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After a fairly unattractive walk through an industrial area, we left Letchworth, crossed over the A1(M) and headed into Baldock.

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We picked up Jean from the train station and after a brief loo stop at the splendid Art Deco building that is now a Tesco, we continued on our way, crossing the familiar A505 and heading off (at last) into countryside.

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This was a lovely stretch towards Wallington. I remembered walking along here once with my son, Louis, on a glorious summer’s day, with fully grown crops on either side.  Today’s wintry landscape was somewhat different, but the grassy track was still a pleasure to walk along and I was pleased to leave Baldock and Letchworth behind us (no offence to any readers from those towns!).

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In the village of Wallington we made a slight detour to take a look at a cottage that George Orwell had lived in.  Apparently he had kept the village sweet shop. No sweet shop to be found today….

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On to the hamlet of Redhill and then Roe Green.

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Arriving in Sandon, we stopped for lunch in the salubrious surroundings of the bus shelter.

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After lunch, we met the legendary Sandon goose, who stood territorially in this old phone box, hissing at any passers-by.

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Have there been generations of geese ruling this pleasant village?

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Bizarrely, the following week, Philippa emailed me to tell me that there had been a mysterious drive-by shooting in Sandon – someone had (allegedly) leaned out of a 4×4 vehicle and shot the famous goose dead.   Someone has put up a £250,000 reward in order to catch the culprits!

From Sandon, the weather started to deteriorate.  But the route to Therfield was very beautiful and we walked some of the way with a dog walker and her beagle, Bertie. Philippa told her all about Home-Start and later that day, I noticed that there was a donation on the Mydonate website from Bertie the Beagle.  I cannot thank Bertie’s owner, but was touched at her generosity (and impressed with Philippa’s powers of persuasion!).

We met up with Linda at the pub in Therfield.  Although it would have been lovely to take a break here (and there hadn’t been any pubs since Baldock), we decided to press on, for fear of never wanting to leave the warm and welcoming Fox & Duck.

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It was lovely to walk the last stretch with Linda and the time seemed to fly by, despite the murky weather.

Final descent to Royston – Therfield Heath.

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We all had a big cup of tea at the Royston Sports Club.  It tasted fantastic! The end of the longest stretch yet, but a lovely (if rather muddy) walk.

Winnie, still sleeping the following day…..

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Thanks to everyone who accompanied me on Day 4.

I hope to see some of you again next time.

For donations, please visit http://www.mydonate.bt.com and type “Juliet Greer” in the “Sponsor a Fundraiser” box.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Day 4 – 20th February – Ickleton to Royston – 16 miles

Day 3 – 5th December – Streatley to Ickleford

This was perhaps my favourite stretch of the Icknield Way so far, probably because it was the most rural, with uninterrupted stretches of chalk ridge and woods.

It was an early start – leaving the house at 7am in semi darkness, wishing I was still in bed. However, as Winnie and I set off down the A10 towards Royston, there was a breathtakingly beautiful sunrise and I felt excited to be continuing my Chalk Walk.  The sky was ablaze and Winnie stood upright on the armrest of the door the whole way to Royston, transfixed.

It was blowing a gale and as I drove into Hitchin, I realised that there was another noise coming from under the car.  I pulled over, only to find that the plastic cover underneath was catching on the road.  I couldn’t pull it off, so drove slowly for the last couple of miles to Ickleford.  I decided to leave it until the end of the day, so parked in the car park of the Old George pub and met the rest of my companions for the day and tried to forget about it. We then did the usual shuttle to the start of the day’s walk – to Streatley.

Today’s group consisted of Bev & Den, an old school friend of mine – Guy, Jean (who was supposed to be coming with another friend of mine – Hero – but sadly she couldn’t come due to an injury), brilliant supporters Tab and Faye again plus Faye’s mum, Lara. And, of course, our trusty hound, Winnie.

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We set off and were soon on the Icknield Way path,  with the wind behind us and lovely views ahead.

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Past George Wood and towards a hospice (Betty Robinson House), the path crossed the busy A6 and continued towards a golf course.  Then between Galley and Warden Hills, the countryside was open and rolling.P1050706.jpg

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The path went over the summit of Galley Hill – I later noticed from the guidebook that it was so-named because it had been the site of a gallows in the 15th century.   There have been a lot of archaeological discoveries in this area –  including barrows found to contain remains of people from 4000BC .  Apparently it was thought to have been a slaughter cemetery. Luton Museum houses a witchcraft deposit of a horse’s skull and a dice found here too.

Not long after this, we managed to take a wrong turn, undoubtedly due to talking too much. However we had to retrace our steps which meant walking back into the wind which was very hard work.

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The sound of the wind moaning in the wires of this giant pylon was quite eerie, but we soon got back on track.

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Not long after this, we waved Guy off down a different path, as he had left his car midway at the village of Pegsdon and was only free to walk with us in the morning.  It was great to have him with us for the first few hours and I am touched by the fact that he joined us when he has nothing to do with the Royston & South Cambs or Home-Start!

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At this point the path continued through a lovely wooded stretch, where we stopped for a break and (for some) an early lunch!

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With renewed energy, we continued on our way.

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Views to Deacon Hill and across the Bedfordshire countryside.

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Pause for a sit down and photo.

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When we reached the village of Pirton, we decided to stop for a drink and a warm-up at the Motte & Bailey.  A very friendly pub and it was a relief to come in from the wind for a while.  We ate the rest of our lunch outside, sheltering as best we could.

It wasn’t far from Pirton to our destination at Ickleford, and we braced ourselves for the last blowy stretch!

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As we approached Ickleford, I rang my car breakdown service and asked for someone to come and take a look at my car.   We said our goodbyes and the others shuttled back to the start to pick up the cars that we had left there earlier.  Den kindly waited with me in The Old George until the breakdown service arrived and Bev came back to pick him up.

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Within an hour, the mechanic arrived, but in the end he took Winnie and me home in the breakdown truck as he could neither secure the plastic cover underneath, nor remove it! Not the ideal way to end the day, but at least I got home safely.  And Winnie had a surprise ride in the cab of a truck.

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Home at last.

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I really enjoyed Day 3, despite the car-related hitch.  Many thanks to the group for your support and lovely company.

The next stretch is from Ickleford to Royston on February 6th – 16 miles.  Some people are just going to walk the second half – from Baldock to Royston, so please get in touch if you want to join me for all or part of it.

juliet.hsrsc@gmail.com

For donations, please visit http://www.mydonate.bt.com and type “Juliet Greer” in the “Sponsor a Fundraiser” box.  

Thanks very much to all those who have donated so far.  You have been very generous.

 

Day 3 – 5th December – Streatley to Ickleford

Day 2 – 8th November – Chalk Hill to Streatley

I know that I said I would walk whatever the weather, but that had to change when I saw the weather forecast for Saturday 7th November: rain all day and 40+mph gales in the afternoon. I was expecting to be joined by some friends who have an eight month old baby and thought she might be scarred for life if she had to endure a day of lashing rain and gale force winds. So we delayed it until the Sunday, although sadly that meant that Bev & Denis couldn’t join us.  Fortunately, they were able to do the same stretch on a different day.

So here is the group for the second day:  Rachael (again), Jane, Lara & Ross and their daughter Faye, plus Lara’s mum Judy.  (Beth, Andy & baby Molly were all struck down with a stomach bug, so had to pull out in the end, poor things).

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We started at the White Lion at Chalk Hill again, thankful that the wind had died down considerably.  Picking up the Icknield Way Path over the other side of the A5, we walked up the side of a field (catching sight of our first sewage works of the day).

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We continued along the edge of Blue Waters Woodland, which had been planted in the 1970s on the site of a former chalk quarry.  Apparently, when they stopped extracting chalk, a blue lake appeared in the base of the quarry, due to the suspended particles of chalk and clay in the water.

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Plodding over more fields and the Ouzel Brook, we crossed over the less picturesque, partly built A5/M1 link road.

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Some of us preferred to tunnel our way through to the other side.

Next we went through the village of Wingfield, but disappointingly no time to stop at the Plough, except for a brief conversation about Border Terriers with some people who had caught sight of Winnie on their way into the pub.

Across a couple more fields, we reached the village of Chalgrave, with thick layers of earth stuck under our boots, and paused to have a quick look at the lovely All Saints Church.

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Round the outside of the churchyard, we followed a bridleway that went over the River Flit,  where we stopped to eat our much-needed lunch.

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Trudging over all those ploughed fields had been hard work and we seemed to be feeling a bit tired and perhaps disappointed that we hadn’t completed more of the route.  Lunch helped lift the spirits and we carried on our way, with Jane showing us how to walk the Icknield Way ….

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We had the joy of passing by another sewage works, a huge electricity sub station, not to mention the crossing of the M1 to come!P1050684.jpg

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And the mainline railway line….

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Perhaps not the most beautiful stretch of the Icknield Way, but a reminder of how the landscape has changed.

When we reached Upper Sundon, we said goodbye to Ross, Judy and Faye (who had left a car there earlier) and they headed home to Haslingfield.

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So then there were 4.   The rest of the route was undoubtedly more scenic – shame for those who had departed – as the path headed over to Sundon Hills Country Park, apparently one of the highest points in Bedfordshire.  No more ploughed fields, but undulating green fields and great views.

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Further along this stretch, we paused to speak to a couple and a child who had set out on a walk and got lost.  The woman was looking very upset as she told us that she had a plane to catch from Luton Airport and they were quite a long way from their car.  We gave them a copy of our map to help them find their way back to their car, but I have a feeling that she missed her plane.

The ridge took us to the wooded spur of Sharpenhoe Clappers which is thought to be an Iron Age hill fort. The hilltop is covered with a wonderful beech wood and we decided to add an extra mile loop around the Clappers, which was well worth doing.  According to the guide book, a medieval clapper is a rabbit warren.

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The light was starting to fade, (or were the clouds just getting darker?) So we dragged Jane away from her swing and set off on the last stretch – going like the clappers (hoho) in order to reach the end before it got too dark. This took us along a grass track that heads across the top of the Smithcombe Valley.

By the time we reached Streatley it was certainly getting dark, hence the lack of photos of the end of the walk.  We piled into my car and went back to the start to pick up Lara’s, stopping for a quick drink at the White Lion before heading home.

Another lovely day’s walking and incredibly lucky that we didn’t get soaked, despite ominous skies.  Visiting places I didn’t know, but would like to go back to, particularly the last few miles. Great company and wonderful to have 3 generations of Lara’s family there. Thank you for your support – and to Rachael and Jane too.

Next stretch is Streatley to Ickleford (10 miles) on 5th December.

Remember, you can donate to this sponsored walk for Home-Start Royston & South Cambridgeshire by visiting http://www.mydonate.bt.com and search for Juliet Greer.

Many thanks.

Until the next exciting instalment…..

Juliet

 

 

 

Day 2 – 8th November – Chalk Hill to Streatley