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.
We set off and were soon on the Icknield Way path, with the wind behind us and lovely views ahead.
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.
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.
The sound of the wind moaning in the wires of this giant pylon was quite eerie, but we soon got back on track.
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!
At this point the path continued through a lovely wooded stretch, where we stopped for a break and (for some) an early lunch!
With renewed energy, we continued on our way.
Views to Deacon Hill and across the Bedfordshire countryside.
Pause for a sit down and photo.
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!
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.
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.
Home at last.
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.
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.