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!

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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