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.
Once we were all equipped for the day, we set off following the road eastbound through Royston.
I 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…
And a few more….
Another reminder of why we were there…
As we left Royston, we crossed the Greenwich Meridian and then left the road at the drive into Burloes Hall.
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.
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.
Towards Heydon. Despite the biting wind, I could hear a skylark.
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.
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.
This led us to Elmdon, where we saw this lovely (now sadly closed) pub.
And a reminder that there had been other pubs there in the past…
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.
On to Firewood Farm where we saw a fabulous herd of Jersey cows.
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.
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?!
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.
These two hedges apparently mark the line of the Roman road from Braughing to Great Chesterford.
Views of the M11 and Great Chesterford beyond.
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.
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…
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.
Such sticky mud…
A glimpse of our destination….
Final descent. Path or stream?
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.