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.
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.
The path led us past a water tower – a landmark I can often see from where I live in Haslingfield.
Pausing for a drink and snack. What an obedient Bruno!
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!
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.
Continuing through the village, we passed Balsham Church, with its 13th century tower and 400 year old bell.
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.
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.
The rest of us carried on, walking past Crick’s Farm.
It wasn’t long before we reached Brinkley.
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).
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.
The path continued to Dullingham Ley. First sightings of bluebells in Marmer’s Wood.
We were definitely in horse country now.
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!
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.
We continued on to Dane Bottom.
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)
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