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.
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.
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.
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.
Continuing on our way, we crossed over the road to Barrow’s Corner.
We hurried past a pig farm due to the very strong smell…
The rest of the walk was largely through arable fields and woodland. We didn’t see a soul for several miles.
Strange snail clusters on fence posts…
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.
Never too far from some pigs in this part of the world…. “Pigs in there?” (ref Robert Wyatt).
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!
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.
Walking around the outside of the estate, the sandy path continued on to Dukes Ride, alongside fields of potatoes and woodland.
It was becoming very hot and Winnie was flagging a bit, despite plenty of water stops. Lucy decided to carry her for a while.
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).
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.
A perfect way to complete the walk, sitting on Knettishall Heath in the sunshine, eating a cream tea.
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.
Today I know there is nothing beyond the farthest of far ridges except a signpost to unknown places.
(Edward Thomas, The Icknield Way)