29 January 2006: Knettishall Heath to the King’s Forest, 11 miles
My first walk since my knee’s contretemps with the train when returning from Wales in October, hence the short and easy tenish miles. We chose the alternative, southerly route by the Duke’s Ride rather than the variant along the Rushford Road, because (a) no cars (b) we’d just driven along the road (c) it’s shorter. No brainer really.
Euston is a pretty little village, worth an early stop, and the long empty stretch past West Farm down Euston Drove is quintessential quiet Suffolk. We stopped for a brew in the King’s Forest (don’t do this in a dry summer folks!), hoping the King wouldn’t mind, before the short hop to the George V monument which commemorates the forest’s replanting. Beautiful blue sky, chilly NE wind, just about perfect.
25 March 2006: Oldcross Grounds to Gazeley, 13 miles
Although the footpath route passes the King George V Memorial, it then combines with the St Edmund Way towards West Stow Country Park, a route we had walked the year before. Instead, we decided to take the variant by Duke’s Ride and Seven Tree Road. It’s probably a finer route in any case, as there are far fewer trees, some original breckland at Berner’s Heath (beside a strange, ruined free standing wall), and very pleasant views across the Lark Valley from the rabbit warrens of Deadman’s Grave.
Icklingham has a sugar beet factory, but beyond the village Cavenham Heath offers access land and bird watching. We lunched in Tuddenham, at the White Hart, a no-frills locals’ pub. Walk quality deteriorates after Herringswell over what one must call the A14 gap, not helped by a final one mile slightly uphill road-bound plod. Another beautiful sunny day for walking.
6 May 2006: Gazeley to Brinkley, 14 miles
Once more, a very nice start, with mixed woodland before the squirearchical remnant of Dalham Hall and church. Another slightly uphill road-bound plod, into Ashley, didn’t bode well, but it’s a pretty village with a pond and some rather too well-kept cottages. No pictures, alas; Ashley has a shop but no gold AA batteries, so no replacements till Cheveley. Around here you can’t move for horse stud farms – Dalham Hall is one – feeding in to the bloodstock sales at Tattersall’s in Newmarket, one of the world’s principal racehorse markets.
We chose to deviate from the path to the pretty-looking Three Blackbirds in Ditton Green, and though Dave raved about his fish I don’t look much beyond the beer, which was decidedly sharp. From around the path junction there are super views over the Fens, to and beyond Ely. Back on the path after lunch, you soon cross the ancient earthwork of the Devil’s Ditch (or Dyke), which we spent a little while exploring. At the time of this visit, the authorities had banned one from walking along the top of the Devil’s Ditch, in case of tripping over roots! Locals and careful walkers ignored this daft prohibition. At the ditch, the Icknield Way Path picks up, for a mile or two, the Stour Valley Path through Stetchworth. It’s a bit dull around Burrough Green, other than the cricketers on the green itself, and we finished the day off with a wrong turning at 636551, adding an unecessary mile to our finish point opposite the hall at Brinkley. Weathermen had forecast rain, but there were only a few light showers.
11 November 2006: Brinkley to Great Chesterford, 14 miles
The influence of horseracing Newmarket pretty much comes to an end at Brinkley. It’s agricultural emptiness all the way to Balsham, a village we had passed through before, on the Harcamlow Way. No chance for a long stay this time, with nightfall always an issue in November. The stretch on from here is interesting, with a short stretch of Roman road before the climb to the 1930s water tower on Risey Hill, vineyards visible to the west, and a pretty little descent into Linton.
Linton is a small town that thinks it’s a village. It had three good pubs to choose from; we chose the Crown, a clever choice as puddings came free with main meals! There are good buildings on the high street, and a zoo on the southern outskirts. From Linton, the going under foot changes as chalk predominates once more. Essentially this stretch traverses a high tableland, with good and distant views over the Cam valley, none more so than after Burtonwood Farm is passed. The OS map shows the IWP descending to Great Chesterford by the road, but walkers are signposted along a fine path, with the destination village (and half-way point on the IWP) in clear view ahead. The day started brightly, but cloud increased after lunch, and we were mostly walking in to a brisk south-westerly.
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Route shown is route walked rather than the IWP itself