We’ve now chalked up a year of our weekly walking project. We haven’t quite maintained the weekly pace the whole way through, as this month saw our 35th local walk (we’ve also recorded a handful of non-local ones). As life becomes more normal in this phase of the pandemic, there’s more to interrupt our regular walk slot. Thankfully, that’s included being able to travel, particularly to see family – we missed walking earlier this month partly because Joy was doing just that. Still, we’re building up a nice list (which can be seen here) and got back to it later in the month.
19 Nov – Horseheath to West Wickam
Walk 4 in Cambridgeshire Circular Walks. 5.2 miles. From Horeseheath, a circular loop to West Wickham.
Back to the undulating, flinty landscape of the Cambs / Suffolk / Essex border, where we walked at Linton back in April. We started a few miles up the road in the village of Horseheath, and indeed the water tower at Rivey Hill that we passed back in April was visible in the distance for much of this walk. Leaving Horseheath by a path opposite its (locked) church, we climbed a gentle slope and walked along field edges alive with pheasant. For a short period we joined the route of the same Roman road we’d walked both on the Linton walk and at Wandlebury in January. Then we tracked down and back uphill to West Wickham, stopping for coffee outside its flint-clad church (which was unlocked, so we had a peek inside).
Having made an arc to the east of the 2 villages on the way out, we did the same to the west on the way back. It was a dull day, but enlivened by Autumn colours, and this is a very pleasant country walk. The Cambridgeshire Walks book was a good guide, as ever, although in this case slightly out-dated in a couple of places – for example, on the approach to West Wickham it invites you to look for a non-existent gap in the hedge; the hedge to one side must have been removed. Unusually for this book, it also slightly underestimates the length of the walk. Still, at around 5 miles, it’s not too taxing – even (perhaps especially) with the slight detour at the end to the Old Red Lion pub, where we thoroughly approved of the service, beer, and food.
26 Nov – Stilton (yes, the cheese place)
Walk 14 in Cambridgeshire Circular Walks. 5.75 miles. A loop to the west of Stilton village, taking in Folksworth on the return.
The famous cheese doesn’t actually come from here – it’s made in Leicestershire, Derbyshire, or Nottinghamshire. But it is named for this Cambridgeshire village because it was sold here, presumably to travellers passing through on the Great North Road. That road now by-passes Stilton as a four-lane motorway, and the place has the slightly blighted air of any largely-ignored former staging post perched beside a major highway.
Still, the countryside on the other side of the village makes for a good walk. As you climb the low hill beyond the church, the motorway hum reduces and you get a good view back onto the edge of the Fens, with the landscape flatlining away towards the east. The generally well-waymarked route heads off into the gently rolling landscape to the west, crossing tidy farmland, finding quiet rural lanes, a couple of hamlets and a small wood. It passes by the abandoned medieval village of Washingley, although all that is visible there now is a rotting information board and some lumps and bumps in the field.
We started and finished in bright but cold conditions. A biting wind meant hats, gloves, and layers were required for the first time this autumn. Halfway round, large black clouds threatened, but we got away with a mere skelter of rain. We weren’t bothered when the weather worsened considerably once we were cosily ensconced in The Bell, Stilton’s former coaching inn with its impressive, massive inn sign. The sandwiches were good too.