Just 2 walks to go to hit our target of completing 52 different local-ish circular walks. We didn’t make much progress in late July or August owing to holidays – a big European rail trip and our usual summer family visit to Ireland. We did notch up a couple of walks in County Antrim, and then our penultimate local walk project outing when we got back… almost there!
Antrim Forest Walks (17, 18 Aug)
Two short walks in forest park areas of south County Antrim – in both cases, following the forest trails. 2.6 miles in Tardree Forest and 3 miles in Randallstown Forest.
The first was at Tardree Forest, a short distance from Antrim. A cool summer’s afternoon with a bit of light rain around. The first half of the walk is on soft forest paths that climb fairly sharply up through the pine trees from the car park, with small diversions required in a couple of places blocked by tree-falls. At the top of the walk, there is a great view northwards to where the volcanic plug of Slemish Mountain rises out of the lush, rolling landscape. The walk turns around the hill and drops back to the car park largely on broad, gravelled tracks. A good spot for a short walk.
The following day, we headed down to Randallstown Forest. Unlike Tardree, this wasn’t a walk that we’d done before. We parked up beside the World of Owls attraction and walked on into the forest, on what turned out to be a very well-maintained trail through a mix of pine and deciduous forest. At one point the path skirts the deer park of the adjacent Shane’s Castle and we could, indeed, see deer grazing nearby. At the furthest point a not particularly-well signposted gate accesses a track down to the shore of Lough Neagh. The largest freshwater lake in the British Isles was doing a good impression of the sea today, with a fresh breeze whipping up waves and the far shore not quite visible over the horizon. A good walk that, given the excellent state of the paths, would work well in wetter weather meaning that – as regular visitors to this part of the world – we will no doubt be back!
Stretchworth – Wooditon (26 Aug)
4.2 miles. Leave Stretchworth walking east on Icknield Way. Join path to Wooditon. Cross-country to pick up Stour Valley Path back to Stretchworth.
Back to our local walking project on our return to Cambridge – and we’re now really close to hitting our target of 52 different local-ish circular walks. This was walk 51. Once more following a tip from the Great Shelford website, we headed into the horse country south of Newmarket, to the village of Stretchworth. On a lovely, warm, late summer morning, we initially followed the Icknield Way trail out of the village into an undulating landscape that has been baked brown over the last two months of heatwave and drought. There was some evidence of the previous day’s long-awaited rainfall, with the otherwise bone-dry, rock-hard ground having softened slightly in a few places.
The walk as written up on the Shelford website is pretty easy to follow apart from the point, after skirting the village of Wooditon, where the way-marking failed and we wandered around a field for a while looking for the correct exit. The route was also a bit shorter than the advertised 5 miles. Early on, it crosses the Devil’s Dyke, the Anglo-Saxon earthwork that we’ve also encountered on walks from Reach and Burwell. Horse paddocks are a recurring feature and, after picking up the Stour Valley path, we crossed a training track for racing horses, complete with rails. There wasn’t too much else to report, but no complaints about an easy walk though pretty countryside on a lovely day. Maybe we should have figured out a way to add another mile or two in order to really earn our pub lunch. With the local pub appearing closed, we stopped off at the Six Bells in Fulbourn on our way home.