Hay-on-Wye to Ipswich 2016 -Week 4 blog by Jane Benyon
We inevitably leave Cambridge a bit late having said our goodbyes. It is pouring with rain when we leave so are in no huge hurry to arrive in time. As the forecast predicted, by the time we set off at 9.30 am the rain had stopped and a watery sun has appeared. A comparatively easy walk all morning means we catch up our lost time. As we trudge across a number or vast ploughed fields, we remember doing the same 4 years ago when walking from York to Canterbury at the same time of year. At the time we had just walked through Lincolnshire where the combine harvesters were out in full force because a late harvest. We arrived in Cambridgeshire just as they were ploughing. We were told, at the time, that farmers have a three week window before they have to reinstate their footpaths and we had hit that moment. The difference then from now was that it was pouring with rain. The fields had been ploughed in the old way, creating deep furrows and there was no alternative but to set off across them with the Cambridge clay clinging to our boots.. The difference now is that the machines now only lightly turn the top soil which makes walking across it comparatively easy. We arrive in Bourne by 1.15 and have lunch in an extremely good restaurant called the Willow Tree. We all choose excellent gourmet starters only and are amused by the fact that our lunch bill comes to exactly the same whether we have had a dreary predictable pub lunch or a gourmet meal like today. We set off much refreshed and complete our walk at Hardwick in good time.
Today we meet up with John who is walking with us today. His wife has kindly brought him and is returning to pick him up at the end of the day where we finish. This is a big relief as we were not relishing having to negotiate back through Cambridge on a Friday evening to return him to his car. It is a glorious sunny day and the only drawback is that for the first two hours we walk with the sun in our eyes, but that is not much to complain about! We are on a well warn route into Cambridge, so we make good time and arrive in the centre earlier than anticipated and lunch in a recently opened restaurant who are happy to have Moses. More friends arrive to walk with us for the afternoon so we are quite an odd sight all 6 of us with our high viz. jackets, walking boots and sticks, at least 2 of us over 80, plus the dog trudging the streets of Cambridge, negotiating around tourists! We are even more of a liability when we hit the cycle tracks, with cyclist coming up behind us and finding it difficult to pass due to this rabble all over the track and deep in conversation. Suddenly coming towards us are hundreds of secondary school children and we can't think why as it is only 2.30. We ask them what they are doing and they tell us the whole school is on a 14 mile sponsored walk for their school. They apparently do it every year and hope to raise £10,000. Last year they bought a mini bus with the money. What a brilliant idea, if each kid was sponsored for only £10 in a large comprehensive , which I imagine have over 1000 pupils, that is good money comparatively easily raised. They were obviously having a good time and they were nearly finished and still laughing. Our end point is Fulbourn and some of us our finding walking on pavements hard on the feet. We pop back for tea with our son who is just down the road before heading off to a farm near Newmarket for the night.
Fred mucked us around again today and poor John got another frantic call from me and eventually things were sorted again and we set off towards Fleam Dyke. These Dykes in Cambridgeshire are amazing. The famous one, the Devils Dyke, near Newmarket we had walked on our York to Canterbury trip. This one is slightly shorter at 5KGs but just as impressive although less walked so the going was harder. Apparently they were built by the Saxons in the 5th Century and then enlarged in the 7th Century. Their aim was to keep the Romans, coming from the West, out of East Anglia but keeping open their own access to western trade. One wonders how successful they were, but the Romans did finally leave England around that time. I could not help imaging the thousands of men who must have lived and died building these Dykes. We stop for a quick lunch in West Wratting, an interesting name, and are soon on our way, keen to make up time lost at the start of today's walk. This afternoon the scenery subtly changes as we cross the border in to Suffolk. Although still arable, there are many more wooded areas and the contours are slightly more rounded. It is October 1st and evidence of the first day of the pheasant shooting season is heard from a number of these woods. We arrive at Little Thurlow, our end point for today by 4.30 so we have caught up the time well.
Our host from last night, Mike, joined us today with a young friend Juliet, who works with youth clubs, arranging walking trips in the UK and abroad, so a good walker. Also their 3 year old black Labrador whose company Moses enjoys. Even by the end of a long day they had the energy to play chasing games. Nothing particularly remarkable about our walk from Little Thurlow to Glemsford. We again traversed across a number of huge ploughed fields, none having had their footpaths re-instated yet, but the Suffolk footpaths signs were excellent. We did go through one over grown wood and Tom came out the other side with cuts all over his arms and legs! We met up with Juliet's husband for lunch. Unfortunately the pub we chose was very busy, being a Sunday and the whole meal took half an hour longer than expected, so we did not finish our until nearly 5.30. Luckily we were staying with my niece Amanda and family, so we were able to relax and I was able to disappear to bed very early as I was very tired. I think chatting to people on the walk can be tiring.
Today is another glorious day with the perfect temperature for walking. We meet with a very good old friend called Francis, who has taken the day off from her successful interior decorating business to be with us. We walk through some lovely countryside and Francis is able to point out some lovely houses that she knows well, many of whom are owned by clients of hers. It is remarkable the number of large properties there are in this part of the world, as well as a number of beautiful stately homes. So many of these Suffolk houses are painted a creamy yellow with their red tile roofs it makes a very attractive combination. We stop to visit the beautiful wool church of Long Melford. Stunning inside and still with the exquisite harvest festival decorations from the day before. Obviously there is a supportive church congregation, highly motivated and involved. I was amused when the lady running the church shop explained that they had a comparatively new young vicar who had made a number of changes which she and her friends had resisted at the time, but now admitted that they had made a great difference to church attendance. We are very much in shooting country and the place is crawling with pheasant and partridge which means that Moses has to be kept on the lead much of the time. We finish a lovely day outside Groton Wood, where we make friends with a beautiful 17 hh horse that reminds us of a horse we breed once that ended up winning a silver medal in the Sydney Olympics with U.S. Team. We return Francis to her car and go back for the night with Amanda. I am feeling in much better form tonight!
This finally is our last day, but the worst thing is it is our longest day of walking, 14.47 miles! We make a huge effort to start on time and set off from Groton Wood bang on 9 am and Fred is behaving himself. No walkers today so we can concentrate on the task in hand and walk rather silently for 4 hours before lunch in Hintlesham. Here is the first time we actually see a signpost saying Ipswich which is encouraging. I reflect back on when we started on 7th September which seems a lifetime away. The countryside has subtley changed over the month. The harvest is long gone and most of the stubble fields have been ploughed and re-sown. The blackberries, just starting in Hay on Wye are now nearly over and the tree canopy is just beginning to change colour. We have been much blessed by wonderful weather throughout our walks and only got really wet once in the first week. Most days we were in shirt sleeves all day. We have stayed with lots of lovely, very generous people and made new friends. We arrive on the outskirts of Ipswich by 3.30 and spend a rather dreary 1.5 hrs trudging the streets of Ipswich, not the most exciting of towns. The final 1/2 mile was up a very steep hill to Christchurch Park, which nearly floored us. A kind ZANE donor was there to meet us with a cheque so we were glad we had not wimped at the bottom of the hill!
WE DID IT AND THANK YOU FOR READING!!
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