Walk 16 – hit the heights of Hartest
Walk by Roger Medley
Hartest is one of these ‘ideal’ villages with a church, mansion, pub and cottages all huddled round a green and a brook. This five mile circuit goes from the village centre to Boxted then back offering impressive views over the valley and surrounding countryside. The whole distance will take between 2.5 and 3 hours to complete. At most times of the year surfaces underfoot are reasonable but it is best to choose a wind free day. The map needed is Ordnance Survey Explorer 211 (Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket).
Park at the village hall opposite the green. Take the road to Melford and pass the school. Soon after, on the opposite side and next to a 30 mph sign, there is a fingerpost pointing between houses. Follow this path between wooden fences across the brook and turn right along the field edge. On reaching a vehicle track turn right across a bridge and immediately left (waymarks) so that the river is now on your left. Follow this field edge path. In the first true corner bear left to accompany a wooden fence on the right (if you reach the road you have overshot by 100 metres) and continue ahead to eventually arrive at Boxted. At the road turn left, keeping a wary eye open for vehicles as there is only a short section of pavement. Shortly, at Street Farm, you will find another fingerpost indicating a path to the left. Take this through a yard, up a hill beside a small wood and drop down again. Turn right at the next footpath junction (at the bottom of a dip and before you cross the brook). You are now walking gently uphill on a path with a hedge and ditch on the left. At the sleeper bridge you bear left over a culvert then right so that a hedge and (recently cleared) ditch is now on your right. Continue to follow waymarks through another gap so that the hedge reappears on the left. Follow this path into the next field and continue along the edge of the arable area. After a short distance a crossfield path will appear on the right. This is the official right of way and will take you uphill through growing crops to a gap in the hedge near cottages and then the road. Turn left at the road and go downhill past some attractively named cottages. Elizel’s Cottage takes some beating.
(If at this stage you are tiring take the next footpath on the left, pass through a gap in the hedge and turn right. This path stays with the hedge on the right and drops quite steeply in places. At the bottom take the path to the right, across a footbridge and emerge by the church. Turn left to return to the car park)
At Lark Rise, on the right, obey a fingerpost, and pass through a narrow gap beside a five bar gate to join a path between arable fields. This open stretch affords wonderful views of the village over your left shoulder. Go through a hedge archway and continue ahead to the right of a young plantation. You will be joined by a track from a farm on the right but continue ahead. Shortly you turn left at the junction to follow a concrete road downhill. You now have more choices. If at the next track junction you continue ahead to eventually join a road going left to the village centre * (pick up the instructions at the next asterisk) your total will be less than 4 miles. If you turn right along another sheltered track you will add another 1.5 miles. For the latter follow the track past a lone house soon reaching open skies and another field edge path. This path goes alongside what appears to be an overgrown and sunken green lane for a while then swings gently left but keeping to the right of the hedge to reach a hard surface track stretching both left and right. Take the left option and stay with this solid surface as it curves left (past a lonely chalet style house) and right, until you reach the road. Turn left. There is now a short section of downhill road walking but there should be little traffic and you will know when a vehicle is approaching. When you reach the young Hartest Wood on the right (opposite Cooks Farm) enter and take the path to the bottom left corner passing a statue – ‘The Gift’ – and two wooden seats. Follow the path overlooking the lane (Pask’s Path) back to the village, dropping to join the road just before a junction.* On reaching Green View go left into the estate, stay with the road to the end and then take the footpath ahead down some steps. This short detour avoids a hazardous section of the Lawshall road. When the steps finish turn left and then right across the bridge and find the village green. The village hall will now be seen ahead.
The Hartest Stone to be found at the top of the green is worth a look. It is rumoured to have been dug out from a field at Somerton and moved to the current site on a sledge pulled by 45 horses. This was done to celebrate the victories of the Duke of Marlborough in the war of the Spanish Succession. The stone has been used as a ‘table for drink’ during village celebrations since the 18th century. A similar ‘glacial erratic’ stone, but much smaller, can be found outside the Plumbers Arms. The row of cottages between ‘the Forge’ and the bridge, now no longer obvious, was called ‘the Duddery’, which indicates a place where clothes were sold. The origin of Hartest Fair (now held every year on August Bank Holiday) was a national thanksgiving, held on 23 April 1789, for the recovery of King George 111 from ‘an afflictive malady’ (madness). On that day the inhabitants ‘to evince their loyalty congregated at the stone to drink and make merry and from this very circumstance originated the wake or fair’. In later years it became the occasion for local rivalries to be settled between boys of surrounding villages.
First walked 29.11.2007
Re-walked 16 March 2014
If these notes are confusing or inaccurate or the information is wrong, please let me know. If they are helpful, or if you have any other comments, likewise.
The Wickhambrook W.I. Walking Group meets every Wednesday morning at 10am starting from the MSC car park for walks in the village or slightly further afield. We walk for about two hours and cover about five miles, depending on how much chatting is taking place. There are usually six of us, although we have had a dozen occasionally, dogs are welcome too.