Walk 18 – Stoke-by-Clare
Walk by Roger Medley
This 5 mile circular route takes you along both sides of the Stour valley making use of footpaths and quiet country roads. There is a leaflet for an ‘official’ Stoke-by-Clare circular walk but should you choose to follow that you should know that the south most loop (in the grounds of Stoke College) has been shut off. This walk follows part of the ‘official’ route.
The village is not blessed with obvious parking places so it is best to head for the area around the Village Hall. Go down the road opposite the ‘Lion’ public house and within 25 yards you will find a secretive turning on the left.
Take the path that runs between the tennis courts and the garden fences until you have the opportunity to turn left on a grassy patch. Swerve between houses and veer left in front of the school to reach the road. Cross this and walk beside the village green and at the far side, beside Meridian House, you will spot a finger post. You are now on the ‘official’ circular walk.
You accompany the hedge up the left side of a large field. It is a steady climb but frequent about turns will confirm progress. Ignore the opportunity to take the path on the left and continue until you reach a small wood with a fragile seat in front. You may wish to tentatively perch here to look down on the village and on a clear day spot the remains of Clare Castle.
Continue to the left of the trees until reaching a cross track. Turn left. At the road turn right and follow this round to the left at a series of junctions. Here you leave the published circular walk. Continue for some way along the road as it climbs to 85 metres with good views over the hills.
Across the valley you will glimpse Baythorne House, in whose grounds you will be in 45 minutes. At the next junction turn left and start a steady descent. Halfway down you will join the Stour Valley Way and you stay with that long distance route all the way back to the car. This quiet road eventually reaches the hurly-burly of the A1092.
Veer right and carefully cross the bridge and the road to turn left through the imposing gates of Baythorne Park. The main drive veers right but the footpath continues straight ahead. A stile and waymark keep you on course. Cross the parkland aiming for a gate and stile to the right of the lakes.
Climb the stile and head for a path through a copse. You then cross a stretch of headland before walking alongside and then through another small wood. Beware of rabbit excavations on this stretch. Cross a meadow, join the river and go through the gate beside the perfumed mill pond.
The houses of Stoke-by-Clare and Stoke College can be seen at times on the left. Reach the road and turn left to find you way back to the village hall.
If you have time to visit the church seize the opportunity. The church of St John the Baptist has one of the smallest pulpits in the land, measuring just 20 inches across, a well preserved doom on the east wall, partly hidden by the organ, and a tower clock, which still works, but only has one hand. You can also read about the ‘miser of Ashen’.
The Elwes family purchased what is now Stoke College in the 17th Century. John Meggor Elwes, the miser, is reputed to have made incredible economies to save money. He repaired his windows with brown paper, saved fuel in the winter by sitting in the greenhouse, employed only one servant to deal with the whole estate and when travelling avoided turnpikes and public houses. He died at the age of 75 worth £300,000 which he was convinced he could take with him. I don’t think he succeeded.
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.