Walk 20 – Kirtling Shorter Walk
Walk by Roger Medley
Kirtling is an attractive village on the Suffolk/Cambridge border about 5 miles from Wickhambrook. This walk of some 3 miles can be undertaken any time of the year but there is one stretch along a vehicle track that can become puddled in the shooting season after heavy rain. The route, shown on OS Explorer map 210 Newmarket & Haverhill, follows the edge of Lucy Wood and then skirts the grounds of Kirtling Towers. The grounds are particularly rewarding when the daffodils are in bloom.
Park in the car park in front of Kirtling village hall where there is plenty of space and even a bench where you can put your boots on in comfort. Cross the road and turn left and after forty paces turn right by the first fingerpost. Go through a small copse and a kissing gate into a paddock. Kirtling Towers can be seen on the right at the end of an avenue of mature trees. Head half left, there should at least be a vague track to follow, around an electricity pole to another kissing gate in a post and rail fence. Pass through this and continue ahead, under power lines, aiming for another kissing gate in the corner of the wood (romantic lot in Kirtling). There may be ponies in these two paddocks but they are unlikely to show much interest in humans they do not recognise.
Join a fenced path which at first remains outside Lucy Wood then goes just inside for a short distance. On reaching open fields turn right to accompany the perimeter of the wood. Keep left of a section of scrub on a corner (there was a superb display of Marsh Orchids on 13.6.2016) but then return to the wood on the right and stay with it. The headland slopes gently downhill. You will eventually reach another corner with a hedge coming in from the left. Just to the right you will find a wooden bridge. Cross this and turn right. You will soon reach a junction of tracks where you veer slightly right to stay with a ditch and the wood to your right. In the next corner (there is a bridge and a kissing gate which you ignore) turn left but not along the vehicle track. A few paces further on there is a bridleway which takes you to the road. Cross the road to join the pavement leading uphill to the left. Pass an entrance to Kirtling Towers and the church of Our Lady and St Phillip on the right and continue until the pavement ends. Turn right (there is a fingerpost and a sign for the Church) down a drive to a house and the parish church. Go through the church gate (waymark), admire the lampposts and sit on a bench while considering the next move. The route continues to the left of the church tower but if you wish to pop into the grounds of Kirtling Towers follow the path in front of the church entrance, go through a kissing gate and follow the manicured lawn as far as you are allowed (indicated by a sign and seat). This gives good views of the moat and fountain. Return to the fork in the path just before the church tower. Veer left through the gravestones to find another kissing gate at the end of a separate section of churchyard wall, very much hidden by the lower branches of a large chestnut tree. Go through the gate and follow the direction shown by the waymark. Cross an open meadow, which sometimes holds sheep, heading for the leftmost point of a mature hedge with trees on the right. Pass a gate with a ‘Private’ sign nearby and a water trough and then go through a kissing gate on to a mown track. This gate is where the trees on the right end and a hawthorn hedge begins. Follow the path around a minor pond and at the next junction turn left to take an uphill path between hedges. (If you continue ahead you will be entering the private grounds of the Hall but there was no warning sign when last walked). You soon lose the hedge on the left but continue uphill until you meet the farm drive. Cross this using the gates either side and enter a paddock. On the far side you will notice a building and you should head towards it. On reaching the trees you will find wooden steps leading down to the road. Cross with care and turn left quickly passing the village sign and war memorial. Stay with the road until you have crossed a bridge. Take the footpath to the right, go round the metal gate and follow a mown grass track through trees. After a swerve to the right and at the start of a swerve to the left you will find a narrow V-shaped bridge to the left. Cross this and turn right to follow the field edge until you reach another bridge, a wider version, on the right. This leads up a sunken lane and back to the car park.
Kirtling Church is usually open and is well worth a visit. Inside you will find a fine set of eight hatchments (a hatchment is painted diamond shaped canvas on a black wooden frame which denotes the death of a person and their rank, sex and marital status. They were fashionable for two hundred years after the Restoration), angel roof bosses (with one alarming interloper through the inner arch and a companion gargoyle outside), monuments to the North family (the first owners of Kirtling Towers) and a brief history of the village (the population was decimated by the Black Death and victims were buried in a part of the churchyard that will never be used again).
This outing will amount to one and a half hours of walking or two hours with a picnic on the bench in the churchyard. All you need is suitable weather.
Originally walked 14th October 2008.
Updated on 13th June 2016.
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.