Walk 24 – Denham Castle Walk
Walk by Roger Medley
This is a walk of two halves which starts with much field edge walking and typical countryside views but rewards you later with a possible viewing of rare breeds (cattle and sheep), a skirting of Denham Castle mound and a return through one of the only deer farms in the area. The whole circuit is over six miles and takes about three hours at a leisurely pace. If you need more detail than is provided here take your copy of the faithful Ordnance Survey Explorer 210 Newmarket and Haverhill map.
Park at Denham church. Cross the drive which leads to Denham Hall and enter the large field and turn right. There is a waymark hidden around the corner to the left. This field edge path takes you beside a post and rail fence and along the edge of the moat.
At the far corner a fingerpost points left and you then follow the perimeter of this new field around three sides, keeping a ditch or hedge on your left at all times. Ignore a footpath going left in the next corner. Halfway down the far side you will skirt a pond and when you are almost back to the houses and church you will find a partially hidden wooden footbridge on your left. Go over this and cross a narrow field to reach a further hedge and footbridge.
The footpath continues to the left on the near side of the hedge (before you cross the bridge) but there is also a bridleway on the far side. This is used by farm vehicles and horses and at certain times of the year can be muddy. It is probably best to stick to the footpath. Continue with the hedge now on your right for some time crossing another wooden bridge and being reassured by a lone waymark.
At the end of this longish stretch you will notice mature trees ahead and the footpath veers left. You should turn right here, go through the hedge and join the bridleway and turn left. The right of way quickly becomes narrow and leads into thin vegetation. Follow the path through an open section them into more scrub. The way leads downhill steadily becoming more muddy.
Shortly after the soggiest section, and this may be the case even in the summer, you will leave the bridleway on another path leading right (waymark ). You are faced with level but very open views as you make use of a bank above the ditch on the right. Follow this and eventually cross from one side to the other (another waymark). Ignore a footpath and vehicle track option to the left and continue until the path forks at the corner of a wood. Take the right option and continue with the wood on the left.
Follow the field edge round a series of corners until a waymark diverts you left along a green vehicle track towards the houses of the scattered hamlet of Dunstall Green. Turn right at the road and at the junction at the end cross to enter a green lane bridleway with hedges on both sides. You soon lose the left hand hedge and when you lose the right veer slightly left across a strip of grass between fields. Go through a gap in the hedge into the right hand field and head diagonally across to the far right hand corner. Go through another gap using a timber bridge and then accompany the hedge and trees on the right.
On reaching a corner, with a wood just to the left, go through a new kissing gate on the right and turn right. In effect you are going back on yourself but along the other side of the hedge and only as far as the field corner. Turn left and keep the fence, and probably Soay sheep, on your right. A waymark encourages you to keep going in the same direction and it is here that the lumps and bumps of the castle grounds come into view.
The path continues between fences with an orchard on the left. You skirt the moat (usually dry) and mounds of Denham Castle. An interpretation board explains the history of the 12th Century Norman motte and bailey castle, constructed of earth and timber, and originally known as Desning castle.
The owners and English Heritage are hoping to begin a programme of restoration. On reaching a pedestrian gate veer left to accompany the orchard fence downhill. In the bottom corner you may be fortunate to find White Park cattle (cuddly ones with white faces and bodies but black noses, ears and eyes).
Do not enter this field but pass in front of the cottage to the next corner to find another gate and a narrow path with waymarks leading you to a tiny green. A few steps ahead you need to veer right down the grass track. There is a fingerpost at this point but it did not seem to point in the right direction.
Care is needed here because within 50 paces you will be faced by several tall gates (deer are natural jumpers) any of which may be closed. You need to take the gate on the right BEFORE you cross the stream. The gate may be closed but will not be padlocked. If you cross the stream and continue following that path you end up in Barrow which is not where you left the car. Follow this track with the stream now on your left climbing gradually uphill.
After a right hand bend meet a concrete track and turn left (another fingerpost). Follow this all the way back to the road (there is a waymark on a left hand bend so you do not carry straight on by mistake). Cross the road and enter a field and if you stick to the fence and gardens on the right you will find, after avoiding a marshy patch, the church car park.
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.