Walk 30 – Cheveley and Ashley
Walk by Roger Medley
This 7.5 mile circuit makes use of well maintained paths around some of the Newmarket studs and a section of the Icknield Way, supposedly the oldest road in Britain. The latter was already ancient when the Romans came and extends from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to Knettishall Heath in Norfolk along the chalk ‘spine’ of England. There are several changes to footpaths shown on the Explorer 210 Newmarket and Haverhill Ordnance Survey Explorer map published in 1999 and even the revised edition of 2006.
Park in the recreation ground in Cheveley. This can be found on the right behind a brick wall on the road that runs from the B1063 south to Saxon Street and Kirtling. There is an equivalent park in Ashley but the last time we tried to gain entry (early April) there was a padlocked bar across the entrance. Having put on your footwear and collected your rucksack leave the park and turn right up Cheveley ‘high street’. Cross a road signposted to Stetchworth and pass the school. Shortly after, and before you reach the church, you will find an ‘Icknield Way’ sign pointing left. Take this straight path which leads between hedges and horse paddocks into Ashley. On reaching the road turn right and leave the Icknield Way. Use the pavement to go past ‘The Old Plough’ and across Silverley Way and you will be taken into the recreation field. Walk parallel to the road up to the next corner where you will find a convenient gap through which you must pass. Continue in the same direction (right) to find a path protected from the road by a bank and a stop/start hedge. Follow this path gently downhill turning right in the first corner and left in the next. This is very pleasant walking along a regularly trimmed and clearly marked stud track. Eventually you will come to another road (private drive to a stud actually) where you turn right for a short distance then take the footpath to the left. There are no waymarks at this point but it is just before a stunted brick wall and you pass between wooden barriers. It is clearly a footpath with paddocks on the left and a ditch on the right which continues gently downhill. After using a pedestrian bridge and handrail join another road, an official road this time, and turn right. Pass gate 38 on the right. Find the next footpath on the left which takes you down a private drive, signed Banstead Manor Stud. Go through a pedestrian gate (‘Please keep to the path and keep your dog on a lead’ sign) and follow the drive to find and go through a second gate in front of the red brick ‘Keepers Cottage’. Continue over a wide stretch of grass, cross one of the stud roads and veer half left to continue to the right of a hedge. The headstone to Gohara Elta’g should be to your left. There are waymarks on this section. You should now be walking between the hedge on the left and paddocks on the right. Cross another stud road and continue (waymarks). Eventually you will come to a pedestrian gate and bridge across a ditch (more waymarks). Turn right on the drive and enter the garden. Once through the entrance the footpath veers left and skirts the grounds. On reaching the far corner of the tennis court and a pond you have to make a decision. You can continue ahead keeping a belt of trees to your right and two rusting tractors to your left or
*if you are due for a break take the path on the left which runs behind a hedge (waymarks) and then through a gap in the hedge. After a short distance this leads into an open area of a farm. Follow the drive round to the right in front of the buildings and continue. After 70 paces find a gap in the hedge on the left (this is waymarked but is easily missed if you are discussing matters of state) which leads you to the hamlet of Upend. Why bother? Two reasons. The first is that on the left in a sheltered patch of violets is a bench where you can eat your sandwich. The second is that this is hamlet of thatched cottages which you would probably never find otherwise. You have now been walking for about 90 minutes and will have covered almost 4 miles. Having rested you must retrace your steps (easier in this direction) to the pond and tennis court*.
Walk beside the trees into a second field (Kirtling Church and Towers can be seen to the left) and accompany the meandering hedge into a third. The path crosses the field to lead you to a gap in the hedge. Go through this and turn left. Follow a hard surface track which soon becomes grass between hedges. Stay with the edge of the paddock making two half rights until the hedge and path swap sides. The hedge is now on the right. You will soon reach the road near the ‘Saxon Street’ sign. The ‘Reindeer’ is 10 minutes away (turn left and then right at the main road) and this pub/restaurant (01638 730989) is open lunch times between noon and 2.30pm, but not Monday. Go straight across and through a small side gate (‘Warning horses bite. Do not touch’ sign) beside the main gate. Follow the track ahead. You will be directed by waymarks on a fence post through the hedge but still staying with the track. At the end, beside stables (Baldwin Boxes), go through a gate and rejoin the Icknield Way. Turn right and walk between hedges into Cheveley. The Red Lion (01638 730233) is 100 yards to the right. Turn left to find your way back to the car park. The church of St Mary and the Holy Host of Heaven is usually open and celebrates its 750th anniversary this year. The organ was installed in 1897 and is still regularly used for services. The angular tower is worth a glance.
I was walking back from Upend when I spotted a movement in the grass ahead. I froze and a stoat came bounding along the footpath. It dropped down a ditch and reappeared on the bank at the far side. There was a second movement close behind. Maybe a pair? No. It was a large rabbit which then proceeded to chase the stoat from its territory. A somewhat chastened stoat was last seen disappearing into the distance. Was it a youngster? It looked to be fully grown. Perhaps it had yet to read the script.
Roger Medley Last walked 9 April 2010
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.