Walk 31 – Denston
Walk by Roger Medley
A walk to Denston church and back by a different route
St Nicholas church at Denston has been described as ‘probably the most beautiful and interesting of the smaller churches in the county’. It is usually open and its chequered history is described in booklets available for purchase inside. ‘Denston Past and Present’ includes the following section.
‘An account of a visit to the church at the end of the Second World War describes it as being in a ‘dreadful state’, with evidence of rats everywhere, water pouring in at the roof into puddles on the floor and a smell of must, old leather, damp and rot pervading the whole building. By 1970 the church was in serious danger of partial collapse. There was a notice on the door saying ‘Beware of falling masonry’. The interior was so green with mould it looked as if it was covered with medieval wall paintings! The trouble stemmed from a misguided decision taken many years earlier to remove the lead from the roof – the idea had been to thwart thieves by re-covering the roof with roofing felt! ….A special Parish Meeting was called…..and it was decided to restore the church…..Almost £70,000 was raised by villagers, their friends and relatives and the rest of the money needed came from grants… The entire roof was repaired….While the roof was being repaired the pigeons made a dreadful mess of the inside of the church. Sunday services had to be switched to a side aisle and the embroidered kneelers left on their sides. The vicar Tom Wright appealed for a ‘reasonably house- trained hawk’, as hawks are known to keep pigeons away. But his call went unanswered. He then acquired a stuffed hawk, which he stuck on the pulpit to scare off the pigeons!’
If you wish to visit the site of such excitement this route will take you there and back in under three hours at leisurely pace. Most of the circuit is on field edge paths or minor roads with pavements. There is a seat outside the church that almost overlooks the village green. Please note that on one section of the return journey the path has been diverted and is not as shown on even the most recent copy of the Ordnance Survey Newmarket and Haverhill 210 Explorer map, but it is clearly waymarked.
Park in the car park of the Memorial Social Centre in the centre of Wickhambrook. Return to the entrance and turn right to find a footpath between the cemetery and the Women’s Institute Hall. This leads past the playground and skate park, round a dog leg to a sleeper bridge. Cross this and continue on the field edge path to the corner. Turn left and reach the road. Turn right, pass Coltsfoot Close and Brookfield, ignoring the footpath between the two, and climb the stile on the right immediately after Brookfield. Follow this short diagonal path across the meadow and the brook and out on to the road. Take the crossfield path almost opposite and climb the hill. Go through the hedge into the next field and follow the path as it takes a turn to the right heading for the right hand end of a hedge. There is a waymark here.
The path turns left and accompanies the hedge and ditch on the left. At the hedge end maintain direction by choosing the right hand path. This will take you to the far side of the field. Do not cross the sleeper bridge but turn right and accompany the ditch heading gently downhill towards the church. Go through a kissing gate and soon join a gravel track. Turn left and follow the track. Go through a second kissing gate to reach the road.
Cross and turn left on the pavement. Follow this gradually disappearing footway until you reach the A143. Cross this main road and obey the footpath sign to the right of the brick wall on the bridge. The first section of the path accompanies the brook but then meanders somewhat. Stay with the field edge until you reach a footbridge which you cross.
Continue with a hedge on your right. At the hedge end turn left and continue with the field edge. Turn right in the next corner and continue along the valley, passing and ignoring two footpath/waymark signs on the left, until reaching the far corner. If you can find the well hidden waymark it will guide you right. Follow the path uphill with a hedge on the left and take another right at the top. After 50 paces, go through a kissing gate on your left. If you need a break head towards the church where you will find, shortly after passing through another kissing gate, a seat beside the road. A few more paces to the left will take you to the green where you can appreciate this most attractive village. Having re-charged return through the kissing gate and bear left through a wide gap between the corner of a garden fence on the left and an attractive pond on the right. Looking ahead you should be able to see metal gates in the far corner and you need to head in this direction.
Go through the small gate and continue in the same direction along a headland with a hedge on the left. Stay with the headland for some way. Turn right in the first corner (another well hidden waymark) and in the next (a more obvious waymark with ‘Official path diversion’ added) and continue until you reach a hidden wooden bridge on the left (waymark). It is easy to overshoot at this point and continue down the hill. Cross the bridge and follow the field edge ahead first turning left and then right until you reach the road (A 143). The proliferation of waymarks is because this section of the path is a recent diversion. Cross the road, when safe to so do, and take the track to the right of ‘Millway’. Almost at the crest and before you reach the first bungalow turn right downhill with a hedge on your right.
The church should soon come into view. Follow the field edge round to the ford on Wash Lane. Turn left and at the main road turn right. Accompany this, the B1063 Newmarket road, back to the school crossing Cloak Lane on the way. Turn right beside the school, pass the tennis courts and veer left to return to the car park. The total distance is about 6 miles.
Roger Medley Last walked 9 August 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.