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Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Sunday Walk

Map of the WalkToday we did one of our favourite walks. One that anyone who stays with us for any length of time will inevitably be treated to. It’s quite well known in the area, and popular too in the summer when the woods are full of wild flowers, and deer and birds are easily spotted. Now of course it’s the soggy fag-end of the year, but we like it at all seasons, and enjoy the spare winter landscape as much as summer’s pomp.

It is simply known locally as “The Three Churches”.

The picturesque villages of Moulton, Gazeley and Dalham have just about everything you could wish for on a country walk. There are three churches (of course) three pubs, woodland, river, chalk upland, very little road walking, and fine views over rolling Suffolk countryside. We like to begin at Moulton

(Click on the map for a larger version).
The Packhorse Bridge
Moulton is a village with a large green and a pleasant open character. It is noted for its 15th century Pack Horse Bridge on the old Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds packhorse route. Its low parapet walls enabled the packs to swing clear and avoided the need for a wider, more expensive structure. It can still be used to cross the River Kennett, although the adjacent ford has been concreted over and the water now flows through a culvert underneath. ‘Elf & Safety I suppose.

Our route starts at the Kings Head, next to the Packhorse Bridge, from where we turn right along the path or road (you have a choice on either side of the River Kennett) to reach St Peter’s Church. You can tell it is a St Peter’s, as the weathervane is in the form of a large golden fish (St Peter was a fisherman, y’ see).

Saint Peter's Moulton
Our walk takes us past the church following the river, crossing a small road and on across fields to Dalham, where we find the next church – but not before dropping in to the next pub, the welcoming Affleck Arms. Back in February 2002 we called in here on a Sunday walk. Princess Margaret had died the day before, and as a celebrated smoker and drinker throughout most of her life, her passing was honoured with a “Princess Margaret Special” – a discount large G&T accompanied by a free Benson & Hedges cigarette. We drank to her memory and enjoyed the free smoke. Some people tutted, but I don’t think she would have minded.

Dalham is one of those chocolate box villages, packed with thatched cottages, a fine stately home (Dalham Hall, once owned by Cecil Rhodes) and as peaceful a spot as you could wish for. It wasn’t always so. According to an article in the Times newspaper in the late 1880's it was "full of roughnecks and drunks" and it was “possibly the worst village in the country”. Such was the level of drunkenness and violence that in addition to teaching the scriptures, the vicar used to give the children of the village boxing lessons, “which, he believed, was essential to their survival!”

Old Malt Kiln in Dalham
Dalham Hall

Cottages in Dalham
Cottages in Dalham - The Malt Kiln - Dalham Hall
Turn left from the pub and pass the curious conical building (which is an old malt kiln). Through the little iron kissing gate on the right and then uphill to the hall between the Horse Chestnuts that form one side of the splendid double avenue that frames the house. Next to the Hall is St Mary’s church. It’s worth looking up to the top of the tower, where in flint flushwork are these words “Keep my Sabbaths, Deo Trin Unum Sacrum, Reverence My Sanctuary, 1525”. Sound advice to the brawling denizens of Dalham.

Waymark post with multiple direction signsTurn right and walk along the road, ignoring the right turn signed “To the Main Road”, up the slight hill and take the signed footpath left through a wood, on along a field edge and then left into Blocksey Wood where the path continues through Bluebutton Wood and on to Gazeley, and the last of our three churches, All Saints, and, incidentally the Chequers pub. On the way you may see some waymarks with a stone axe symbol. These represent the “Icknield Way” long distance path which forms part of our route here. It's a very popular part of many routes - as this waymark post shows!

Snowdrops in budAs we walked through the woods, evidence of approaching Spring was there to see in the catkins on the hazel coppices, and the first snowdrops peeking through.

Through the churchyard a path leads between stud farms with some wonderful (and fabulously expensive) horses in the paddocks to a minor road where we turn left to descend back to Moulton, diving through a hedge for a diagonal path across fields and down steeply through trees to emerge into the churchyard at St Peter’s once again. Although not very high, we are high on the tops in East Anglian terms  when we reach the road. On a clear winter’s day from here and the upper part of the field path it is possible to see Ely Cathedral, a full 15 miles away.

So there you have it. If you’re down this way, give it a spin. You’ll visit three very pretty villages and have 6.5 miles of pleasant walking - with three pubs and less than 100 metres of gentle ascent. Perfick!

Catkins on hazel tree
Catkins - Spring is on the way!



Anonymous Old Thumper said...

Be honest, Phil, this is really the Three Pubs walk, isn't it? I think they were more likely to have your custom than the churches ;-)

January 31, 2011 at 4:01 PM  
Blogger Alan Sloman said...

Phil: You did not mention the inevitable mud kicking contest walking down the last hill towards St Peter's in the winter months...

A fine route description, nonetheless! Green King IPA available in each pub too, I seem to recall?

January 31, 2011 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Old Thumper - must be a Hampshire man. Maybe you're right, but in my defence I have been inside each and every one of the churches. OK, not as often as the pubs ...

Indeed Mr S, we are deep in Greene King country, and since I bought Miss W some shares in that fine brewery, supping its product almost meets with approval.

Mud??? OK, maybe a little.

January 31, 2011 at 7:52 PM  
Blogger Alison Hobbs said...

This post gave me a large dose of wistful nostalgia. England, my England! It's not like that here in Ontario. Any snowdrops that might be growing are hidden under a dump of snow and we shan't see anything like catkins for weeks and weeks yet. Nice to know they're out in the old country, though.

February 1, 2011 at 5:14 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

You may miss our harbingers of spring, Ali, but some of our friends can't wait to dash over to Ottawa to enjoy your snow at this time of year!

February 1, 2011 at 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely! I'm envious.

Fantastic pictures, BTW! New camera, oh techno-guru?

February 8, 2011 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

Aha, so you noticed that I managed to get the last two pictures in focus! No, not a new camera, just slightly less inept than usual :-)

February 8, 2011 at 3:00 PM  

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