Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Friday, 3 December 2010

The Icknield Way - Baldock to Fowlmere

An 18 mile walk along the Icknield Way between Baldock and Fowlmere

Although not renowned for its hills, this part of Hertfordshire has some high ground which gives fantastic views out across Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire and the Icknield Way sticks to the higher ground all the way from Baldock to Royston. There are numerous pictureqsue villages and hamlets along the route with leafy green tracks and trails to make it a jolly fine days walk.

Baldock to Fowlmere Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
BaldockView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
FowlmereView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
18 miles
Walk difficulty
Some gentle hill climbing

Accommodation:

Apple Acre Camp siteView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Website
Description
Apple Acre Camp site, Fowlmere

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2009-06-20
Walk Time
09:30 to 16:00
Walkers
Griffmonster
Weather Conditions
Lots of thick clouds with sunny spells and warm

Walk Notes

I had managed to book ahead at a campsite I found on the OS map at Fowlmere. As the last couple of days had been 20 mile treks and the legs were starting to feel this I had hoped that this day would be a little more relaxing but Fowlmere was still a 18 mile hike. The last few miles from Royston to Fowlmere was along the main A505 which I do not recommend. This is a major east-west artery with a huge amount of traffic and no real path along the verge. On reflection it would have been far better to have walked the extra couple of miles down the Icknield Way then cut across using the country lanes.

The days walk on the whole was really pleasant. There was plenty of warm sunshine and the views through to Royston were quite spectacular - I had never thought of Herfordshire as having such high ground. I would hasten to add that on parts of this walk there was some ambiguity as to the correct route. There are numerous other paths and trails intersecting the Icknield Way and the waymarkers are not always easily located - an OS map is essential.

As I walked down the track named Park Lane, just beyond Sandon, the tranquility of the countryside was shattered by a very loud engine. At first, I considered this was just farm amchinery until an old single seater plane hurtled low above the lane. This had obviously just taken off and I tracked it as it manouvered across the sky. At the end of Park Lane the route turns back on itself up another track marked as Notley Lane on the OS map. At the start of the track is a house shielded by the thick hedgerow of the lane. As I walked past the plane came down to land in the gardens of the house. I could just see the pilot in his googles and headgear. A unique sight on any walk, and one I have never witnessed before or since. I would have taken photos but the hedgrow was too thick to gain a decent view.

At the end of the day I watched the sun go down at my camp and paid homage to the sungod with a 'ta, ra, boom de ay' and a couple of bottles of ale which an old friend and former workmate brought over to me on a visit from Stevenage.

Directions

The Icknield Way exits Baldock on Lime Kiln Lane - at the bottom of this road the path continues across the A505 Baldock bypass just before the road disappears into a tunnel. The path gently climbs the hill towards Clothall where it turns back on itself just before the village is reached. Further gentle climbs results in a walk along the top of the hills through to Wallington. From here the route meanders through the hamlets of Redhill, Row green, Sandon and Therfield before descending down into Royston. This part is not altogether clear and regular consultation of guide book and OS map is needed. At Royston there is a little road walking through the town before the path heads back into open countryside at the junction with the Royston bypass. As I pre-booked a pitch at an official campsite in Fowlmere, I had to head off-route a few miles north of the A505.

On the left, Sundon village and church, just one of the many quaint hamlets and villages on this section. On the right, Therfield Heath leading into Royston.On the left, Sundon village and church, just one of the many quaint hamlets and villages on this section. On the right, Therfield Heath leading into Royston.
On the left On the left, Sundon village and church, just one of the many quaint hamlets and villages on this section. On the right, Therfield Heath leading into Royston.; On the right On the left, Sundon village and church, just one of the many quaint hamlets and villages on this section. On the right, Therfield Heath leading into Royston.

Pubs

Fox and Duck, Therfield View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Fox and Duck, Therfield
Website

A locals pub that welcomes walkers and visitors. Ales are from Green King and all food is locally sourced with an extensive steak menu and even dog biscuits for the dog. Accommadation includes 3 en-suite rooms. The landlord, John Luce, used to be the bass player with Welsh entertainer Max Boyce.

Review

Very busy pub on account of it being Fathers Day. I elected for a pint of St Edmunds Ale, a seasonal Green King light coloured ale which had a hint of vanilla to its taste. Very pleasant experience supping the beer, sitting with weary legs up resting on the wooden benches that sat on the green in front of the pub and watching numerous cyclists passing through the village.

The Queens Head, Fowlmere View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Address
The Queens Head, Fowlmere

17th century timber-framed and plastered building with a thatched roof. Food served.

Review

Unfortunately when I popped in here the food had finished for the day (this was at 8pm). Standard Greene King ales were on offer and I opted for Abbott Ale.

Swan House, Fowlmere View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Address
Swan House, Fowlmere

This former pub is now an Indian Restaurant. Standard Indian fayre and drinks.

Review

Decent enough food with the standard Cobra beer.

Views across Cambridgeshire
Views across Cambridgeshire

Features

WallingtonView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Although not born in the village (featured as the main picture of this blog), Eric Blair, better known to the world as George Orwell, lived and was married in the church here. He kept the village sweet shop from 1936 until after the second world war.

Therfield Heath: View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Therfield Heath, also known as Royston Heath, is a common on the chalk escarpment just north of Therfield. The highest point on the heath is 551ft from where you can see for miles across the flat Cambridgeshire countryside. There are five Bronze Age barrows and a neolithic longbarrow, which was reused in anglo saxon times, as well as numerous other round barrows on the heath.

Royston: View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Royston stands on the crossroads to two ancient thoroughfares, the Roman Ermine Street and the prehistoric Icknield Way. There is a cross at the intersection of these routes, variously known as Royse's, Rohesia's or Roisia's Cross. The cross gave the settlement its earliest name of Crux Roesia or Roisia's Cross. By the 14th century this had become Roisia's Town, Roiston or Royston. A large boulder of red millstone grit, bearing a square socket, is supposed to be the base of the cross, and has been placed by the cross roads at the northern end of High Street.

Royston Cave: View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Royston Cave is a unique 14th Century man-made cavern in the shape of a beehive, with a small aperture at the top for ventilation. It was re-discovered in August 1742 by a workman digging a hole in the Butter Market in order to get decent footings for a new bench for the patrons and traders. Within the cave are an extensive range of christian wall carvings as well as pagan symbols. The builders and usage of the cave remain a mystery and speculation and theories range from the Knights Templar, Freemasons, a hermitage or prison through to a spiritual centre at the crossing of two significant lay-lines.

Buttercups in the meadow behind the houses at Row Green
Buttercups in the meadow behind the houses at Row Green

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2016-01-14

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