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

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Icknield Way - Sundon to Baldock

A 20 mile walk along the Icknield Way between Sundon and Baldock

The alignment of the Icknield Way is in keeping with its traditional heritage of following a ridge along the hills. There are plenty of good views of the surrounding area and the majority of this section is along broad tracks.

Sundon Country Park to Baldock Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Sundon Country ParkView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
BaldockView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
20 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy walking with some hill climbing but the slopes were all gentle

Accommodation:

Residential house Camp site View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Description
Fortunately my sister lives in the area so I had 5 star luxury accommodation!

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2009-06-19
Walk Time
06:00 to 15:00
Walkers
Griffmonster
Weather Conditions
Light rain till 9am followed by an overcast but warm day

Walk Notes

I was awoken early morning as the sheep in Sundon Country Park greeted the dawn with a chorus of noisey baa's. The day started with drizzle but not enough to warrant full waterproof gear. The walk through the park was very pleasing but with some great views across Bedfordshire. As I headed down to Streatley the rain became heavier and had to don my jacket until I found shelter in the bus stop opposite the church where I rested for 20 minutes.

The previous day I had little to eat as I was concentrating on getting the distance to Sundon completed. I was now feeling the effects of this hunger - a general lethargy. I had got through my pasty and mars bar supply but really needed something more substantial. By the time I got to Pirton I was really flagging and spent half an hour resting in a bus shelter opposite the pub hoping it would open early. Eventually I pushed on and found a village shop where I stocked up on all manner of junk food. This included a packet of 'love hearts' which I bought for their sugar content. I have never had such an instant hit as when eating these - from being weary and flagging I was instantly back with it and ready for more miles. A real sugar hit - I recommend these for future use!

I knew that this days walk would end with a lot of road walking through town which I was not looking forward to. The distance through Letchworth and Baldock lived up to expectations and was without doubt the worse part of the walk. The official Icknield Way guide book even states that a bus or train can be caught to avoid this section of industrial estate and road walking but I was determined to walk the entire distance. I did chance upon the sight of a red squirrel in some parkland which was a pleasing.

I reached Baldock at 3pm and had a couple of hours to kill before my sister picked me up for the nights accommodation at her house.

Directions

Follow the Icknield Way waymarkers through Sundon Country Park and down into Streetley. The path goes through the churchyard and heads south out of the village to the northern edge of Luton. Here it turns to the east and heads up Galley Hill and into Hertfordshire following broad tracks through to Pirton then on to Ickleford. From here it heads across to Letchworth and Baldock where there is a lot of road walking through the towns with no alternative route.

On the left, St Margarets Church, Streatley whose graveyards holds the remains of the rackmaster general, Thomas Norton. On the right, Gerry's Hole, a conservation area originally created from the building of the railway.On the left, St Margarets Church, Streatley whose graveyards holds the remains of the rackmaster general, Thomas Norton. On the right, Gerry's Hole, a conservation area originally created from the building of the railway.
On the left On the left, St Margarets Church, Streatley whose graveyards holds the remains of the rackmaster general, Thomas Norton. On the right, Gerry's Hole, a conservation area originally created from the building of the railway.; On the right On the left, St Margarets Church, Streatley whose graveyards holds the remains of the rackmaster general, Thomas Norton. On the right, Gerry's Hole, a conservation area originally created from the building of the railway.

Pubs

The Old George, Ickleford View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Address
The Old George, Ickleford

The inn dates from the 17th Century, but the site formerly housed Gilbertine monks in the 12th Century whilst they built the church. Dick Turpin is reputed to have hidden in the chimney of the large inglenook fireplace! A friendly and traditional establishment that does bar meals. It is a Greene King house with the usual IPA and Abbott on offer.

Review

I kept to the IPA as there was more walking to do! I dont mind the odd pint of IPA but I find this beer lacks character as a session beer. Does go well with cheese and onion crisps though!

The White Hart, Baldock View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Address
The White Hart, Baldock

A Green King town pub.

Review

It appeared that most of the pubs in Baldock were owned by Greene King so there was little choice. The place was busy on account of an international Rugby Union fixture which was being screened live. I caught the end of the game whilst supping on a pint of ale that Greene King had brewed for the rugby called Dallaglio's Heroes - a fruity pale coloured ale. The game was South Africa vs British Lions and when I arrived the Lions were making a spirited comeback from being 26-7 down. Despite thier efforts and the cheering and encouragement from the pub locals they lost the match 26-21

The Victoria, Baldock View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Address
The Victoria, Baldock

A town pub set behind Whitehorse Street with a very much horse racing theme to the main bar. Guest ales.

Review

The locals all appeared to be transfixed to the TV screen at the end of the room showing live racing. They did have a selection of Deuchars IPA and St Austell Tribute ales. I opted for a satisfying pint of St Austell Tribute which was most rewarding.

The path up to Galley Hill
The path up to Galley Hill

Features

Streatley Churchyard View in OS Map | View in Google Map

The churchyard of St Margarets church in Streatly is the final resting place of one Thomas Norton, otherwise known as the Rackmaster General. Born in London in 1532, he became an English lawyer, politician and writer of verse. As the years went on he became a Calvinist fanatic and petitioned for the post of rackmaster, seeking permission to have a rack in his private house, where he could pursue his avocations in the leisure and comfort of domestic surroundings. The rack stretched the body apart, until the joints were dislocated and then separated from the rest of the body. His punishment of the Catholics led to him being nicknamed Rackmaster General and Rackmaster Norton. He once boasted that he would drag Arthur Bryant, the Jesuit, a good foot longer than God had made him.

Theedway View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Crossing the A6 on the northern edge of Luton, the Icknield Way follows a track up Warden Hill. In Saxon times this track was part of a path known as Theodweg which was used as a trade route. The Romans established the route as Theedway and used it as a salt route from the midlands to the south. Theedway ran from the Hertfordshire boundary between Galley and Warden Hills, across Bedfordshire and down to the upper reaches of the Thames.

Drays Ditches View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Running east to west from the base of Warden Hill are Drays Ditches. These started as a Bronze Age boundary earthwork separating neighbouring tribal groups. Later, in the Iron Age, they were built up to control traffic along the Icknield Way.

Galley Hill Barrows View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Galley Hill has two Bronze Age burial mounds, otherwise known as barrows, on it. In the middle ages, one barrow was used as the site of a gibbet and lots of people including so-called witches were hanged there. The place has been linked with witchcraft and magic over the years. At one time, the place was also used to bury local witches who were hanged during the persecution of the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 1960's, while they were digging in the burial mounds, a deer's skull was found. A dice had been placed on it with the six face up; this makes it look as if magic and rituals were used at the site in the past.

Telegraph Hill View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Established in the early 19th century by George Roebuck, a line of telegraph stations was constructed to provide an optical link between great Yarmouth and the Admiralty in London. As the shutter telegraph was a line of sight communication a clear view from one station to the other was crucial, and had to be no more than 12 miles apart. The system was finally dismantled in 1814 when there was no longer a threat from Napoleons, his navy having been destroyed at Trafalgar.

Toot Hill, Pirton View in OS Map | View in Google Map

A large artificial mound behind the church of St Mary is known as Toot Hill. This was the site of a 12th century earthwork motte and baileys fortress surrounded by a moat. Legend has it that a woman was entering the castle one night across the drawbridge when it was suddenly raised and she was thrown into the moat and drowned. Since then her ghost is said to haunt the area. Another legend states that the church was to be built on the mound but each night the devil would move the foundation stones and so it had to be constructed in front of the mound.

Gerry's Hole View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Gerry’s Hole is a pond formed when the Hitchin to Bedford railway from was built. In 1983 it became a voluntary conservation project led by a local landowner. Its name is taken from a navvy called Gerry who worked on the railway and was drowned in the pond after a night in a local pub. Today Gerry’s Hole is one of the most important toad, frog and newt spawning areas in north Hertfordshire.

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: ... 2016-01-16

  2 comments:

  1. That is a surprisingly enjoyable day's walk, despite the urban sections. True, it is hardly classic walking terrain, but the variety can be interesting.

    As for seeing a red squirrel - lucky guy! I have never seen one whilst out and about walking.

    When did you do this walk? I assume that it wasn't this weekend, or the camping must have been bloomin' cold...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I did this last summer. I always like to plan a week long walk around the summer solstice and this was my 2009 summer solstice walk. I will be adding the rest of it in the next few weeks. I was a little hesitant about the Icknield Way as it is not a true National Trail but now, having walked it, I would recommend it to everybody.
    As for the cold - the last two days were in a heatwave and I must thank those dogwalkers I met along the end sections who gave me additional water.

    ReplyDelete

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