The track, or tracks, were known as the Icknield Way, possibly deriving their name from the Iceni tribe. Today there is a walking route, a bridleway for horse-riders and also a cycle track along much of the route, all with many alternative routes and diversions. I started out from Letchworth this morning, furiously pedalling on the trail of those ancient footsteps. I was soon in the village of Ickleford, which gets its name from the fact that the Icknield Way fords a small stream at that point.
I laboured on in drizzly, grey conditions along wide grassy tracks lined with wild dog-rose. The old farm-workers used to say when they saw the dog-rose in bloom "That'll be six week till harvest, boy". But this year it started flowering in the middle of May so the calculation has gone wildly astray. A bit more uphill cycling brought me to the foot of Deacon Hill.
I padlocked the trusty machine to a gate and walked up the hill. The views from the top are surprisingly extensive considering its modest elevation. With perfect timing the sun began to break through the clouds as I arrived at the top. As I sat taking in the panorama two Red Kites flew into view, slowly circling and causing a great commotion among the Rooks feeding on the pastureland below.
Belted Galloways were being used to graze the grassland. These animals are said to be the ideal cattle to keep the grass short and encourage the growth of wild flowers. I cast my inexpert eye over the flora and got quite excited when I thought I'd discovered a rare gentian though I now realise it was just a stunted Clustered Bellflower. It looked good even so.
I rode back by a different route through fields and woodlands, mostly on farm tracks and minor roads.