I set off from Bar Hill and walked towards the village of Lolworth. The sun was shining and the harvest was being gathered in. There was not much in Lolworth to delay my progress (not much in Lolworth at all, to be honest) so I continued on to Boxworth, or "Boxer" as the old farmhands used to call it.
Cottages in Boxworth
As you near Boxworth it's clear that there are more trees than are present in most Cambridgeshire villages nowadays. In the late 60's Dutch Elm Disease began to kill off all the elm trees right across Britain, changing the landscape for ever. Within a decade 20 million elm trees had succumbed. I'd grown up living next to a small strip of woodland which was nearly all elm, I'd climbed them and felt their rough bark and coarse foliage. All across England the elms died.
Everywhere except Boxworth that is! Somehow the trees here have survived. It could be that they have some magical resistance to the fungus which causes the problem, or maybe they do not attract the beetle which spreads the fungus. The nature writer Richard Mabey believes we should be replanting with elms derived from these resistant trees. Whether that could ever happen I don't know, but it was certainly good to be re-united with this long-lost friend once again and feel the roughness of the leaves between my fingers.
In Overhall Grove
From Boxworth I walked on to the village of Knapwell and another interesting piece of woodland, Overhall Grove, which is managed by the Wildlife Trust is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its structural maturity and large oxlip population. The elms here were badly affected by elm disease but are making a comeback. There are however some fairly impressive oak and ash trees.
The wood covers the site of a medieval manor house and the remains of the associated moat can be seen amongst the trees. The moat also contains a well-established badger sett. The red berries of 'Lords-and-ladies' shone brightly from the shady undergrowth.
Lords-and-ladies or Cuckoo Pint
A narrow lane led to Knapwell church.
A wooden cross in the graveyard
I wandered through the village then turned down a grassy track to walk through to Childerley. Childerley is not a village at all; there were two small villages here in the past, called Great and Little Childerley but the houses were cleared to make way for a deer park and gardens around the Hall in the reign of Charles I. During the last century the estate has been managed as a large farm employing the most modern farming practices.
The site of Great Childerley village
So what we see today is a curious amalgam of agri-business and well-preserved reminders of its past history. Huge fields are worked by modern machinery, but small paddocks around the farm retain the original medieval ridge-and-furrow markings.
|The heart of the modern farm|
|The old cart-shed|
Childerley is only a few miles from the farm where I worked and we used to cart straw from there each year, it's also the site of the field known as Stargoose, so the blog felt quite at home too.
From Childerley it was across the fields.....
Thatched cottages in Dry Drayton
....to Dry Drayton. It's been suggested that its odd name derives from the fact that the original inhabitants may have occupied this site chiefly during the winter months when the fens were flooded. There is certainly a village on the fen edge known as Fen Drayton which seems to support this idea. From there it was just a short stroll back to Bar Hill to catch the bus back to town.