Saturday, 20 August 2011

"Friends Re-united", or "A Blog Goes Home".

You know how it is when you meet an old friend? One you haven't seen for many years and thought you'd never see again?  Well, today I met such a friend again, after many years apart. Rumours of her demise were obviously premature.

Lolworth Church

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.

Old friends!

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 moat

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 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.

Take care.


  1. I'm really enjoying going on these walks with you. How interesting that just a pocket of elms have survived. I was really glad to hear that. It feels like so much of our nature is under threat from one thing or another.

  2. What a nice little tour John - I don't know Cambridgeshire at all, so I really enjoyed it. I lived in the midlands at the time of Dutch Elm Disease = we lost three elms in our garden at the time and whole avenues of elms were felled - it was awful. I did hear Richard mabey talking about these surviving elms and I believe there is already a nursey somewhere with seedling from them which should be ready to plant out in a few years.

  3. What a lovely and interesting tour. I do enjoy seeing your part of the world! I was so glad when I read that your childhood elms are still there! I do hope they will replant with seedlings from those elms.

  4. Wow, what a hike you had! I love especially the shot of the footpath through the grove of trees and the wooden structure of the old carriage house... thanks, I enjoyed the walk!

  5. Thanks for your comments. Since writing the post I've been busy Googling and found an article about the re-introduction of elms. I'll put a link at the end of tomorrow's post.

  6. Beautiful countryside, John. I was taken by the roof braces in the cart shed; both functional and graceful. And it appears that they're held with wooden pegs. Jim

  7. A delightful walk John - what a pity about the elms dying out - I love the foilage of the elms sort of dappled - it would be lovely if they could be re-introduced into the area.


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