As you travel by rail from my home village towards Baldock there's a line of low, bare chalky hills on your left hand side. If you were to take a bicycle and pedal laboriously to the top of those hills you'd find yourself in an intricate landscape of small villages, even smaller hamlets (that are usually called "ends" or "greens" in this part of the country) and isolated farms. All of these are connected by a confusing network of quiet roads, lanes and bridleways just waiting to be explored.
We're now just out of Baldock, following a bridleway leading steadily uphill and already we're among flowery meadows.
Those of you with long memories may recall that I once wrote about the writer George Orwell getting off the train at Baldock and walking to Wallington, where he'd rented an old cottage. This is the road he would have travelled. Did he tramp along feeling he'd never get there? Or did he relish the clean air and the sense of isolation?
As I arrived in the village the trees formed a triumphal arch over the road and, bless them, they'd strung up flags around the village hall! No, it was probably more to do with the recent royal wedding than my unannounced arrival.
Just outside Wallington there's a view out across the wide fields of the chalk edge. I pedalled on, through Redhill and then to Rushden and Southern Green, for the very good reason that I'd never been there before, despite having passed nearby on numerous occasions.
Like many secluded, out-of-the-way places, the once tumbledown cottages have been snapped up by wealthy buyers and turned into impossibly pretty rural retreats. Without this influx these places would be more or less deserted as modern farming employs so few people.
The road became a lane, the lane became a track, and the track became a bridleway leading through a small wood. In case anyone's concerned, yes you are allowed to cycle on bridleways in this country as long as you are considerate towards horse-riders.
I was glad to see the farm as I needed to get on to its approach road to make my way down towards Blagrove Common.
Blagrove is not as extensive as perhaps the photo makes it look and it appears to just be a rather unkempt grassy field. To discover its charms you need to get down to ground level...
Orchids. The common is a small area that has never been ploughed or indeed properly drained and the natural vegetation still flourishes. There are Early Marsh Orchids, Southern Marsh Orchids and Common Spotted Orchids here and plenty of hybrids too. Added to that is the fact that both pale and darker forms exist, so sorting them out is a job for experts.
I was happy to have a brief look at them, verify that they did indeed look different and leave it at that.
My route then followed almost forgotten sunken lanes with just occasional glimpses out between the hedgerows. Buzzards patrolled above the tree-tops, I think they were looking to raid any unattended birds' nests. The Rooks thought so anyway and soon saw the bigger bird off.
This gorgeous little Tortoiseshell butterfly posed for a few brief moments atop the thistle, just long enough for one photo. Meadow Browns were also abundant but were even less co-operative, flitting incessantly between flowers as if spoilt for choice.
Near Therfield I was surprised to see this Pyramidal Orchid blooming. They should be here on these chalk hills but this was the first I'd noticed.
And so to the last leg of my journey, the rough track leading mostly downhill towards the town of Royston, with far-reaching views across the flat countryside of Cambridgeshire.