Sunday, 10 January 2016

Boots Required.

It's been wet for the last few weeks but on Friday I felt I needed to get out for a good long walk. It's going to be muddy; paths may be flooded; it might not be very pretty. Are you coming or what?

Let's start from Barley. It's an attractive village with some interesting old buildings but we're looking for a little path near the church which will take us southwards towards Shaftenhoe End. As I expected there's plenty of mud around and I slithered and squelched my way across a meadow; two steps forward, a slide to the side and half a step back!

I idly found myself wondering if anyone's ever thought they were going on honeymoon to Bali, only to find themselves, too late, in Barley! No, that would be too cruel. Mind you, the Fox and Hounds does a very tasty Sausage and Mash.

The path I was following delivered me safely into the churchyard at Little Chishill. The church was firmly locked, as it usually seems to be, so I contented myself with a look around the outside. Villages are a bit confusing around here; not only is there a Great and Little Chishill, but there's also a Chrishall, as well as a big house called Chiswick Hall, in the area. 

From the church I had to take to the roads for a while, though there was hardly any traffic and it was so quiet that I could easily hear any approaching cars. Is it just me or is that a particularly beautifully-shaped tree?

And that is certainly a lovely little pond. So far the weather has been chilly but otherwise fine for walking.

Gypsy Lane Farm turned out to be rather less attractive than its name suggests. But then I was off the road and sloshing across muddy fields. I was reminded of Old Bert's comment many years ago when we were working together on the farm: during a spell of  very wet weather, we heard on the radio that on the mountains of Scotland it was likely to fall as snow, "Arrr", said Bert, "round 'ere it just falls as mud!"

In the distance I spotted a herd of deer. These would be wild (more accurately "introduced, escaped from captivity and now feral") Fallow Deer, their coats darker than their parkland cousins. They seem to thrive in this open country. 

Deciding to wear my waterproof "farmyard boots" this morning was one of my better decisions. In places the paths have become temporary watercourses and when a few horses and motorbikes have passed that way...

It's no good you sitting there smugly, reading this with your coffee and biscuits; we're in this together, you know!

Again at Langley, just like at Little Chishill, the path ran directly to a gate at the back of the churchyard. This is not mere coincidence; many of our English footpaths came into being through people from outlying farms making their way to the nearest church every Sunday. The church at Langley is like a child's drawing; just the basic components very simply arranged with no decoration or elaboration. It would be nice to see inside one day, but it's another one that always seems to be locked tight.

Right next to the church, exactly where it's supposed to be is an old farmhouse with half-timbered walls and a sturdy chimney-stack.

A little further along stands the Baptist Chapel. Not the most wonderful architecture you'll ever see but so typical of the non-conformist chapels that sprang up in nearly every village around here in the nineteenth century. There must have been an awful lot of Methodists and Baptists in those days.

From Langley to Arkesden the path follows field edges, farm tracks and even a short section of old Roman Road - believe it or not that's it above, crossing a stream by means of a ford. 

I hope you've got your waterproof boots on too, because we're going through!

The rain came just as I reached the village of Arkesden, a beautiful place despite having a name more suited to a northern industrial town. I took shelter in the parish church (unlocked, fortunately) until the shower passed. I'll show you what's inside in the next post.

Then it was up on to the "highlands" once more for the final leg of the journey to Wendens Ambo and the train for home.

Once upon a time there was Great Wenden and Little Wenden, which in time became one village - Wendens Ambo, "ambo" being the Latin word for "both", so that the exotic-sounding name, Wendens Ambo, just means "both Wendens". It, or perhaps more correctly they, has (or have) some picturesque corners.

When they were building a railway station to serve Saffron Walden they couldn't get nearer to the town than Wendens Ambo, so ended up building a station in this tiny place. But then they decided to call the station "Audley End", which is at least half a mile nearer to Saffron Walden. Whatever they call it it's still in Wendens Ambo!

Walker's Log:

    Start: Barley, Hertfordshire 09.35

    End: Wendens Ambo, Essex 14.40
    Distance walked: 10 miles (16 Km).
    Notable birds: Buzzard, Skylark, a few Fieldfares, flock of Yellowhammers. Mistle Thrush singing and Woodpecker hammering.
    Mammals: herd of 45 Fallow Deer.
    Churches: Barley, Little Chishill, Langley, Arkesden, Wendens Ambo.

    People with dogs: 0
    Dogs with people: 0
    Dog taking itself for a walk: 1
    People just enjoying a walk: 0
    Cyclists: 2
    Horse riders: 0

Take care.


  1. Hello John. I was taught that the way to negotiate deep mud was to glide or skate over it rather than to actually walk by stepping into the stuff, for in doing so there is less chance of falling or losing ones boot.
    Enjoy your day !

  2. Lovely countryside. The deer were an interesting find. I hope it stops raining so you can do another walk soon.

  3. It's actually quite good me sitting here smugly with my coffee and enjoying the walk without the mud! Just as wet and muddy here today. And yes, that is a beautiful tree - but it looks like April where you are! Really enjoyed the excursion!

  4. The mud on the car at Gypsy Lane Farm looks like it could be here, instead. Enjoyed your walk, albeit seated with my cup of coffee this morning.

  5. What's with all the churches being locked? They are supposed to provide sanctuary for the weary traveler (or sinner). Nice that when you needed shelter the most, that church was open. I think I need better boots for the mud, much like yours.

  6. Thanks for taking me along on your latest (muddy) walk. Lovely scenery and buildings. Glad you did all the dirty work! :)

  7. That was such a great walk. I enjoyed every moment of it, and I didn't get a single spot of mud on me! Thank you!

  8. I grabbed me wellies and came along. Lovely!

  9. A delightful if not somewhat muddy walk but I have to confess that I am now ready for my well earned cup of coffee!

    Here's to the next walk...thank you John!

  10. A great walk and some lovely scenes and photographs. The first church pictured looks lovely, it's a shame it was locked as I'd have liked a peek inside!

  11. Changeable weather on that walk. The church in Little Chishill looks rather forlorn - maybe because it's always locked. Yes, that is an especially handsome tree. Your boots look eminently practical like some of our winter boots over here - not pretty, but they really do the job. Place names are so interesting. Around here, we have "glen" this and "glen" that because of all the Scottish settlers in the 1800's even though it's not very hilly here. In Quebec, it's "Saint" this and "Saint" that because of the strong influence of the Catholic church.

  12. I think you should count yourself under "people just enjoying a walk." You sound pretty chipper, after all. ;)

  13. For someone who is dying to get her boots back on and squishing and squelching in puddles, I thoroughly enjoyed this walk!! (Post feet surgery is NO picnic!). Now dry off those feet you don't want trench foot!!

  14. Yeah, John, it was nasty here today, too. 70 degrees (21 degrees C.), overcast, with occasional rain. So, I stayed inside most of the day and watched football. Admittedly, it is a slovenly way to live, but we don't have villages as charming as those around here.

  15. Oh, what a treat...I love the tree in the shot you mentioned, but also that big old tree in the 13th shot. Always enjoy seeing the churches, and that next to the last shot is wonderful.

  16. Love your humour. I enjoyed the walk and didn't even get muddy. How is it catching a train with muddy boots? That's a long walk and sloshing through wet fields, well done. By the way I would rather spend a holiday in Barley rather than Bali.

  17. Oops forgot to say how I love those village houses and the nice shaped tree. Lovely photos too.

  18. Fascinating walk. I did not know there were large herds of wild deer in England. I liked the look of that last village, Wenden Ambo. And the van looked like a good ol' West Virginia car with all the mud on it!

  19. What a lovely walk--I'm so glad you dragged me along! These are great shots of the little place. It looks so serene there. I'm glad that one dog got out even if it's 'person' didn't want to go :)

  20. Beautiful walk and I didn't even get my socks wet. Your pictures of the English countryside make me very homesick, but of course, my home area in N Devon is a lot hillier than where you go for your walks. I really like the half timbered brick wall and doorway. And I like Gypsy Lane Farm as I enjoyed the different roof planes and shapes against the sky.

  21. I'd come along for that walk any day, even in the rain.--hart


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