It was a windy Wednesday. Not a deadly or destructive wind, but a blustery, boisterous one that pushed you a little off-balance at every step and threatened to deposit your hat in the nearest hawthorn bush. We were walking, my brother and I, in the vicinity of Bartlow and Ashdon, which hide in the SE extremity of Cambridgeshire and the NW corner of Essex respectively.
Just a few minutes into the walk and already I'd rather mislaid the footpath in a decaying farmyard full of wonderful old machinery. We scurried somewhat guiltily through and, by a combination of reading the map and tossing a coin, managed to locate our route once more.
It lead us through gaps in hedges, down abandoned lanes, over little footbridges and around and over recently harvested fields.
A Buzzard circled overhead and whole squadrons of Red-Legged Partridges took off from the base of a hedge, where they'd been feeding on berries dislodged by the mechanical flail used to bash the hedgerows into shape. These Partridges are not really wild birds but are raised simply for the pleasure that some people get from blasting away at them with guns.
Eventually we found ourselves descending, sheltered from the wind at last, towards the village of Bartlow.
Bartlow Church has a round tower, something which is common enough in Norfolk and Suffolk, but a rarity as far west as this. There are all kinds of mad theories as to why towers are built in this fashion, but it's probably because there's a lack of good building stone in Eastern England, which would be required for making corners. Round towers could thus be built from flint and field stones.
I'd been inside before but I'm glad I made a return visit as the medieval wall painting of St Christopher appears to have been cleaned up and restored since I was last here. A lot more detail is now visible.
From the church a narrow fenced path leads down to one of England's least known treasures. Here stand three Romano-British burial mounds dating from about 100 AD. They are the highest such mounds in Northern Europe standing about 13m (40 ft) high. There were once seven mounds but four were destroyed when the railway was built nearby. When they were excavated they were found to contain grave goods and cremation urns. This blog has been there before and you can read more about it here
where you can also see what St Christopher looked like before restoration.
Off we went over the fields once more towards Ashdon, which is a very straggly settlement with lots of associated hamlets called "Ends".
Crossing another field brought us beneath the huge sails of Ashdon windmill. The old timers knew what they were doing when they sited the mill here; it was quite the windiest spot on the entire walk.
Our chosen route crossed the village street next to this magnificent old house which dates from the 16th or 17th century. It appears to be unusually tall for a building of this vintage.
I didn't spend long inspecting the church, but can't resist showing you these wonderful flowers which I presume must have been left over from a weekend wedding.