Friday, 21 September 2018

Windy Corners

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.

Take care.


  1. Love the Tudor house with its stately chimneys, ubiquitous rose climbing the wall, lonely sunflower, and attractive flint stone wall - all making a perfect chocolate box cover. That is apart from the TV aerial, and telephone wires!

  2. Your walk illustrates the value of hedgerows for wildlife, but too many of them have fallen victim to mechanized farming unfortunately.

  3. beautiful photos. great building.
    I wish I could be there.
    Have a great day

  4. What Rosemary said...but I'd missed the wires! The windmill looks operational, but I wouldn't really know. Sorry about walking in the wind, I imagine it takes more energy.

  5. I love the skies above the harvested fields, the wide horizon is beautiful.

  6. What a beautiful walk in the countryside there.

  7. John, How I love your walks from the comfort of my computer chair.

  8. What an interesting walk. I liked the photo of the clouds over the fields. Love the old tractor collection too!

  9. The sky in the third photo is quite something!

    Someone did a great job on St. Christopher.

    Love the variety in this post, John.

  10. Wow, quite a hike and you were able to explore a little of everything! I like the old tractor barn, Bartlow Church and the old burial mound. Thanks for taking us along on this wonderful hike!

  11. What a wonderful walk. I love the path through the tunnel in the trees, the roman burial mound and the wall painting also the mill and house at AshdonL)

  12. How wonderful that you have your brother to walk with, - thank you for sharing John.

  13. Thank you for sharing your meanderings John. Loved those old agricultural machines and the extraordinarily angled 4 chimneys atop the cottage. (and thanks too for dropping by my blog - I've missed participating while away these past 3 months)


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).