Wednesday, 4 December 2019

An Unplanned Jaunt

I didn't expect to find myself on the wide open hills above Royston early on Monday morning. It happened like this...



I just popped outside to photograph the crimson skies of the pre-dawn, but as it was frosty I'd put on my coat, boots, hat and gloves and grabbed the rucksack that had the camera in it. Having taken a few pictures I noticed several people making their way to the village railway station. I had a sudden idea.



As I had no maps with me I'd take just a four-minute journey up the line to Royston and do a walk I know well. It looked like it'd be a fine, though chilly morning.



By the time I was tramping up the path beside the Heath the sun was just peeping above the horizon. A proper landscape photographer would have sussed out the best viewpoint and would wait patiently for the sun to flood its light across the scene: I decided to press on - while waiting here I might miss something elsewhere and I'd get cold too!



I love the look of frosted leaves as well as the crunch of them beneath my boots. The path led between the rolling arable fields. It's a rather austere and uncompromising landscape, though not without a strange scenic charm which is difficult to describe and harder still to photograph.



Just before Therfield I said hello to a fine old gentleman walking his dog. He introduced me to his canine friend and asked about my route. After a couple of minutes we were somehow talking about the hills of Northern Scotland. "I can't walk and climb like that any more", he sighed. "I've still got the books though! With a glass of whisky I can imagine my way back into the Highlands!" His dog may have heard all this before and showed she was keen to continue the walk, so we went our separate ways, a little cheerier for our brief chat.



Apart from a few motorists I didn't see anyone as I walked along Pedlar's Lane, skirting the village of Therfield. I found the little gate to the sunken lane which leads out to the bare hills once more.



We have plenty of big arable fields in Cambridgeshire, but nothing quite like this. I think though that this area has been as treeless and hedgeless as this for centuries. Before big tractors trundled across the chalky soils this was sheep country with huge flocks grazing up here, especially during the summer months.



Where last summer's wheat stubble is still unploughed you can almost imagine sheep dotting the scene. I find the gentle heave of this solid ocean oddly exhilarating and with the ground still frozen hard, the air crisp and clean, and the track leading downhill, it's almost like having a huge encouraging hand kindly guiding you on your way.



The path leads through Thrift Farm then along a grassy stretch known as Kings' Ride. Indeed the sport of kings is still here in the form of a racehorse stable and a couple of thoroughbreds were being exercised on the gallops. 



There are several small woodlands and plantations along the steep northern slope of the hills and the low sun was only just raking through the trees in late morning.



There are long, grassy corridors following dry valleys leading down off the chalk lands. Could these be the ancient droves or driftways down which the flocks were driven on their way to market?



We're making our way towards the edge of the golf course and I noticed that the Par 3 Fifth is called "Shepherd's Rest". There's a short, steep-sided dry valley which would be an ideal sheltered nook where a shepherd might enjoy forty winks on a warm day. The golfers however cannot relax here; the tee is on one side of the valley and the idea is to float the ball across the deep intervening depression to the small green on the opposite side. Many little tracks leading down through the rough grass suggest that not all are successful.



It's getting towards mid-day and the sun is still just reaching some frosty pockets.



Just a few autumn leaves are hanging on in sheltered places along the way. Then a path will lead down across the golf course, alongside the rugby pitch and into the streets of Royston where I can call into the shop before getting the train home. I hope you've enjoyed this unplanned jaunt as much as I have.


Take care.


23 comments:

  1. Great pictures and a fine narrative to accompany it. I have no doubt that chatting to the old-timer was very pleasant, those little interludes always are. The wide expanse of farm land resembles the prairies here in Canada. I try to imagine what a few hedgerows would do for wildlife in that featureless area.

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    1. You're probably right, though hares love this area and thrive here. You also see several birds of prey which must be living on something.

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  2. Wow! I felt like I was right there walking with you. You live in such a beautiful area, I am quite jealous.

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  3. Wonderful journey, with your illustrious photos as well as prose to enjoy!

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  4. I love taking these English countryside walks with you John, so very different to the walk I'm taking you on tomorrow ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  5. Oh yes! I enjoyed this unplanned jaunt very much. What beautiful open views there. You find the best places for long walks. Thank you for taking us along.

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  6. I think my favorite is 5 th from top where the curving road disappears over the hill., leading me on to discover new vistas.

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  7. There were so many lovely things to see on your unplanned jaunt and you've taken some super photos along the way:)

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  8. Unplanned jaunts are the best kind!

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  9. I love all of these photos especially the first three. Thanks for taking me along.

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  10. What a wonderful walk! Nice frost pictures.

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  11. Another wonderful walk. Thank you for sharing.

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  12. Unplanned things are usually the most fun! And I thoroughly enjoyed the views here.

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  13. Your photos show a very charming landscape. I bet you returned from this spontaneous walk with lots of energy! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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  14. A wonderful start to your day, John. Thanks for taking us on your stroll and sharing your beautiful photos.

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  15. A wonderful spur of the moment walk!

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  16. Lovely! And so frosty! I hope your stop in the village include a good cup of tea.

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  17. Wonderful. I hope you'd had your breakfast!

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  18. I wanted to tell you that the video is now at the end of my today's post of the snow geese...it is not a good quality, but you might enjoy it anyway.

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  19. A serendipitous walk paid big dividends.

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