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MICA Travels are a group of family and friends that are dedicated to raise awareness of Bile duct cancer and sepsis, two illnesses that claim 1000’s of lives each year and are barely known about. I lost my wife; our sons lost their mother and many others lost a dear friend. We as group will be doing a series of endurance activities to raise money for these charities as a lasting memorial to Carol, so that our sudden loss is not in vain.

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14/214 Fells completed

The Roaming Roman Road -Part Two

Posted in Walking Stories by Mike Hall

This is a walk long in distance, well for me, but lacking in feature. Yes miles of flat fields pepper dusted with hamlets, farms, tufts of forested areas and the odd windmill. In the distance, iron pylons march across the skyline, like the tripods from War of the worlds, scarring the undulating gold and brown surroundings so typical of the East Anglian landscape.  Distant noise of traffic passing at speed can be heard, like the low drone of an aircraft, humming away but steadily getting louder as I walk towards Cambridge. It is another confirmation of life’s cycle, once I was part of that noise, rushing from A to B oblivious to the surroundings, but now I have time to wander this land, I hear the noise and say to myself, it’s a sign that my life’s hour glass has more sand in the base and less in the top, because I can choose to be part of that noise or not. No longer forced by work and need but by retirement and circumstance, oh well, I should be grateful that I can do it when so many, like my wife, cannot.


The road is straight, but follows the contours of the land, which adds variety to the walk. I pass a patch of Sun Flowers and wild flowers, all claiming their freedom. The sun flowers have shone for the season and now bow their big faces towards the ground; almost paying respect to the passer by, a hare emerges from the undergrowth and sees me. We both are startled at the same time but his reaction was quicker and with a thump to warn others launches himself up and forward like a loosed arrow into the adjacent field. I walk through narrowed paths surrounded by natures market stalls, elderberries, sloes, blackberries and rose hip are offered and some are gratefully sampled. Dotted about are bright red pokers of berries soaring towards the sky above, Lords and Lady’s I believe they are called, nothing more that fancy self-seeding weeds but splendorous and unashamed, they show off with pride there bright red coats.


A lone female mountain biker announces her approach and I give way to her exchanging greetings as we pass, the path ahead steepens as she gathers speed to climb its face. Bearing in mind this was my longest walk and my first truly on my own without my wife’s hand in mine, the fact that Mission Control was tracking me, my vitals and pace, made me feel that someone was with me, my desire to hold her hand substituted virtually through remote companionship, my heart felt calmer and my mind was comforted as they reminded me that I was not alone with a little tear.


I approach a foot bridge across a stream, passing over it I notice the surfacing of the Gas pipe, like a submarine, before it dives back into the soil sea. Another road breaks my progress; the Village of Hildersham lies to my left where I believe are some Roman barrows and Balsham to my right. I look at my map and see the next section and its abrupt halting at Worstead Lodge and the might of the A11. I pass through another metal barrier and start to trudge up a hill, Deadmans Hill. I believe there is an actual grave along the ridge of this hill hence the name.


The mighty “tripods” well four legged versions, straddle the path, the damp air is making the power line crackle and a definite sense of energy fills the air. The path is narrow, being largely consumed by the hedgerows and tall grass, but the construction is still easy to see. Mission Control sends a message to my phone, “Slow Down” if you want a lift back otherwise you will have wait for me to finish work, apparently I was knocking the miles out at around 17mins per mile, and then he says you heart rate is high, slow down! Well the reason for the 150+ BPM was “Deadmans hill”, hmmm! Might be a clue, so I slowed both my pace and heart to keep Mission Control happy.

The drone of traffic was getting louder and the path was now becoming wider, mowed and well cared for at its end. 


Another info board shows were I am but the A11 at Worstead Lodge now block my progress. The A11 was in fact another Roman Road, but instead of horse drawn carts full of produce to be sold now has 40 footers full of preserved food destined for vast packing or processing plants. Another example of then and now combined, both doing the same thing but differently, not dissimilar to me, I’m a combination of then and now doing the same thing differently.


The path is not clear, so I walked towards the A11 to see if there was an underpass, but no just the loud raw of traffic busying its way about. To my Right is the lodge or farm I think and to my left a road over the A11, so this must be my route but as I say it’s not clear.


I retrace my steps and climb over the A11. I stop in the middle and take some pictures, it’s a busy road. I follow the road down and struggle to see that path, so I carry on down and eventually see a marker on the Armco barrier, following the direction I soon see the familiar barrier and gas pipe sign, this is the path.


This section is the last third of the walk and once again Mission control tells me to slow down. I agree to stop at Wandlebury Ring for lunch and kill off an hour or so. The ground has changed since I have moved into Cambridgeshire from Suffolk, the soil is more chalk and flint that clay and flint but is quite distinctly a roman road in places, constructed by digging ditches either side and compacting the spoil in the middle so the sub soil and stone can be seen on the path and it is different to the earlier sections, but in places just a track. I have since learnt that the gas pipe, that has now disappeared, followed the roman road, so that’s probably why it has changed in places (useless fact, the gas line was laid in 1959)

I think we are actually devolving rather than evolving. The Romans, didn’t have health care, modern boots and socks, energy drinks and sugary snacks etc etc like us, just simple clothes, flip flops engineered from the backside of a cow and some hand ground weevil ridden dough probably days old and stuffed in a leather bag, but yet they invented things we take for granted, roads for one and cities and not forgetting they had to walk to this country in the first place, no Easyjetus, Ryanairus or Taxius to get here.


My travel companion, apart from my headphones, is a little purple notebook; I believe a sharp pencil being better than a long memory, especially as I get older. I use my playlist of some 250 songs important to my wife and I to remind me of my past life and the purple book and my stories to the life I have now, a combination of now and then merged as a vision and put into word.

The road is more roaming than Roman in places, more like a narrow footpath, it shape and structure being lost to marauding hedgerows of blackberries or ploughed up by off road vehicles and mountain bikes, I’m sure it’s still under all this growth, hiding its magnificence, but for now it’s being very shy.


As I walked along the no narrow path I noticed a sign alongside some woodlands and a sign encouraging people to walk about in the woods with the owner’s permission. I believe this to be Meg’s Mount, it instantly reminded me of my childhood days playing with my best friend, climbing trees, falling out them as well; making dens and imitating warriors with makeshift stick swords.

To my left is Signal Hill which has many interpretations, a Napoleonic Semaphore station ,more latterly, the ground between the road and Signal Hill was used as a decoy airfield in WW2 to draw the enemy away from the mighty Duxford Airfield, now home to the Imperial War Museum. My wife and I flew in a DeHavilland   Dragon Rapide from Duxford, she hated flying but thoroughly enjoyed it. I surprised her on our 25 wedding anniversary with a trip to the Scilly isles in a twin propped plane as well as staged visit to the Jewellers where I bought her Engagement ring in Truro. I had flowers and a table set aside in the shop and got on my knee and presented a diamond bracelet to her, I was so nervous, but she was always so special to me and will be forever missed. 

I progressed to my lunch break at Wandlebury and the forced stop; both Mission controls in Cambridge and Manchester were constantly reminding me to slow down. But before I get there I saw a wide avenue pleasantly green and sandy underfoot. It is known as Mile Road, a prehistoric road “Romanised” with former settlements and a bronze age Barrow, long since lost and raided.


A chalky mound known as Copley Hill sits near the junction of the two roads. I wandered down the road, killing time. A pheasant track running from the field on my left to the wooded glade on my right served as an escape route. I observed a dozen or so female pheasants make a dash for freedom across the path. You could imagine a lookout either side suddenly giving the “all clear” to the next batch of escapees to dart across. I had a little explore but about turned to retrace my steps back to the Roman road, turning left at its junction towards Wandlebury, a former Iron Age fort.


A welcome sign pointed to a café and I was tempted, but having lugged my lunch this far, I was going to scoff it! I entered Wandlebury a former Iron Age fort  that theoretically lies along the ancient boundary road, the Tottenhoe Way, between the parishes, but more about that later. In more recent times, it was the site of a mansion owned by Earl Godolphin of race horse fame but now a country park with a rabbit warren of shady wooded paths with memorial benches at tranquil or vantage points. It’s a lovely place to just wander and sit at the many benches scattered about the park.  I set my sites on the Ely Viewpoint and found a bench which looked over the Gog Magog Golf course being fabled Giants with several references to local artefacts and legends, more about them later as well.

wand ib