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Wednesday Sep 22, 2021

UNDULATING FARMLAND

Posted in Walking Stories by Mike Hall
Wixoe

Undulating farmland, rivers, lanes, tracks and a lovely golf course.

So I was a little unsure what to do today. I had done the remainder of the housework but it was raining. Shall I chance it said to myself, let’s have a cuppa and see what the weather does. So as I sit in my little conservatory supping my tea the suns pokes it head out and I feel its warmth through the window. Well that’s sorted; on with the boots, thin out my rucksack grab a drink and something to eat and off we jolly well go.

No sooner had a stepped out the door its starts to rain again. Well I’m out now, so plod on. I had my charity hoody on and it wasn’t raining more a drizzle so off I went. I wasn’t sure where I was going but I took my Satmap navigator with me just in case. As I wombled off and fired up the Satmap and logged my start point, if I get lost I can at least plot a route home. I tramp across the field to join a farm track that will take to the golf course. The rain stops the sun comes out and all is good, so I reach in my pocket for an extra treat I squirreled away, a bag of Revels! Well if the so called “family bag” gets any smaller they will have to drop the “S” in revels and call it a bag of revel. What made me laugh with contempt is said on the reverse of the bag “share and enjoy with family and friends” well I looked at the bag and its contents and thought it would have to be a small family or just one friend given my first helping halved the contents. Share Ha! The only thing this bag is being shared with is my rucksack when empty.

Anyway by the time I’d scoffed all the Revels and hidden the evidence I had reached the Golf course. It was a pleasant view over the course with only a few golfers evident. I crossed between the greens and descended to Pope Mill, walked round the edge of the gardens and crossed the bridge over the Stour and proceeded along the avenue of poplar trees. After a few minutes I dropped down by the side of the elderly brick bridge and its supports turning left onto the railway track and walked towards Sturmer.

At the play park, at the end, I crossed the road and turned right up the bridal path to the rear of the old station. Walking round the field until I reached the infamous “five ways” finger board. I looked at it and in the direction of each pointer and could only see three directions. I suspect the two have been lost to overzealous planting by the farmer. It didn’t affect me as I was going to try another path. I looked at the high foliage, in particular the stinging nettles, and marvelled at the perfect selection of walking apparel. Shorts were definitely the wrong choice as both legs were now objecting to the stinging sensations and still are to be honest. There was an abundance of grass hoppers and bees, which is a good thing to see.

The path split at the corner of the field, left was the village of Keddington and straight ahead was the Stour valley path and a bridge that I had spied from afar on a previous roam. I went over the bridge that spans the river Stour, but paused  to take in the silent serenity. The river was slow and at peace with its surroundings, no weirs or manmade structures to prevent its slumbering passage, flowing gently past as it has done for so many many years. Dragonflies performed a dance in mid-stream whilst the surrounding reeds swayed gently in the light breeze. I carried on in the direction of a farm then turned left up a hill that suddenly erupted in front of me. A place called Baythorne End was to my right in a mile or so, but my journey was upwards and over distant fields.

The farmer had obviously been bothered by lost walkers and had erected a number of warning and footpath signs. They stopped short of “trespassers will be shot and survivors will be shot again” type warnings but did give the impression that you were not welcome. I scuppered up the path at a pace that would out run any buck shot from the farmer’s shotgun and was stopped in my tracks by another sign saying conservation area, bugger off, or words to that effect. I consulted my navigator which showed the path the other side of a hedge. I backtracked and found an overgrown path that hadn’t been trod through in some time, and given I couldn’t go back or forward, the only way was to once again battle the stinging nettles in shorts. Once through I was confronted with another sign saying, well you know by now, it certainly wasn’t helpful as there wasn’t any other path but for a slight indentation in a freshly ploughed field. According to the navigator, it was straight across the field. I took out my binoculars at this point and surveyed a possible exit. I could see another finger board directly opposite me, so the only choice was to walk across the ploughed field. I stood there and readied myself for the dash across. It felt like I had just emerged from a secret tunnel and was about to try and out run the guards to a hole in a hedge were a clandestine meeting would take place with a member of the resistance. So clutching my false papers, well a breakfast bar, I made a dash half expecting the jolly farmer and his poised 12 bore to pick me off in no man’s land.

I made it safely across the field unscathed and passed through the hedge to be confronted with another field, this time the path was clear so I followed it to the road beyond.

Up until this point I had been walking away from my finish point, but the road signified a couple of miles of road walking which eventually would curve me round towards the start point. The road was a sleepy back road dotted with pretty but extensive properties. I was walking due west, the setting sun was telling me that, through the hamlets of Boyton. At one point a gentleman and his dogs walked towards me and greeted my with an enthusiastic “good evening”, I replied “good afternoon” being slightly puzzled by what he said, then glancing at my watch, I realised it was gone 6:30, so yes it was more evening than afternoon. The road steeply rose to a junction which pointed me towards Keddington. The jubilant noises from a family having fun, followed by the spathes from a swimming pool were heard from behind a brick wall. I thought how lovely to have your family around, and for the first time thought about my destiny, oh well, I have had my happiness, I thought for a while and then smiled at their enjoyment and plodded on towards my next way point.

I was standing at the top of a field and looked at the landscape outstretching before me. I must be grateful for having this, but it’s not in the hills or coast and even if I was, I wouldn’t be able to walk up them as I promised my wife I wouldn’t do that alone. One day I will do that with a companion of sorts, but not yet.

I walked down the hill to a cross road where a lovely lady emerged. I held back affording her the choice of crossing, she said “I’m going up there” and pointed in the direction is was going. I said “so am I”. I held back so that she could walk in comfort but instead she stopped and waited for me and chose to walk with me. We had a little chat about this and that and after about a mile she said that’s as far as she was going. I wished her well and thanked her for taking the time to accompany me, she about turned and I pushed on.

After a short while I came to the path on the left that lead me to a big playing field, but before I could get there I had to cross a sluice with a noisy boisterous river rushing under it was like a crowd of chanting football revellers. A far comparison from the peace of the other bridge, this reminded me about older age, the bustling sluiced river was the exuberance of youth whilst the meandering slow and steady paced river upstream was more akin to a more sedentary but purposed life.

The playing field is where the “Keddington meadow lark” is held, just down the road from the Barnardiston Arms pub. This pub stands as a trawler would, with its net on the only road that goes to the meadow, on days of village festivities, the net must pick a handsome haul of patrons en-route to the meadow.

Anyway, my route was to exit the meadow and turn left down a small road to a path opposite a pretty thatched cottage. On the roof of the cottage, the thatcher had modelled a squirrel out of reed and put on the end. Behind that was a cat waiting to pounce on the squirrel and behind that was a dog chasing the cat. Natures food chain encapsulated in reed for the purpose of raising a smile from all those that looked.

I walked up the path and spied a huddle of bees gathering late evening nectar before clocking off for the night. A bit like the boys stopping off at the local for a quick pint after a busy day at work. I crossed the road at the end of the path and crossed to another path that ascended between two fields to another path. After crossing a bridge and circumventing a few fields, that have been newly waymarked, I reached the track that I scoffed the Revels on at the start.

A journey of just over 8 miles over undulating farmland, rivers, road, tracks and a lovely golf course on a lazy warm weekend evening.

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