St Ives to Woodhurst

Need a good reason to try this walk? Woodhurst is one of England's best examples of an Anglo-Saxon ring village (see the two walks to Holywell to visit another). That makes it over a thousand years old, and the oldest parts of this walk have been used for centuries as villagers walked into the markets at St Ives.

There's a good chance of spotting interesting wildlife. Flocks of yellowhammers, a hare, bee flies and woodpeckers to name a few. Maybe a spectacular skyline. In late summer take some plastic bags for blackberry picking. No pub or tearoom at Woodhurst, but the bench by village pond pictured below is a great spot for a picnic.


Good points of this 4.5 miles (9,900 steps) route are easy walking through fields and some woodland, a pleasant village to amble around, peaceful spots to sit and rest, with plenty of wildlife and historical interest. Not so good is the first couple of hundred yards, which can be muddy in wet winter weather. If you're with children or a dog, be careful as you approach the busy Marley Road. For refreshments, you need to take a picnic.
St Ives to Woodhurst map
Starting point
If you need to take the car to the starting point, park in the Co-operative supermarket carpark just off Constable Road. Walk out of the carpark entrance and down Turner Road. Head down the footpath at the end, then  follow Rembrandt Way round to another footpath which brings you to Marley Road and the start point.

Be careful, especially if with children or a dog. You happen upon Marley Road quite suddenly and cars whizz along at speed. As you cross, keep your wits about you for cars coming around the corner from the right.

Take the footpath on the opposite side of Marley Road and veer left, then right to walk along a field edge. If you have children with you, keep an eye out for dog doodles left by lazy dog owners. Persevere, since once past this field all is well.

After about 300 yards go over the footbridge and turn to the left. Follow the path for about 600 yards along two field edges, with the stream on your left. Continue as the route turns right and heads slightly uphill.

Point 1
Stop for a few minutes and admire the Georgian farmhouse at Wiggin Hill Farm to your left. You might see a hare in the surrounding fields, depending on what crops are being grown. You'll certainly hear skylarks most times of the year.

Continuing the walk, after about 200 yards cross over a footbridge to your left and then turn right.  As you reach the top of the rise look back to admire the view. Here you'll see some spectacular skylines, particularly if there are storm clouds around as shown in the image below.


When you reach a small copse, continue along the field edge as the footpath leads to the left. If you want a shorter version of the walk, turn right into the copse and pick up the route at point 4 below.

Another 300 yards and you turn right through the hedge and across the middle of a large field. You can now see Woodhurst ahead.

Point 2
At the far end of the field go through a hedge and stile. This part of the walk up to Woodhurst must be very old. Notice the shape of fields to the right, long narrow strip fields with ridge and furrow patterns. In mediaeval times fields were this shape to minimise the number of times a plough and horses had to turn around.

The route heads down to a hollow, through another hedge and upwards towards Woodhurst. Notice the hedge on the right, where hedge laying, a traditional craft, has create a secure barrier as shown below. The tree trunks are almost completely cut through before being pushed over, yet vigorous shoots spring up.


Point 3
Follow the footpath until you reach Woodhurst. Turn right and walk down South Street. Looking to your left, you'll see why this is great example of an Anglo-Saxon ring village. The village encloses fields so livestock can safely graze. It's thought the settlement formed from the widening of a track through forest covering the area. Dwellings were built around the edge, with the centre used to keep livestock.

You'll pass some lovely old buildings, especially the early 18th century Holdich Farmhouse. At the end of South Street turn left to arrive at Swan Mere, the village pond, overlooked by a bench. This is a great place to sit and relax, especially if you've brought a picnic. The house at the far end of the pond is Horseshoe Cottage. It dates from the late 17th century, and up to 1922 was a pub. The long contraptions attached to the wall are thatching hooks.

To extend the walk, amble around the village to end up back at the pond.


Point 4
Start your return journey by walking back to South Street. Continue down Butt Lane, another ancient track which is beautifully green and leafy in summer as shown above. You'll find dragonflies, butterflies and moths along this part of the route. As you come into a more open outlook the borders of the walk are full of blackberries, crab apples and sloes.

A few hundred yards will bring you to a small copse. Keep straight to pass over a small footbridge and out into open fields. As you approach Burleigh Hill Farm on your left, keep an eye out for flocks of yellowhammers.

Point 5
The track turns first left, right and then left again to pass through a leafy corridor. Another chance to pick some blackberries along this section.

After a couple of hundred yards turn right. Here you'll find a Via Beata way station. It's one of many way stations positioned every ten miles along a pilgrimage route across the widest part of the UK, from Lowestoft in Suffolk to St David's Head in Wales. A handy place to take a rest.

To continue the walk, head down the field edge. Keep an eye out for bee flies nosing around the wild flowers on the edge of the wood to the left. At the bottom of the hill you'll find yourself back on your outward route. Turn left and follow the footpath to your start point.

Here's the walk shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1900.
Click the 'Print Friendly' button below to print out this walk to take with you. Or for more walks click the 'Return Home' button at the foot of this page.  Did you enjoy the walk? Notice anything unusual? Why not add a comment below to tell fellow amblers what you liked about it?

No comments:

Post a Comment