Stour Valley Path: Newmarket Racecourse to Little Bradley

23 October 2010

Another weekend, another long distance path started, though I have at least finished the Stour & Orwell Walk recently. So what better than to start further upstream and begin the Stour Valley Path, which after a cross-country ramble finds the River Stour near its source and follows the river to Cattawade near Manningtree from where the Stour & Orwell Walk continues the route to the sea. However, I didn't fancy the first couple of miles of the official route, which starts in the centre of Newmarket and walks along the verge of the road towards Cambridge for two miles, so I started at the racecourse where the route leaves the road.

The first section of the walk is along the Devil's Dyke. The bank and ditch run in a straight line for 12 km from the edge of the Fens to Woodditton. It was built in the 6th and 7th centuries

Looking from the dyke across some of the many gallops that surround Newmarket to a golf course

A section of the Dyke which shows well the height from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the bank, which is over 10 metres in places. In the distance a train to Cambridge is about to cut across the line of the Dyke.

George on a wooded section of the Dyke

It rained to start the walk, and the compressed pulverised chalk was extremely slippery to walk on. Here a new surface has been provided to help us regain the top of the Dyke after crossing a road which cuts through it.

After the rain, the sunshine is very welcome.

There is quite a mixture of woodland and more open sections of the Dyke.

We reach the point where the Icknield Way crosses the Dyke, and this is where we leave the Anglo-Saxon earthworks

Our route heads along the edge of fields to the village of Stretchworth

On the other side of Stretchworth, there are more horses

The Stour Valley Path then follows the line of this ditch for four kilometres, in almost complete isolation, initially here in open fields...

...but mostly in this confined route, in places with headroom down to only a metre.

Eventually we emerge back onto field margins

After rounding Great Widgham Wood, we walk alongside this ditch with a long series of weirs.

The weather is turning for the worse, and it now rains for most of the rest of the walk. We've just crossed from Cambridgeshire into Suffolk.

Our first encounter with the River Stour is at this ford

Which is also provided with a smart new bridge for pedestrians.

Looking across fields to the church of Great Bradley, the first potential pick-up point for Lucy to meet us.

The first bridge over the Stour we've seen. Lucy wasn't ready yet, so we continued on to Little Bradley

The rain has stopped and the sun makes a brief re-appearance as we make our way across muddy fields which double the weight of my boots.

A gatehouse at the entrance to Little Bradley House

Little Bradley church has a circular tower with an octagonal top. This was as far as we got today. Back tomorrow!

Total 14.3 km in 3 hours 29 mins.

Stour Valley Path Next Stour Valley Path walk - onwards to Stoke by Clare


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson