Walk 17 – Kirtling Longer Walk
Walk by Roger Medley
Kirtling is an attractive village on the Suffolk/Cambridge borders. This walk is made up of two loops – a leg stretch of about 5 miles, which can include walking along the bed of a stream, and more urban loop of 1.5 miles. The latter can include a visit to the church and does include good views of Kirtling Towers. Take Ordnance Survey Explorer map 210 (Newmarket and Haverhill) as your companion.
Park your car in the village hall car park. From the entrance turn left in front of the flint wall of No. 43. This looks like a private drive but the footpath sign will direct you down a sunken green lane. Follow this until you have just crossed the first wooden footbridge. If you reach the second you have gone too far. Turn right to find a post and rail fence. Turn left and walk with the fence on the right and a hedge on the left. Eventually the fence will veer off to the right but you must continue ahead with the hedge on the left. This headland path becomes a track and leads to a road. Turn right for a short distance and then left in front of a large thatched barn conversion. Follow this track until you reach the last of the electricity poles and then take the bridleway along the right hand fork. Ignore the footpath on the right after a few metres. This is another green lane, at times damp, but never impassable, which leads to a very large field. After crossing a culvert and joining the headland take a few paces left to reach the corner then turn right to follow the hedge on the left. Ignore all the turnings on the left (this is more difficult than it sounds as the bridleway veers left and if you are not concentrating you may end up following the hoof prints) and continue for some way gently downhill. In the lower corner is a small wood which you walk through. Now for some excitement. On reaching a T-junction track you should turn left to go downhill. Join the bed of a stream and turn right. In dry conditions you can walk along this public highway for some way. In wet conditions the alternative route is to walk along the top of the bank on the right. At the end of the stream bed (or bank top) walk you will meet a vehicle track going both left and right and the Ely-Ouse water transfer system. Surplus water from the Ouse is channelled, tunnelled and pumped into the River Stour at Kirtling Green. It eventually reaches parts of Essex. Before this transfer scheme was constructed there were plans to dam the Stour above Great Bradley to create a large reservoir. This would have partly destroyed two villages and affected a reasonable size population. The idea was abandoned.
Turn right (you join the Stour Valley Walk for while – a long distance trail full of surprises which runs from Newmarket Clock Tower to Manningtree on the Stour estuary) and walk along the track changing sides of the channel as directed. Several waymarks are now missing but you need to cross at Weir No. 8 (the channel is then on the right), at Weir No. 6 (channel on left) and Weir No.4 (now on right). Ignore all other turnings. After a long and steady climb you reach a small brick building on the right. Walk in front of this to cross the channel for the last time (Kirtling Headworks) and follow the track around a large mound to reach a green fence. Turn right, left at the corner and the next (following the perimeter fence) then right to take a short track to reach the road. Turn right, then left at the first footpath sign. This leads to another road which you cross, following the footpath signs. Despite the installation of a new path you need steady balance over a short section as the hedge on the left tries to push you into the ditch on the right. Continue beside a paddock, cross a sleeper bridge and turn right to follow the headland and waymarks. At the corner follow the path into Lucy’s Wood. Come out into the daylight and continue beside the wood. Go through a kissing gate. At the first corner of the wood you can either turn left and follow the trees to the bottom corner (* longer walk) or you can turn right (shorter walk) and find a kissing gate in a fence (behind an electricity pole) which you go through and then branch half right to find a short path through trees (quite well hidden) which leads you back to the road almost opposite the village hall. *At the bottom corner go through another kissing gate, across a footbridge, and take the smaller path ahead which leads to the road. Cross this and turn left along a pavement. Pass the Catholic Church and take the first footpath on the right, signed to Kirtling Parish Church, which leads down an imposing drive. Once through the gate of the churchyard choose the right fork at the lamppost which takes you past the porch. The church is invariably open and is worth a visit. Contained therein is a set of fine hatchments showing coats of arms, angel roof bosses (with one alarming interloper through the inner arch and a companion gargoyle outside) and an impressive monument to the North family (the first owners of Kirtling Towers). The original village settlement was based around the Church then, for various reasons, not least of which was the Black Death in 17C, it moved further east and west. Victims of the plague were buried in a part of the churchyard which will never be re-opened. The population in 1800 was 438, in 1860 was 820 and has now settled at 350.
Come out of the porch, turn left and follow the path through a kissing gate and beside the moat. When you are faced with a ‘Private Gardens No Entry’ sign drop down the bank on the left and go through another kissing gate in the corner of a post and rail fence. Follow the direction of the waymark. This leads you diagonally right across the field to tall stile in the far corner. Cross a footbridge and go through a green tunnel. Turn right to follow a regularly mown path. Use pedestrian gates to cross a driveway and continue in the same direction across a meadow. Head towards the right of some newly planted trees and you will find steps and a path leading down to the road opposite the ex Queens Head (closed in 1999). Take the road facing you to return to the village hall.
The whole circuit is a good six miles.
Original walk notes compiled in 2010.
Re-walked in April 2015.
If these notes are confusing or inaccurate or the information is wrong, please let me know. If they are helpful, or if you have any other comments, likewise.
The Wickhambrook W.I. Walking Group meets every Wednesday morning at 10am starting from the MSC car park for walks in the village or slightly further afield. We walk for about two hours and cover about five miles, depending on how much chatting is taking place. There are usually six of us, although we have had a dozen occasionally, dogs are welcome too.