Walk 24 – Denham Castle
Walk by Roger Medley
This is a walk for those who enjoy open countryside and big skies. It starts with much field edge walking but rewards come later with the skirting of Denham Castle mound and a return through a deer farm. A warm summer day would be ideal but because the paths are not regularly used underfoot conditions should be good all year round. The whole circuit is over six miles and takes about three hours without stops. You may need more detail than is provided here so you are advised to take Ordnance Survey Explorer 210 Newmarket and Haverhill map.
Park at Denham church. This can be found up a little side turning on the Barrow to Dalham road. There was no obvious ‘Church’ sign at the time of writing but the junction is identified by a bus stop one side of the road and a 30 mph sign the other. Having parked walk across the drive to enter a field and follow the headland to the right. This path takes you beside a post and rail fence and along the edge of a moat. At the far corner enter another field. Obey the fingerpost pointing left and follow the field perimeter around three sides, keeping a ditch or hedge on your left at all times. Ignore a footpath going left in the first corner. On the far side, when you are almost back to the houses and church, you will find a partially hidden wooden footbridge on your left. Go over this and cross a narrow field towards another hedge. The footpath turns left on the near side of the hedge and there is a bridleway on the far side. This is used by farm vehicles and horses and at certain times of the year can be muddy. It is probably best to stick to the footpath. Continue with the hedge now on your right for a while until the path becomes difficult and then use a culvert to cross the ditch and join the bridleway. Turn left. This broad grass swathe soon narrows and leads into scrub. Walk gently downhill to find another path leading right (waymark). You are faced with open views as you make use of a path above the ditch on the right. Follow this and eventually cross from one side to the other making use of a convenient culvert. Ignore a footpath and vehicle track option to the left and continue until the path forks at the corner of a wood. Take the right option and continue with the wood on the left. In the next corner turn right to stay with the hedge and enter the next field. Turn left into the next corner and then right. The next gap in the hedge allows you to turn left to follow a green vehicle track towards the houses of the scattered hamlet of Dunstall Green. Turn right at the road and at the T-junction at the end cross to enter a green lane with hedges on both sides. You soon lose the left-hand hedge. Shortly after losing the right-hand hedge veer slightly left across a strip of grass between fields. Go through a gap in the hedge into the right-hand field. The right of way heads diagonally across this field to the far right hand corner but the landowner has left a narrow strip of uncultivated land beside the hedge to the left. At certain times of the year this could be the easier option. Find your way to the wide timber bridge in the far corner. Cross it to join and accompany the hedge and trees on the right. On reaching a corner, with a wood just to the left, go through a new kissing gate on the right and turn right. In effect you are going back on yourself but along the other side of the hedge and only as far as the field corner. Turn left and keep the fence on your right. A waymark encourages you to keep going in the same direction and it is here that the lumps and bumps of the castle grounds come into view.
The path continues between fences. You skirt the moat (usually dry) and mounds of Denham Castle. An interpretation board explains the history of the 12th Century Norman motte and bailey castle, constructed of earth and timber, and originally known as Desning castle. The owners and English Heritage are hoping to begin a programme of restoration. On reaching a pedestrian gate go through and continue downhill. In the bottom corner find another gate and a narrow path with waymarks leading you to a road and a tiny green. A few steps ahead you need to turn right down the vehicle track. An obvious signpost points to Denham church. Care is needed here because within 50 paces you will be faced by several tall gates (deer are natural jumpers) any of which may be closed but will not be padlocked. You need to go through the first and then take the second on the right BEFORE you cross the stream. If you cross the stream and continue following that path you end up in Barrow which is not where you left the car. Follow this track with hedges on both sides climbing gradually uphill. After a right-hand bend meet a concrete track and turn left (another fingerpost). Follow this all the way back to the road (there is a waymark on a left-hand bend so you do not carry straight on by mistake). Cross the road and go through a gap in the hedge. Stay with the fence and gardens on the right and you will return to the church car park.
Last walked 25th November 2018
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.