Walk­ing at Gazeley, Moulton and Dalham

Far-reach­ing views, old ways and new worlds are all part of the pic­ture-per­fect Suf­folk scene on this truly clas­sic coun­try walk around Moulton, Gazeley and Dalham near Newmarket. Lind­say Want shares her dis­cov­er­ies

EADT Suffolk - - Inside -

Lind­say Want en­joys a clas­sic coun­try stroll

COME on, it’s time to broaden your hori­zons. All you need is a lit­tle in­cli­na­tion. Dare to stray from our cool coast­lines in the height of sum­mer to head in­land be­yond Bury and you’ll soon find that, as well as its sheer nov­elty value, a Suf­folk slope can be a re­ally re­fresh­ing al­ter­na­tive.

Take the path gen­tly up through the dap­pled shade be­hind Moulton’s church and all ef­fort dis­solves as a dis­tant mem­ory when the miles fall away with the folds of land­scape in front of you. The same breath of a breeze which cools the brow, sends wisps of cloud scud­ding across the broad­est blue sky­line and surely fills the imag­i­nary sails of the ‘Ship of the Fens’, Ely Cathe­dral, that’s just dis­cernible on the dark sea of hori­zon.

On the up­land, the whole vil­lage of Gazeley seems to stare in won­der at the spec­ta­cle, but the Ick­nield Way takes it all in its an­cient stride, press­ing on to en­ter­tain trav­ellers with pass­ing mys­ter­ies of un­ex­plained lawns, to­gether with tales of El­iz­a­bethan ex­plor­ers and African em­pire-builders, as it touches the mighty mano­rial seat of Dalham.

By Dalham church, wide val­ley views stretch out across the miles, but there’s an­other im­pres­sive line up here too. Huge horse chest­nuts pa­rade pur­pose­fully down the green­est of hills, as if pre­par­ing to cross the River Ken­nett and march up the other side. It just has to rank among Suf­folk’s finest vis­tas. But then, when you take your place be­tween the trees here and turn, noth­ing can quite pre­pare you for the breath-tak­ing view, the most beau­ti­ful Queen Anne hall perched on the brink above, re­view­ing her leafy troops, sur­vey­ing all for miles around in true English coun­try style.

THE WALK

Start by the River Ken­nett at St Pe­ter’s church in Moulton. If you don’t fancy cart­ing a pic­nic around, head for the fa­mous me­dieval pack­horse bridge just along the river, where an his­toric inn of­fers hearty break­fasts and meals to top you up be­fore you set off. The church is also loaded with un­ex­pected good­ies from far and wide, in­clud­ing a strange Sheela-na-gig (fer­til­ity stone), uni­corn (benchend), golden fish (weath­er­vane) and the 18th cen­tury tomb­stone of Let­tice Man­ning which once read: “Oh! Cruel death to please thy palate, Cut down Let­tice to make a sal­let.”

With the church on your right, walk up­hill through the grave­yard to a fence­like stile. The path be­comes tree-lined and steeper with oc­ca­sional gaps in the fo­liage for ad­mir­ing the views as you climb - or stop and catch your breath! An­other stile (with dog gate) an­nounces a field. Ig­nore the foot­path to the right, tak­ing the one which climbs a lit­tle (sorry – it will be worth it!) straight across the field. At the brow, look left for stun­ning views stretch­ing out to­wards the Fens and Ely cathe­dral. It might be some 15 miles away, but on a clear day, it’s very vis­i­ble, with its huge bulk and tow­ers re­sem­bling a sail or be-fun­nelled steam­boat rid­ing the flat sea of fen­land. Fur­ther on, find the next dog-gated stile with memo­rial bench, proudly cel­e­brat­ing that up here, ‘All is well’. Con­tinue straight on, along the path dis­sect­ing an arable field to find - deep in a gap in the hedge and af­ter quite a steep drop - an­other dog-friendly stile giv­ing onto Moulton Road (Ick­nield Way Path).

Turn right along the quiet road (fre­quented more by cy­clists and walk­ers than other traf­fic). Where the road bears left, leave the Ick­nield Way to fol­low the foot­path sign (right by an elec­tric­ity pole), through the hedge, then along the field mar­gin. Ap­proach­ing Gazeley Stud, the path be­comes lined by high hedges. Go through the gates as you cross the es­tate road (signs warn of horses), then look left for rare glimpses of the mighty tithe barn, pad­docks and fine quadrupeds along the fi­nal stretch of foot­path, end­ing up at the kiss­ing-gate into Gazeley All Saints church­yard. To be fair, the horse lurk­ing in­side the church is equally elu­sive. No-one knows the age of the stylised ‘graf­fiti’ horse dis­cernible on the south wall near the al­tar. Imag­i­na­tions race. Could it have been carved by a trav­eller re­mem­ber­ing the great Uff­in­g­ton White Horse of Ox­ford­shire per­haps? A nearby win­dowsill boasts scratch di­als carved deeply by 14th cen­tury fin­gers. In these parts, time has way of stand­ing still … even when it comes to sit­ting down – don’t miss the un­usu­ally carved me­dieval benches.

Out­side the church­yard, there are more horses on the vil­lage sign and an old forge cling­ing on for dear life on the green, but the old read­ing room prob­a­bly hasn’t seen a book in years and the Che­quers, alas, serves ale no more. On­wards, but not nec­es­sar­ily up­wards then, join the an­cient Ick­nield Way once again, this time down Higham Road (op­po­site church), fol­low­ing

foot­path signs through the more mod­ern set­ting of Tithe Close. Take the path lead­ing through a gap be­tween cream and brown houses to reach a wild­flower meadow. Home to orange Hawk­weed and lofty heads of cow pars­ley, the glo­ri­ous gated meadow is a charm­ing spot with pretty views back to­wards the vil­lage. The fur­thest gate gives way to large sea of crops parted by a wide, un­made track. Fol­low this all the way to a white-painted foot­bridge. Ick­nield Way signs point right along the wind­ing path into, and then edg­ing, Blue­but­ton Wood. X marks the spot on the map here, where the strangely named ‘Lawns’ see mixed wood­land ex­changed for mys­te­ri­ous swathes of cash crops. But why? Skirt round Block­sey Wood and the shade of an iso­lated mighty oak pro­vides per­fect vis­tas of this land­ing-strip style co­nun­drum - a place to puz­zle things out per­haps?

Along­side and briefly into Brick Kiln Wood next, as the Ick­nield Way Path leads down­hill a lit­tle. At the field, keep right along the mar­gin to the bot­tom, then dip into wood­land again, past dis­used pits, to catch your first glimpses of Dalham church and its mighty fine manor house through the trees. At the small met­aled road, turn right, walk­ing down first, then up for views across the pad­dock to the church. Peep­ing round the back is stately Dalham Hall, a Queen Anne af­fair with a che­quered his­tory. Built in its cur­rent style by the bishop of Ely around 1705, it was orig­i­nally two storeys higher and had am­bi­tions of a lantern tower, so the cleric could spot his beloved cathe­dral across the miles from the com­fort of his coun­try quar­ters. It passed to the Af­fleck fam­ily who held it for three cen­turies, be­fore sell­ing up in 1900 to Cecil Rhodes, that most con­tro­ver­sial Bri­tish im­pe­ri­al­ist who founded Rhode­sia (now Zim­babwe), yet died be­fore even liv­ing here. Check out the Af­fleck mon­u­ment by the church door spot the tri­an­gu­la­tion point near here too! – and nip round the back to see the ru­ins of the fam­ily mau­soleum. There are Rhodes fam­ily plaques on the church­yard wall, but it was the Stuteville dy­nasty (mano­rial lords 1416 - 1696) who left the great­est mark by re­build­ing St Mary’s tower - Sir Mar­tin Stuteville, be­ing an ex­plorer of the New Amer­i­can World along­side Sir Fran­cis Drake.

Turn­ing your back on St Mary’s, drink in the views across the val­ley, look­ing down to­wards the vil­lage along the great av­enue of trees. Ven­ture through the kiss­ing gate to fol­low the Ick­nield Way down­hill and look back long­ingly for the full im­pact of one of Suf­folk’s most re­fined mano­rial seats. But the River Ken­nett is call­ing - and per­haps a cool­ing pint at the Af­fleck Arms too! At the bot­tom of the av­enue, go through an­other kiss­ing gate and left onto the road. As the most pic­ture-per­fect thatched cot­tages ap­pear at the end of Church Lane, look right to dis­cover a rare con­i­cal malt kiln, tow­er­ing 8 me­tres high. Even the flood gaug­ing sta­tion blends in here with its tur­reted top. Con­tinue along the road for more quaint cot­tages, man­i­cured lawns, roses round the door plus be­mus­ing twisted chim­neys and you’ll soon come to the pub – thatched of course! Al­ter­na­tively, look for the white foot­bridge (right) shortly be­yond the malt kiln, cross the stile and set out along the Ken­nett on your way back to Moulton. As the river plays hide and seek along the field mar­gin, look back to see Dalham’s white, bee­hive-capped smock mill, peep­ing above the dis­tant hedgerows. The path en­ters a small wood and meets the Gazeley Road. Turn right, over Cat­ford Bridge, then left down the bri­dle­way op­po­site an im­pos­ing red­brick gate­way. The Ick­nield Way is still your trusty com­pan­ion, but the Ken­nett, for­ever fickle, ducks and dives (left) be­hind trees and dog-rose hedges. Fork left into the trees to find the river sur­pris­ingly far down be­low, in the deep­est ravine. As the path emerges, so St Pe­ter’s gold fish soon comes back into view (right).

For the love of Let­tice - a tale of a tomb­stone at St Pe­ter’s Moulton

Tree lined path be­yond Moulton church­yard

The view to Ely Cathe­dral

Cross­ing at Gazely Stud

Moulton Road

Gazeley All Saints church

Moulton pack­horse bridge

A glimpse of the tithe barn at Gazeley Stud

Dalham Hall

The bri­dle­way af­ter Cat­ford bridge

The Af­fleck Arms at Dalham

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