Saturday, 8 April 2017

Tithe Farm Walk

The man on the telly said this week that we all need to do more exercise, move more, and eat less because we're all getting obese. And the statistics for Central Bedfordshire also show that in Houghton Regis we're a little on the large size. So this afternoon saw me make the most of the excellent weather we're having at the moment, with a 90 minute jaunt around Tithe Farm and back home again.

I haven't walked this particular route in its entirety before, and I'm not the fastest of walkers, partly owing to the constant sciatic pain in my left leg. My right leg could walk for ever (possibly), but my left leg can't. Still, if I convince myself there is no pain and if my right leg can do it, so too can my left leg, then the walk is do-able (just about).

After leaving the skate park at Tithe Farm Recreation ground I headed north towards Grove Farm.
Part way along, this is the view west.

... and this is the view east

... and this is the view south, looking back the way I came.

A little further north, over the brow of a slight rise, the view towards Grove Farm

Beside the new dual carriageway, the old field paths have been diverted. The westerly view.

From the bridlepath, close to the dual carriageway, looking south back towards Tithe Farm.
The old A5 is just a few weeks away from being diverted from its present course between Hockliffe and M1 junction 9 at Flamstead, to do a sharp easterly turn near Thorn and head instead towards the M1. No longer will this ancient coaching route, outflanked by the railway era, then outflanked by the M1 in 1959, be allowed to flow through the congested town of Dunstable. The big hope is that once de-trunked Dunstable will no longer attract HGVs and  instead they'll be banished to this picturesque part of Bedfordshire laying in a shallow chalk valley between Houghton Regis and Chalgrave Parish. The newly routed traffic will thus be able to connect to a new Junction 11a, avoiding such places as the village of Toddington, and the centre of Houghton Regis.

The new road will also become the new boundary for the Green Belt, permitting up to 5150 new homes to be built around the east and north of Houghton Regis. So, another reason for the walk, to make the most of what is there because it will soon be turned into an urban jungle of new roads, tarmacked footpaths, cars parking on footpaths, potholes, crisp packets, discarded pop bottles, dog-poo, and fly-tipped junk. As you may have gathered, I am one of those with little faith that old habits and will ever go away.

From the dual carriageway bridlepath bridge, westerly view.

From the dual carriageway bridlepath bridge, easterly view towards Lord's Hill

Also from the dual carriageway bridlepath bridge, easterly view towards Lord's Hill

Followed the diverted bridlepath through Grove Farm. You may be lucky enough to see the ponies grazing. The route continues to the ancient Ede Way or Theedway route (see Theedway notes at foot of this article). Here is the view looking towards Toddington.

Time for a selfie!

View from Ede Way towards Houghton Regis.
The dual carriageway is now hidden beyond the green field.

Similar viewpoint as the previous picture, this time more inclined towards Luton

Ede Way is quite wide as it gets closer to the M1.

Before long, a signpost and path back into Tithe Farm beckon. This old path now stops at the dual carriageway and leads you up a long slope to a new pedestrian only bridge.

View east, towards M1, from pedestrian only bridge

View west from pedestrian only bridge

Another view west from pedestrian only bridge

The long walkway to the pedestrian only bridge. Note the new channels cut in to take rain water.

This view looks back north east towards the recently completed Sundon Road bridge, marked "A" on the map above.

This view looks back north west towards the recently completed Sundon Road bridge, marked "B" on the map above.

Notes On Theed Way

An Anglo Saxon charter of 966 for Linslade gives evidence of a trade route for salt in Bedfordshire. It was the main east-west route through the settlement known as Thiodwegthe from where 'Theedway' or 'or Ede Way' is probably derived. This route crossed the Ousel at 'Yttingaford' (now Tiddenfoot), and moved eastwards 12 miles across Bedfordshire, Eggington, Chalgrave, and  converged into the Icknield Way, north of Luton at the foot of Warden hills. The northern boundary of Luton is established along the Theedway, and has been the boundary for at least a thousand years, and is the present limit of Luton's built up area. A section of Theedway survives near Linslade as Bridleway37 near Grovebury Farm north of the A505. (ref. Greensand Trust).

This route was noted in the Chalgrave Charter of King Athelstan in AD926 (1034) and was therefore in use during the Anglo-Saxon period (Blundell J H, 1925, Toddington, Its Annals and People. E. Ashby 1925).   Possibly a successor of the putative Icknield Way  prehistoric route, and its name means 'the people's road or highway'.  It passes through all of Bedfordshire's Royal Manors, but avoids key settlements.  The route may have been used to transport salt from the East Anglian Fens inland, avoiding paying tolls at towns and markets (Edgeworth, M, 2007, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Bedfordshire, in Oake, M et al (ed),

Bedfordshire Archaeology – Research and Archaeology: Resource Assessment, Research
Agenda and Strategy, Bedfordshire Archaeology Monograph 9, 87-109 ).  The origins of the route are unclear; it has been suggested that it was a prehistoric track, as concentrations of struck flint have been along its course (Austin, W, 1928, The History of Luton and its Hamlets, Volumes 1 and 2. County Press).  The route remained important into the 18th century, when it started to decline.  It was finally removed as a major thoroughfare by the 19th century enclosures.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Studham Common And Surrounds

Another lovely April day today, so I escaped the house and took myself off for an adventure.

The sun was shining, it was quite warm, and one place I have been promising myself to walk around for the last 40 years is Studham Common. Somehow, I never managed to get around to it, so now was as good a time as any.

Back in the days when I lived in Dunstable and commuted to Hemel Hempstead I would occasionally go through Studham just to vary my journeys and to wonder at the inhabitants who lived around this common. Little cottages tucked away tightly against the kerb on a narrow twisting route. And a free house pub standing proudly overlooking the visible common.

View of Studham, from a photograph original I took this afternoon.

I parked up near the crossroads, and took myself off to the south west, across the common field that appears to be used on occasion for a village game of football, through the trees, and trampling along a well trodden path. By and large the wood opened up onto a wide green thoroughfare, a decent sized cottage standing at the end of it, like a hopeful mansion house with its Lord of the Manor vista in the style of Wrest House, looking down it's green vista, albeit on a much more miniscule scale, I hasten to add.

The walk turned past the cottage, which turned out to be called 'The School House', and moved onto a signed bridleway alongside a field. This route didn't seem like it would be too exciting, and though uneventful, it soon ended up on a lane, which I followed all the way back to the main road that runs through Studham. On the way I noted a substantial old set of cottages - 1864 - I think it proclaimed in  it's genuinely pleasing style on the cement on it's front. And then there was a playground tucked away in a distant corner of the Studham Sports and Social Club's cricket ground. They must really want to make those kids work hard to get to somewhere they can play.

Heading back down into Studham, I veered off to the right, on a road that turned out to divide Studham Common into the East Field and the West Field, according to the notice board conveniently placed to tell me where I was.  As the East Field had approached, so too did a blight on the landscape. Someone had evidently thought the car park could do with some seating and had dumped a leather settee and pushchair at the entrance.

Heading East, then north in the East Field - I spied a Red Kite hovering around, although I couldn't get a clear shot of it for the tree branches. There is plenty of evidence that someone has been busy planting more saplings around the edges of this fallow uncultivated green field.

View of East Common, adapted from a photograph I took this afternoon.
What's the saying? Spring is sprung? Blossom in the East Common field edge.

From the eastern side of the East Common, the hamlet looks particularly quaint.

In a hollow clearing in the trees, off to the north on the way back to the centre of the village, I stood still for awhile, taking in nature. A couple of pigeons flew off a branch, disturbed. A robin flew down and hopped a little closer towards me. A rabbit hopped over a branch in the middle distance.

Once back in the centre of the village I sat awhile on the wall of the Studham Community Centre, and looked back at the view into the tight corner as a pedestrian and cyclist came past.

A delightfully picturesque view of Studham, adapted from a photograph I took this afternoon.

I walked past the memorial stone at the cross-roads, and sat awhile in the sunshine. A couple of riders on ponies came past. Who wants to be stuck indoors on a day like this?

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