Stg 1 Day 5 – Sat 29 Jun

Castle Hedingham to Great Sampford

Castle Hedingham is beautiful.

I’d never heard of it until I started researching the 52° walk.  How can I have reached nearly 52 and never heard of the village with the best preserved Norman keep in the country?

This is the beauty of lifelong learning and continual discovery.  I find that a comfort when I’m feeling low: whatever difficulties are happening in my life, there’s always lots more out there of interest to discover, fascinate and delight.

The temperature was already rising as I walked out of the village.  It was going to be hot.  Luckily, to lift my spirits in the heat, walking with me today I had two hot chicks.  (I did check they’d be happy being called that on this update.)

My good friends Helen & Wendy had got up at silly o’clock for a Saturday, driven all the way from Berkshire over to north Essex, parked at today’s end point and caught a pre-arranged taxi to the start point.  All by 09:30.  How committed is that?  Thanks ladies.

Wendy was Heather’s old friend from primary school and was one of Heather’s bridesmaids.  So, perhaps more than anyone, she knows what a special person we lost and perhaps therefore understands my motivation for this silly walk.

We met as arranged at today’s amazing place of discovery, the Colne Valley Railway.

Longitude: 0°36’E (OS Map / Google Map)

Evan Bailey, Vice Chairman, has volunteered at this preservation railway for nearly 20 years.  He very kindly let us in an hour before the railway opened to the public and told us about the incredible story of the station building.

In the late 1970s, the closed railway station was due to be demolished to make way for a factory development.  But much like the Lamarsh residents, who didn’t want to witness the demise of their village pub, Hedingham residents then undertook an extraordinary task.

With six weeks’ notice, they carefully took down the station building, numbering the bricks, and then painstakingly rebuilt it about a mile down the line – as pictured here.

To me, that seems an extraordinary feat.  And just a little crazy: like walking across the country in a straight line.  Maybe, in life, it doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you do it with commitment and dedication.  Colne Valleyers are certainly dedicated.

We didn’t keep Evan long as he had to open up, and we wanted to get walking before it got too hot.  I showed Evan our planned route and he said: “Ah.  You won’t get through that way as there are huge nettles in the way.  Wait a minute, I know another way round.”

By carefully leading us a short way down the line, Evan saved us either arms and legs full of stings or about 30 minutes of detour.  How lovely!

The countryside was gorgeous, but there aren’t many photos as we just wanted to keep walking.  As in previous days, field after field of arable crops, little livestock.  Not all the paths were passable meaning we had to wade through the crops, aggravating Helen’s legs.

The ladies had even brought a picnic with them!  Which we devoured in some rare shade.

Great Sampford was our end point, so we were very happy to see this sign.  Plus it made us chuckle.  You go a bit dotty in the sun.

Wendy & Helen could lead the way at the end of the walk as this is where they had driven eight hours earlier.  It was a great relief to finally get inside.

I mentioned my steps on Day 1, but not since.  I’m not really into all the health data side of things, but Wendy & Helen said folk would find it interesting.  So I’ll record a running total of steps going forward (to the extent that the step count on your phone can be trusted).

Week 1 Day 1 – Tue 25 Jun: 39,000 steps
Week 1 Day 2 – Wed 26 Jun: 42,000 steps
Week 1 Day 3 – Thu 27 Jun: 42,000 steps
Week 1 Day 4 – Fri 28 Jun: 32,000 steps
Week 1 Day 5 – Sat 29 Jun: 33,000 steps
Total steps so far: 188,000

I did just want to say something about tonight’s accommodation.  At Sorrells Farm, Emma has created a couple of charming and extremely comfortable self-contained units, with kitchens, in a delightful rural location.

This was brilliant for me as it meant I could make myself a very early breakfast on Sunday and get walking before it got too warm.  More on that tomorrow.

What’s more, Emma very kindly waived the price of the overnight accommodation – thank you very much, Emma – I’ll donate it to The Wilderness Foundation.

A hot day, but very pleasant nevertheless in the company of two lovely ladies, with a fabulous place to stay at night.  And only one day left to complete Week 1.  What more could you want?

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