Biggleswade to Sandy walk 20th April 2024

Biggleswade: (PIchelesuuade 1086 (DB), Bicheleswada 1132.
‘Ford of a man called Biccel’.)
Sandy: Sandeie 1086 (DB) ‘Sandy Island’

Walkers arrived at Biggleswade by train and car. There was a slight delay waiting for one.  Group briefing including alerting walkers to the ‘Guide for Walkers’ on the club website.  Brief street walk to get out of town and under A1 and then we were crossing arable fields, which on the walkover were just bare earth, sometimes extremely waterlogged, now full of sprouting crops and in places adorned with QR codes to inform us what was growing there. Very useful for enquiring townies! First area of interest – the Broom East Wildlife Conservation Site, which is part of a former sand and gravel quarry, restored as a wildlife site after mineral extraction ceased in 2017. Here and in other areas along the walk there were quite a few ponds and fishing lakes presumably formed in the gravel pits. There were also lovely red/brown cattle moodily munching their hay, possibly not allowed to wander the soggy fields to protect their hooves. We not only heard but even saw a lark singing heartily above us.

We passed a large detached house with its own windsock (sometimes needed for their helicopter apparently!) No helicopters today but small aircraft taking off and landing at the nearby Old Warden Aerodrome, home to the Shuttleworth Collection of historic working aircraft and other vehicles (which might interest some of our members when they have one of their summer Airshows!). I paused to take a photo of two of the small aircraft as they passed overhead, reminding me of the Special Agents who operated out of nearby Tempsford. The group walked on ahead and waited at the end of the field before we walked through a small wood by a stream with a big fat frog and crocodiles.

After a short walk along a quiet road we came to what we thought of as a ‘gingerbread house’ on the walkover, isolated as described, lonely even. But on walk day the lady owner came to the gate and seemed glad to tell us about the thatched cottage, local whitewash and door colour rules (black for Old Warden, green for Southill!) and the building work required to lower the floor level to provide foundations and be more comfortable for occupants of average height!

From there we climbed up a gentle slope through a wooded area, passing paths to two buildings of interest (a Keeper’s Cottage for shooting parties and a Queen Anne’s Summerhouse folly) but which we had to leave for another day or for future use as a holiday let as they have been restored by the Landmark Trust!

Down the other side of the wood to The Village (the name of the road through Old Warden), past well-kept thatched cottages (with black doors except the Old Vicarage door which we observed was white!). Being short of enough time to do justice to the up-market pub menu, some of us ate our picnic round the war memorial and then made our way to the pub for a drink and thaw out (when the sun went in and the wind blew it was still quite cold!). Others made their own arrangements.

Afterwards we made our way up another slight incline towards the Grade 1, 12thC church of St Leonard, closed for repairs (but we didn’t have time to visit its unusual features or the mausoleum in the churchyard), with a view of Shuttleworth House down to the right.

Soon after, we observed the “two thinly-disguised telecommunication masts” amongst the tall pine trees.

They blended in quite well but in some cases the “disguise” had been blown down. On through the woodland, navigating the ground water, constantly admiring and sampling the May blossom, blubells and other spring growth. Along beside more arable fields with a view of two Airship Hangars 4 Km distant, said to be 250 metres long. Look out for them in Star Wars and Batman films amongst other film and TV productions!

The route continued along the edge of fields (more blossom, hares boxing and the occasional muntjac) and along paths between hedges and trees, one particularly muddy section reminded us of the waterlogged walkover. It made me glad that it had been worthwhile to bring my poles with me after all! We paused a while and admired the views including the distant ridge topped by Sandy TV aerial as a walking pole planted in the woodland path, way back, was retrieved. On towards and straight through Northill (no time to visit the Grade 1 listed church, The Crown pub or check out the colour of the cottage doors!), following the Greensand Ridge Way, across Beeston Fields, past their crop QR codes, Beeston Village Green with an amazing variety of different trees, over the A1 by a steep metal bridge and on along the path beside the River Ivel with The Riddy water meadows on the other side, through a woodland path to avoid the tarmac. Suddenly we arrived at The Bell opposite Sandy station and had time for a quick drink and a slice of Victoria sponge before catching the train southwards at the end of a very pleasant day. Thank you to the group for their support and to the weather for sunshine and drier conditions underfoot!