29 March 2016
The hiatus in the building work continued into Tuesday because a delivery of cement didn’t arrive. This was bad news for the progress of my potting shed come summer house but good news for walking. Given the last few rainy walks it seemed prudent not to go too far afield but, as usual, I had a plan up my sleeve. There was supposed to be another boundary stone in Tickleford Gully, about two and a half miles from home. Of course CJ wanted to come along. He may have caught the boundary stone bug.
Our first stop was on Spring Road when we spotted a perfectly heart shaped puddle. It may not have been pretty but it seemed unusual enough for a quick photo. Then we carried on, past Millers Pond and the ducks, under the railway arches and across the road. We stopped again to marvel at how fast the stream was flowing through Mayfield Park and then climbed the hill towards Weston Lane.
CJ has never walked this way with me before so he was quite interested in the old ninteenth century Stable Block near the top of the hill.
“In the eighteenth century there was a mill here using the water from Millers Pond,” I told him. “Mayfield House was built near the mill and this was the stables. I’m not sure why the people in big houses made their stables so fancy but I like the cupola and the clock on this one although I’m not sure the horses appreciated it.”
“What happened to the house?” CJ wondered.
“It was bombed during the war and had to be demolished. The stable block and the gatehouse on Weston Lane are is all that’s left. These days the stables is a council depot. Maybe we can have a look at the gatehouse on our way back.”
We carried on along Newtown Road talking about the blitz and all the changes it wrought on the city. There was another stop to puzzle over some rusty old pieces of machinery on the lawn in front of the Gardeners Arms pub, a plough and a seed drill as far as we could make out.
“Maybe the Mayfield House gardener lived here at one time,” CJ suggested.
“You could be right,” I said. ” Nana used to come here sometimes, with the bingo club I think. They always had chicken in the basket, it was a big thing back then. Mother loved chicken in the basket. It was a bit like Kentucky Fried Chicken but served in a real basket with chips. I doubt if they have it now.”
The first part of the road is lined with houses but further along, close to the woods we were headed for, the houses run out and so does the pavement. Last spring I walked through to the shore from here so I knew we didn’t have far to go. What I wasn’t so sure of was exactly how to get into the woods. It had been touch and go last time and it was over a year ago, so I wasn’t exactly confident. CJ didn’t seem impressed when I told him.
I knew we had to turn off onto Ticklford drive and I remembered looking at Google maps last time I came this way and turning left through a side street. We headed that way but I noticed a small cutway just before the side street and wondered if it might be a short cut. At the risk of being moaned at by CJ if I got us lost, I decided to investigate. The path led us behind houses and garages then into the trees. At first it looked promising but then it dipped down a steep slope and we could see the road at the bottom. Did we go on or did we go back and try to find the gate I’d gone through before? In the photo I’d seen of the boundary stone the road was just visible in the background and the gate I’d used was quite a way from it. If we turned back we’d have to walk towards the place we were now. If we went down to the road though, we might not be able to find a way into the woods.
CJ just shrugged so I made an executive decision and carried on down the steep bank towards the road. If we couldn’t find a way in we’d have to go back to plan A. As it was, after a short walk along the road we saw a fence and, beyond it, the stream. After a slightly precarious clamber through brambles, we were standing beside it, looking at the conduit that fed it under the road. So far, so good.
Still, finding the stream and finding the stone were two different things. Luckily I’d saved the photo of it on my phone so I found it and wandered about with one eye on the screen and one on the road trying to work out where it was taken from. It worked very well. When the photo and reality more or less matched up I looked down and I was all but standing on the stone! Cue happy dance.
Stone finder extraordinaire, CJ may have been ever so slightly miffed. He’d spotted an old motorbike in the stream and had literally walked right past the stone without seeing it. In fairness it was covered with moss and brambles which I had to clear off before I took my photos.
He scrambled back from The bank of the stream, removed a bit more debris from the stone, just to prove he knew best, and took his own photos. Just to be on the safe side I took another couple myself, trying to get the road in the background to show the location better. Now we had six stones ticked off. We were half way to finding them all!
Behind us I could see a rather unkempt green fence and a gate. It was similar to the one I’d entered last year further along the stream.
“Shall we go that way?” I asked CJ. “I should think we’d be able to get back to the back of the houses throught there. You can walk all the way to the shore if you follow the stream but it’s probably going to be too muddy now.”
He thought it was a good idea so we went through the gate and found an overgrown and rather muddy trail. There were several fallen trees, whether they were victims of Storm Katie or some earlier storm it was impossible to tell.
As we walked along I told CJ that water was once channeled from the gully through a conduit built by the Cistercian monks, to Netely Abbey. Apparently, there’s still an embanked ditch, although I’m not sure I saw it when I visited last spring and we couldn’t see it now as far as we could tell. Just as I was explaining that between 1949 and 1990 part of the woodland here was the local tip but the landfill site has now been reclaimed and reverted back to wilderness, we came to the stream again.
“It looks like some people are still using it as a tip,” CJ said. There was a large piece of metal across the stream, some cycle parts and, further along hub caps. Why people can’t take their rubbish to a real tip is beyond me. There are enough of them and they’re free after all.
Much as I’d have liked to explore further, especially as there may or may not be another stone along the gully, it was very muddy in places and, between us, we decided to leave it until another day. After a while, things began to look familiar and, before much longer, I could see houses and then a green fence. We left the gully behind by way of the wooden steps I’d descended on my first visit, with promises to come back in the summer.
Back at the road, we crossed so we would be walking towards oncoming traffic. That was when we discovered a footpath running behind the trees on that side. I wish I’d known about it before, it would have saved me a lot of scary moments. There was a small bank covered in celandines and a few daffodils, an absolutely stunning sign that spring is well and truly with us.
Earlier I’d promised CJ that I’d show him the gatehouse to Mayfield house so, when we came to Weston Lane again, we walked down a little way and crossed the road to the entrance gates. The gate house is a private home now but it’s a pretty little place and the size of it shows that the big house must have been quite a sight to behold. We walked back through the park towards Millers Pond, spotting more signs of spring and the havoc wreaked by Storm Katie on the way.
Obviously we couldn’t go home without a quick visit to Millers Pond. It’s one of CJ’ favourite places after all. Sadly, we hadn’t thought to bring the duck food because there were ducks a plenty but they kept well away from us. With the food we’d have been able to tempt them closer for sure. Still, the clouds and trees were reflected in the pond in a most enchanting way and we saw bluebells along the path. All in all it was a good end to a very successful walk. Now about those other six stones…
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