What a change from last month – the sun shone, it was warm and calm and this month there were 16 happy faces to greet me. There was a slight delay at the pub but eventually we were on our way.
After a short road stretch we turned onto fields passing allotments where fascinating round raised beds were one of the charms of this well-tended facility. The fields were empty of people and it was glorious striding along the grassy paths, a slight mist hanging in the distance and the sounds of chatter from the group. We soon reached farm fields where sheep grazed and the nearby lakes, with their placid water, looked at their best in the morning light; the intermittent noise of ducks and other water birds drifted across to us. We had to watch our step on this section as the rabbits and badgers had been active and this hazard was compounded by loose wire from a fallen fence.
After the recent rain we thought the fields would be horrendously muddy but we were pleasantly surprised how well the ground had drained.
Eventually we came down into Ulting (location of the first sugar beet factory in England!), and having made good time were able to detour to look at the canal-side church. This church, All Saints, has been standing since 1150 and had a major restoration in the 1870s. According to Wikipedia it was once a place of pilgrimage ranking with Walsingham and other famous shrines.
Having descended throughout the morning we were now taking the gentle ascent back to Hatfield Peverel. Our route followed the River Ter that wound its way gradually north. Huge willows lined the banks and the river created a ford on the lane leading from Nounsley. A lively spaniel raced to the water, splashed around, ran back to its owner and then came back again to do the same.
Almost back at the Wheatsheaf we (well, most of us, some weren’t keeping an eye out and missed the turnoff) passed by the site of a priory founded by the Saxon Ingelrica (reputed to be the mistress of William the Conqueror). The standing Parish Church of St Andrew that we also passed is said to be the surviving fragment of the Norman priory church nave.
We arrived back at the pub just a few minutes late but before we had finished ordering drinks the delicious food was arriving. Accolades from the group about the quality of the food were numerous (‘the best meal we have had as a walking group’, ‘best fish and chips ever’, ‘best liver and bacon’ – only Bob seemed disappointed and said his pie wasn’t as good as those that Viv cooks (maximum ‘brownie’ points, Bob) – and we weren’t going to contradict him).