The U3A states that ‘members, through sharing their knowledge, skills and experience, learn from each other’; today we learnt a skill that was unknown to all of us except one. It is particularly useful for those with shorter legs and involves crossing stiles with a high step up. Demonstrated to perfection one sits on the step with their back to the direction of travel, then firstly one pushes their bottom through squeezing under the lowest bar and then doubled up wiggles the body backwards and lastly brings the legs through. No one else adopted this method much preferring the conventional up and over, but it did cause some amusement.
The second thing we learnt was about the ghost of Graces Walk. This walk is a wide stretch of bridleway that leads up to Great Graces, a 16th-century house. The story goes that in the 17th century Lady Alice Mildmay drowned herself, supposedly because of her husband’s cruelty, and is said to haunt Graces Walk from the house to Sandon Brook – the stretch that we walked; (sightings have been recorded and seem to be always when horses are present).
Leaving the Generals Arms, Little Baddow we strode down the lane leading beside the sports ground and later fine houses on our left, and on the right a private school where youngsters played. It is a pleasant series of footpaths that gently descend and leads to a fine view west over Chelmsford. Across pasture, through a farm and across fields of short lucerne we dropped almost to the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation. Instead of continuing on to it we turned sharply and climbed to Little Baddow Church where we had a pause in the warm autumnal sunshine. Opposite the church stands Little Baddow Hall, a fine half-timbered house. Combining the old with the new, a model of a cow, green, black and white in colour stands in the garden. The plums that fruit in the orchards behind the Hall, have now been harvested, A short way on paddocks contained horses and in the far corner of one were several miniature Shetland ponies: tiny, no larger than a Labrador dog.
After the recent rain the ford in Hurrells Lane was deep but a raised walkway saved us from getting wet feet. Opposite the walkway is a water meadow, which we walked beside and shortly came to Graces Walk. After all the descending we now had to pay for that pleasure with the rest of the walk gradually climbing. After a stretch of road we turned onto Lingwood Common and then turned north climbing through Ling Wood, a delightful wood that eventually led to Riffhams, another fine house of red brick.
A little jaunt through another stretch of woodland brought us out onto the sports field and so back to the pub where we were promptly served, our lunches devoured, and the happy band left for home.
Next Walk – Tuesday 23rd October, 10.00 a.m., Prince of Wales at Stow Maries, CM3 6SA (note: although the pub does not open until 10.00 I would appreciate you all being there at that time and ready to order lunch; we can be away as soon as possible).