We left Clophill by following part of the Greensand Ridge Walk and carefully crossed the A6 at Deadman Hill. I must have been too young to have heard about the murder which took place just off the layby here in 1961, but I do remember as a child the story being mentioned on occasion as we drove up the A6 towards Bedford. Perhaps because of this memory and these associations I have only once wandered in Maulden Woods (on the western side of the A6). What a joy I had been missing!
The route enters the woods and passes by a couple of cottages. After a short while I heard the sound of axes. Behind one cottage and adjacent to a gypsy-style caravan a couple of young lads were chopping wood. Maybe I am just an old romantic – the sun had started to come out and cast shadows through the trees; the leafmould smelt almost nutritious beneath our feet; a red kite (so far east!) flew overhead – but I felt such a connection with the earth and the cycle of life. It is not unknown that I am an admirer of Thomas Hardy and at this moment I was reminded of Giles Winterbourne in “The Woodlanders”. – such a simple, honest and rustic character, who was said to be able to distinguish trees by the sound of the wind through their branches. Winterbourne was so “natural” he was almost part of the wood. It was great to see two of the younger generation doing physical work in a natural environment. Hope that our connection with the natural world will not be lost. The path then became more sandy as it passed a curious octagonal thatched cottage.
It continued skirting woods until reaching a stone commemorating the Golden Jubilee. Soon we passed across Maulden Church Meadow and found ourselves at St Mary the Virgin Church. Ouside there was the Ailesbury Mausoleum. Then what a blessing – the beautiful Church was open.
We stayed a while, prayed and contemplated on the candles which had been lit under a stained glass window dedicated to St Alban – I wonder was I being passed a message? The blue and yellow glass in the window reflecting the colours of the funeral wreaths in St Albans City football colours the day before. The stained glass reminding me of some words of one of the Eulogies that broken glass and broken lives can be put back together to make something beautiful.
We walked around the lanes of Maulden before once again entering some fields. Here the way became really muddy (it was also quite muddy near Flitton Moor and I would definitely recommend good boots for the walk). I seem to have a thing about photographing ponies at the moment and we made friends with two along the way!
Eventually the route runs back into Ampthill. There are, of course, many places for refreshments here and also plenty of charity and other shops to look around if one still has the energy – we didn’t! We were back at Ampthill Park in time to see the sun go down. Somehow a fitting end to a day of reflection, happy memories and the knowledge and trust that although much of nature has put herself to bed for the winter we know we will have some wonderful joys to await us in Spring.
The first part of this article on a circular walk from Ampthill can be found here.
Here is an index of walks in the Beds, Herts and Bucks area.