Maggie Herod walked the Greensands Ridgeway long distance path in Bedfordshire with Maisy, her rescue Staffie, in order to raise money for CRY in memory of Stephanie Browne.
The path is 40 miles long and because Maisy has arthritis, they did the walk over a week, covering 6 miles a day on average. Maggie & Maisy raised a wonderful £705.00. Read Maggie and Maisy’s blog of the walk below.
Greensands Ridge Walk – Day 1
The rain deluged the night before our walk was due to begin. It stopped briefly in the early morning as if to take a rest but then came pelting down again. I had decided to wear white trousers because white is the colour of the charity that I am sponsored for -but that suddenly didn’t seem such an eye catching idea! But Maisy, my Staffie, looked very smart in her bright red jacket with the initials CRY embroidered down the back. At last the sun emerged cautiously and we set off in the car with two friends from the village – my husband John is providing transport because he has an ankle problem and can’t manage the walk – and we arrived in Tesco’s car park in Leighton Buzzard because we were going to meet another friend there and because the walk starts discretely unannounced from here. But the car park is HUGE – acre upon acre – and finding one friend with her dog in a car ocean was terrifying – but we did succeed and just set off half an hour later than we had planned.
The tow path of the Grand Union Canal was firm underfoot and we enjoyed seeing the moored narrow boats, cyclists and the queue of boats waiting to use the lock. And our two dogs, Maisy and Jimmy trotted along and sniffed happily.
We left the canal path to squelch our way across a field -or quagmire- of liquid mud. The cows were unperturbed – after all they had lush grass to eat – and the dogs pattered their way lightly through puddles as we laboured over towards the river and were relieved when we could march firmly over the broadwalk. and the bridge.
On our way through the woods to Rushmere Country Park we loved the intense colours of the bluebells that stretched as far as we could see in every direction. The clinging mud was totally
We found the hide for heron watchers built into a steep bank that reached down to the river; and a beautifully constructed children’s play area in the woods.
Maisy and Jimmy were unimpressed; Maisy made it clear(politely) that it was time for a snack and the two dogs shared a well deserved treat. We thought we could manage a snack too and made our way to the café, which was dog unfriendly. As we stood outside to eat our sandwiches the rain sheeted down again and our sandwiches were sodden. All was dry in the café which was almost empty! Jimmy and Maisy gave a no woofs rating for the café!
Our day’s walk was nearly over; we slipped and slithered our way through the woods, and arrived at the road which took us to our final destination for the day – the pub at Rammamere Heath. John met us there and we ended our day happily in the sunshine with a drink.
Rammamere Heath to Eversholt – Day 2
To-day is a special day; there are eleven of us walking, including Tom who is only 6 years old and very excited about spending a day with Maisy. Buttermilk Wood was gloriously muddy but the bluebells were a delight. Everyone pretended to be Very Put Out because Richard’s trousers were immaculate and we all looked as if we’d been wallowing in mud hippopotamus-like. Richard said it was lateral thinking – he’d just left the path entirely and walked through the trees. Tom and Maisy just ran and ran and ran, completely happy together.
We walked along a dark, narrow path bordered by a high hedge on one side and dense woodland on the other. We passed through a kissing gate into a wide field and the open view over a valley with Woburn Abbey in the far distance was an unexpected, astonishing delight. We loved walking through the park which was immaculate with closely mown grass, the lake which graced the front of the Abbey and the herds of grazing deer. Maisy had to be on the lead here, but she didn’t mind; she was proudly carrying a best quality, very large stick which she had found in the Park. And Tom found excitement in everything from fox holes to ancient trees.
When at last we turned our back on Woburn Abbey we did not have far to walk to Eversholt and a pub lunch. Tom was presented with a certificate to celebrate his walk and a map of our day; we all clapped him and our lunch was excellent. Another day ended. And Maisy put herself to bed very early indeed.
Houghton House – Day 3
12th May To-day began as a ladies day with 4 members of the Silsoe Walkers Group joining Maisy and me. And we decided that it was a quirky day. We had left the carefully tended glory of Woburn Abbey behind us and had returned to the real Bedfordshire world. But it was an unexpected delight. Of course we loved the glorious expanses of bluebells in Briar Stockings Wood – I’ve run out of adjectives to describe them – but we also saw an immaculately painted white chair on a field boundary just by itself -the field stretched away in front of it – Why was it there? And there was the observation point with the steep ladder that Astrid clambered up -but she could see no further over the valley in front of her than we could from the ground -so was it to help in a shoot? We passed through several fields where handsome horses from a stud grazed contentedly and I delighted in the absence of mud.
Then we saw the ancient ruined church at Segenhoe village, which is now scarcely more than a hamlet. The ancient gravestones that surrounded the church had sunk into the ground at drunken angles and the words engraved on them had long since faded; there was peace there and the past was encapsulated in that ruin open to the sky. We all loved that church for its tranquillity in time.
At Ridgmont we enjoyed a hot drink at the café and Richard joined our walk for the rest of the day. We liked the idea of a break at Ridgmont because we were walking the Ridgeway – and we were excited when we continued to find that we were walking along the actual Greensand Ridge itself. To the left wild, dense woodland sloped down steeply into a deep valley and we all tried to photograph the ridge desperately hard. And we all failed. On our right was a carefully tended golf course; the contrast was almost bewildering.
I wrote that it was a quirky day! Especially when we passed a field of curious llamas, exotic animals originating from South America, in remote Bedfordshire countryside. But we were nearly at journey’s end; we arrived at Ampthill Park where King Henry VIII once had his hunting lodge and looked out from the Greensand Ridge over to the tall chimneys that were once flues for brick kilns at Stewartby We left Ampthill Park to plod up the road and along the Greensand Path to Houghton House; a dignified ruin of haunting beauty that will be our starting point for Day 4 of our walk.
And Maisy, my Staffie, is still walking soundly despite her arthritis. And she carried a large stick very proudly all day.
Ampthill to Clophill – Day 4
Today twelve students from the Horticulture Centre in our village joined us, with two of their carers. And my friends Angela and Jennie came, and Jennie brought her dog, Marley.
Sadly we had only walked for about 15 minutes before we became horribly lost because I missed a crucial sign post to the left, carried straight on and ended up – we didn’t know where. Everyone was very kind and understanding – and I sang The Grand Old Duke of York – because the part about marching up the hill and then marching down again was exactly what we had to do. Peter, one of the students said that it didn’t matter because although he was tired, he was enjoying the walk and it was all for a good cause, to raise money for Maisy! I did know that the college students love Maisy – but we have raised about £700 so far and I don’t think a diamond encrusted collar is her style!
We had a heart stopping few moments when Marley scrambled through a deep ditch into a field of cows. The cows were not happy to have a visitor and Marley was clearly frightened and Jenny was very distressed. I said if he could get into the field he could get out again – and this is exactly what he did. And then he was put on the lead.
Although we made very slow progress it really didn’t matter because the students did love their walk in the countryside and we said goodbye to them when we reached the A6 where the road borders Maulden Woods. Their mini bus was coming to take them back to the Centre. Angela, Jennie and Marley, Maisy and I crossed the A6 to continue on to Clophill, The Stone Jug Pub and journey’s end. We scrambled up a steep path into the woods and hailstones sheeted down on us. Angela and Jennie had brought umbrellas, but we were soaked to the skin painfully in minutes as we walked across an open field. As we slithered through our final woodland track into Clophill I suddenly saw a man – who seemed familiar – it was John, my husband! He had come to meet us – the pub was closed -it was 4o’clock – and Angela, Jennie, and I – we all thought that we would enjoy a good, hot bath.
Clophill to Warden Little Wood – Day 5
To-day was a calm day. The sky was blue; the clouds white, high and slowly drifting in the early summer breeze.; the sun warm. Meena came round to ask if she could join us just for three miles and I said Of Course! and Mike, her husband, followed us in their car to Clophill and decided that he would like to join us too. There and then. And he was wearing sandals. But to-day was a non-muddy day; and David was being a SUPERB group leader so I didn’t have to worry about missing arrows on the path. That’s why it was a calm day.
Until we came to a field with cows and calves. We knew that last week a friend’s dog had been killed in this field by a cow who believed that she needed to protect her calf; but a notice at the beginning of the path stated that the cows would be moved on Tuesday and to-day was Wednesday, so we carried on only to see the calf lying contentedly across the Greensand Path, watched over by his mother. We made a wide detour round the calf, with Maisy on the lead in the centre of the group and the cow watched us every inch of the way, but Maisy was safe.
Mike loved the country side; he said the it reminded him of the time he had spent in Kenya. The hawthorne hedges were in blossom, with flowers white as snowflakes against the dark green foliage and we could see far over the green valley to hills beyond. And we soon arrived in Haynes for a delicious pub lunch. John met us there and Meena and Mike went home because they had appointments to attend
David, John, Enid and I continued (with Maisy of course) through fields and along paths so straight that a Roman General would have been proud of them. John was there to meet us at Warden Little Wood and take us all home. A calm day.
Rest Day – Day 6
Warden Little Wood to Sandy – Day 7
We started early because the day was likely to be hot and Karen had Rhea with her and of course I had Maisy and the heat of the sun is not good for dogs. Rhea ran and ran through the fields; she loved to jump in the long grass and we saw her move with the grace of a leaping dolphin.. Maisy just wanted to find the most impressive, weighty stick to carry in her mouth; then she was proud as any dog could be. We walked through a wood and fields of vibrant gharish yellow oilseed rape. We heard a cuckoo sing and heard before we saw, a most extraordinary rusty, creaking bird scarer. The horses at stud were elegant and graceful and watched us pass by with mild curiosity. Rhea enjoyed swimming in the medieval fish ponds. I loved the yellow iris flowering on the banks of the pond and watched the lone fisherman quietly hoping for a catch.
We walked through two villages before we crossed to the River Ivel; but we were not impressed by the metal bridge which took us safely over the A1M. We walked into Sandy along the river bank and ended our day happily in a pleasant pub garden.
Our journey is so nearly ended now.
The ending of our journey with a party – Day 8
David, Enid, Maisy and I began early because the weather was forecast to be hot, which is not good for Maisy; and because we had a party to attend that afternoon to welcome us back when our journey was over.
We loved walking through the ancient woodland that took us out of Sandy; later,for the first time, we saw strawberry pink coloured hawthorn hedges and we heard the cuckoo sing again. There was a sunken pond with magnificent bulrushes and a bird scarer that clearly wasn’t scaring away any birds. I was excited when I saw the Greensand Ridge silhouetted against the sky and I promptly took a photograph, hoping at last to be able to show you its drama. (The photo turned out to be fuzzy,out of focus.I had missed my last chance!)
We walked past a VERY POSH ESTATE INDEED. A passing cyclist told us that the owner had paid 32 million for it some years ago, and went on to tell us that the neighbouring estate had been bought by a Russian oligarch who had bought it as a base for his daughters so that they could go to an English school! He made his money out of milk. Liquid White gold? So we ended our walk on a high.
The weather was superb for our welcome home party. We ran out of raffle tickets, but there was just enough cake for afternoon teas. Maisy had a special song and round of applause; and now we are returning to the real world. Goodbye from Ma.