From One Extreme to the Other

London Lane, Turvey

There are many possibilities for circular walks along the footpaths and bridleways around Turvey, and I have been enjoying trying them out.

I like to see how the current paths compare with those shown on the old maps of Turvey Parish. Sometime last year I had walked to Picts Hill with an A4 printout of a small area of the 1782 Pre-Enclosure map. I was standing studying my map when a couple of people came along. One of them asked me if I was lost, I replied that my map was a bit out of date—I enjoyed that. We then had an interesting conversation.

I find myself wondering which paths were formerly busy thoroughfares—some definitely were, such as ‘London Lane’ (see photo), the lane which crosses the A428 near Priory Farm. That lane features in quite a few of my circular walks, but it is so muddy in the winter months that I have to avoid it.

In years gone by people didn’t have the option to avoid the mud, it must have been hard going, being splashed by inconsiderate riders and passing vehicles (I guess the problem of being splashed by vehicles hasn’t gone away!), and having to watch out for the ruts—apparently it is recorded that someone drowned in a rut on the Great North Road. No wonder that there is a path on the old maps of Turvey Parish labelled ‘Foot Road to Bedford’—but before you get too excited, it only goes as far at the junction with the road to Stagsden, after that it must have been back to the ruts.

A lot of people walk along London Lane, and, this year, as spring came and the lane got dryer—and dryer and dryer, I noticed the way that the mud had been flattened down until it was smooth, like a pavement. Going from one extreme to the other, the bridleway that runs near Moat Farm and up to Great Oaks Wood isn’t used nearly as much, and when we had the dry spell this spring the mud there set like stone, and it was harder to walk on the jagged surface than on the mud. Thinking about this, what comes to mind is a verse from a hymn that we sing on All Saints Day, written by the nuns of Stanbrook Abbey in Yorkshire:

May all that splendid company
Whom Christ in glory came to meet
Help us on our uneven road,
Made smoother by their passing feet.

Stanbrook Abbey

The ‘splendid company’ refers to the saints in heaven who, in their own times and their own ways have travelled along the ‘road’ of life on earth with all its roughness.

As the pandemic continues, we all have to keep on doing our bit to ‘smooth the mud’ for those around us, and indeed how grateful we are to all who have worked so hard to keep us safe over the past year and a half, especially, of course, the NHS. We at Turvey Abbey remain committed to praying for our world and all its needs, great and small. Let us all pray, in our many different ways, for an end to the pandemic, for our village, for healing, for peace—and let us all enjoy, in our many different ways, the countryside around Turvey!

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