An enjoyable walk in rolling downland on the Cambridgeshire/Suffolk border.
Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)
Minimum time 3hrs
Ascent/gradient 295ft (90m)
Level of difficulty Hard
Paths Field-edge, cross-field and woodland paths, 9 stiles
Landscape Downland, farmland, woodland and River Kennett
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 210 Newmarket & Haverhill
Start/finish TL 696644
Dog friendliness Livestock - dogs on leads
Parking Moulton village hall
Public toilets None on route
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1 Turn right out of the village hall car park along Bridge Street, passing the King's Head pub on your way to the packhorse bridge. Cross the bridge and turn right along Brookside, walking beside the River Kennett. Just before the Old Flint Bridge, notice the old rectory school on your left, dating from 1849. Keep on this road until you reach the churchyard.
2 Go through the gate to enter the churchyard and pass St Peter's Church. Cross a stile behind the church and walk up through the trees to another stile at the top. Bear right across the fields. On clear days, Ely Cathedral is visible on the horizon to your left.
3 Reaching a road, turn right. Keep straight ahead when the road bends, walking between the hedges of the Gazeley Stud, where mares and foals can be seen. Continue on this path to All Saints Church and walk around the rear of the church to emerge by the Gazeley village sign and the Chequers pub.
4 Walk down Higham Road, opposite the church, and bear right following the Icknield Way waymarks at Tithe Close. Walk between the houses and follow this path across the fields and into Bluebutton Wood. Where the path turns sharply right, look for a footbridge in the hedge to your left.
5 Keep on the Icknield Way as it winds through two more woods, emerging beside a wide field. Walk along the edge of the field, up through the trees to reach a crossroads. Turn right here and climb to St Mary's Church, with Dalham Hall visible behind.
6 Pass through the metal gate opposite the church and walk down through an avenue of chestnut trees to Dalham village. Go through a kissing gate and turn left, noting the large conical red-brick malt kiln standing beside the road. If you are ready for lunch, a short walk along this road leads to the Affleck Arms.
7 Cross the white footbridge to your right and follow this path beside the River Kennett. Reaching a road, turn right across Catford Bridge. Now turn left on a wide bridleway to return to Moulton at St Peter's Church.
8 Cross the Old Flint Bridge and walk across the green to reach Dalham Road. Turn right along this road. A gate opposite the post office leads to the recreation ground and back to the village hall.
This walk has everything - woodland, farmland, riverside paths, splendid views, plenty of history and three pretty villages with interesting churches and welcoming pubs. It is hard to think of a walk in Suffolk which encompasses so much variety.
The route is known locally as the Three Churches Walk, as it takes in the three churches at Moulton, Gazeley and Dalham. Much of the walk follows the Icknield Way, an ancient trail that dates back to the time of the Iceni tribe, whose warrior-queen, Boudica, ruled East Anglia in the 1st century ad. The original trail ran from Norfolk to Wiltshire and is thought to be Britain's oldest road. The modern Icknield Way path begins at Knettishall Heath in Suffolk and is waymarked with the sign of an axe.
This is horse racing country, just a few short gallops from Newmarket. Look out for thoroughbred horses at the Gazeley Stud, or grazing on the village green at Moulton. Don't be surprised to hear locals discussing the latest racing gossip or tips in the village pubs.
Moulton, where the walk begins, is best known for its 15th-century packhorse bridge, on the old cart road from Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds. It's built of flint with four arches lined in brick. The parapet walls were built low to allow the horses' packs to swing clear. The River Kennett flows underneath the bridge, though these days it is little more than a trickle.
Dalham is the most attractive of the three villages. Some three-quarters of the houses here are thatched, more than anywhere else in Suffolk. Behind the church, Dalham Hall was built for the Bishop of Ely in 1704, with instructions that Ely Cathedral should be visible from the upper floors. Unfortunately, a fire in 1957 means that the hall has been reduced to two storeys and the view of the cathedral has been lost. One of the previous owners of Dalham Hall was Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), the Victorian empire-builder and founder of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), who died before he could live in the hall. There are memorials to members of his family in a corner of St Mary's churchyard. A visit to the church gives fascinating glimpses into Dalham's aristocratic and social history. Among the squires of Dalham recalled in stone are Sir Martin Stuteville, who 'visited the American world with Francis Drake', and his ancestor Thomas Stuteville, who 'kept hospitalitye in the manor place... and had 15 children.' There are also memorials to members of the Affleck family, from whom the village pub takes its name, and to their faithful servants.
There are pubs in all three villages. The Affleck Arms in Dalham is an attractive thatched pub serving home-cooked food in the bar and at tables outside by the river. Alternatively, for a picnic, the post office in Moulton sells filled rolls and locally-made pies.
Just north of Moulton, at a junction on the B1506, lies the grave of Joseph, an unknown gypsy boy who hanged himself after he was accused of stealing a sheep. At one time, suicides were refused burial in the churchyard and were buried at crossroads to prevent their spirits from wandering. The tombstone has become a shrine and flowers are often placed there by punters hoping for luck on their way to Newmarket races.