Tuesday, 8 January 2013

My email at socsapine appears to have closed down. If you want to communicate directly with me by email - try

I hope you like the blog and the walks.
Best wishes


Monday, 28 May 2012

At the Grove Road entrance to route 4 we have some new recycle bins kindly donated by The Triangle Garden  (woodwork group)  Many thanks to them for their efforts.
I took the photo from an angle to show the cowslips, bluebells and wild plumb that were all planted last year and appear to be thriving.

(If anyone has some appropriate nature-type posters that could help fill up the relatively empty notice board please feel free to put them up.)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


I received this informative email  about the spring on Butts Close. This is a wet area that I was not sure about I could not figure out whether it was indeed a spring and/or where the water might go to. Now we have an answer to both these questions and I will add it to the list of springs and the information to the ROUTE 3 walk. At this point I'm not sure how we can work in a detour onto Butts close - but Ill figure somethings out in the near future.
Thank you Keith for your contribution.

Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews has left a new comment on your post "Purwell 'ring of springs' walking ROUTE 3 in more ...":

The stream that joins the Hiz from the culvert at the back (south-east side) of Bancroft Gardens is the Capswell Brook. This brook is now culverted for all of its length. It rises on Butts Close, where the marsh grass in the area between Archer's Gym and Hampden House on the west side of Elmside Walk marks the spring. From there, it formerly flowed north-eastwards before turning more to the east beneath the Boys' School playing fields and crossing Bancroft roughly in the position of the gap between the southern (earlier) group of buildings forming Skinner's Almshouses and the northern (later) block. The presence of the stream is the reason for the raising of the pavement on the west side of Bancroft in this area: in the nineteenth century, it was much higher and there was a tendency for the road to flood occasionally. I imagine that the current culvert is more efficient than the older, as I'm not aware of any floods in this area in recent years. The stretch east of the almshouses was still partly open in the early twentieth century, running through the nursery that stood behind Skinner's almshouses. I suspect that this part was culverted to create the bowling green when the gardens were developed in the 1930s.

Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

Posted by Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews to Purwell Valley at 18 January 2012 09:01 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

spring near riversmeet ninesprings

Contribution from David Day blog follower.  (The post has been added in the appropriate place on Blogs covering walking routes 2 and 3. )

Hi Stuart

Getting back to you at last re the spring I was mentioning.
Here are three photos. I will send them separately as well a little larger.
The centre one shows the pipe coming from the pond which was filled in some years ago. There was always a pipe taking the spring water from the pond to the Ashbrook here.
The pond was in line from the pipe in the position where the ploughed field meets the grass - a distance of around 15 metres.
The first picture is a close up of the point of entry to the Ashbrook and the third photo shows the area in question at the bend in the river.

The grid ref is TL 204 283
The path follows the Ashbrook from the bridge over the St Ippollytts brook in the recreation ground in Ninesprings Way.
The Ashbrook joins the St Ippollytts brook 20 metres to the right of the bridge. The pond was at the bend in the Ashbrook.
I remember as a child watching the springs bubble up into the pond.
The farmer says that the area is often wet there and the spring was filled in before he took over, perhaps to release a little more cultivatable land.
Stuart, hope this is of interest.

I have known Derek Turner for years. He speaks admiringly of The Hutton Highway along the Hiz.
David DayPosted by Picasa

Monday, 11 July 2011

Email address

If you want to communicate directly with me by email - try      stuart@socsapine.co.uk
I hope you like the blog and the walks.
Best wishes

Thursday, 10 March 2011

route 4 and tribute to Phil Lumley

Route 4: A tribute to Phil Lumley - who worked at Oughton Head Common.
(see blog dated 01-03-2011)

From the ‘centre’ of the Purwell ring of springs (Grove Road TL194304)
- to Ickleford river bridge (where you can reasonably cross the river)
- to Oughton Head ( springs TL161299 & TL168299)
- to the Centre of the ring.

Those of you who have read previous postings will notice that the first part of this walk also includes parts of the route from Ransomes Rec. to Ickleford. It is inevitable that some of the walks will go over ground already trodden, especially as they are favorite routes of mine. I include the repetitions so that each walk is a complete representation rather than suggesting that the reader find the appropriate previous posting for themselves.
The second part of the walk takes us through Oughton Head Common, which is one of the most beautiful areas of natural spring to be found in the Purwell Valley.
I pay tribute to Phil Lumley (who died on Monday 28-02-2011) by dedicating this part of the walk to him. Phil worked as a volunteer warden in this area for many years and much of the accessiblity and facilities in Oughton Head Common are directly or indirectly attributable to his efforts.  He will be a hard man to find a replacement for.

           The Centre of The 'Ring of Springs'
               (and the start of walking route 4)
Here are the two culverts for the River Hiz and the River Purwell, along with the almost compulsory supermarket trolley. I have taken this particular trolley out of the river on at least five occasions but it must be a 'homing-trolley' because it just appears back in the river each time I walk along this stretch.

           The centre of the 'Ring of Springs'
In the piece of scrub on the bridge to the left of this picture there is another wild plumb. There used to be many sapling trees beneath it which I have now nurtured and replanted in other places further along the walk. Wild plumb seems to be a favorite with pigeons as well as with me. (it makes delicious jam which, unlike domestic cultivars, has manageable sized skins for spreading on sandwiches).
The river behind the Hiz in the picture is the Purwell and it has its own separate culvert under Grove Road. This was put in a few years back because of the flooding in both Grove Road and Woolgrove Road due to the fact that both rivers were unable to pass through the one culvert quickly enough. It was fine when Grove Mill was working and there were no housing developments to concern us. However, in modern times we create the problems only to find that we have, at some time, also to find solutions.

               The Centre of the 'Ring of SpringsThis is also the River Purwell from the bridge over the Grove Road culvert. I include it for three reasons.
1) This is the very spot which marks the centre of the 'Ring of Springs'.
I hope that one day soon I will be able to erect a suitable plinth and plaque to indicate its significance. Hopefully the design will also include a kingfisher nesting site to face upstream towards Walsworth, as this is where Kingfishers regularly cross the road by flying under the culverts and it would be an ideal nesting site for them.
2) Up the bank to the left of the picture there are some new flats. They dug out a big hole - below river level for the car parking. Amusing when you know the history of the river. But I suspect not quite so amusing for the car owners at some future date when they too learn of the dangers of living at river level.
3) To the right of the picture is some land which nobody has yet developed and I hope never will. It forms the Purwell River part of the river walk which I will eventually join up with Walsworth Common and beyond to the springs on that side of the Purwell Valley. At present you need wellies to negotiate the bridge carrying the Cambridge line.

      River walk entrance to spinney by Grove Mill
We now cross over Grove Road to the entrance of the spinney and the start of this phase of the walk.
It will be noticed that I have some temporary recycle boxes next to the litter bin. This is because I noticed that most of the stuff being left in the bin could be recycled. Ironically, the building behind the bins actually contains the recycling bins for the flats on that side of the road so I don't have to take it far.
This is an area that I am working on at the moment, so there are notices saying that the usual footpath is closed and asking people to use the temporary diversion through the spinney, down by the river. This way they will also see the work going on at the water's edge.

     River walk entrance to spinney by Grove Mill

I include this view to show that there is a steep drop in the footpath just beyond the notices. It is my intention to fill this in and grade the footpath so that it will be suitable for wheelchair access at some point in the future. I am of course reliant upon local people to supply topsoil, subsoil and rubble to infill this space at no cost. So far this is going well - if slowly.

            Alternative route via riversmeet
This is the alternative route and temporary diversion sloping down towards the other end of the two culverts. I have already planted a few spare holly bushes along the left of this footpath and hopefully there will be many more planted in future to form a holly hedge along Grove Road and discourage the dropping of litter in this area.

            'My' logpile at spinney entrance
This view of the alternative path also shows 'my-logpile'. Illustrating just how steep the slope in the main footpath actually was. The logs are all from trees that had fallen within the spinney. It was not an easy task to saw them and move them on my own, but the end result is quite functionally impressive and will eventually create a very useful habitat for local critters in the spinney.

             Start of brick path to water's edge
At the river's edge I am making a brick path out of bricks retrieved from the river as well as those supplied for infill in the main path.
The brick path will eventually form part of a wheelchair-accessible riverside retreat , with seating and river-dipping ledges.

             Culverts for Rivers Purwell and Hiz.
Above the two culverts I have recently put bags of topsoil and planted trees and ivy that should overhang the culvert exits. I have taken approximately 1000 holly cuttings this year, some of which will also be planted in this space.

      Looking back at logpile from Spinney
We are now on our way again through the spinney. This year I saw a white-fronted water shrew wandering along the path at this spot. Having never seen one before, I had to look it up for a positive identification.

          Log seat for birdwatching hideThe log in front of the tree was winched out of the river just below the River Hiz culvert where it was catching all the rubbish that the river washed through. (my thanks to the Countryside Management Service people for their assistance with this task) I did try to fill in the deep hole it left but the force of the river in flood simply pushed all the rubble straight out again.
The log is placed in a position on the bank where it serves as seating in a 'hide', within which I can sit and watch the kingfisher as he/she sits on that overhanging branch between the two culverts. Facing downstream I have put vegetation up to form the front of the hide and can watch the grey wagtail and the kingfisher come and go. Swans have also been seen at this point. I am not sure if they come upstream from Ickleford or through the culvert from the River Purwell in Walsworth Common as there are swans in both areas.

             Looking back to Grove RoadA view of the alternative diversionary route as it joins the main path again. Here we can see the extent of the slope and infill needed. The path edging in the picture represents the bottom end of the slope. I started at both ends because, if and when topsoil becomes available, it gets put on the sides of the path for planting purposes. English bluebells are among the bulbs planted here.

    Spinney walk attributed to The Hitchin Rivers SocietyThis is still in the spinney on the path created by the Hitchin Rivers Society some years ago.

    Storm drain at path junction to Cadwell Foortball FieldAt this point the path goes two separate ways. One is up some steps to the Cadwell Lane football field suitably signposted at the field end and the other route (behind the dog, in front of the river) is where I began digging out the riverside path to Ickleford.
There was a storm drain that used to run right over the path at this point. However, I found a large pipe that helped but did not stop the problem altogether. Fortunately I found another pipe which I put alongside the first and this seems to have resolved the problem, all except when it get blocked with leaves and debris, then it becomes another maintenance job to clear the pipes. Generally the solution is a good one and the footpath remains relatively dry now.

        Plan of work to this pointThis is the point where the established Hitchin Rivers Society path ends and my own digging begins. I have made and erected a noticeboard on the recycle building at the start of this section and in it put a rough sketch plan of what is intended for that part of the river walk. Also on the noticeboard are things like the poem 'Ring of Springs' by B.Withers and anything else interesting that crops up.
When I have time I hope to include a list of wildlife, fauna and flora to be found on the walk. My wife has been doing a bird count for the past few years and I have been photographing plant life, so there is plenty of stuff to interest people.
Since the 'breakthrough' to Ickleford more than a year ago, there has been an increase in numbers of people using the river walk. Some carry binoculars, others cameras, some are walking alone and some bring their families, Several times I've been working down there to be greeted with many runners whom I presume belong to some sort of local running club.
Also it has become a popular place to off-road cycle as well as forming a new and easy shortcut to the industrial area for those who walk to work.
It's all very pleasing to think that I have opened up opportunities for others to utilise and enjoy. The positive comments, alongside offers of assistance are witness to the appreciation shown by others. They also reinforce the assertion that the efforts of one individual over time can indeed make a small yet positive difference. The only drawback to an increase in human activity is that there are still a minority of people who seem to think that the countryside is also a rubbish tip and a dog toilet. However, I try not to let this aspect spoil my walking and I have taken to picking up along the way. I would much prefer that the people responsible are somehow caught and made to take responsibility for their antisocial actions.

 Riverwalk Grove Road to Ickleford
 The next series of pictures takes us alongside the riverbank to Ickleford. this is the stretch that I have cut out from the bank in order to establish a reasonable footpath where there used to be one many years ago. However, various people have tipped rubbish and obstsructed the original path over the years so it needed a great deal of clearing.
NOTE: Photos listed are only those upon which I have something to say!

The photo shows the start of the path that I needed to dig out from the bank at Cadwell Lane football field.
This section through to the nature reserve at Burymead Springs took about 2 years to 'break through' so that it could be walked along.
As you will see along the path there were a couple of large concrete blocks that would have been impossible to move on my own ( I have tried!) Eventually I  borrowed a winch from Countryside Management Services in order to achieve this task.
Also in this picture is the stump of a tree. This is one of several trees along the path that were rotting and seemed to pose a potential danger to walkers. so, I cut it in such a way that it can now be used as a seat to rest my weary bones near the end of my circular walk.

Each photo is taken at regular intervals along the walk so that the blogger can get a 'feel' for the environment and an appreciation of the river being a constant companion.
This photo indicates the steepness of the bank. If you can picture an imaginary line from the edge of the river to the top of the bank, that is the amount of digging that needed to be done to be able to navigate the path safely on foot. The next stage of the project is to widen the path so that it can accommodate wheelchair access.
All along this stretch I have planted various things to make it prettier and to help stabilise the bank.
The ornamental grasses seen here should help with stabilisation. They were inadvertently 'donated' by the Triangle Garden project at a time when the seedlings from the grass in the garden were coming up like weeds. Hopefully they will have the same effect here and help to avoid the bank sliding into the river.

The teasels were planted as seeds last autumn. Hopefully they will self-set and we will have a good crop along this stretch if the goldfinches don't eat them all. Also along this stretch, bluebells, cowslips, narcissus and many native flower seeds were planted. This is a good place for planting flowers as it catches full sunlight for most of the morning.
The seeds were collected from plants further down the walk where wild flowers are in abundance.
One problem all the way down this walk is to find plants that can hold their own with the vigorous stinging nettles and brambles. Interestingly, the relatively small cowslip tries hard and succeeds to some extent. I give them a bit of a hand by pulling out the surrounding nettles at times when they are at their highest.

During the process of digging the walk I needed to get to the last location of the dig by the shortest routes possible. This meant crossing the football field and coming down the bank. The diagonal sloping path can just be made out on the right indicating how I got the barrow and tools on site. 
This path is yet another access path to the far end of Cadwell Lane football field. It is very handy if I am just walking the dog a relatively short distance as it comes out right by the dog-mess bin.


To the right of the footpath in this picture can be seen a small trench. This catches the water draining from the football field and it is then piped into the river at one end. I put several of these drainage trenches along this stretch because the path simply would not stay dry without them. Unfortunately, the football pitch on the right bank above the path comprises a load of landfill material of dubious toxicity. Hence the water often runs off with a variety of different colours, none of which look 'healthy'.
At the point on the picture where the leaves on the ground seem brown, is the foot of a horse chestnut tree.
The path needed to be edged and built up here as it sloped too steeply to the river. This is where children have a rope swing on the tree to play over the river. Unfortunately they were oblivious to the row of forgetmenots planted here so they were quickly destroyed as the mini-Tarzans landed on the bank. They also broke the edging down several times which was a bit of a shame as my intention was to get the groundwork done so that I could move on to other things. Mending stuff that has already been completed just seems like such a waste of valuable time. However, I do not see this a 'vandalism' so much as 'having harmless fun'.
I suppose the responsibility lies with me to make the edge strong enough to cope with this sort of activity. The problem is that everything I do on the walk is money-free, so I have to botch the best way I can within the means available.

Much of this part of the walk needed building up rather than cutting out, so here I was dredging the river silt onto the bank to raise it up sufficiently for the river not to overflow onto it. A problem was that it never really dried out and was a bit boggy. This may well be because it is closer to the river,but it may also be that the bank is very steep here and the water has to drain of on the surface of the path. The solution was to cut many, many pieces of wood about a metre long and place them across the path to act as a slightly raised walkway. this was covered with leaves and debris which acted as a form of drainage. The solution probably will not last long, but long enough for me to get on with the path and come back to this problem another year.
Here again the path needed to be built up rather than dug out and this was helped by asking the people at the factory up the bank to give me their old foundry sand ( they made metal mouldings) This was ideal as a surface to the path because the sand did not get boggy like the river silt. Here, there was what looked like a water outlet which needed to be kept clear which was achieved by utilising an old plastic children's slide on top of some concrete pipes
This stretch of the path was interesting in that the banks were held up with wire gabions filled with rubble.
This was ideal material for the base of the path but it took some hard work and ingenuity to move the wire and rubble into a flat path rather than a sloping bank
The posts that can be seen on the left of the path was where the factory slid their sand down the steep bank and I had a barrier to stop it sliding straight into the river. Incidentally, it was at this point where I had first made a sloping path from the corner of the football field to make a reconnaissance of the route. I thus realised that it would be feasible to cut a footpath to Ickleford.

In this shot can be seen a wooden cover to a large storm drain. Here I had to repair the brickwork to take the cover and then cut out the wood to fit the peculiar shape of the water outlet. I also needed to put wire over the wood to stop walkers slipping. It was also overgrown here with old trees, ivy and brambles. At the time I felt just a little apprehensive as to whether the job would get finished in my lifetime. However, pacing myself and working everyday for 2-3 hours the job got done surprisingly quickly. I thought it would be a 'lifetime's work' - yet I'm still here and able to now work on the second and third stages of the walk.
All along this stretch was decades of bramble growth which needed to be cut out. Unfortunately this will be an ongoing task if the path is to remain navigable. It does have the distinct advantage of being one of several places on the walk where one can stop and pick blackberries in the season.

This bowed trunk of a tree offered me a choice of over or under. At first I was digging over but soon realised that the spoil was actually making a better path to the left of the tree. Also there was a supermarket trolley conveniently dumped here. That was utilised as a gabion and filled with rubble to make the path firm at the point where the walkers would need to duck to get around the tree.

The choice here led me to make the path go up the bank and around the trees to the right. However, if I ever get the time and materials I will divert it to run to the left of the trees and closer to the river. This will be flatter and better for wheelchair access. The present route is narrow, steep and unsuitable for anyone other than walkers and hardy bikers.
Up the slope, the white stone in the picture is a point of access to Cadwell Lane near Brooker's. I used to park there whilst working on this section. All along this stretch I planted forgetmenots, narcissus and snowdrops.
The red bricks on the right of the picture are the sides of a huge storm drain. I was tempted to redesign this so that we could walk on the concrete base. However, there were so many engineering bricks in the river at this point (discarded into the river by British Rail when they altered the bridge) that it was just as easy to build up the path with these. However, I might reconsider this decision when I try to make this section wheelchair friendly.
Above the arch in this side of the bridge's tunnel is a ledge, inaccessible except by ladder. I thought that if the front of this was covered in it would make an ideal bat roost. When all the other work is completed on the path I hope to persuade Network Rail that this might be a good PR project.
The engineering bricks were also useful to help form a small edging wall and build up the footpath under the rail bridge. Here I planted marsh marigolds and periwinkle as well as the usual forgetmenots and narcissus.

Interestingly, the graffiti under the bridge gets a favourable mention on Google Earth. I am not altogether sure about the quality of the work but have to admit that it's probably more colourful than the engineering bricks.

Emerging from the rail bridge the walker will need to duck under a sewage pipe that spans the river. I did appreciate the graffiti written on the pipe by some wise cracker, it read: " DUCK OR GROUSE".

This stretch of the walk runs at the back of the metal recycling unit. The vegetation changes to mainly reed which was very hard to make into a usable path and I suspect will need a lot of maintenance to keep it from overgrowing again. The scrap metal used to be piled up on the bank where it had spilled over from the site. However, when I had a word about it, the guys soon got their crane over the wall and removed it. They also removed some very large tree trunks which were blocking the river which I never would have managed by myself.
Along this bit of the path are to be found some of the prettiest of fungi. I don't know what they're called but if someone can let me know by adding a comment, it will be included to inform those who are interested in labels.
Another one I don't know the name of - but it looks good enought to eat! I won't try it until I'm sure.

The corrugated sheets cover another open storm drain from the metal works. There will need to be a better solution to this for wheelchairs but it suffices for now. Along the path a little can just be seen some railway sleepers. The path there was very boggy for no apparent reason. The sleepers were nearby so the problem was resolved. Again this will need to be revisited when wheelchair access is desired.

This bridge gives access to the metal works site from the sewage works. Once again the choice for the footpath was between over or under. The easiest route for now was under the bridge although this takes some prolonged bending to avoid hitting one's head. Eventually, after banging my head many times, I put a wooden peg in the ground at the point where it was safe to stand upright.
The path at the riverbed here is most unsatisfactory so I have also explored the option of going over the bridge. This is now possible except that the brambles seem to grow faster than I can get to cut them down.

This is the route under the bridge. Unfortunately it is on an unstable bank and the river overflows the path if it rains. I have tried several ways to resolve the issue but without success
It can be see that bricks and metal have been put down because the wooden sleepers floated off downstream. The problem is that there is insufficient headroom under the bridge and pipes, so I cannot simply build up the footpath to resolve this problem. 
As the first job in 2011, I have cleared the path to go over this bridge. It's a much more satisfactory arrangement than going under.

Once past the bridge the walker is is the nature reserve. To the left of this picture it is planned to build an Otter halt. Not that we have any otters along this stretch but people live in hope. It was relatively easy to make the footpath along here as the ground is rich topsoil. This prompts a more vigorous and rapid growth of the stinging nettles which overgrow the path at an alarming rate. It's quite hard work to keep it clear even with the help of a petrol brush cutter. I don't like using machinery that makes a noise because it disturbs the tranquility for both me and the wildlife. I much prefer a scythe or, as I have found quite effective, a sharpened shovel, to knock down the growth. Fortunately, more and more people are walking along here and this helps to keep the stingers trodden down.
It is interesting to listen to people's comments when I'm working at the Grove Road entrance. They complain that the path is inaccessible at the other end but when I suggest that they might help by spending some time cutting the stuff down themselves they invariably change the subject.
 I have planted things like blackcurrants and other stuff that the wildlife might like. The soil is ridiculously good and will make a very good nursery for plants needed elsewhere on the walk. Unfortunately it will need tending as the stinging nettles and brambles have an innate desire to take over.
On the river bank to the left of this picture it is planned to build an Otter halt. Not that we have any otters along this stretch but people live in hope.

As the river bends and the tree overhangs there is often a kingfisher to be seen at this point. However, in order to catch that fleeting glimpse of it, you will need to be focusing on the tree long before you get there, for it's gone in an all too brief, blue flash.
At this point the path that I have made joins the path already in the nature reserve.
In the river there grows an abundance of water cress. As I write this there are two swans feasting on this crop. I had thought of harvesting it myself but as it appears to be food for the swans I will decline this opportunity.
The seat is a place to dwell and ponder upstream. A birder's heaven with the woods both sides of the river.
 It is here that I felt that my digging work on the walk was all but completed, so the next phase of the walk necessitated cutting the grass, nettles, brambles and bushes. I also altered my efforts slightly from here on and put up bird feeding stations. The first of these is up the trees to the right of the seat. They need an adapted extending pole to access them - unless of course you are a bird (or a squirrel but that's another story).

Just after the seat there is a choice of paths. The one to the left is one I cut to stay by the river and the one to the right takes you across a wild meadow to join up with the path at the North Western edge of the reserve.

A view across the meadow which is maintained by volunteers and the Countryside Management Service.

The alternative path nearer to the river - Hence the 'river walk'.
We 'once' spotted a mink on this path but we have never seen it again.
Unfortunately the trees on this walk are getting very old so they keep falling either into or across the river. either way they tend to trap rubbish and make it look unsightly. This is where 'group' volunteering would be useful. I am reluctant to enter the river alone at this point as it starts to flow at some speed and depth in the narrower parts.

The first of the seats facing the meadow needs clearing regularly of the undergrowth. I sometimes get the petrol strimmer or the mower on this but really it is a job for heavier machinery, or more time. Neither of which I have at present.

The second seat in the meadow has a hawthorn bush to it's right. This is where my next bird feeding station is situated. At present the seat is facing the camera. I have suggested that it could be adapted and backed with another seat on the other side so that the bird feeders could be seen more comfortably. Alternatively the seat could be turned to face the centre of the meadow. However, this would then be facing away from the river which also has it's beauty and wildlife. Thus, I feel the most sensible solution is to have two seats! (any offers? - At the RSBP and other sites the seats are donated by people and have a suitable commemorative plaques . This could surely be achieved in this beautiful place.)

The river walk comes out of the nature reserve and into the plantation of willow trees (maybe for cricket bats)
View from the nature reserve into the plantation belonging to Mrs. Parker of Ickleford. I do hope that she, her philosophy, generosity and her legacy last forever.

Here is an interesting new development on the opposite riverbank, in the allotments. A collection of beehives, all different designs and colours. It is so interesting to watch the bees in the summertime.
The river runs behind a huge row of bushes on the left. At the end of these bushes there is a weired weir that seems to run under the plantation and into the river. it is a great spot for seeing the white egret, kingfisher, heron, and many other birds. presumably because of the food available but also because they do not know you are there until you're right on top of them. This makes them so much easier to see.
Over the river by the weir is a big tree. (Ash I think) Beneath the tree one can invariably see a little plastic box. This is part of an activity called 'Geocaching' where people are given GPS locations with the purpose of finding the 'cache'. There is another of these plastic boxes at Gerry's Hole which I came across some time ago. I like the concept of having many different excuses to explore the countryside apart from the obvious interest in wildlife and dog-walking.

Just beyond the shadow being cast by the tree, where the path slightly bends, is another water outlet from the plantation. I needed to put some sleepers here to act as a bridge. Fortunately the railway is not too far away and with the aid of a trolley I was able to drag some spares over to this point.

This stretch of the river is teeming with birds and other wildlife. Along here we have seen a water rail, snipe, wagtails, bramblings, buzzards, kestrel, sparrowhawk, wrens, ducks, swans, moorhens, huge number of butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies and many other species.
This swan comes up for some food in the winter months. It will eat out of your hand if you are patient.

The Little Egret rarely stays around long enough to photograph but is often seen in graceful flight avoiding people. If you are patient it usually flies around in a circle and lands again after your passing.
This part of the footpath has needed some TLC as it is occupied by a sort of tussock grass which is difficult to walk around and is difficult to remove. The main problem for walkers is when the long strands are trodden on with one foot and tripped over with the other. It invariably catches you out as your focus will be on all those much more interesting things surrounding you.
To the left is the first of two junctions from the River Oughton via Ickleford Mill. This is a lovely little spot and I don't know why I did not include a picture of this in it's own right. However, I would urge people to go and see this and the other sights for themselves as there is no substitute for experiencing the real thing. Obviously between the first and second river junctions there is an island. This is full of wildlife which is probably why we often see foxes over there.
To the Right  is a path that crosses the plantation and brings you to the main public right of way to Ickleford. Beyond that there are the fields by the Railway which we come to from a different direction later on the walk.
I have another bird feeding station located on an oak tree in the middle of the plantation there.
It's just lovely along this bit. The flats come into view and the river is teeming with life. Fishermen are sometimes to be encountered here. They tell me they catch trout and pike but always put them back because they like the sport rather than the kill.
Here, on the right, in the grass, we saw a flock of meadow pipits presumably feeding on the abundance of flies in the boggy ground. A mention also of the carrion crows and Jays who nest in the willow trees around here.
The favourite habitat for the wren and the goldcrest

The first glimpse of the river bridge at Ickleford. Often the swans are to be seen here. The moorhens will never be far away and if you don't see them, they are what you can hear apparently running on the water.

A view from the bridge I couldn't resist. An interesting bridge in that they built one part for vehicles and a completely separate part for pedestrians. I'm not quite sure of the logic for this as there seems to be plenty of room on the main structure.

The river bridge at Ickleford
The meadow beyond the bridge offers two alternative routes to Oughton Head Common.
4a) On the right is a gate and a lane which takes you into the village near the shop on your left and the Green Man pub on your right. If you follow Turnpike lane to the Bedford Road and turn left, down the slope will bring you to the entrance to Oughton Head Common.
4b) If you go diagonally to your left across this field there is a route through the houses to the flour Mill. Turn left at the road and just before the first set of houses on your right there is a route through the school playing fields that will bring you out right at the Oughton Head Common entrance.

Alternative Route (4a) Through Ickleford, Past the shop and church, along Turnpike Lane, to the Bedford Road, turn Left, down the slope, to Oughton Head entrance on th right.

Alternative Route (4a) Gate & lane to Ickleford opposite church

Alternative Route (4a) view from lane towards the Green Man Pub

Alternative Route (4a) Green Man pub Ickleford
Do not turn left at this junction. Take the Turnpike Road by the pub until you reach the Bedford Road junction.

Alternative Route (4a) Junction of Turnpike Lane and Bedford Road
It is possible to go straight over at this junction and join the Common a bit further along at the mill. However, by doing so you would just be walking along the road and miss out on the main Bedford Road entrance by the river. Thus, I suggest you turn left here and follow the road for a few yards down the slope until you come to the Oughton Head Common entrance on your right.
Alternative Route (4a) View of Oughton Head Common entrance from Bedford Road
The two cars in the picture are at the entrance to Oughton Head Common

Alternative Route (4b) to Oughton Head from the river bridge to Ickleford Mill
Alternative route 4b is my preferred route to Oughton Head because there are less roads and it is closer to the true course of the river.
Go diagonally across the field from the river bridge towards the houses. There you find an exit to the road and on to the flour mill. When you reach the road turn left and over the bridge ( there is a footpath here to separate the walker from the traffic).  Carry on a few yards until you reach the first house on your right, where there is a footpath to Oughton Head Common.

Entrance to alternative route(4b)  to Oughton Head

HCC notice
I draw attention to the HCC noticeboard because it is rather misleading and may be offputting to some walkers. 
The purpose of it is to state clearly that it is not a 'public open space' or a 'public right of way'.
This terminology is 'official speak' to establish ownership and a right to withdraw access when and if they so wish.
As they haven't done this, it does not mean that you cannot walk through there at this time. If they meant that you couldn't gain access, they would have put up a 'no entry' sign. 
The rest of the notice is simply warning you that HCC will not accept liability for anything even though they may have granted you temporary permission to walk on the property. When you get to the other end there is a sign indicating just as clearly that you are allowed to walk through here. It's a pity there isn't a similar sign at this end.

School playing field
Keep to the right of the school playing field and you will see through the hedge a large lake where the Little Egrets nest.
Lake at the back of Ickleford flour mill
This is the old flood area for the Ickleford flour Mill and it's well worth pondering awhile if you are interested in birds

School playing fields
One of the really good things about schools is that they have these large areas of tended grass which offer a different habitat for birds and other creatures. Here can be found Green Woodpeckers, Thrushes, Starlings, Pigeons, and other birds who like to dig for worms and larvea in the grass.
Entrance to Oughton Head Common from school playing field exit:
 & entrance to Phil Lumley tribute area.
In the centre of the picture just behind the gates is a noticeboard displaying a map of Oughton Head Common and the various landmarks, entrances and things of interest. I would encourage you to have a look at this and others like it around the common as these are very informative.
My route, as usual, simply follows the river to its source.
Oughton Head Common
& Tribute to Phil Lumley

 Oughton Head Common : Junction with Westmill Lane
& Tribute to Phil Lumley
Westmill lane goes to the left and meets up with Burford Way To the right is the lane to Old Westmill Farm

Oughton Head Common
& Tribute to Phil Lumley

Oughton Head Common
& Tribute to Phil Lumley
The river is artificially deeper at this point as there is a wier just behind me as I take this picture. The river here is in two parts either side of the footpath. The water to the right is the millstream and to the left it leads to a marshy area and reed beds.
It is worth pointing out that the whole of Oughton Head common has evidence of spring water seepage, so it is difficult to identify particular sources except for the obvious outlet at the spring head.

 Oughton Head Common - reedbeds
& Tribute to Phil Lumley

Oughton Head Common - junction of footpath at 'The Chalky' near spring head
& Tribute to Phil Lumley
There is a choice here to turn left towards the next spring or to continue on to the spring head. It's the latter path we take as it is very pictureque and leads to at least one of the idetifiable sources of the spring water.
The next few pictures indicate the picturesque nature of this stretch.

 Oughton Head Common & Tribute to Phil Lumley

Oughton Head Common & Tribute to Phil Lumley

The  spring head at Oughton Head Common
& Tribute to Phil Lumley
The spring TL 161299 emerges at the foot of the slope right in the centre of the picture just above the bough of the tree that overhangs the lower footpath.  From here you could either return along the river back to the junction at 'The chalky', or as I would recommend, turn left at the spring head and follow the path to the spinney on your left.

Oughton Head Common & Tribute to Phil Lumley

Turn left at this spinney ( the path ahead would lead you eventually to Redhill Road)

Oughton Head Common & Tribute to Phil Lumley

You will find a wooden kissing gate which leads to the next spring TL168299.

Longhorns at Oughton Head Common & Tribute to Phil Lumley
These cows and the bull in the shade are supposed to be 'Longhorns' although you would hardly know it as they seem to have had their horns removed.  Apparently these are the best lawnmowers for this sort of habitat as they cope well with the water sodden ground and they chew the grass and shrubs off to just the right length. There are signs of spring activity all around this area and particularly where the bull has come to rest under the trees as this is where the water starts to show on the surface.

  Oughton Head Common & Tribute to Phil Lumley
We are now heading back towards the junction of the two water courses and on to the entrance we came in at. This scene is typical of the landscape on this side of the common. there are walkways throughout the area but as the scenery doesn't change much from one side of the fence to the other it's probably as well to stick to the more obvious paths.
When you reach the exit on the Bedford Road I would go across the school playing fields to Old Hale Way, turning left, back through Ickleford and along the river in the reverse direction to that walked earlier.
However, there is a shorter route by road but it is not accompanied by photos as I am not much into road walking where there is a more pleasant alternative.
The road route can be walked by turning right at Old Hale Way, crossing the road and entering The Mead.(on your left). Just follow this through to Burymead Road until the junction with Grove Road where you would turn left and go under the railway bridge. You will then have the centre of the 'ring of springs' on your right hand side.
There is yet another alternative from Old Hale Way , for those with waders or with an athletic bent.
As you come out onto Old Hale Way there is a rough pasture field slightly to the left on the opposite side of the road, to the left of the allotments. If you cross this field you come to the river again. I would simply wade through to the willow plantation on the other side and turning right, follow the river walk back to the centre of the 'ring of springs'.
However, I have seen a few people crossing the river by way of balancing on the top of a large gas pipe that spans the river at the edge of the field. It takes a bit of nerve and balance, but it is a perfectly feasible feat, if maybe a bit dubious in legality!

This is the end on Route 4

I hope you have enjoyed this walk as much as I have over the years.