Heaths and Meadows at Maulden

Written by Diana Spencer on . Posted in Uncategorized, Walk Of The Week

Location

– Maulden village to Maulden Woods

Distance

– 3 miles

Click on the map to see the full route on the Walk4Life website.

Time Taken

– about 3 hours, although I spent a lot of time taking detours. Could easily do this in 2 hours of steady walking

Great For-

Views- Another top of the ridge walk with great views off to the Chilterns, lots of lovely open meadows and fields throughout the walk

Heathland- A chance to see some of the work that goes into restoring a heather heathland, and how it looks mid-restoration

Good for Kids?

– Nothing specifically provided

Good for Dogs?

– Yes, you’re using bridleways for much of the walk and there are fields with livestock (cows, sheep and horses) so dogs must be under control/on a lead

Admission/Parking Charges

– None

Café/Toilets

– There are three pubs in Maulden itself, there’s also a Co-op in Maulden which is usually open until 10pm if you want to buy snacks and drinks. Nearest public toilets in Ampthill.

Footwear/Clothing

– Mostly unsurfaced paths, some wet in places, ants on the heath and a possibility of ticks so would recommend shoes/boots rather than sandals

Accessibility

– Unsurfaced paths and field edges for much of the walk, muddy in places. Lots of kissing gates, a narrow gap at one point, steps from the bridleway onto the road

Alternatives

– This walk links to a large (if sometimes slightly confusing) network of paths in Maulden Wood, you can download a map at the Forestry Commission website. You could also park by/at the Greensand’s Trust Working Woodlands Centre and walk to Maulden and back.

How To Get There

– Start point is at the parish church in Maulden, the turning is signposted and is right next to the primary school. There are regular busses into Maulden from Ampthill and Bedford every day except Sundays

Other Info

– The car park is mainly for visitors to the church so it may be closed if there’s a service, there is on street parking in the village and you can walk to the church. The church and mausoleum are open occasionally and absolutely worth a visit.

The Walk

I’ve been to Maulden Woods and Heath a couple of times for walks and to be honest, managed to get a bit lost in there every single time! This time I decided to approach the woods from the Maulden village direction and see if that made things any clearer…

The walk starts at Maulden Church where there’s a small parking area- this is mainly for visitors to the church so if it’s busy or there’s obviously a service on you can park in the village and start by walking up towards the church.

I started by heading downhill towards the village for a short distance, then turned left directly opposite the church hall, and followed the footpath for a shot stretch through a little meadow.

The path then goes through a little kissing gate onto a short stretch of road. Once here there’s the by now fairly familiar sight of a road leading to lots of tall, locked gates and private driveways, I’m getting good at this by now so trusted the map kept walking and found the footpath tucked away along the right hand side of one of the gates.

The path now meanders through the fields and kissing gates up above Maulden village. There’s a little bit of plough, arable field at one point but mostly it’s a lovely mix of grass and horse paddocks (mostly with very lovely horses in).

As you’re up on the high ground there are the usual sweeping views south over the slope of the ridge and out to the chalk downs in the distance.

At the end of the series of fields the path dips down through a tunnel of hedging and out onto a little tarmaced road.

To the right was a huge flowering buddleia swarming with butterflies.

I turned left up the road past a couple of little cottages and towards the farm at the end of the road. Again there’s quite a lot of private/keep out signs here but keep walking until you see the signposts.

There’s one sign posting a bridleway up to the left (this is the green line you can see through the middle of the map above, so you could turn up here if you wanted, to make a shorter walk) but I carried walking straight ahead, past the farm and into a long sunken lane at the side of the wood.

I was aiming to head up the public footpath shown on the map and at some point arrive at Maulden Heath (not marked on the OS map at the moment). At what looked like the right point I found a really obvious entrance into the wood with a permissive bridleway sign and turned left and headed into the wood.

The path curves though the wood until you reach a junction with a series of short sections of wooden fence on the left, around a lovely open grove of Scot’s Pine.

The right hand route heads uphill into what looks like a dark section of wood. As I was looking for the open heath I took the route ahead, diverting around a large muddy section and came out into a beautiful, sunlight green lane.

(To actually go straight to the heath you do need to turn right here, walk uphill a bit until you come to a the bench then turn left onto the heath. Walk across the heath in the opposite direction to the instructions below, out through the wooden kissing gate beyond the interpretation board, then across the field towards the cottage and through another wooden gate to rejoin the Greensand Ridge Walk).

The lane wanders alongside high banks covered in bracken, I suspect this is a hotspot for butterflies early in the year but today there were just a few Speckled Wood flitting about. Down at ground level some fairly sizable Earthball fungus were tucked away in the short grass (note- when lying on the ground to photography fungus, make sure that you’ve checked that you’re not on an ant trail before you lie down…)

After a few minutes walking I finally spotted a gate on the right with a sign warning of cattle grazing on the heath. Through the gate and a short climb and I was finally up at the edge of the new heathland.

There’s an interpretation board here that talks about the work that’s going on and some of the heathland wildlife.

My eventually destination was the cottage across the field but since I’d mostly missed the heath on the walk up I turned my back on the cottage/interpretation board and walked back the way I’d come, this time on the ridge of the heath itself.

This area is still very new, and a visible contrast to the older heath at Rammamere I’d walked last time. The Greensand Trust are steadily removing the trees and scrub and patches of the heath at first look quite bare and ruinous, but when you get up close you suddenly see that it’s thrumming with insects, and that the bright purple heather is starting to cover the bare ground.

At the far side of the heath you come out of a gate next to a little bench. I made another u-turn, this time turning left and left again and walked back up towards the cottage, this time on the eastern edge of the heath.

This is another pretty, sunny sunken lane with a view of the heath (and it’s current residents) up on your left.

As you reach the cottages, the path makes a sharp left-hand turn to a gateway (if you’ve used the alternate route above, this is where you join the main route again). Don’t go through the gateway but bear slightly right around the edge of the meadow.

Keep following the Greensand Ridge Walk signs (essentially all the way back to Maulden). The only little diversion I’d recommend is when you reach the round thatched cottage, ignore the muntjac sign which points down a very narrow *very* nettley little track. Instead go left up the track then immediately right and you’ll rejoin the path without having to clamber through the brambles.

The path runs along the wood edge with the open grassy meadows on your left hand side. The sharp rise and fall of the sandy path and the little dry valleys make this feel oddly coastal, as if you walking along the back of a dune system. There are harebells in the verges dragonflies in the treetops and one tiny little lizard, much to fast for the camera, scuttling along the track.

At the very end of Maulden wood you hit a fork in the road with a plaque dedicated to Queen Elizabeth & Prince Phillip.

Head left here, with the stone and plaque on your right and keep walking until you come out into an open meadow with no trees or hedgeline on your right hand side. This is Maulden Church Meadow, another Greensand Trust/Central Beds Council site. It’s lovely ancient meadow, with big ant hills and lots of tiny little flowers. The ponds were quite dry after this summer but in there spring you might be able to find newt eggs and frogspawn in the permanent pond.

Turn left across the meadow, keeping left when the path forks a bit and you’ll soon be back at Maulden Church.

If you’ve got time, Maulden church yard is well worth a look round, there’s an ancient headless cross by the church itself and an octagonal, sandstone mausoleum (opened up by the Maulden Historical Society on 10th September if you’d like a look inside).

The church itself was open the day I was there and is incredibly pretty inside, light and white and covered in incised and painted plaster decoration over the doorways and surrounding the archways. There’s also a little second-hand book stall so remember to take some change as well!

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