Exploring Gestingthorpe’s fascinating connection with polar history
- Credit: Archant
Lotte Sherman tackles a challenging but rewarding quadrangle of paths
Gestingthorpe may be rather off the beaten track, but the church has a brass memorial on the north wall dedicated to the ill-fated polar explorer Captain Oates. Gestingthorpe Hall (now known as Over Hall) was the childhood home of Laurie Oates, as he was called by his family. The village sign on the green includes an outline of an iceberg and a figure battling against the severe elements.
The short ramble starts from Church Street, it is rather a challenging journey, as some of the paths do not appear to be walked much and are not all signed clearly, i.e. a fingerpost without ‘its finger’ to point walkers in the right direction or no waymarks at all. Make sure to take the map along.
From the church walk north to the road junction, cross and proceed on the road towards Belchamp Walters. You might wonder where you are, as you pass a property called “MECCA” and next Nether Hall. Ignore the first footpath leading off from the left, but follow the second one which crosses Belchamp Brook and runs by the side of a high hedge.
It soon veers to the right and then appears to end at the corner of an open field. Locate the fingerpost from which a sign projects in the direction of a green lane and the large garden of Princes Hall. Walk on to this private property, turn right and keep to the border, making for the drive, which in turn brings you to a road. Cross straight over to the footpath between the field edge and a hedge and walk to a wide gap in same; here the path swings over to the right and continues for a couple of hundred metres to a junction, passing over two plank bridges.
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The Gestingthorpe church tower is just visible over your right shoulder on the horizon. You need to cross an arable field, aiming for a spot between the two larger trees and a hidden bridge in the hedge ahead. Do not cross through into the next field, instead walk to the right with the hedge on the left until emerging on the road near the sharp bend. Go past the first footpath leading off, take the second one, a much wider lane, entering through a wide metal farm gate.
Proceed along the outside of a paddock and shortly you arrive by the concrete bridge over Belchamp Brook. Once on the other side carry on to the open field; walk diagonally left across it aiming for the fingerpost ahead by the road. Turn left and shortly locate the steps on the opposite side leading up the embankment to an uphill path, bringing ramblers to the extensive complex of Hill Farm. Nearby this old farm the site of a Roman Villa was discovered.
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Approaching the property, ignore the first footpath to the left, but take the second which gently runs downhill to a footbridge. Note the sign informing the public that the land and paths are under the care of The Countryside Stewardship.
Cross the small bridge, proceed up the gradient to the path junction and follow the right fork in view of houses and the church tower ahead with way-markers guiding you along. Not far and you arrive by the main entrance to the church.