Let us hope that future generations continue to value this wonderful legacy from the past. Around mid April to early May the beautiful pasque flowers bloom.
A few steps along the Icknield Way to the right gives fine views over the depression in the land known as Dane Bottom looking towards Newmarket, with Ely Cathedral visible in the distance. During 2003 the main work has been on the section between the Burwell Road and the A 41. This shady path is much favoured by speckled wood butterflies that can be seen flitting in and out of the shadows in spring and summer. After crossing the railway line the Ditch changes in character and becomes much more open.Chalk loving flowers abound along this stretch in summer, greater knapweed, sainfoin, harebells and carline thistle. www.wildlifetrust.org.uk/bcnp 2, J F Dyer 1961 ‘Dray’s Ditches, Bedfordshire, and Early Iron Age territorial boundaries in the Eastern Chilterns’ in Antiquaries Journal vol. It is well worth a short departure from the Ditch path to follow the old track to the left, where mullein, fennel and thyme are among the many wild flowers growing here. There is a website dedicated towards the Devils Dyke (Ditch) Restoration programme. North Hertfordshire Archaeological Society. The first recorded steeplechase over a prepared track with fences was run at Bedford in 1810, although a race had been run at Newmarket in 1794 over a mile with five-foot bars every quarter mile. In September 2001 The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £305,000 for the upkeep of the Devil's Ditch, particularly the clearance of invasive scrub towards the northern end. The open views to the right take the eye towards Newmarket over the Links golf course and at one point the golfers drive off from a small green on the top of the bank. A reminder of World War II and the part played by Newmarket Heath during the war comes when we reach a lowered section of the bank, dug out in 1943 to try to reduce the very real Devil's Dyke or Devil's Ditch is a linear earthen barrier, thought to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, in eastern Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.It is now also a 98 acre (39.8 hectare) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest.It runs in an almost straight line from Woodditton south of Newmarket to Reach north-west of Newmarket. General view of the Mile Ditches excavation, 5 March 1978 (photograph G R Burleigh © NHDC), S Bryant & G Burleigh 1995 ‘Later prehistoric dykes of the eastern Chilterns’, G Burleigh 1995 ‘A late Iron Age oppidum at Baldock, Hertfordshire’, (both the above papers are in R Holgate, see below), G Burleigh 1980 ‘The Mile Ditches, near Royston: Excavations, 1978’ in Hertfordshire’s Past no.8, O G S Crawford 1936 ‘Field Archaeology of the Royston District’ in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society vol.
Here centuries old oaks and ash grow and moss covered stumps and fallen boughs slowly rot into the ground, showing nature's pattern of decay and regrowth. It is along this stretch during 2003 that extensive scrub clearance and the introduction of a hardy sheep species are helping to restore the original chalk grassland conditions.
Soon the path winds through a group of twisted old pines before this mile long stretch of the Ditch ends with the crossing of the Newmarket to Cambridge/London road, still busy despite through traffic using the Newmarket by-pass further to the north. In September 2001 The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £305,000 for the upkeep of the Devil's Ditch, particularly the clearance of invasive scrub towards the northern end. The trust is part of the Linear Site Partnership which also includes Cambridgeshire County Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambridge Green Belt Project, English Nature and English Heritage. Here another path next to a ditch joins the Stour Valley Path.
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