Gardemau Walk

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Many people know the famous Winter Walk at Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge, but almost anyone can find their own local way among snowdrops to brighten a gloomy day.

Back in January, when letters to the press were bemoaning their absence, I noticed a dense patch of snowdrops just inside the gates of Christchurch Park, Ipswich. A few miles away, in the small village of Coddenham, there are thousands in the woods along a walk between the Community Centre and the High Street.

This walk was created as a permissive footpath by the Gardemau Trust, a charity set up in the eighteenth century by a rector and landowner. This year's rain has meant conditions are muddy but one dry day allows water to drain away through the chalky subsoil. Most of the walk is uphill so the path is easily cleared.

Visitors to the village can park at the Community Centre and walk almost dry-shod on tarmac and compacted gravel with only the top of the hill on grass. By then the image of all those snowdrops is enough to minimise all problems. The way back is along the roadside.

Living in the village though, we had no need of a car and followed the mapped walk from opposite the church. This crosses a meadow below the former rectory where the farmer keeps pedigree cattle and, in an adjacent field, sheep. A medieval (and probably Roman) road can be traced through the meadow to Blacksmith's Lane. Here we saw the first snowdrops, clustered along the roadside banks as they would have done for centuries. A usually dry ditch was a running stream. We crossed this on a footbridge into the recreation field. After a moment's pause by the sign showing images of local wildlife, we followed the path directly to the Community Centre.

Leaves of cuckoo pint and dog's mercury were noticeable before we reached the car park and tennis courts. Once round these and up the first short slope through trees we saw them. Thousands of double snowdrops on the lower slopes, single ones above, and squeezing between them the first spears of bluebells to follow. It recalled the lines about how a blade of grass that spears

A dead leaf from below Kills winter at a blow.

Let the rain return – though nobody wishes floods on anyone – those snowdrops while they last, and bluebells after them, will keep it all at bay. So if you are in the vicinity come and enjoy them while you may. If you live elsewhere, seek out your own snowdrops to banish winter gloom.

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