Ascent! A walk to the highest point in Cambridgeshire

A morning walk on the borders of Cambridgeshire and Essex, shimmering fine rain, heavy cloud and bursts of sun. A sultry, thickened end of summer day. The village of Great Chishill is marked on the OS map as being 479 feet above sea level, giving its fortunate residents expansive views over a land of sprawling cornfields and caucuses of dark woods clumped on the hill tops. To the north the land drops sharply away to the plains of central Cambridgeshire, to the south the more  wooded, gently bounding lands of north Essex.

Next to the church the road drops away down to the plains, with cottages on each side, a little bit like Gold Hill, Shaftesbury:

Chishill 8

Half a mile along the high street  I make it to what is marked on the map as the peak of the village, and the county. The road is lined to one side by a row of council houses, and to my surprise I find that instead of some kind of notice, or celebration of its exalted height, the house at the highest point of the hill is selling vegetables. Clearly this is the highest vegetable stall in Cambridgeshire, possibly the highest one of Southern England. A couple walk past with a dog and confirm that yes this is the highest point, they seem quite proud of the fact, but are apparently not aware of the exalted status of their fruit and veg stall… There is a shower, then sun, and the road gleams, a very ordinary road, in an out of the way village, but the air is warmly hazy and the sultry light exhilarating:

Chishill 7

On top of the world – the summit of Chishill Village…

Just down the road, a scruffy oak in a field must be the most evevated tree in the county…

Chishill 6

Then a farm, with a very elegant manor house, and a sprawling inelegant set of farm buildings next door.

Chishill 2

But the bridle path sweeps past the farm away into the wide, rolling cornlands of Essex, the air has a peculiar heavy softness to it, blurring outlines on the horizon, and making it seem as if you could walk forever and get nowhere…

Chishill 9


Chishill 4

The road goes ever on and on, away from the plains, into the South Country… I follow as far as the church of the next village Chrishall, which, some distance from the village, nestles its back against a great oak wood, just visible in the shot above on the left. The rain has really set in now, I lean on the wooden gate of the church yard, absorb the solitude of the spot, and look out over the misted valley, with the tarnished gold colours of stubbled fields melting into the soft, aromatic air…

Chishill 1




Published by urthonamag

Essays on art, consciousness and radical transformation, with an East West perspective

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