© 2017 Bulmer & District History Group

Bulmer & District




        Bulmer & District History Group



Belchamp Walter Church is set in serene surroundings. The Hall opposite was sometimes seen in a recent television series about a 'roguish antique dealer' (Lovejoy).

In previous years the Sudbury postman would stride through Bulmer to Goldingham Hall and along this path to Belchamp Walter village, before returning in the afternoon. (H of H)

A water mill existed in the valley for several centuries. Bulmer children sometimes went swimming in the mill ponds.

When courting, their elder brothers and sisters ambled along this route and carved their initials onto trees not far from the Church.

Belchamp Hall has interesting links with India, several generations of the Raymond family being involved with the sub-continent. One ancestor by marriage was the country's first Surveyor General. His son is buried in Bulmer Church.

In 1914 a romance blossomed between a son of Belchamp Hall and a daughter from Goldingham Hall, but Philip Raymond was a coffee planter ‘on leave’. Despite the proximity of two such lovely churches the couple were consequently married in Bombay Cathedral! (K.C.)

We now follow the path across the field to Goldingham Hall.

Please note: the soil here is very unco-operative and it is not always easy to mark out a good track after ploughing. After drilling it takes two to three weeks for the crop to emerge before a path can be sprayed out.

Proceed across the field to the pond; follow the track through the farm buildings, bearing right and turn onto concrete road. Next ‘Information Point' is near the old Chalk Pit.



We have now passed Goldingham Hall, one of Bulmer's FOUR manors recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. (But why did Bulmer have so many Domesday manors? (H ot H).

Goldingham, incidentally, was given to a Norman family in 1066 and they retained ownership for over five hundred years!

In the 1930's it was one of hundreds of farms in East Anglia to be taken over by Scottish immigrants between 1890 - 1940. Older residents recall their livestock being driven up, along the roads, from Sudbury Railway Station.

The 'fictitious' short story 'Harvest Home' is set in the field lo the left.

Chalk has long been quarried along this valley, and also around Sudbury. The hilly field opposite was known as “Kiln Field”.

In 1425 the rector collected tithes from a Bulmer lime kiln. The chalk itself was deposited when the area was covered by sea, some hundred million years ago.

Somewhere in the vicinity of the surrounding fields and Belchamp Walter, a rare MILITARY ORCHID was noted around 1700. (both from O.M.E.)

Today, part of the valley grows willow trees for cricket bats.

In the great hurricane of 1987 nearly half were destroyed. In better times, however, half of the best 'Bat Willow' from the area is exported to India.

Around the willows meanders the Belchamp Brook. Today, this is a gentle, languid stream. Following the last Ice Age however, approximately twelve thousand years ago, it was a ''fierce fast- moving, swirling torrent - a torrent in full spate”.

A lake existed in part of the willow tree area. Pollen analysis suggests that this silted up due to soil erosion following the clearing of woodland from the surrounding hills by Bronze Age man (1700-500 B.C.). Much of the 'good soil' from the tops of the hills was washed down into the valley (from Cambridge University Plant Science Dept.)

Proceed round the pit and along the slade. On reaching the metalled road turn right. After about 100 yards, turn left. Follow the cart-track to the Old Barn. N.B. The cart-track is a 'courtesy link' to enable a circular route and constitutes no right of way. It may be formalised at a later date.



(Referred to as 'New Barn' on O.S. sheets).

You are now in the heart of 'The Long Furrow'. Chapter one begins at this point. In the final chapter, we walk home at midnight, along this route after finishing harvest.

Until the Napoleonic Wars, some thirty acres of woodland existed here, stretching down to the road and over half the adjoining field. Hornbeam still grows in the 'ancient hedgerow' beside the cart track. The barn was built in the early nineteenth century, as were two cottages, last occupied in the 1930's.

In the First World War an aeroplane landed here in dense fog. Next day children from Belchamp Walter and Bulmer scampered along these footpaths and cart tracks to look at it.

''A soldier was sent to guard it”, recalls Fred Chatters, ''but we'd never seen an aeroplane before - that was real excitement!''

Eventually it was towed down to the road by a traction engine.

Sheep were sheared near the barn. 'Pod' Marten recalls that “unfortunate passers-by sometimes got sheared as well!"   Glow-worms are remembered beside the Bulmer  to Gestingthorpe road, whilst Nightingales still sometimes sing in the valley.

In the imaginary “Tales of Woodland and Harvest”, the old crawler 'Big Al' emerges from this barn, whilst the lovely Elm tree in 'Hazel' stood on the skyline beside the concrete road to Hill Farm.

Proceed now along the concrete road. After a quarter of a mile the road turns sharp right. After a further 150 yards the road branches. Continue straight for a further 20 yards. Then take a left turn onto a grass track.



 You have now crossed into Gestingthorpe Parish. Gallows were often found near parish boundaries. So, too, were isolation or smallpox houses. One stood in the field to the east. The village of Roman Gestingthorpe lies to the South West (see L.F. Chapter Two). Gallow Green may also have been a Saxon Meeting Point for the Half Hundred of Thunderlow (from 'Gazetteer of Hundred Meeting Places in Cambridge Region' by Audrey Meaney although other sources suggest it may have been near Bulmer Church).

The field in the foreground is known as 'Brick Kell (kiln) Field’; in the wooded glade to the South East is the famous 'Bulmer Brick and Tile Company’. Today it is a living reminder of the skill and hard work of the many brickyards which once existed in the Hedingham-Sudbury area. Sharks teeth found in the clay date from 20,000,000 years ago.

In the distance is Wickham St. Paul Church - note the brick tower. Roman sites are often found near Wickham place names. Near the southern hedge an elderly Wickham farm worker was ploughing one dull November day. His name was Cecil Smith.

In the 1920’s he served in India with the Suffolk Regiment. His two neighbours served in the Burma Campaign. Cecil's words introduce 'The Kbyber Connection'.

Proceed along the grass track and then across field. On joining the green lane, a night turn leads to Bulmer Brickyard, Butlers Hall and the path to Twinstead.

For the circular route, however, turn left. Proceed along lane for approximately half a mile until you approach Upper Houses. A gap in the hedge reveals a path to the right.