Distance c. 500m. Direction N - S
Fortune Farm was converted into Deepdale Water Gardens in the 1990s. It specialises in cold water and tropical fish but also sell accessories and supplies, ponds, statuary, birds, rabbits etc. Landscaped gardens with seating around a large fishpond provide a welcome respite for walkers and visitors to the shop. Cold drinks, ice-creams and sweets are available.
Continuing south the bridleway emerges from woodland onto an open field to the west where Tim Sharrock, the Bedfordshire ornithologist, commented that
Skylarks may be heard singing overhead and the twitter of pairs or small parties of Linnets. This is also a site for the much less widespread Corn Bunting, with his jangling song likened to the sound of a bunch of keys. Brown and streaky, this is a bird slightly larger than a sparrow, but much chunkier, flying awkwardly, often with its legs dangling, to a perch in an isolated tree, a bush or tall herb.
The vegetation here is mostly ‘weed free’, but the odd unsprayed patch may be a treasure trove of interesting and beautiful plants typical of sandy field margins – Lady’s Smock, Scented Mayweed, Pineapple Mayweed, Field Pansy, White Campion, Prickly Poppy and the purple-flowered Common Fumitory. Around the farm buildings, typical birds are Barn Swallows and Pied Wagtails, finding nest sites as well as food close to Man.
Snow Hill, the next house to the south, marked on the OS map as Grove Lodge, also has beautifully landscaped gardens. They are normally open to the public once a year as part of the Open Gardens Scheme. Posters appear several weeks beforehand with advertisements in the Biggleswade Chronicle and Bedfordshire on Sunday.
On the western side of the road there was a small tramway running along the northern edge of the field in the second half of the 19th century. It led down a small valley along the western side of the wood from the Sandy Heath coprolite works. A horse and cart pulled wooden trucks laden with fossils to one of three washmills for the coprolite works. One of these washmills stood in the corner of the field (TL 206490) where the fossils were washed and sorted before being trucked to the railway station at Potton or Sandy. There used to be a public house called The Locomotive at this junction with Potton Road (TL 207489) but it was converted into a house in 2002. Local people working at the coprolite works used to call in for breakfast at 06.00am before starting work. The house on the opposite side of the road also used to be a pub, opened for the fossil diggers in the late-1860s and appropriately called the ‘Pick and Shovel’.
The concrete road was constructed during the Second World War to provide better access for ammunition trucks. Huge quantities were stored in these and other woods in the area. In 1944 Peter Wisson witnessed an accident in the playground of Everton School during his afternoon break.
The weather was bright with high broken cloud. We first noticed the aeroplane high in the sky to the east at an elevation of 80 degrees. It was in a vertical spinning dive. It was not on fire and did not appear to be damaged, but I do not recall hearing any engine noise. It seemed to be falling for ages but suddenly it hit the ground and a large cloud of black smoke rose up from the direction of Potton. It was a twin-engine aeroplane with a single tail fin. We saw no parachutes emerge from the aeroplane. A day or two later I was taken to see a crashed aeroplane along the Potton to Sandy Road. The aeroplane was badly damaged but I do remember the tail was fairly intact and it had a single fin. The crash location is on the right of the Potton-Sandy Road, about 50 yards from the road, to the west of the recreation ground midway between two detached houses, map reference 213493. I assumed this was the aeroplane which I saw crash.
Jim Breeze provided more details about how a Stirling, LK 236 ‘MA-Y’, from 161 Squadron, crashed on 14th February. As the event was shrouded with secrecy it was only in recent years that research in the Imperial War Museum’s records has allowed the truth to come out. F/O Eric Timperley and his six crew were returning from bombing practice on the Wash in murky conditions when at 14.15 hrs it was ‘buzzed’ by a P51 Mustang of the 383 Fighter Squadron USAAF. A witness saw it go up through a gap in the clouds and make “an unauthorised pass”. It flew too close and hit the Stirling’s tail. Both aircraft went out of control. Part of the American plane came down in houses immediately behind the old Fire Station in Cambridge Road, Sandy and part hit the allotments near the railway bridge below Cox Hill, east of the town. Fred Punter who witnessed the event as a young boy in Sandy stated that the American pilot, Lt. T.W. Kiley, bailed out but, being so low, his chute failed to open. He landed feet first and sunk in the sand up to his waist. His plane landed on top of him and burst into flames. The Stirling dived into a field near the present day site of Sandy television mast. The tail landed close to the crossroads in Deepdale, opposite the Locomotive public house.. F/O Timperley and six of his crew were killed. They included two Australians, F/S Bill Saunders and F/O G.C. Wiggins from the RAAF.
A local man recalled how, as a youth, he rushed to the crash site on his bike, saw ammunition going off in the fire and containers rolling down the slope. He ran over to the crash to help and was afterwards sworn to secrecy. The landlord of the Locomotive public house is reported to have found an arm and buried it beneath a tree by the side of Potton Road. Parts of the plane were unearthed in gardens behind Peels Place in Sandy.