Footpath 9 (Everton), Footpath 11 and Footpath 4 (Tempsford)
Distance: c.110m. 1,200m. and 800m. Direction: NW, WNW and N
In 2006 there were revisions made to Footpath 9 and Footpath 11. As they were so little used, it was difficult to determine the exact route. According to the map, it follows the eastern side of Roman Copse, a newly planted area of mixed woodland, and then goes through it to become Footpath 11 on the other side (TL 194530). However, it is not signposted. A wide swathe around the western and northern edge of the plantation has been cut, which, if followed, leads you to a gap in the hawthorn hedge. This opens onto a concrete turning circle at the end of what was an E – W runway.
Footpath 11 followed this overgrown concrete track about 1000 metres westwards. The new footpath will follow the south side of the hedge from the Roman Road, Bridleway 11 (195532). During the war you would have seen buildings for storing bombs, incendiaries, fuses, parachutes and the special canisters packed with supplies for the resistance groups in occupied Europe. Almost all of these buildings were dismantled and removed after the war and much of the concrete removed to restore the land to agricultural use. Through gaps in the hedge to the north you can still see some of the remaining low, flat-topped sheds. The path ought to pass through the northern end of Dick’s Wood (TL 187532) but it is so overgrown that you have to go round the eastern side until you reach the hedge. You might see several pigs behind an electrified fence, grubbing around in the earth amongst hawthorn bushes near a small pond (TL 186533). It is marked on the map as “sinks”, into which the drainwater soaks into the soil rather than feed into the main drainage system. After a spell of dry weather, often during the summer, you can see how the bare earth has been cracked wide open as the clay dries out. Some cracks can be over two centimetres wide.
The path marked on the map passes though Dick’s Wood and continues west for about 400 metres towards the electricity pylon (183533) before turning north for about 200 metres to become Footpath 4 at the edge of Little Biggin Wood. If you followed the path to north it continues WNW until it becomes a concrete track. By the side of it you might see where rainwater has washed away the soil to reveal its foundations. London Brick Company ‘Phorpres’ bricks were some of those brought in from London, Peterborough and other cities bombed during the Blitz to be used as hardcore for the roads and runways. After about 300 metres you pass underneath the electricity transmission line which runs parallel to the N — S runway (TL 183533). in front of Little Biggin Wood. The now gas-fired Little Barford Power Station is only a few kilometers to the north. You might be able to pick out the two white cooling towers on the northern horizon. Before you pass through the oak and ash woodland you can see a concreted area to the north where disused agricultural machinery, a few old cars and piles of concrete and other waste have been stored.
About 500 metres to the south, not on the footpath, is Biggin Wood, within which is a medieval moat (TL 182527). Along with White Wood on top of the Greensand Ridge to the east, it is thought to be one of the few remaining ancient woodlands to survive in this area. The rest have been deforested to provide firewood, charcoal, building material, weapons, tool handles and farmland, The moat is about 5 m. wide and a Norman manor house would have stood on the interior platform which is about 1,000m2. Nothing remains of the house. The manor of Everton Biggin was absorbed into Everton Manor in the 17th century.
The start of Footpath 4 is about 18 metres above sea level. During the war there were two camouflaged blister hangars beside the railway line, housing the Stirling, Halifax, Lysander or other planes used at the airfield. Although the site of Little Biggin Wood may be ancient, the trees themselves date from Victorian times. The densely packed trees make it very dark and gloomy. The bluebells are a sign of ancient woodland but the common plants in the undergrowth are cleavers and common nettles. Those walkers with binoculars might spot a Reed Bunting in the wood, Buzzards and sparrowhawks might be seen flying overhead. A day-flying Mother Shipton moth was spotted in June 2004, named for its similarity to the old woman of Shipton cave in North Yorkshire. Within the wood you can see laid out in the undergrowth, dozens of concrete pipes. Once you have passed through the wood, the path continues northwest along the north side of a hawthorn hedge towards the London and Great North Eastern Railway. You will have heard some of the trains pass by on their way south to London or north to Peterborough and beyond. Before 1850 when the railway was built, the path continued northwestwards to Jesus College Farm (TL 175538) in Tempsford. You pass underneath a telegraph line that runs parallel to the railway line. Just before the path reaches the railway line, a farm track to the south crosses one of the specially built wartime bridges. Instead of the normal brick arch you can see a solid concrete one to take the weight of heavy military trucks. "Restored 11.7.54 B. Sims & Son" is inscribed on it. The path then runs north for about 500 metres alongside about a 4-metre deep drainage ditch to Tempsford level crossing. Sedge warblers and whitethroats can be seen flitting around looking for food. The ditch is abundant with vegetation caused by eutrophication, the run off of nitrates and phosphates after almost a century and a half of using chemical fertilizers. Crops like wheat and barley grown in the adjoining fields need significant quantities but rainwater infiltrating the soil leaves a residue in the groundwater which ends up in the drainage channels.
At the end of the path you can see a white post indicating the presence of an underground oil pipeline (TL 180542). There is a tunnel underneath the railway embankment, which takes the water from the drainage channels west towards the River Ivel. A male grey wagtail was seen singing by the pond in front of it. The road running to the east goes to Woodbury Lodge and the start of Bridleway 6 which takes you to Woodbury Low Farm and the Roman Road. You may well have heard a warning siren as you approached the railway. This and the flashing red lights indicate that the gates of the level crossing are about to close. Bridleway 2, about 400 metres north up the road alongside the railway, takes you northeast past Cold Arbour Farm and then east back towards the Roman Road.