On Sunday 2nd April Chicheley Hall, owned by The Royal Society, opened its doors to Cranfield University’s students and staff .
This special visit was part of the longest countryside walk so far organised by the university’s walking society in the academic year 2016/2017. The walk was attended by 23 Cranfield students, alumni, and staff from numerous countries: China, India, Saudi Arabia, Italy, France, Cameroon, Nigeria, UK, Czech Republic, and Malaysia. It followed from a similar event five years ago when Cranfield students visited Chicheley Hall as part of The Royal Society’s Heritage Open Day.
Chicheley Hall is a stunning Grade I listed mansion surrounded by 80 acres of beautifully kept grounds. Now a wedding venue and a conference centre. Home to The Royal Society and its Kavli Royal Society International Centre that offers residential working retreat for scientists worldwide.
About the walk: Chicheley Hall lies circa 8km from Cranfield University in north-easterly direction. It provides the perfect opportunity for a lovely countryside walk between these two locations, by using a network of public footpaths. The walk to Chicheley Hall took us under 2 hours and we repeatedly crossed the local watercourse, Chicheley Brook. Having turned off left just before reaching the village of North Crawley through the fields; having passed a field with horses, we crossed Folly Lane towards Brook End; then continued until crossing the main road towards Chicheley; walking along the road on the inside hedge of a field (with the permission of a local farmer) before turning right and continuing on a track until reaching a turning on the left through the fields. Then it was an opportunity to experience a true Jane Austin moment where at one point Chicheley Hall emerges on the horizon as you walk through a small woodland not far from the final destination.
Before arrival at the beautiful grounds of Chicheley Hall and its manicured lawns, we passed primitive Hebridean sheep in the field. A guided tour of the house was arranged; we learned about the fascinating history of the house and admired its interior. Next was time for a tea/ coffee and cake, freshly prepared at the hall’s kitchen, before we headed outside to explore the gardens and visit the unique raptors’ sculptures hidden among the trees. Then it was time to head back to the university. A quick drink stop at North Crawley’s local pub energised us for the last leg of the journey across the fields back to Cranfield University‘s campus. We were back before sunset. What a fabulous day of walking it was!
Special thank you goes to Chicheley Hall staff who made our visit possible and very enjoyable: Lauren kindly made special arrangements for our visit. Charles and Maurice, our guides, shared their knowledge of the hall and its history and patiently answered our numerous questions.
Next walk to Chicheley Hall: 14 May 2017. Bookings will open soon, check this website for updates.
Photos by Ali, our Photo Editor; Hoiken & Kristina. @Cranfield University's Walks 2017.