Early Days of the IWA

The Icknield Way Association was formed nearly 40 years ago in 1983. The photos below are from launch of the Icknield Way as Regional Route on Friday 11th September 1992 at Balsham about at the middle of the Icknield Way. The official opening was performed by the then Chairman of the Countryside Commission (later to become Natural England). There is a stone like this at Balsham and at the start and end of the route, Ivinghoe Beacon and Knettishall Heath.

The IWA adopted a logo which featured a hand axe as these were found all along the route.  See article in Spring 2022 newsletter.

Sir John Johnson unveiled the Icknield Way Stone on the village green at Balsham and gave a speech.  He, and others from Countryside Commission including Sue Forsythe who was then seconded to IWA as Publicity Officer, were given lunch at the pub.  Later, at the AGM, John Trevelyan (Deputy Director of Ramblers Association) gave a talk.

Professor Thurstan Shaw was the initiator of the Icknield Way Association and path, right from the word go and also had the original vision for a Great Chalk Way.  He had got together a small group of (mostly) walkers from other counties including Ken Payne (then Secretary, Herts Ramblers Association) and Chris James heard about it from Ken.  Chris was then project manager for the North Herts. Countryside Management project and the Icknield Way passed through her patch.  Chris was, naturally, interested and wrote to Thurstan offering to help in whatever way she could.  Chris was invited to the first meeting of a steering committee at his house in November 1983.   Chris funded the first leaflet (which Chris designed) and the first guide book by providing council funding (from North Herts. project budget) to launch them .  The cost was later reimbursed when IWA had sufficient to pay it back. Chris James has continued her involvement in the Icknield Way Association ever since and is currently the Newsletter editor.

Sue Forsythe Associates were the Countryside Commissions contracted publicity agents and she was certainly very helpful and proactive when we were building up to the launch.  John Johnson was a really nice chap and very supportive of the Icknield Way, and the Great Chalk Way vision.  It is presumed that Thurstan must have contacted him and got him on board!

The Countryside Commission provided the Secretariat for the Icknield Way Forum which was formed of representatives from the six county highway authorities along the route, which met 2-3 times a year, quite often at the Countryside Commissions regional offices then in Cambridge.

Thurstan was Chair of the Association from 1985 – 1989, then became President from 1989 – 2013.  The first President (1985-89) was Baroness David JP – who Thurstan knew) .  So you could say that one of his roles was knowing the right people as well as being a respected archaeologist.  He attended many of the AGMs in the early days before he became unable to do so. There is more about Thurstan on the videos page.

  • Sir John Johnson, Chairman of the Countryside Commission (on the right facing camera); Professor Thurstan Shaw, President of the Icknield Way Association (next to Sir John); Lord and Lady Long (opposite them) setting off in a pony and trap for Icknield Way, Balsham.