Cantab Rambler is still around to wish you all “Happy New Year”, and “Good Walking for 2001”. This is our 5th issue, and we hope to produce items of interest to help steer you through the dark damp months, and point ideas for new expeditions in the Spring.
This is a privately produced news-sheet for our rambling friends, with an emphasis on the walking scene in Cambridgeshire and adjacent counties. We aim to give away copies, but if you would like to have regular issues, a donation of 10p per copy would cover our costs!
Janet & Roger Moreton
“Wild Essex” is a guide to the nature reserves and country parks of Essex and East London.
Edited by Tony Gunton, and published by The Essex Wildlife Trust (Lopinga Books) in November 2000, it is available from Tye Green House, Wimbish, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 2XE; www.lopinga.co.uk, at £12.75, softback (250pp, ISBN 0-9530362-2-7)
This is a very well-produced, lavishly illustrated informative guide, with a section on each of Essex’s reserves. Sadly, a majority of these are situated at some distance from the Cambridgeshire border, there being naturally a higher density of the sites on the coast, and in Epping Forest, for example. However, we discovered several sites (especially oxlip woods) previously unknown to us near Saffron Walden, and further south in the Stort Valley.
Each site has a separate page with details of grid reference, parking, site plan, and visiting details. Note that not all the sites are available to all, or at all times. Reserve specialities (flowers, trees, birds, butterflies, fungi etc are highlighted).
Do you visit Wandlebury Often?
If you visit the Country Park by car more than 15 times a year, you might like to consider becoming a member of the Cambridge Preservation Society. For one person, the subscription is £15; for a family, it is £25. Members also receive the Bulletin of the Society, and have free entrance to other properties as well as Wandlebury (Hinxton Mill, Bourn Mill, The Leper Chapel, etc) at times of public opening. Functions and talks are arranged. For more information, contact: Cambridge Preservation Society, Wandlebury Ring, Babraham, Cambridge, CB24AE.
We are starting the Fen Rivers Way… Join us on 6 January at Cambridge Station, 10 a.m.
ON THE PATHS
Thriplow has a new path…
On 20 April 2000, Cambs. C.C. confirmed the creation of Footpath 7. This was too late for the path to be included on the new Explorer maps, so very few people will know of its availability. The path starts from Footpath 4 at TL 4523 4693, and runs S on a 3m wide hardcore track, overlaid with mud, with earth bank, ditch & trees to right, and at first an arable field, later bushes & fishing pits to left. There is a shed to left, associated with the fishing. Beyond, the path enters a poplar plantation at TL 4527 4672, turning left (E) inside the wood for 80m, then right (S) along the E edge of the wood. It emerges onto a 1m wide grass field-edge at TL 4539 4653, which it follows WSW, turning SSE after 70m, with wood to right and open arable to left, to TL 4540 4628. Here, the path enters another short wooded section, passing under power lines and at TL 4531 4625, emerges on a 2.5m wide concrete road leading N to a sewage works. Footpath 7 turns left (SSE) along the road, to meet Kingsway residential road, in Heathfields Housing Estate, Duxford, at TL 4537 4614, adjacent to an electricity substation on right. When last inspected, there were no signposts or waymarks…. It is quite an attractive route, when conditions have dried out somewhat.
“Happiness is a ball after which we run wherever it rolls, and we push it with our feet when it stops”
Watery Walks Circuits
The Ouse Valley Way – an assessment.
The Ouse Valley Way is a 26 mile route promoted by Huntingdonshire District Council, following the bank of the Great Ouse from Eaton Socon to Earith, passing through St Neots, Little Paxton, The Offords, Godmanchester, Houghton, St Ives, Holywell, and presently terminating at either Bluntisham, or Hermitage Lock, near Earith.
Over the years, details of the route have been published in several series of leaflets, but the ones we have consist of 7 leaflets in a folder – Ouse Valley Way, in the “Discover Huntingdonshire Cromwell Country” series. These may be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre, Huntingdon Library, Princes Street, Huntingdon, Cambs. Tel. 01480 375800.
The strip-maps provided are excellent, with clear line drawings, and just the correct amount of detail. Notes give directions, as well as points of nature and historical interest along the route. There are cross references to OS sheets (now use Explorer 225) to place the route in the surrounding countryside. Some car parks are marked on the maps. It is possible, though difficult, to achieve the walk in sections using public transport. Places of refreshment are noted, although here, as on other routes, one should be aware of the decline in rural inns.
On the ground, waymarking is generally adequate, although it was first set up many years ago, and individual markers have become damaged or have disappeared in places. Through Little Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, there is a section with almost too many waymarking posts, whereas on the long stretch approaching Brownshill Staunch there are very few, disconcerting in view of the changes occurring along the nearby banks.
All the leaftlets give timely warnings against attempting the route when the river is in flood. Indeed, during the last months of 2000, several parts of the route, e.g. near St Neots, and Godmanchester were underwater. Most of the path runs close to the Great Ouse, or in its floodplain. A new footpath was negotiated through Buckden Marina in the early 1990s, effecting a considerable improvement for walkers. However, it is a pity that the fine riverside path along the north bank of the main river through Hartford has no continuation, other than the main road. Instead here is a rather contrived (but attractive) set of paths from Godmanchester passing between the flooded old quarry lakes, to join the South bank of the river opposite Hartford Marina. Through Houghton, the promoted route goes along Thicket Road, although it is now possible to make a very pleasant detour around Houghton Meadow.
Crossing the St Ives bypass on a busy Saturday morning needs care & agility, and the continuing route down inappropriately named “Meadow Lane” was, until recently a black spot of the trail, being a tarmac road shared with heavy lorries. In recent months, this section has been much improved by creating some new sections of path safely behind the enclosing hedges. Approaching Holywell, the path crosses several low-lying fields, prone to flooding, then continues along a raised floodbank, out of sight of the river, between The Ferry Boat Inn, and The Pike & Eel, where, alas, the ferries no longer cross the river.
Near Brownshill Staunch, the landscape is disfigured by recent gravel workings, and especially by an ugly conveyor belt that crosses the river near to the staunch itself. However, bear in mind that many of the attractive pits and nature reserves passed along the route were themselves derived from worked-out gravel pits, and plans are already afoot to make a new Nature Reserve with public access available on the south side of the river between Overcote and Earith in the 2020s. One branch path leaves Brownshill Staunch across fields to Bluntisham. But the more logical continuation follows the raised south bank of the river to Hermitage Lock, near Earith. Here the Great Ouse passes into South Cambridgeshire, and thus beyond the sphere of interest of Huntingdonshire District Council.
Earith – and then?
Walkers who appreciate the open Fenland landscapes enjoy pursuing rivers, irrespective of man-made boundaries, and seek to follow the Great Ouse (here often called the “Old West”) along its flood-banks skirting Willingham and Cottenham to the south, and Haddenham to the North, eventually meeting the main river near Stretham, thus joining the route of the Fen Rivers Way.
Such ramblers, at present, have a thin time. It is possible to pass through the Marina on the north bank at Earith, to continue over difficult stiles to Aldreth, and thence along the south bank to join the main river near Little Thetford. Stiles in Haddenham parish have recently been somewhat improved, but problems of poor path maintenance and overgrowth make this section a commando exercise west of the A10.
From Earith, the only available route South of the river towards Willingham runs on the A1050, a hazardous road without a footway, and not to be considered by walkers under any circumstances. Legal documents known as “Modification Orders” are presently being enacted by Cambridgeshire County Council to create a bridleway running parallel to and about 400m south of the A1050, as far as Bridge Farm. Opposite the farm, a dead-end footpath, No.2 in Willingham runs towards the river. Another path creation here, and over Flat Bridge (which has a history of former public use), would give satisfactory riverside access joining existing paths on the south side of the river, through Cottenham parish, over the A10, and thence to Stretham.
We believe that the County Council needs an impetus to push through these improvements. The missing-link is at present being called the “Fen Rivers Way Extension”, as it is being promoted by the Fen Rivers Way Association. Had riversides been included in the Countryside & Rights of Way Act, then we might have obtained these paths without a struggle. As it is, we need to make known to the County Council the demand for improved access to The Great Ouse – the dominant feature of the fenland environment. JM
Village of the Month – Grantchester
Explorer Sheet – 209, Cambridge. Pathfinder – 1004, Cambridge & Balsham
This is the time to take a new look at Grantchester, where you may walk with dry feet on several paths, and which you can visit in Winter without being jostled by too many tourists. The “Orchard” tea-garden AND indoor tearoom are open all year, as, of course, are the 4 pubs.
The village is thought to have originated as one of a pair of Iron Age settlements on either side of a fording place, served by an east-west trackway. Later settlement occurred in the Roman period, and a probable Roman Road from Sandy via Gamlingay, Bourn, Toft and Barton crossed the Cam at Grantchester, then ran past Addenbrokes’ and along Worts Causeway.* As well as the much-photographed thatched and limewashed cottages, there is the parish church (with its 800 year-old font); the restored seventeenth century millhouse; and the famous Old Vicarage. The village has literary associations with Chaucer, Tennyson, Rupert Brook, and of course, Jeffrey Archer. Rupert Brook lived in the Old Vicarage from 1911 to 1914, but actually wrote the celebrated poem, ” The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” in Berlin in 1912. The “..thrilling, sweet and rotten, Unforgettable, unforgotten river-smell..” has now thankfully been dispersed these several years by mains drainage in the village, but the aura of Rupert Brook lingers for the visitors, especially in the pub renamed after the poet, and in The Orchard tearoom.
All the village paths are admirably signed, and many are negotiable in ordinary leather boots save in exceptional flood conditions. There are no fewer than three ways of joining the tarmac path from Grantchester to Cambridge. A direct route leaves the village at Balls Grove on a tarmac passage, between garden boundaries.
Alternatively take the lane between The Green Man and Red Lion pubs, to join the tarmac path.
*F.Walker, “Roman Roads into Cambridge” Proc. Camb. Antiquarian Soc. XVI
A third route (damp in Winter) leaves Broadway beyond the last cottage, to cross the grass field diagonally, and join the tarmac path at a kissing-gate. Within the village, admire the sculptures (shepherd & sheep) visible in the garden of Jeffrey Archer’s residence, then take the public path between walls to the millpond. This gravelled path was underwater in October 2000, but is passable dryshod at most times. Out of the village, on the Trumpington Road, the dead-end path to Byrons Pool is not recommended in Winter, being notoriously muddy and slippery. However, there is a car-park here.
Three rights of way leave the village SW of the roads. Opposite The Old Vicarage, a signed path leads off Millway onto a concrete farm road between open fields. These same fields can be accessed from Coton Road, either via Burnt Close, or further along, from the residential road called “Bridle Way”. All these lead into open arable land, where dry walking can be had on firm tracks. One footpath leads over an elegant footbridge across the M11 towards Haslingfield, and a bridleway across another bridge over the M11 to Roman Hill. But as well as the rights of way, be aware that several permissive routes are available on tracks alongside the M11, and, on the other side of the Bourn Brook, beside the brook towards Barton (phone for permission to continue on the final section**), and in a circuit round by the radio-telescope boundary.
On all these routes, one is constantly aware of the traffic noise from the M11, but nevertheless this is a pleasant open area in easy access of Cambridge, and worthy of a Winter ramble.
**A path runs from the bridge at TL 423 549, along the Bourn Brook as far as TL 412 546, where there is a Countryside Commission notice & map, and also a separate sign, “This land belongs to the Countryside Restoration Trust. Please telephone 01223 843322 for access permission“.
©2001 R.B. & J.Moreton