** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
Who has not groaned on a path through a succession of fields which involves climbing a number of difficult stiles? In Cambridgeshire, there are mostly the traditional wooden sort, having one or two steps. These can be wobbly, missing steps, festooned with barbed wire, or buried in a micro-thicket of brambles and/or nettles. Design has improved over recent years, and there is a British Standard 5709, “Gaps, Gates and Stiles” (revised 2001), that states that stiles should only be used as a last resort, and their steps should not exceed 300mm (1foot) in height. BS5709 gives recommended options on design, although there is no compulsion to abide by the standard. In recent years, Cambs.CC has supplied stile kits, to be put in by volunteers as part of the Parish Path Partnership scheme. The kits, admirable in themselves, have in general greatly improved fence-crossings. However, even these new stiles are not one hundred percent successful, as inexperienced workers do not always ensure a construction with long-term stability, and a frequent problem is that the step is too high, as the holes dug are too shallow to bury sufficient of the structure in the ground.
However, further improvements are nigh! Most recently, Cambs CC has started replacing stiles with either gaps in the fence (the British Standard says these should be a minimum width of 900mm, but they are often much narrower) or with wooden or metal kissing gates, and this trend is likely to accelerate. We have to thank the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) which became law on 1 October 2004. Speaking generally about public facilities, it states that it is now illegal to discriminate against disabled people by failing to make reasonable adjustments to overcome physical barriers to access. So some splendid kissing gates are appearing – but in the change-over period a path may have one new kissing-gate, followed by 3 old stiles, which is not much use to anyone unable to climb a stile, but otherwise able to take a long walk.
The 2001 version of the standard stile includes a dog-gate. An example is a vertical lift-up door attached to the stile post. This is invaluable to the dog-walker, but we have seen bad versions where the dog-gate has been fitted into the width of the stile, making the portion available for the human climber too narrow to swing a foot over conveniently.
I would be sad, though, to see all the old stiles vanish, irritating as they can be on a group walk, where 20 people queue up to go over. Think of the charming old-world descriptions of Jane Austin’s characters in long dresses, being discreetly handed over stiles by escorts, the latter averting their eyes from the sight of a well-turned ankle? Or, more daringly in “Persuasion” (1818) “In all their walks he had had to jump her from the stiles; the sensation was delightful to her“.
Venturing further afield, one encounters ladder-stiles in high fences enclosing or excluding deer – we have met some very dubious versions of these in Scotland, requiring a high degree of agility. And what of the stone-wall country, with the traditional stone steps up the wall, and a little gate on top? Except on a few popular paths, I doubt if these will disappear, and indeed, would we not mourn their loss?
Parish of the Month – Fulbourn
Those who live in Cambridge may have an impulse to turn the page here, as the village sits on the City boundary, and the paths are so well known. But first, give me the opportunity to tell you something which may be new!
The parish rises to ca 50m above sea-level along the Colchester to Cambridge Roman Road, but descends to 10m in the area of damp pasture known as Fulbourn Fen. In 1086, the parish was “Fuulburne”, a stream frequented by birdlife. The former Britsh Rail named the now-extinct station “Fulbourne” (closed 1966) but as any local person knows, local “bourn” names have no “e”. (Planners at Cambourne should also have noted this!).
On Foot through History…
In the Middle Ages, Fulbourn consisted of two parishes, each with a church which shared the same churchyard. Now only St Vigor’s remains, the church of All Saints having been allowed to decay in 1766, after local people had been given permission to recycle building materials. The two churches belonged to the two principal manors, later known as Zouches and Manners. Another estate owned by the Dockra family in the C16th was Dunmowes, whose manor house is thought to have occupied a moated site known as Zouches Castle, now isolated on a little island in Fulbourn’s nature reserve, by a display board.
The Anglo Saxon earthwork, Fleam Dyke, (1) gives an excellent route out of the village, beyond Stonebridge Lane, and Footpath 4. It runs SE over a wooded cutting (the remains of the old Newmarket to Great Chesterford railway) and then crosses the footbridge (opened 1994) over the A11, to lead ultimately to Fox Road, and thence to Balsham or West Wratting.
Paths in Fulbourn are well-maintained and well used. A 1986 village guidebook by Don Crane (2) describes several very short circuits round the village itself, giving the history of the buildings and open spaces passed en route. From the lych-gate of St Vigor’s (heavily restored 1869), turning left one passes the Manor House, based on Tudor & Jacobean origins. There is a new display board of the village here. Continue by the very old manor wall, built of a great variety of materials, and by tradition, containing some of the building materials from the old All Saints Church. The War Memorial at Pound Hill, occupies the site of the former “pound” for strayed animals. Further on, The Old House has C15th origins, but was extensively rebuilt in the C17th. The United Reform Church was built in 1810, but subsequently enlarged. Hope Hall, now a private house, was built in 1909 on the site of a former pub called “The Royal Oak”, and was originally used for Band of Hope gatherings. Another pub, “The Crown and Thistle” noted by Don Crane in 1986, no longer stands. The parish burial ground, opened 1935, lies in Saunders Lane, called Fenstrete in the Middle Ages. Dogget Lane is named after Robert and Henry Dogget, who had land here in 1279.
Down the centre of the village runs the lane called Haggis Gap, connected with Richard Haggis, a C17th landowner. Until after WWII it was an unsurfaced cart track, and the village recreation ground used to be on the west side, a site now occupied by the Health Centre. Don Crane considered Highfield Farm, to the north of the village, to be the oldest and most interesting building, dating from late C14th.
Finally, on the Cambridge Road, the prominent smock mill was built in 1808 by John Chaplin. Guided tours are available on some Summer Sundays.
Walking from the village…
(a) Horseheath to Fulbourn, 12 miles.
The book “Walks in South Cambridgeshire” (Publ. RA Cambridge Group, 3), describes a 12 mile route from Horseheath to Fulbourn. The walk starts from the bus-stop by the green in Horseheath, then goes via Streetly End to West Wickham. It takes tracks past Rands Wood to West Wratting, and the footpath from Padlock Lane, through a wood, and across fields to Balsham, which also has a bus service. The second half of the walk may be commenced here. From the rear of Balsham’s recreation ground beside the churchyard, take a field-edge path to join the lane called Fox Road. Turn right, and quite soon, take the path left which leads to, then along Fleam Dyke, and back to Fulbourn.
(b)Fulbourn to Balsham circular, 12 miles
Another popular route (3) which needs no detailed description, is to park at Stonebridge Lane Nature Reserve, and leave Fulbourn along Fleam Dyke, turning off the Dyke at “The Ambush”, and taking the right of way across several fields, to reach Fox Road at Balsham Village. Walk through the village, and go S down Woodhall Lane, which degenerates into a muddy track. On reaching the Via Devana (Wool Street Roman Road), turn right (NW), and follow the byway 3 miles, crossing the A11 on a fine bridge near Worsted Lodge. Before Copley Hill, turn off right on a waymarked path by a seat, and follow this N back to Fulbourn. Cross the Balsham Road, to go down Hindloaders Lane, and return to parking outside the Stonebridge Lane nature reserve.
(c)Routes to The Wilbraham and Teversham
From the church, go N on the Wilbraham Road, over the railway level crossing, and immediately right on a slightly disagreeable fenced path behind the grain store. The continuing route goes across a field to the road, hence avoiding a dangerous corner. Go right along the road, and left at the signpost by New Cut. This route is part of the Harcamlow Way. Continue across fields, towards a stile at the corner of Gt Wilbraham Common.
From here, either go over the stile, SE on the rough pasture through the Common, to emerge on a lane to return to the road just short of Gt Wilbraham. Turn left into the village, and take the path from Frog End, crossing the railway to return to Fulbourn via Stonebridge Lane.
Or, from the stile at the corner of the common, do not enter the common, but continue along the farm track towards Hawk (water) Mill. Walk down the farm drive, past the converted wind mill, and into Lt. Wilbraham. Take the tarmac footway to Gt Wilbraham Frog End, deviating across the rec. and inner village paths and again take the path from Frog End to Fulbourn. (6 miles)
Or, having reached Hawk Mill, turn left on the waymarked path by Little Wilbraham River. After a mile, turn off left (SW) take the recently improved path by Cawdle Ditch. Turn left along the road back to Fulbourn. (6 miles)
Note: avoid this route in wet weather.
(d) Nature reserve…
Many very pleasant short walks may be enjoyed around the Wildlife Trust reserve, accessed from the small car-park in Stonebridge Lane.
Alternatively, from the same point, take the bridleway through gates, and go along the gravelled track bordering the reserve, emerging near attractive alms houses on Church Lane. Pass through the churchyard, and circle back to Stonebridge Lane, past the old wall described previously. Finally, also from the car-park, continue down the muddy continuation of Stonebridge lane, and into Hindloaders Lane (otherwise “Beggars’ Lane”, derived from the Old English hine meaning community and loddere, meaning beggar). Turn right on the Balsham Road, into a loop road towards a new estate, and take the fenced path into the rec. Emerge from the right corner of the rec into Stonebridge Lane, and back to the car. These two short circuits together make about 3 miles.
(e) Roman Road and return
From Hindloaders Lane, cross the road, and take the long footpath to the Roman Road, after two fields passing through a narrow avenue of young trees, planted ca. 15 years ago. On the Roman Road, turn right. It is possible to continue to Wandlebury, and make a circuit, but for the present, turn right at a major junction after half a mile, to return down first a byway, which becomes Babraham Road. (4 miles)
1. Archaeology of Cambridgeshire, Vol.2.
South East Cambridgeshire and the Fen Edge.
Alison Taylor. Publ. Cambs.C.C. 1998.
ISBN 1870724 84 4. pp.33-36.
2. Walks Round Fulbourn, by Don Crane.
3. Walks in South Cambridgeshire.
Publ. Cambridge Group of the Ramblers’ Association, 2nd Edition, 1993.
ISBN 0 95225 18 17 Walks 4 & 6.
Conflict “down under”!
A correspondent in New Zealand recently sent me a newscutting from The New Zealand Herald of Wednesday 5 January 2005.
It seems the New Zealand Government has plans to allow walkers on land bordering “any “significant waterway”. Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton announced last year plans to open access to lakes, creeks and rivers. Under the proposals, access is being negotiated with farmers to allow walkers onto their land to reach a 5 metre wide pathway beside water, from a public road. It seems that farmers will retain property rights over the strip, but there will be no compensation for public use of the waterside strip, but farmers may be paid compensation for access to the strip. The narrow strips of access land would be developed through a government agency over several years. The use of dogs, guns, bicycles, or vehicles will be prohibited on the new paths.
New Zealand Federated Farmers’ organisation opposes any proposal which removes landowners’ rights to control who walks on their property. “One of the fundamental tenets of New Zealand society is secure title, and people respect that whether you’re an urban or rural person”.
The New Zealand Herald carried out a survey of opinions of 1000 adults. The survey found 87.5% were against walkers crossing private rural land. Some 22.5% thought farmers should be allowed to shoot trespassers. A figure of 65.5% of those polled agreed that mountain bikers should not be allowed on tracks in the National Parks.
My friend scribbled on the paper – “Show this to your friends – but don’t let it stop you visiting New Zealand!”
Stansted Airport Campaign Walks
We recently received a press release from the “Stop Stansted Expansion” campaign, describing proposed sponsored walks planned for 26 June 2005.
The campaign is against proposals to increase the capacity of the airport over three-fold from a maximum of 25 to 83 million passengers per annum, by building a second runway, thus making Stansted Airport the largest in the world.
The local community is staging a comprehensive campaign to halt this expansion, of which the mass “Ramble and Summer Fete” on 26 June is but one event.
Five sponsored circular walks (2, 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles) will depart from “The Stag” public house in Little Easton (near Great Dunmow, Essex). There will be checkpoints and refreshments along the way. All walkers from anywhere will be welcome to attend, to see for themselves the beautiful rolling countryside and the special walks which would be lost for ever if the second runway were to be built. The organisers say that sponsorship is by no means essential, but to help the campaign it is very desirable..
More information on the Runway Rambler Plus can be found on the Stop Stansted Expansion website:
or from Stuart Walker, tel 01279 850862.
The campaign office’s no. is 01279 870558,
Quotation of the Month…
“Most of the flora of our parish is not rare and is easily accessible for all to view. There is colour, scent and beauty that merit more than a passing glimpse from a car or bicycle…”
Flowers and Wildlife of Mildenhall Parish, by Yvonne J Leonard,
Publ. 2001 by Mildenhall Parish Council
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This is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or of the author of an individual item. Janet Moreton 01223 356889
Issue 29; Price 10 pence where sold
© Janet Moreton, 2005.