** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
Somewhere to sit down?
It’s getting a bit late to wish you “Happy New Year”, so I shall say, “Welcome Spring”, albeit a little prematurely.
This has been the season not only for brisk Winter walks, but also a good deal of armchair walking, and planning strategies for the longer days. I visualise maps, the guide books, diary, perhaps holiday catalogues, a beverage to hand, and most important, a comfortable chair, with good lumbar support.
When out-of-doors, how often do you sit down? On most walks, one takes a mid-morning break, sometimes a brief afternoon teatime stop, and indeed, the lunchbreak may well be taken as a picnic. Sitting on the ground is not much fun in Winter. Where do you sit down?
Cambridge City riverside and open spaces serve its residents and tourists quite well in this respect. Some Cambs villages, such as Thriplow, Coton, Whittlesford and Toft are well-blessed with seats on public open spaces and near road junctions. Generally the recreation ground in a village will have a bench or so, and perhaps a sheltered seat under a pavillion (but don’t count on it!). In cold, wind or rain, try the sanctuary of a bus shelter, or a church porch.
For the less able, or someone recovering from an injury, the need to sit down at regular intervals becomes a necessity. The best options are then country parks and the like. Top of this list is Magog Down, with a memorial seat every 100m! Wandlebury does fairly well, but the seats become sparser towards the Roman Road. Milton Country Park has a good supply of rather austere benches. Of our local National Trust properties, Anglesey Abbey is well supplied with resting places, but Wimpole has very few away from the vicinity of the house, other than a couple of benches near the lake. Why are there no seats up by the viewpoint in front of the folly? I once led an elderly relative up there, only to have to prop her, panting, against a tree!
Perhaps walks organisers should consider the need to sit down, amongst the many factors pertinent to a well-planned walk. Fallen or felled trunks or stout branches in the countryside are an obvious solution, so long as the tree from which they derived is not waiting to drop a further limb on unwary travellers. Then there might be a section of wall – mind it doesn’t collapse! For those who don’t sit comfortably on flat ground, what about the edge of a ditch or a bank, “I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows...”
Finally, one can carry one’s own seat, of which various commercial versions are available. The snag with all is they add weight and bulk to the rucksac. Think about it. So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
A ‘Missing Link’ path in Willingham – can anyone help?
In 1995, Willingham Parish Council was successful in having a new Public Footpath added to the Definitive Map, on the basis that people had used the path “as of right” over a 20-year period, so that it could now be deemed to be a public right of way. The path runs west from the corner of the Rampton Road at TL 408 695, to the southern end of Mill Road at TL 404 695. Unfortunately although Mill Road itself is recorded as a public road for most of its length, there is a short section of the unmade road over which no public rights seem to have been recorded. Historically, the road was used during the WWII for the transport of fruit; but since then there have been arguments as to whether it was intended to be public, and now there is a gate across its southern end which is often locked so that people have to squeeze round the gate-posts in order to reach the public footpath on the other side.
Willingham Parish Council is seeking to redress the situation by claiming Public Footpath rights along the unregistered stretch of Mill Road, again on the basis that people have walked it freely for many years. If anyone can help with evidence of their own usage (during any period, but obviously the longer, the better!), you are invited to contact the Parish Clerk at The Parish Office, Ploughman Hall, West Fen Road, Willingham CB24 5LP, or by e-mail to email@example.com .
Duxford / Hinxton rail crossing opened at last!
In 1981, when preparing a total survey of path problems in South Cambridgeshire, one of our first complaints to Cambs.C.C. was that of missing stiles to cross the Cambridge-Liverpool Street railway line at TL 491451. Duxford Footpath 8 should have been accessible across the line from Hinxton Footpath 4. Over the years, in our capacity as RA Footpath Secretaries for South Cambridgeshire, we complained again and again…and again. Promises were made and nothing happened. Then last year, Cambs.C.C. approached the Rail Regulator, who decreed that Network Rail must open the public right of way, and erect stiles over the railside fences.
The immediate outcome was that, around Christmas, Network Rail put up notices at the site “Walkers using footpath 8 Duxford, 4 Hinxton are requested to use the route shown in green on the map below. Network Rail is in process of applying for a formal modification of the definitive map”.
Users were directed along a grass track adjacent to the railway, emerging beside a roadside level crossing at TL 494445. As an alternative route to Hinxton, this could hardly have been longer. A similar notice had been erected here, and alongside, was an indignant hand-printed notice “The instructions of Network Rail to use this land as a footpath have been placed without the consent of any of the landowners, who have not been consulted regarding these proposed changes.”. We reported the on-site notices to Cambs C.C., and returned two weeks later, having been told the stiles were in position at the proper place.
Yes, we found that you can cross the line here: the stiles in the railway fence are good, and there are boards over the railway lines for safe pedestrian use. A few hazards remain. On the Duxford side of the line, there is a double fence, and no stile over the farmer’s rabbit-netting, supported by a single low wire, that is not too difficult to step over. On the Hinxton side, one soon encounters a crossing fence in the grass field. We found a single delicate plank stile here with a crack in it – very dangerous! Preferably circumnavigate this, to proceed through scrub, which has grown up in the years when the crossing was unusable. Beyond the junction with Hinxton Footpath 1 & 3, at TL 493448 a clear path goes ahead to the level crossing at TL 494445, or one can turn left across the field to Hinxton Mill. Naturally, we have reported the above remaining problems, and hope to have them resolved soon. Meanwhile, please do use this path, for which we have fought hard for very many years. If there are still problems, then do report to Cambs.C.C.
Parish of the Month – Hinxton
After the exciting developments with the long-lost path over the railway, I could not but choose Hinxton as “Parish of the Month”, although there are reservations, as noted below.
The little village is sited on a chalky rise by the floodplain of the River Cam or Granta and 2 out of 4 of its footpaths cross the low-lying fields, becoming occasionally impassable in a wet Winter or Spring. The other two lead to the A1301, one behind the church, the other near the Stump Cross junction, which is reached from Mill Lane at Ickleton. The remainder of the parish, extending the other side of the A1301, has not a single right of way. However, as well as the rights-of-way from village to floodplain, there are in addition, a permissive path along the river bank, and others elsewhere, including in the grounds of the old Hinxton Hall, the Genome Campus, a vast new development which has put Hinxton on the map. Some of the permissive paths are labelled for use of local residents only, to the disgust of other ramblers. In particular, that along the raised river bank (marked for villagers only) is sometimes the only feasible route, when the fields are underwater.
But do visit Hinxton – the attractive C17th restored Watermill is in the hands of the Cambridge Preservation Society, and is open some Summer Sundays, when teas are provided. Generally, floods permitting, it is possible to walk across the fields to Ickleton, or in the other direction from the Mill towards Duxford. Cyclists have been considered recently, by construction of a tarmac cycleway / footway beside the A1301 towards the MacDonalds at the major Sawston roundabout. It would be possible to walk to Sawston this way, but really not very pleasant.
The village is picturesque, with attractive thatched cottages, and some fine timbered structures. The church, dating from the C14th, is set back in Church Green behind the war memorial. There is a Norman doorway (now blocked) to the North, and within the South porch, a moulded C15th doorway with traceried oak door. The graceful tapered leaded spire can be seen to best effect across the meadows. The Red Lion Hostelry is housed in one of the fine timbered buildings. There is no shop. A bus service runs once an hour from Cambridge via Sawston.
A three mile circuit from Hinxton
Map – Explorer 209
Park considerately in the wide main street. Walk N, admiring the old properties on the right, noticing the former front doors are 2 feet from the ground, a flood precaution. Turn left down the lane to the Mill. Footpath 1 is signed passing behind the Mill Buildings, and crossing a bridge over the sluice. Shortly the path divides. The raised path along the river bank is signed for villagers only: the hoi-poli turn half-right, off the river bank. There is a permissive path which goes along in the field, fenced beside the river bank, which will take you to the side of the railway at TL 493448. The right of way goes diagonally across the pasture directly to this point. Continue SSE beside the railway, to emerge on the road at a level crossing. Cross the railway and turn left immediately through a kissing gate into a grass field, which cross diagonally, cutting off a corner of the road, rejoined at TL 494443. Cross the road, turn right, and soon enter a field by a sign. Go forward to use a footbridge on the left. Follow the worn path through the pasture, to emerge up a charming sunken lane and through a tall iron gate into Butchers Lane, Ickleton. Turn right, and find the signpost for a narrow walled lane leading towards the church, famed for its wall-paintings. Emerge by a pleasant green, where there is a circular seat. (Turn right for the shop and recreation ground.) Turn left for the church and to circle the old part of the village, returning to Butchers Lane, and the sunken path from which you had emerged. Retrace as far as the footbridge, but now continue forward in the fields, noting a cemetery chapel away to the right. Pass a junction in a sunken lane at TL 491444. Continue ahead, first between hedges and fences, then across open fields, passing into Duxford parish. Go through a hedge at a T-junction, and turn right on a good grass path. Shortly, another junction is reached at TL 488452. The left branch leads past a rubbish heap to a stile giving onto the road to Duxford. The right branch leads to the newly constructed stiles over the railway. Cross with care. Once back in Hinxton, continue in the field beside the railway and reach the ricketty stile (hopefully mended). Cross or avoid to the left, and pass through an overgrown area. Reach a kissing-gate at a junction of paths, and return to Hinxton Mill – perhaps for variety along the permissive path fenced at the foot of the flood bank?
Extensions (making 8 to 12 miles in all depending how much Strethall is explored)
Use the above circuit as a core route, continuing the walk through Great Chesterford, via the Icknield Way path towards Strethall and returning to Ickleton down the quiet road over Coploe Hill.
Linton – Great Chesterford Ridge:
Wind Turbine Threat
Many local people are very concerned about the proposed development of an enormous wind farm on land between Linton, Hadstock, The Abingtons and Great Chesterford. The area contains many attractive paths, some of which will be very close to the proposed turbines. People who walk & ride in this area are worried that the rural tranquility will be lost and outstanding views ruined by these industrial structures.
A planning application is expected soon.
For more information, contact the Action Group at www.stoplwf.org.uk.
(Information provided by an Essex member of The Action Group)
Cantab Rambler 45 by E-Mail & Post
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