** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
The “Godmanchester Case”: a note on claiming rights of way
In the “Godmanchester Case” (formerly called the “Drain Case”, after the name of one of the appellants), the Ramblers’ Association took a claim to a Godmanchester right of way as far as the House of Lords – something not lightly undertaken – in a successful attempt to clarify a point of law that had, in their view, been misinterpreted by the courts for many years. The background to the case, as reviewed in Footpath Worker*, Vol.25 (1), Sept. 2007, is that since the Rights of Way Act 1932, it has been possible to claim a public right of way along a route, if it can be shown that the public has used it without interruption for at least 20 years. The law on this point (most recently set out in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) then says that the landowner can be presumed to have “dedicated” the route as public, provided that he has done nothing over the 20-year period, to inform the public that he had no intention to do so. Landowners have used, and continue to use, various methods to show their lack of intention to dedicate. These may be fences, locked gates or “Private” notices, but have also included letters written to lawyers, or to the County Council or, in the Godmanchester Case, an agreement instructing tenants “not to allow any footpaths to be created”.
What was established in the Godmanchester Case is that such tactics can only succeed if they are communicated to the public, so that people approaching the path are made aware of the landowner’s intention not to dedicate. A private letter or agreement will not do, even if it is written to the Local Authority (whose officer will simply file it away without anyone knowing about it).
The value of this ruling is already apparent: the latest issue of “Footpath Worker”, Vol. 26(2), Aug. 2009, has notes on 5 cases in which rights of way were successfully claimed, in Berks., Cornwall, Cumbria, Bucks., and Derbyshire, and in 2 cases the Godmanchester ruling was crucial.
*Footpath Worker is a quarterly bulletin “for all concerned with the care and protection of public rights of way”, circulated to footpath secretaries within the Ramblers’ Association, or available by subscription from “The Ramblers, 2nd Floor Camelford House, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TW, email@example.com.
Footpath Worker is one of many initiatives funded by the Ramblers’ Association. Your RA subscription helps to keep it in print!
Parish of the Month – Orwell
Explorer Sheet 209
This pleasant village, 8 miles from Cambridge, is situated at the foot of the chalk ridge bearing an important prehistoric trackway, The Mare Way, which reaches a height of 90m at the northern boundary of the parish. The lower parts of Orwell are on clay, dropping to 20m near the River Rhee, its southern boundary.
Some 12 public rights of way lead around the village, and to neighbouring parishes of Wimpole, Whaddon, Meldreth, Barrington and Shepreth. Use the public carpark at the foot of the village pit, and take time to admire the village, in the light of its history and setting.
Background to Orwell Parish
The parish takes its name from the spring S of Toot Hill, which has been partly quarried away for chalk. Orwell includes parts of the lands of 2 lost villages, Wratworth at the N end and Malton in the SE. But before there were villages here, settlement occurred in very early times.
Prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon
Neolithic and Bronze age flint tools were found on the low land by the Rhee, and sherds of Iron Age pottery were collected before the golf course was built. More Iron Age pottery & coins and Roman coins, broaches, a bronze javelin head and pottery (both local Nene Valley type and imported Samian ware) were discovered near the river, where an old track led to a crossing place. Excavations on sites just S of High Street and in Chapel Orchard revealed Roman pottery. The A603 was a Roman Road. Anglo Saxon finds in river dredgings at Malton included a Viking spear, key, spindle whorls, and axe-heads.
The parish of Orwell included what is now Malton Farm, which was a hamlet with its own chapel. Malton has evidence for Saxon settlement: it is on a ford over The Rhee, bridged in the C19th. Malton was part of the estate of the Tyrells of Shepreth, and was acquired by Lady Margaret Beaufort for Christs College. The scholars built their own house, and let the old manor. Malton was already described as depopulated by 1428, and enclosure of its fields began in the C15th. A house was built at that time over an earlier rectangular moat. Most of Malton’s chapel was pulled down in the C16th., when it was already ruinous, and had been used as a cow-shed. The last traces of the chapel were obliterated in the late C20th, but signs of extensive moats are still visible, although nothing can be seen from Fp11, as it approaches Malton Cottages.
There are no clear manorial remains in Orwell itself, but a map of 1680 shows an area known as Lordship, with a large mound on it, possibly a castle. This was levelled for a school in 1883, and when redeveloped, there were no indications of previous structures. The site is recalled by the name “Lordship Close”, across the road from the church.
The main part of Orwell is along the High Street, aligned on an old trackway at the foot of the chalk ridge. The church stands at the W end, and immediately below it lies Town Green Road. The name is all that remains of the Green, almost 600m long, but only 50 m wide. The green was a deliberate addition to the village in mid C13th, when Ralph Camoys, the Lord of the Manor, was granted a (rather unsuccessful) weekly market & annual fair in 1254. The green was gradual built over and enclosed. In 1655 “Camping Close” at the N end (where the boys played) was given to a lawyer Thomas Butler, in exchange for help in protecting grazing access. What remained by 1836 was divided by Inclosure and completely covered by cottages and gardens.
The brook S of the village (beside fp11) was straightened into a drain in 1837, after the parish was enclosed. The garden wall of No.30 High St is thatched and there are cottage gothic cottages.
Off the Malton Road on the village outskirts is the Millennium Meridian memorial, a handsome stone globe, with a small bench adjacent, wide enough for two close friends!
The earliest C12th church consisted of a squat tower, an aisleness nave and a small chancel. Part of the lower section of this tower remains. In the mid-C13th, the tower was heightened, and a few years later, the N aisle was added. In the early C14th, a S aisle and porch were built. In 1398, the old chancel was removed, and rebuilt on a larger scale. This was paid for by the rector, Richard Anlaby, as a memorial to his patron, Sir Simon Burley. By the C19th, the church was in poor order, and passed through two massive restorations.
The present church, built of clunch, is mainly perpendicular, having an impressive chancel with fine windows. The finest feature is the roof, wagon-shaped in 5 slopes and with alternate bosses and shields carved at the intersection of 66 square panels. The church exterior is well-seen from Fp 5, which starts up a flight of steps beside the churchyard. Within, the altar table dates from the reign of Elizabeth I and there is a monument in the church to Jeremiah Radcliffe, one of the translators of the Bible.
Orwell Clunch Pit
The pit is an old quarry site of ca. 4 acres, approached from High Street either via Fp 5 next to the churchyard, and up Glebe Field or via Fp 6, adjacent to the carpark. An old may-pole once stood on the Toot Hill, above the clunch pit, which is now a nature reserve, and contains the prominent Millennium Beacon.
The Clunch Pit
This attractive pit has been owned by the Parish Council since 1974, and was designated by English Nature as an SSSI in 1985. There was a major clearance of scrub in 1999, and short chalk grassland is maintained by use of grazing sheep. This is a good place for wildflowers, including cowslips, scabious, knapweed, wild thyme, pyramidal orchids and bee orchids, and the yellow carline thistle.
Next to the thriving Methodist Chapel on Town Green Road is a most attractive old orchard which is now a public open space. The owners, South Cambs D.C., had decided to sell the site for housing in the late 1990s. After a local outcry, and the land was redesignated as a green space, with the Parish Council obtaining a 25y lease, and the site was formally opened in 2006. Local residents have converted the wilderness to a charming wild park, with pathways and picnic tables. The old fruit trees have been pruned, and some of the grass trimmed. The wild-flowers here form a contrast to those of the short grassland in the Clunch Pit. Using money from the Heritage Lottery Fund & SCDC grants, villagers have also restored the old spring and dip-well, from which Orwell derives its name: in Domesday, it was the Oreuuelle.
Where there was once a population of ca. 20 people at Domesday, the excellent village website now serves a population of over 1000 in the parish. I have mined this for recent information on The Clunch Pit, and Chapel Orchard, for which grateful acknowledgement.
The Path Network
(a) The Northern circuit)
From the village carpark, TL 365 505, Fp6 runs up a gated lane to enter the Clunch Pit, where there is open access. It continues, partly on steps up the E side of the pit, to the grass sward on the top, where it joins Fp5.
Fp5, leaves High Street at TL 363 505, and starts up a flight of steps beside the churchyard. It continues up Glebe Field, and enters the enclosure at the top of the Clunch Pit. Leaving the rear of the enclosure through a kissing-gate, it continues N, quite steeply down a fenced path to the A603.
Cross the A603, and turn right (W) for a few yards to the start of Fp2 at TL 363 510. This right-of-way (RoW) starts NE up a hard-surfaced drive, before turning NW beyond a bungalow, beside a line of trees, up Thorn Hill. At TL 363 516, the RoW turns briefly left beside a lower crossing hedge, and then makes NNW across the arable field. However, most users continue NW in the original direction by the tall hedge to Mare Way at TL 364 518.
Examine Explorer 209 carefully and it will be seen that two bridlepaths run along the course of Mare Way on the top of the ridge, one each side of a ditch. The more southerly one is Orwell Bp 3. In fact, it appears to start at a dead-end at TL 365 516, then runs SSW to the junction with the Wimpole Road, by the large tanks at TL 352 524. The “double” path along Mare Way doubtless reflects the path’s original width and importance. (Sadly, Bp3 does not meet the A603. Its failure to do so relates to the Inclosure Award, in 1836, when the bridleway was acknowledged, up to the point where it met a common. When the common was enclosed, public access rights across it seem to have been lost. A route crossing the A603, to link with the Whole Way was listed as desirable in the Cambridge Green Belt Local Plan in May 1984, but nothing ever came of it.).
From the junction with The Wimpole Road (Eversden byway 9) at TL 352 524, Orwell’s Fp4 is the start of the path going S to French’s Corner, and continuing as Wimpole fp 3 to Cobbs Wood Farm, and thence to Wimpole. After sampling Wimpole Hall’s tea & scones, the walker might well return down the drive, and the track over the road, crossing a little stone bridge at TL 346 513, and climbing a stile towards Thornberry Hill Farm on Wimpole Fp4. At the parish boundary, the continuation is Orwell Fp1, which runs along a field edge beside a tree belt, to reach the A603 opposite Fishers Lane. Alternatively at the stone bridge, continue ahead on the permissive path along the old Victoria Drive, within the tree belt, to reach the A603 at TL 359 507. By either route, the circuit from the church to Wimpole Hall is ca.4 miles.
(b) The inner-village circuit
Again, starting from the carpark, go E along High Street, passing an attractive thatched wall, and several old cottages. Start S on Malton Lane, noting Barrington Fp1 soon turning off left. (This pleasant path makes possible longer circuits, eg via Barrington, Shepreth, Meldreth, Whaddon and King’s Bridge, ca. 9 miles). However, to explore Orwell’s paths, continue along Malton Road, here forming the parish boundary, admiring the Meridian Globe, and take Orwell Fp8 at TL 369 499.
This path is waymarked beside ditches, to bring the walker to Fp11 beside the deep drain. To go S on Fp11 will lead to Malton Cottages, the last section being across an arable field, sticky in Winter.
Going N on Fp11 leads back into the village, via Meadowcroft Way and Lotfield. (Note street names, if necessary to locate the start of the path in the reverse direction). Continue N along Stocks Lane, to where Fp7 passes through a chicane in front of a thatched cottage at TL 361 502, to run WNW on tarmac between garden hedges. It crosses a residential road (Cross Lane Close) and continues in the same direction to emerge on Town Green Road at TL 362 503, almost opposite Chapel Orchard. The short but interesting circuit from the carpark via Fps 8, 11, 7, and Chapel Orchard is about 2 miles.
(c) The southern paths
From the church, go S on Town Green Road. Part-way along, pass the Chequers Pub on the right, and a village store on the left. Continue past the recreation ground, where there are seats enough for a group picnic, and public toilets, generally open. Go past the junction with Hurdleditch Road, to Leaden Hill, which is the start of Fp10. This path, at first an unmade residential road, runs SW to TL 356 496, then turns SE & S, going up and down a little hill, then beside a ditch, to be well-waymarked over Malton Golf Course. The path crosses a raised bridge over the River Rhee to continue in Whaddon parish.
For an Orwell circuit, however, after descending the slight hill on Fp10, turn left (E) on Fp12 at TL 361 490 along the S side of a hedge , crossing to the N side part-way along. A bridge over the drain leads to fp 11, at TL 365 494, and the instructions in para (b) allow a return to the church. (3 miles).
(Note that the route given for fp 12 is not quite on the definitive line, but is that in common use. Cambs C.C. is planning to amend the Definitive Map)
Fp9 is a continuation of fp 10 from TL 356 496, turning N to the A603. It is a rutted track, muddy in Winter.
Longer Routes from Orwell
A limited bus service (Whippet 75) follows the A603 towards Wrestlingworth. A linear route can be designed on paths which lead via Whaddon, Kneesworth and Bassingbourn to Royston (7 miles+).
A circular route (10 miles) from Orwell via Barrington, Harlton, Eversden and Wimpole is popular, although the cross-field path between Harlton Manor Farm and the A603 at TL 382 529 can be very sticky in Winter.
Orwell to Little Eversden, Comberton Church, Toft, Great Eversden and Mare Way gives a circuit of ca 9 miles, or 12 miles including a detour around Wimpole Belts.
Mid Anglia Line Walks 2010
Roger Wolfe of the Mid Anglia Rail Passengers’ Assoc., tel 01473 726649 sends details of a series of walks over the Summer. The first on 10 April, starts in Ipswich 9.15am station forecourt, 11 miles in Gipping Valley. Find details of the other walks in next issue.
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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
Price 20 pence where sold Cantab 55 © Janet Moreton, 2010