Happy New Year! Accept a brief season’s greetings, and an apology that this issue contains no “Parish of the Month”. You may recall that the November issue was completely taken up with Fen Ditton, so that now I have an accumulation of news items best seen before they become too stale.
Good wishes and good walking for 2013. Janet Moreton
The length of a walk
How many times at the end of a pleasant day have I overheard a remark, as follows: “Nice walk – how far did you make it then?” Estimates are made, perhaps, from a finger round the map, pedometer readings, or nowadays with a GPS. The walk’s leader may have originally entered “10 miles” in the programme, only perhaps to have changed the route slightly, over- or under-estimated the route with a piece of cotton round the map, or unwisely trusted one of those little “map-measurer” gadgets with a wheel. My own feeling is that a variation of 10% or so from the stated target distance is absolutely acceptable, but a walk of 14 miles which was supposed to be only 10 might well raise questions, if not outright complaints.
I have recently come across a series of discussions in “Ramblers Net” on the length of the British Coastline, which is relevant to the length of any path or walk. I paraphrase Pete Bland, himself summarising the contributions.
The length of anything depends on the measuring stick in use. Using a thick piece of string on your map, will give one result, but magnify your map and use thin twine and there will be a larger result. Use a GPS on the walk and the result will be different from someone else’s GPS reading. Trace the route with Anquet or Memorymap, and the computers will give yet another estimate. There is no such thing as the “correct distance”. In particular, the length of a walk given by your GPS will depend on: the frequency of position sampling; random errors in the position calculated; and the degree to which the GPS performs automatic smoothing of the data.
The problems associated with measuring coastline length led Benoit Mandlebrot to invent a new branch of mathematics called “Fractals”. The following quotation comes from “Chaos” by James Gleick (ISBN 978-0749386061), in a chapter on “A Geometry of Nature”.
“An observer trying to estimate the length of England’s coastline from a satellite will make a smaller guess than an observer trying to walk its coves and beaches, who will make a smaller guess in turn than a snail negotiating every pebble.
“Common sense suggests that, although these estimates will continue to get larger, they will approach some particular final value, the true length of the coastline. The measurements should converge, in other words. And in fact, if a coastline were some Euclidean shape, such as a circle, this method of summing finer and finer straight line distances would indeed converge. But Mandlebrot found that as the scale of measurement becomes smaller, the measurement of the coastline rises without limit, bays and peninsulas revealing ever smaller sub-bays and sub-peninsulas – at least down to atomic scales, where the process does finally come to an end”.
Shall we go for a four hour walk?
The National Trust has named a 6 mile circuit at Wicken after Octavia Hill, to mark the 100th anniversary of her death. The NT’s “News from the Fen” of July 2012 outlines events which led to the organisation’s formation.
In 1885, a campaign was started to raise public awareness of changes which the bringing of the railway would precipitate in the Lake District. Octavia Hill collaborated with Robert Hunter and Canon H Rawnsley on this issue, and their collaboration led the formation of The National Trust.
The promoted walk starts from the Wicken Fen Visitor Centre car park. (Note there is a parking charge, which will be refunded if the sum is spent in the visitor centre or its café).
The walk goes along Lodes Way onto Burwell Fen, on land bought by the NT in 2001. It crosses Burwell Lode, and continues south to cross Reach Lode, where walkers turn right along the bank. The route continues to Upware, and returns to the visitor centre via Wicken Lode. My experience of this area suggests that after prolonged rain, wellies would be a good idea.
Love or Hate?
Put this date in your diary for one reason or another. Between 31 August and 2 September 2013, the “Lodestar” festival will occur in Lode Fen, involving (doubtless loud) popular music, theatre, etc. You may wish to purchase tickets for this event online from http://www.lodestarfestival.com
Or lovers of the quiet countryside, like me, will record the dates to ensure that on no account will they inadvertently venture near the vicinity.
Village Greens and Commons It is worth noting that the Government has published The Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which, amongst other things, contains changes to the law for registering new town and village greens. The reforms intend to exclude applications to register new greens on land that has actual or applied-for planning permission , or any land for potential development identified in a local or neighbourhood plan.
New commons and village greens are still being registered in Cambridgeshire. For example, there has been an an application to Cambs County Council to register land by Water Lane, Oakington as a common.
The Open Spaces Society has, as one of its prime aims, the protection of commons, greens and other open spaces. In 2011, the Society responded to calls from members for advice on protection and management of at least 62 commons, 28 registered greens, and 44 other open spaces. DEFRA and its Welsh equivalent sought advice on 81 applications for works on, or exchanges of common land. (The Society objected to 27 of these). Many more cases and disputes reached them via consultations from official bodies or were dealt with by the Society’s local correspondents. For more information, see http://www.oss.org.uk
The RSPB in East Anglia
At Cambridge RA Group’s AGM on 23 November, our speaker was Graham Elliott, the RSPB’s Area Manager for Cambridgeshire and the fens, speaking especially about Fen Drayton Nature Reserve. For those who missed a good talk and slide show, here are some ideas for birdwatching walks, following my visit to another RSPB reserve at Fowlmere.
The Winter and early Spring are especially good times for birdwatching in East Anglia. Recently in the Fowlmere RSPB reserve, a copy of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ promotional pamphlet for East Anglia was pressed upon me. I am not an RSPB member. I like birds, but in general can no longer hear their high pitched songs, and have always felt more drawn to a study of flowers or fungi, or other static targets, rather than to a bird someone saw half a minute ago, but which had flown by the time they told me!
However, the list is impressive, with some 20 reserves featured.
Fowlmere Reserve itself is the nearest to Cambridge. Parking and entry are free, but a donation is always appreciated. Similarly, we all enjoy free access to Fen Drayton Lakes reserve, both along public footpaths, and on permissive trails. Indeed, most of us will have known this site before it was acquired by the RSPB, and before access via the Guided Busway from Cambridge or St Ives became so attractive an option. (See Cantab 64)
The next-nearest reserve from Cambridge is the RSPB’s headquarters outside Sandy, Bedfordshore and this again needs no introduction. I featured Sandy as Parish of the Month in Cantab 63 of July, 2011, suggesting various walks based on, or including, the delightful (sandy) walks around the reserve. It should be noted that parking for non-members is currently £4 per vehicle, so it was suggested that walkers park in the town, and use the attractive quiet Stratford Road past the station and cemetery to access the reserve.
How many readers know Lakenheath Fen Reserve, just over the Suffolk border? The RSPB created this wetland only a few years ago, out of arable farmland. Here I was absolutely amazed to see some cranes on one occasion. The reserve is accessible on foot along the Hereward Way, from Brandon, or from Lakenheath. There is a carpark charge for non-members.
The Ouse Washes Reserve is a wonderful sight in Winter. I visited once by coach for an evening floodlit “performance” by the Whooper and Bewick swans. On other occasions, we have walked in on the Hereward Way, only possible when the road bridge is not flooded.
The Nene Washes Reserve is doubtless better known to Peterborough residents, and a wonderful place for waders Access on foot is possible along the Nene Way along the South Barrier Bank some 2 miles from Whittlesea.
Other reserves are further away, and probably more suitable for a weekend break. Suffolk has two coastal reserves, at Minsmere and North Warren, and one at the ancient Wolves Wood, near Hadleigh.
Norfolk RSPB guards little terns at Great Yarmouth, displays huge numbers of waders along the coast at Snettisham, and has a wetland reserve at Titchwell Marsh. There are 3 reserves in the Yare Valley.
Essex RSPB boasts the Stour Estuary, and has a visitor centre at Wat Tyler Country Park, Pitsea.
How can the Ramblers attract and keep new members? What do members of the Ramblers want from the Association?
These are the questions posed at a recent forum attended by Cambridge Group Secretary Jill Tuffnell. The Ramblers CEO Benedict Southworth and Chairman Jonathan Kipling have been holding a series of regional meetings with representatives of local groups and Jill attended the only session covering London, the South East and East of England.
The facts are that Ramblers’ membership nationally has declined in recent years, with many new members failing to renew their subscription for a second year. Does the organisation offer what they need? Can we learn from successful local groups’ experience in terms of maintaining or increasing their numbers?
As a general rule – at least in the London/home counties – it is the groups which have a wide-ranging programme of local walks and trips, a very extensive group website with sections offering downloadable walks and also regularly updated online newsletters which are most successful. Some have been able to attract a regular inflow of new talent to their committees/officers. Success helps to support further success, with sufficient numbers of volunteers coming forward to break tasks down to manageable chunks. For example they have been able to create email lists of members who can readily be contacted. (This may seem easy, but everyone has to be contacted individually to ask for up-to-date details of such addresses and permission to use them!). The Cambridge Group is not so lucky. We rely on a few volunteers doing a lot of work. Our Area no longer functions as a decision-making body, which means more work for Groups. And – with a very successful local Rambling Club providing a wide-ranging programme of walks – we find it particularly challenging to maintain members who are only interested in a Wednesday or Sunday walk! Also in 2011 a number of new Ramblers members may have had their subscription paid by HF Holidays – and their membership may lapse one year on.
The publisher of Cantab has volunteered this slot to ensure the issue is aired amongst local Ramblers’ members. Cambridge Group welcomes any help you may be able to offer us – especially on our Committee, but also in any other role, such as helping with newsletters or developing our website.
Jill Tuffnell firstname.lastname@example.org
Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab appears approximately every two months. A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 20p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink. If you would like to receive an issue by post, please send a large SAE, and a stamp.
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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
Cantab 71 Price 20 pence where sold © Janet Moreton, 2013.