What’s in a Name?
Steeple Bumpstead and neighbouring Helions Bumpstead, just over the Essex border from Cambs, take their name from reed production (Old English, “bune” and “stede”). The two settlements were distinguished by the Normans, as the village church with a steeple, and the manor belonging to Tihel de Helion. There are few reeds growing today – the parishes are largely arable.
Whilst this magazine has a Cambridge focus, I have started this issue with an item from “over the border” to encourage reports and comments of general interest more widely from elsewhere in East Anglia.
New Path in Shudy Camps
Shudy Camps, one of South Cambridgeshire’s more distant parishes, shares a border with the Essex Bumpsteads. We are pleased to receive path news from a local member.
With the kind agreement of the landowner, John Latham, there is now a new, waymarked, permissive path in Shudy Camps. Some 400m long, it starts from the junction of footpaths 4, 5 & 6 at TL 617 452, which is close to the kissing gate and sleeper bridge behind the meadows in Main Street. The new path runs alongside a drainage ditch to New Road at TL 621 451, opposite Footpath 8, which crosses Shudy Camps Park.
Wimpole struck by hail!
Yes, but not recently! We received a delightful book last Christmas called “The wrong kind of snow” by Anthony Woodward and Robert Penn (Hodder). It describes what the weather was doing somewhere in Britain for every day of the year, over the course of many centuries. So, for 9 August 1843, we have a report from the then rector of Wimpole, “ The lightning and hail were terrific, the former like sheets of fire filled the air and ran along the ground, the latter as large as pigeons eggs”. He goes on to describe the broken windows of the hall, standing corn threshed out by the hail, limbs torn off trees, sheep struck by lightning , and men washed off their feet.
Perhaps we didn’t have so bad a Summer this year after all!
New Sunday bus from Cambridge to Wimpole and Gamlingay
The National Trust and South Cambs District Council are jointly funding a bus service running 4 times a day on Sundays and Bank Holidays from Cambridge Station. It will operate for a year, and started on 27 July. For example, the 9 am bus from Station Road Cambridge arrives at Wimpole Hall at 9.35, and the 16.07 from Wimpole returns to Cambridge at 16.42. There is also a trailer to carry bicycles. [Ed: This service no longer operates.]
On 6 August, I took a walk in Fulbourn, and found the meadow in the Nature Reserve closed, and the gate padlocked. A notice said the closure had been implemented following irresponsible behaviour (unspecified). It is possible to reach other parts of the reserve by a round-about route.
If you go down to the woods today in Bourn, you will find a substantial new bench on Footpath 28, in the angle of Bourn Wood, TL 316 557. This was donated to the parish by Ramblers’ Association Cambridge Group, using funds derived from guidebook sales.
I have just learnt that the new seat funded by RA Cambridge Group is in position – it looks very good from the picture on e-mail. But where is it! There’s a challenge for readers!
And in Foxton
The Parish Council have accepted Cambridge RA Group’s offer of a bench, to be sited on the path from Caxton Lane to Fowlmere. The bench is to be located over the top of the hill near the gates to the plantations on the Fowlmere side.
Comberton’s new permissive path
I have only just visited Comberton’s useful permissive Diamond Jubilee path. It runs from the churchyard extension, over towards Byway 7 at TL 389 556. To locate the start, go to Comberton Church, and leave the rear of the churchyard, going through a gate onto Church Path. Very shortly, turn right through a new gate, into the burial ground extension. Walk to the back of the hedged enclosure, where there is a display board. There are actually 2 paths. The more direct route to the byway was found mown in August, but the second path, continuing around the edge of the field to reach the byway at TL 389 559, was rather overgrown.
Parish of the Month – Lakenheath
Lakenheath was originally a hythe or landing place, overlooking the fens. The parish covers 11 000acres (4450ha)
About a third of the parish is occupied by the USAF base. This was originally Lakenheath Warren on Lord Iveagh’s Estate. During WWI it was a training area, and in WWII it was a decoy airfield for RAF Feltwell. It has been occupied by the USAF since 1948. Airfield viewing points for cars are signed off the A11. One of the nature reserves, Maidscross Common, looks down on the USAF airfield, which can be considered either interesting, or a noisy intrusion and eyesore depending on your viewpoint.
In medieval times, Lakenheath was a market town on the line of an ancient droving route skirting the fen edge. Barges sailed from its quays to the River Little Ouse and thence to The Wash. There were pits for chalk, clay, sand, flints and gravel, many of the old workings having been left to grow over, forming attractive nature sites.
The church, St Mary’s, is accounted one of the most beautiful in Suffolk. The headstones and the base of the tower are limestone, and the fabric of the church includes chalk, early Tudor redbrick, and flint. There is a Norman chancel arch, a very fine C13th font, and some striking C14th wall paintings. Some bench-ends are c1483, with carved figures and a wonderful carved roof. Some of the buildings on High Street date from the C17th.
The Present Day
The huge airbase and the residential quarters naturally dominate the parish. On the High Street, the requirements of the visiting American population influence the snackbars etc. Once out of the village, the countryside is dissected by waterways on the lower ground. The massive Cut-off Channel, running parallel to the High Street, was built to control flooding of the River Lark. It joins the River Lark at Barton Mills and allows flood water to flow into the River Ouse at Denver, some 3 miles short of Kings Lynn.
Walking in Lakenheath
Generally the footing is excellent on dry sandy soil. However several of the smaller rights of way shown on the map seem liable to serious overgrowth, and some do not make good connections. I have concentrated on available walking based on nature reserves and points of interest. Wings Road car park gives a good starting point/meeting point, and there are several cafes/food outlets in the village. Insect repellent is recommended on some of these walks in high Summer.
Maidscross Hill Local Nature Reserve and SSSI
This is a valuable and important remnant of Brecks heathland, covering ca 50ha. The Brecks were created by Mesolithic farmers who cut down the forests for agriculture 10, 000 years ago. They farmed areas until the soil was exhausted, and the heathland we see today developed on the residual poor soil, giving a unique variety of wild flowers and insects. In late Summer, look for vipers bugloss, centuary, harebells, wood sage, and great stands of rosebay willowherb. Earlier in the Summer, rarities such as Spanish catchfly are reported.
The common consists of grassland interspersed with scrub and bracken, and interesting old shallow gravel pits, all threaded with paths of short turf. Gravel extraction was practiced for over a century up to WWII, the reserve being opened in 2004.
There is a small carpark off Wings Road, at TL 727 828, and it is possible to include the Common in some circular walks. One can start from the larger, signed carpark in Lakenheath, TL 713 829 (WC), walking over a mile up the residential road to the upper carpark, where there are picnic tables just inside the common, then return to Lakenheath down a public path behind gardens. This route is boring and is not recommended. It is better to park at Maidcross, and take Sandy Drove (track almost opposite the carpark) to explore Pashford Poors Fen, as well as Maidcross Common. Pashford Poors is another Suffolk Wildlife Trust Reserve, a remnant of the vast wetland formerly on the Suffolk-Cambs border.
Lakenheath Fen, RSPB reserve
This is a large wetland reserve, consisting mainly of reedbeds, as well as grazing marsh and poplar woods. The carpark (fee) is not far from Lakenheath station, TL 723 865, off the B1112. (Sadly, few trains stop at this station.) The reserve boasts reed warblers, sedge warblers, reed buntings nesting in quantity; bitterns, storks, hobbies in season, marsh harriers, and waders. There is a visitor centre with WCs and a walk of ca 2 miles around the reserve. Alternatively it is possible to walk from Lakenheath along Stallode Bank, crossing the railway, and then circling the reserve on the bank of the Little Ouse River. Note it is possible to start the walk in Lakenheath, along a path reaching Highbridge Gravel Drove (road) at TL 702 837, crossing the road onto a raised grassy bank, to veer away from the road, NW along Stallode Bank. (7 miles one way). To extend the walk, it is possible to walk along a good bridleway east from Lakenheath station to Brandon. From Brandon, buses towards Mildenhall depart nearly hourly from opposite 18 Manor Road to Lakenheath Post Office, or, of course, the reverse. (Coach services bus 201, see travelinesoutheast.org.uk ), or phone 01842 821509.
The walking route from Lakenheath via the RSPB reserve and Lakenheath Station, then into Brandon along the bridleway is about 11 miles.
Lakenheath Poors Fen & circular walk
Once the poor could cut peat for fuel and reeds for thatching and floor coverings. The last peat was cut in the 1920s, and the site (entrance at TL 702 827) is now an SSSI. The fenced reserve is marshy and tussocky and not easy to walk, but the surrounding droves are rich in wild flowers.
The following walk is recommended. Park at the carpark in Wings Road near the church, TL 713 828. Go through the churchyard, and visit the church if open.
On High Street, 100m past the church, cross the road opposite a Chinese restaurant, and take a signed path between fences, crossing Undley Bridge over the flood relief channel. Continue ahead over a junction of 4 tracks, and under a bank hiding a waste-paper works. Turn right on Furthest Drove (a stony track). Pass Lakenheath Poors Fen (information board, and derelict stile). Follow the attractive tracks of Broadcorner Drove and Millmarsh Drove (both permissive routes) to the road, Highbridge Gravel Drove. All along this route are very good flowers, especially by the drains, and at their best in High Summer, but continuing into September. Where a footpath leaves Highbridge Gravel Drove, TL 702 837, follow it, and turning up to the road in Lakenheath, to return to the church or carpark. Alternatively, follow the track back to Undley Bridge. (4 miles).
This is an attractive old track, which finishes abruptly on the A11. The name of the track indicates it was once a sheep run, “Shakland” denoting a sheep pasture in East Anglia.
The Shakers’ Road from Mayday Farm , (TL 795 834, on the B1106 south of Brandon) is crossed by a broad track. If one continues south, one emerges on the A11, to the west of the tall memorial dominating Weather Heath, and commemorating the men of the Elvedon Estate who perished in WW1. A part of Shakers Road lies within Lakenheath parish. The path to the west at TL 776 799 goes across heathland to emerge on Brandon Road in Eriswell parish south of Lakenheath airfield.
“Alert 5” Alarm system
Many walkers now carry a mobile phone, and/or a GPS, both of which can be helpful in emergency. A friend was sent details of some new equipment, “Alert 5”, which can ask up to 5 people for assistance, giving details of one’s exact location. It is said to be simple to set up and use, by simply tapping the help button on the opening screen. I have not seen or used this equipment, but further details may be obtained by visiting www.alert5.co.uk [ed. this link no longer works, 23 Mar 2015]
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Janet Moreton 01223 356889
Cantab78 © Janet Moreton, 2014