Time to look further afield
My first item indicates how important is access to local greenspaces, as shown by a recent government survey. If course, we all walk locally, and most ramblers’ group walks keep closer to base in the Winter, with the prospect of short day lengths and possible poor driving conditions. However, with Spring advancing, every year we lift our heads from the muddy puddle in front of us, and say, “time to look further afield”.
Government survey shows more people spend time outdoors.
The annual report from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment reveals that adults in England made 2.9 billion visits to “natural environments” between March 2013 and February 2014, which is the highest number for 5 years.
Some 58% of the population claim to make one or more leisure visit per week to the great outdoors, with green spaces near their homes becoming increasingly important. Some 96% of respondents to the survey agreed that having green spaces close to where they lived was important. Respondents also agreed that being outdoors made them feel “calm and relaxed” and the proportion agreeing that a visit was “refreshing and revitalising” was at its highest in the most recent survey.
Given the huge numbers of people who can be seen driving to visit shops on Sundays, this report is encouraging. I do not have a figure for how many of these people actually go for a walk.
Last year, the Secretary of State for DEFRA approved 41 km of new coast path between Sea Paling and Weybourne. Work to implement the new route , including new signs and gates has been taking place since then. Walkers will be given new rights of access to foreshore, beaches, dunes and cliffs, and crucially, the path will be able to “roll back” if land erodes or slips, enabling a replacement route to be put in place quickly, where necessary. This solves longstanding difficulties with maintaining a continuous route along the coast. As well as enabling visitors to enjoy new coastline, improved access will help support local economies, attracting more visitors and increasing associated spending in seaside businesses.
Natural England worked with Norfolk County Council to hold a launch event in Trimingham, attended by the local MP Norman Lamb, who opened the new route officially. The local HM Coastguard teams took part in a sponsored walk of the new section, and raised money for Guide Dogs for the Blind charity.
(Info Essex Area News, January 2015)
Theydon Bois, Essex
I have not seen the large earth mound adjacent to the M11 in Essex, but “Broadleaf” (Woodland Trust’s magazine) of Autumn 2014 reports on this monster modern earthwork.
At two metres high, it is not a competitor of prehistoric Silbury Hill, but nevertheless is startling.
Woodland Trust’s Christina Joachim, and landscape sculpter Richard Harris created the circular earthwork, topped by concentric pathways in bright white chalk.
There are 5 concentric banks to walk on, each higher than the last. Once the earth has settled, individual tree species will be planted by each path, including hazel, hornbeam, lime and birch. In the centre will be a calm space offering shelter from wind and M-way sounds. Grass has been sown, and the trees will be coppiced at intervals to open up views, which stretch to the City of London. The mound is designed to be clearly visible from the adjacent motorway.
Woodland Trust bought the Theydon Bois site in 2006 planted 90ha of new native woodland. DEFRA and Greenarc were planting trees in Essex at the same time, and a co-ordinated effort produced the celebratory artwork.
Has anyone seen this?
Tell us what you think.
Andy Mackey kindly supplied the following information on the new Rothschild Way.
“A couple of years ago, Adrian Kempster, Hunts Ramblers Footpaths Officer and a good friend, told me of his idea for a long distance walk to support and raise the profile of Wicken and Woodwalton Fens.
“Adrian is involved with the Great Fen Project. He said he wished to plan a route linking the two. We looked at the map on my PC, and Adrian decided that a small group of Hunts ramblers, with a bit of car shuffling, could walk it in a few stages.
“Adrian thought Rothschild should be the name, as Charles Rothschild had owned, then donated these fens which were the earliest nature reserves in England. Adrian eventually got the approval of the Rothschild family to use the family name. With yet more hard work, Adrian got some waymarker labels designed and made, together with permission from the County Council to fix them to the existing posts. Out we went again, this time with white spirit, glue, hammer, nails and labels, and walked the route again fixing the labels.
“In June 2014, Adrian led a group from Wicken Fen café to Woodwalton Fen, the whole 38 miles in one go. I think they did well, don’t you?
If you fancy walking some or all of it, Google Rothschild Way for details. Good luck and enjoy it!”
The historic link between the two reserves is that Charles Rothschild bought part of Wicken Fen in 1899, and Woodwalton Fen in 1910. Rothschild formed the first society in Britain concerned with protecting wildlife habitats in 1912.
For further information on the walk, try
Open Streetmap defines the route with a series of grid references. The route touches on Ramsey, Somersham, Bluntisham and Earith.
Cambridge residents are aware of the vast site for development in the Northwest sector, said to be the largest capital project in the University’s 800-year history. The first buildings to be completed will be for the University’s first primary school due to open this Autumn, followed by a GP surgery and affordable homes.
The plans include 700 affordable homes to rent by University-attached personnel, and 400 homes for sale, shops and supermarket, an “energy centre”, and of most interest to ramblers, open green space. It is hoped that a considerable amount of new access will be available. Watch this (green) space!
The Icknield Way Association – an update
The Icknield Way path runs from Ivinghoe Beacon to Knettishall Heath, passing through half-a-dozen eastern counties, including, of course, Cambridgeshire. It is a recognised regional route, and receives some funding, via the relevant Highway Authorities. Guidebooks are available for The Icknield Way Trail, which provides an accessible route for horseriders and cyclists, as well as pedestrians.
The Icknield Way Association produces its own guidebook for walkers, regularly updated, and wardens the route, doing waymarking, minor clearance, and reports problems to the appropriate county.
Members of the IWA look forward to its newsletters – now distributed online, and to the AGM, located at a different point along the route of the Icknield Way each year. The IWA also runs a few walks annually, including select parts of the route in short circuits.
For details of the guidebook, membership. or problems along the route, do contact the Secretary, Sue Prigg,
The 2015 AGM is to be held in Cambridgeshire, at Great Chishill, on Saturday, 3 October.
The Ridgeway National Trail – an update
The Ridgeway begins where the Icknield Way leaves off – at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, and sets off through several counties to Avebury.
A press release, dated 1 April 2015 gave details of a new organisation, The Ridgeway Partnership, which will be responsible for the future management, development and promotion of The Ridgeway National Trail.
The Ridgeway Partnership comprises Oxfordshire County Council as the lead partner, the other local authorites through which the Trail passes, Natural England, North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Chilterns Conservation Board, and several organisations representing users. Natural England will continue to provide most of the finance for this and other National Trails. The Partnership is in process of engaging a Ridgeway Officer, who will be the single point of contact for The Ridgeway. The Officer will attract investment, lead on development issues, co-ordinate maintenance, liaise with stakeholders and respond to public enquiries and complaints.
Maintenance of the Ridgeway will continue to rely heavily on the National Trails team and its volunteers. Ian Ritchie, Chairman of The Friends of the Ridgeway, responded to the news. “The partnership represents a great opportunity to bring the delights of the UK’s oldest path to a much greater number of people, pursuing a wide range of activities. It is a wonderful asset so close to large centres of population. The Ridgeway has some spectacular scenery and unparalled prehistoric sites such as the Uffington White Horse and a series of Iron Age Forts along its length. We aim to encourage more people to get out and walk, cycle, ride or drive horses along it, and we want to introduce it to young people and make it accessible for the less mobile and those with disabilities.”
The North Chiltern Trail
A new circular footpath has been created in the North Chilterns.
It will provide a 42 miles (67 km) circular walking route through the Chilterns in parts of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, including parts of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Starting at Lilley, the route follows the Warden , Galley and Pegsdon Hills, Great Offley, Preston, St Paul’s Warden, Whitwell, Peter’s Green and Breachwood Green.
There are frequent opportunities for refreshment, as well as good views, and archaeological sites.
For more details, see
Last year’s weather…
In 2014, Cambridge weather (as recorded at The University Botanic Garden), was somewhat wetter than average with 618mm of precipitation. The wetter months were January, February, August and November. The heaviest rainfall was recorded on 8 August, when a thunder-storm brought 33.7mm. In March there was a sustained dry period with no rain for 2 weeks. April was dry, and, in September there were 11 continuous days without rain.
Weather readings have been taken continuously in the Botanic Garden since 1904. The annual rainfall in the Cambridge area over the period 1961 – 90 averaged 563mm, which makes the area one of the driest in Western Europe, north of the Pyrenees. There is quite a wide range from year to year. For example:
In 2011 the annual rainfall was 380mm
In 2012 the annual figure was 813mm.
Generally the rain falls fairly evenly throughout the year, with the wettest month by a small margin being August. However, evaporation usually exceeds rainfall in Summer.
Near Cambridge – Magog Down on May Day
Now is the Month of Maying, and how pleasing to see on May Day (the real 1 May, not the Bank Holiday), several bushes of hawthorn or “May” just in full bloom, for its namesake day.
More obviously spectacular are the sheets of cowslips, the best I have ever seen, here, or elsewhere.
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Cantab81 © Janet Moreton, 2015.