These are bad times for walkers, as well as for stock farmers, inns, guest houses & tourist attractions. However, there has been some relaxation of restrictions in recent days, following Government instructions to Counties unaffected by Foot & Mouth to open more paths.
Cambs. C.C has been, from the onset, one of the more liberal counties, with only 15% of its paths officially closed, these being on land near stock farms, or woodland. However, there have been a far larger number of paths with signs, “Foot & Mouth precautions – please do not use this path”, or words to this effect. CCC had put out a draft notice on its web-site, but this is now withdrawn, and the implication is that these notices should come down. Suffolk, where initially all but town & tarmac paths were closed, has now opened its paths, except on stock farms etc…but we can report that large numbers of prohibitory notices remain on paths across ploughed fields, wheat crops etc. Essex had some 10 cases of Foot & Mouth (at the beginning of the outbreak, weeks ago, then no more), and its paths remain closed. Herts has no cases of Foot & Mouth, but, at the time of writing (9 April), we learn that paths in the County remain closed, although it is surmised that Therfield Heath (available to golfers, but not walkers!) will be available shortly.
You will know that the Ramblers’ Association Cambs. Area Chairman cancelled all organised RA walks in Cambridgeshire.
Cambridge Rambling Club, on the other hand, is putting on a skeleton walks programme, led by those members who are willing, and who have checked out routes that are feasible. David Allard, for Royston RA has organised an emergency walks programme for his members taking them into other counties.
To find out which paths in Cambridgeshire are affected by the emergency legislation, use the Internet to obtain a 9 page list of these official closures. All are marked at the start of the path with an official notice, sometimes with red printing at the top.
Unfortunately, there are at least twice as many additional paths, marked with requests not to use. In cases where paths pass through paddocks used by horses, which can carry the disease, although they do not contract it, we can sympathise. But then there are also those farmers who have used the notices on paths across arable fields…
Woods and some reserves have been closed, on the grounds that it is just possible that wild deer could catch the disease… but some are now reopening.
Sadly, it has been necessary to cancel the Group’s May walking holiday in Cumbria. Our thoughts go out to Heather & Ken Armstrong. Hopefully, it will be possible to make arrangements another time. We have seen very few of our friends while there are no organised walks, but send our good wishes. This edition is designed to let you know what opportunities exist in and around Cambridge.
The University Botanic Garden
This is accessible from Bateman Street (main entrance), and from Station Road (entrance not always open). Sadly, it is only free from 10am until 12 noon on a Wednesday. A charge is made at other times.
How to find out which paths in Cambridgeshire are officially closed
Use the Internet to contact Cambs.C.C., www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk
Then click foot & mouth epidemic
It is important to note that this list does not include those paths, woods and parks marked, “please do not enter…” or similar phrase.
The Cambridgeshire Scare…
In March, some sheep were reported slaughtered in Needingworth, having been in contact with a market in the Midlands. This was a precautionary measure only.
Public Parks and open spaces available for use
Within Cambridge, there seems to be no restriction on the Commons, and along the Backs and riverside. Coe Fen is still very damp, and the noise & disturbance from the Fen Causeway road bridges repair is noticeable. Cherry Hinton Park is open, as is the nearby Chalkpits Reserve. In Newnham Village (within the City boundary), one can use “Paradise” the rough wooded area behind Owlstone Croft, although wellies are needed!
The Roman Road is open, & the Beechwoods Reserve was reopened in early April (but the Warden has lost the key to the padlock, so users need to climb the gate!). Milton Country Park reopened in April.
Further afield, Huntingdon Riverside tarmac path is available, as is Hinchingbrooke Country Park…(muddy, but wonderful to get away from the tarmac). Quite an extensive, and very enjoyable walk and birdwatching etc may be had around Paxton Pits. However, do not continue along the Ouse Valley Way towards Buckden, as there are some cows reported somewhere in the meadows.
Nene Park/Ferry Meadows, Peterborough are reported open – info. not yet checked.
Getting Away to the coast?
We had a successful weekday out in Hunstanton, (65 mile drive?) with free Winter parking. It was possible to walk on the grassy cliff top in the town, and for miles on the beach on firm sand. We did see numbers of other booted ramblers with rucksacs.. At the weekend, the beach might be quite crowded.
Wells-next-the-Sea has a huge beach, where we walked 5 miles each way, but beware places like Holkham, where a path to the beach is closed, thus cutting off access. Norfolk is now opening up some paths, including the old railway section of The Weavers Way.
Having lost a holiday in Somerset, we felt desperate to get well away, and drove further one day to Chapel St Leonards, in Lincolnshire, where we really enjoyed a 10 mile walk on a marvellous quiet sandy beach, backed by dunes. But it was a 200 mile round trip in the car. Also bear in mind that in Lincolnshire, all rural paths are closed, so the beach will only give an out-and-back walk.
In Early April, Suffolk opened many of its paths. So far, we have enjoyed an excellent 12 mile walk in a large section of Thetford Forest, centered on Brandon Country Park. We were also delighted to find open Bradfield Woods Nature Reserve, where there are sheets of wood anemones, and oxlips & bluebells just coming out. (Suffolk Wildlife Trust website reported this as closed on 8 April, but was not up-to-date!). For a more formal walk, try Nowton Country Park on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds, and admire the fine parkland trees, and thousands of daffodils. We tried the Three Churches Walk from Gazeley, but were foiled, as, although some paths were open, part of the Icknield Way path through the woods near Dalham Church was closed, as was the path East from Moulton Church. One can now walk the section of Devils Dyke in Suffolk, adjacent to the racecourse ... but the sections either side in Cambridgeshire remain unavailable.
What precautions can we all take?
At present, every time we take a walk outside the town, we clean our boots, disinfect them, and, of course, put the socks in the wash…..
Walking in South Cambridgeshire
The temporary path closures make it difficult to avoid walking all or part of a circuit along roads, many of which have no footway.
Don’t be counted amongst the current livestock slaughter on one of our A-roads..
The tarmac path from Cambridge to Grantchester is still in very frequent use (beware bicycles!), as are other paths in Grantchester, and, reportedly, some in Haslingfield. (However, Byrons Pool site is closed). The Coton Footpath was closed, but has now re-opened.
Some paths in Orwell (e.g. in the chalkpit, and from the A603 up onto the Mare Way) are available. One may use the two bridleways down to Little Eversden, (but NOT the Wimpole Road path down to Great Eversden, as there is a pig farm at the bottom). The charming inner-village paths between the Eversdens are in frequent use, and The Hoops welcomes walkers.
Barrington bristles with notices (official & unofficial) against path use.
Thriplow has sheep-pastures in the middle of the village, so has closed its paths, and will not be holding its daffodil festival this year.
CCC’s website shows all Hatley’s paths as unavailable…Why?
On the other side of Cambridge, there are several paths open in Fulbourn (although the Wildlife Trust Reserve is closed). One can use Hindloaders and Stonebridge Lanes (both byways), and there seems no objection to walking on Fleam Dyke, where we met a cheerful party of volunteers doing scrub clearance. It is possible to use paths across the fields to Great Wilbraham, and thence to continue one’s walk along Street Way.
Churches & recreation grounds?
We never thought that we would be reduced to walking around recreation grounds, but there are some very attractive ones, and in any case they are a good place to find seats for a tea break. Churches & churchyards are an interesting study. We would particularly recommend the large rec. running down to the river at Great Shelford (with free parking, opposite Sticks & Scones café), and the attractive churchyard nearby. Continue along the road, over the lovely bridges to the Churchyard at Little Shelford, and just round the corner is “The Wale”, a huge, tree-fringed rec., also with a charming waterfront….
Continue along the road to Whittlesford (where, sadly, The Moor footpath is closed), but find another huge rec., and beyond, a wonderful old church.
Sawston’s back-alley paths can be a study in themselves, but it is back to the tarmac. Don’t get lost!
Other Towns and Cities…
Godmanchester and Huntingdon both have “town trails”, with leaflets available from the tourist office. Both towns have some available green-space to relieve the tarmac monotony, but Portholme is closed.
Before the crisis, we enjoyed a splendid day out in St Albans, with much green open space around the cathedral, and adjacent to the river and Roman remains.
There is free parking near the swimming bath/leisure centre.
We had an enjoyable day out in Norwich, where the riverside walk is available, and the Cathedral precinct must be the largest in the country. We also discovered a delightful huge wooded cemetery on the hill overlooking the river, where squirrels leapt from branch to branch. We found some free parking on a Sunday, but on a weekday, it would be better to use the train, or “park & ride”.
On another occasion, we visited Wymondham, clutching a very informative town trail leaflet, and spent a pleasant morning amidst the unspoilt old buildings, and in the magnificent church. And, yes, we were able to do a section of riverside walk, before being pulled up by a prohibitory notice.
On the same day, we stopped at Thetford town on the way back, to explore the castle mound, the watery area around Nun’s Bridges, and the lawns surrounding the Priory ruins. Again, one can walk a long way along the riverside, before meeting the dreaded white notice…
These are just a few ideas which might help you have outdoor rambling of sorts. Be prepared to have to do an out-and-back. Be prepared to be frustrated by reasonable or unreasonable restrictions. We find it is fairly easy to compose a short walk, but most long ones have much road. We have tried moving the car, and having two short walks. We fear that path closures may persist for many months, but hope desperately that circumstances will prove us wrong.
Although Wimpole remains closed, The National Trust has re-opened Anglesey Abbey (house & gardens), and we found many of the paths in Lode open. Avoid Allicky Farm. We also discovered that Wicken Fen has re-opened, but found it was so wet that even parts of the boardwalk were under water. Some footpaths are open around Wicken, but not all.
Nene Park, Peterborough – a telephone enquiry produced the info. that the area around the lake is open, but not the whole site.
Welney RSPB Reserve is reported to be reopening on 17 April.
Oxburgh Hall, NT, Norfolk (house, gardens, but not park) is now open.
Marriots Way, Norfolk is now open.
From the Ramblers’ Net website, 28 March “Footpaths are being reopened across the country, inc. 278 in Wiltshire. 90% of paths in S. Tyneside and some in Somerset have remained open....”