** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
Things are looking up on the paths of Cambridgeshire, and, indeed in several other places in Britain.
We in Cambridgeshire are fortunate to have no outbreaks of Foot & Mouth, and to have a sane and reasonable County Council, which, from the onset, has made numbers of paths available. Gradually more paths are being opened, and hopefully we can look forward to a Summer of fairly normal country walking.
This edition is almost all about Foot & Mouth and access to paths, both in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere in the country. The aim is to give ideas on where to walk, where to find more information, and where to expect restrictions.
Please find several quotes from “Ramblers-Net” on the Internet, which has enabled us to keep up-to-date with what is going on all over the country, and to keep in touch with other footpath workers.
Where to walk in Cambridgeshire
When planning a walk, the first action to take is to find out which paths are still closed, and which have been recently re-opened. For the official list of closed paths, consult the County Council website: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/sub/footmouth/closures.htm
There is a long list of path numbers, each with grid reference, and brief description of location, arranged by District. There is also a list of recently re-opened paths: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/sub/footmouth/reopen.htm
Both of these lists are updated every few days. For those who prefer to telephone, CCC’s helpline is on 01223 718622. Unfortunately, some few paths that have been opened, are now closed, as cattle or sheep have been turned out to pasture. Such a case is at Quy Fen which was available for a short time, but is now closed again.
The humorous side –
Michael Bird, of City of Birmingham RA Group, e-mailed on 7 May, “After nearly 3 months of exploring the rural delights of Birmingham and the Black Country, yesterday, we came across our first STILE!. ‘They won’t catch on’ prophesised our Social Secretary, as he struggled with his third attempt to get his leg over the top rail“…
The problem of the “Please do not use this path” notice…
There are still considerable numbers of paths in Cambs. with signs, “Foot & Mouth precautions – please do not use this path”, or similar words, often with a CCC/NFU logo.
Cambridgeshire County Council had put out a specimen notice on its web-site, which farmers could download, but this is now withdrawn, and these notices should be removed.
Kate Day, the County’s Countryside Access Team Leader wrote on 8 May,
“We have asked the NFU to contact all their members with a view to getting the voluntary restraint signs removed.
We have written to all Parish Councils asking them to remove signs that they may have erected.
We are reopening paths following a risk assessment.
We are publicising the Countryside Agency/Maff’s Code of Conduct for path users.
We have recently secured more resources for updating, improving and managing the website.
We will continue to issue weekly Press releases on opportunities for enjoying the countryside”.
Kate Day also wrote on 3 May, in reply to our query, “unless a path is officially closed, it is available for use“.
Public Parks and Nature Reserves now open (as at 14 May 2001)
Within Cambridge, there is no restriction on the Commons, along the Backs and riverside. The towpath down river to Waterbeach is no longer closed. Coe Fen, “Paradise” (the damp area behind Owlstone Croft in Newnham) is available, and the roadworks on the adjacent Fen Causeway are now finished. Cherry Hinton Park is open, as is the nearby Cherry Hinton Chalkpits Reserve, and Limekiln Hill Reserve. Carry on up the road to the Beechwoods Reserve, and the white heleborine will soon be in flower. Milton Country Park reopened in April.
Further afield, Huntingdon Riverside tarmac path is available, and Portholme Meadow, Godmanchester is open at present, as are Hinchingbrooke Country Park and Paxton Pits reserve near St Neots. (However, do not continue along the Ouse Valley Way towards Buckden, as there are some cows reported somewhere in the meadows. )
Wicken Fen (boardwalk) is open, as are some of the surrounding paths in the parish, but there are several closures nearby. Welney Wildfowl Trust Reserve reopened mid-April.
For bluebell spotting, try the re-opened Waresley & Gransden Woods; Hayley Wood (very wet); Overhall Grove (Knapwell); and Brampton Wood.
Other nature reserves now available include: Ramsey Heights; Gamlingay Cinques, meadows and wood; Fordham Woods (behind the church in the middle of the village); and Barrington riverside reserve.
This list is not exhaustive: for more information, consult: www.wildlifetrusts.org.uk/bcnp
If you fancy a drive into Bedfordshire, Priory Park is now open, and Stockgrove Country Park, as are Coopers Hill Nature Reserve, and Blows Downs. Some (labelled) paths are available elsewhere in the Beds. countryside.
Getting out of the County?
The best local county to chose is Suffolk, which in theory opened all paths in early April, except where animals are grazing.
So far, we have enjoyed an excellent 12 mile walk in a large section of Thetford Forest, centered on Brandon Country Park. We were delighted to join Margaret Rishbeth, and a group of 20 Cambridge Rambling Club members on a similar Wednesday walk, which made a strategic detour into Brandon itself for the pub! West Stow Country Park remains closed, but the nearby Ramparts Field is open, and in early May had a lovely display of meadow saxifrage. From here, it is possible to walk the byway section “Icknield Way” north through the forest. At first, one may not turn off left or right, but after a couple of miles, one enters an area of open access, up to the Monument. Thus it is possible to do a “P” shaped walk of up to 10 miles.
We were also delighted to find open Bradfield Woods Nature Reserve, where the wildflowers are delightful. (We were invited in by the warden, but subsequently found Suffolk Wildlife Trust website reported this as closed on 8 April, – the web-site was presumably inaccurate.). For a more formal walk, try Nowton Country Park on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds. From here we did a day’s walk on mostly footpaths and green spaces into Bury St Edmunds, visiting Abbey Gardens, and admiring the splendid new tower, the Abbey’s Millennium Project.
One can now walk the section of Devils Dyke in Suffolk, adjacent to the racecourse ... but part of the section in Cambridgeshire towards Reach is still closed. However, one can now turn the other way on the Dyke towards Stetchworth in Cambridgeshire.
Note there are still many discouraging notices present on paths in Suffolk. We consulted John Andrews, the RA Area Officer, who replied (24 April): Nobody in County Hall has a record of what paths are closed and there are – in addition – substantial numbers of notices which have been handed out and scattered around by parish councils – with entirely predictable results. RoW staff are making a valiant attempt to sort the chaos, but that’s a huge task now.” Rosamund Tyrrell, visiting Suffolk in mid-April obtained info from the County Council that the only “official” closure notice was a “traffic sign no-entry symbol with “April 2001“.
Avoid Essex would seem good advice, with most paths still closed, although it is several weeks since the last case of infection.
Hertfordshire has been slow in re-opening its paths, considering there is no F & M disease in the county. Use www.hertscc.gov.uk for path number data on some RoW which have re-opened. Royston’s Therfield Heath is now open (but not the Nature Reserve).
Pity walkers in Lincolnshire, where, in spite of a total absence of disease in this largely arable county, by mid-May still had not a single path open.
Owen Plunkett e-mailed on 7 May, “There are still very few paths open in Hampshire and West Sussex, although there have been no cases in either county.” On the other hand, the Editor has just enjoyed a very pleasant week in the Isle of Wight, where 70% of paths are available. It is possible to download 12 maps of paths in use from the website: www.iow.gov.uk/just_visiting/footpaths/maps/01.asp etc.
David Pawley reported by e-mail on 14 May some excellent news for walkers in Cornwall, “According to the Western Morning newspaper of 14 May, Cornwall County Council…… are lifting restrictions on 1800 miles of paths (including 250 miles of coastal paths) to the S & W of a line from Padstow to Plymouth from 25 May. Landowners concerned about pathways next to livestock can appeal, but the Council only envisages a handful of short sections remaining closed...”
Mike Heckford stated on 6 May that “The majority of footpaths in Dorset remain closed – whilst there have been no outbreaks of F & M in Dorset, there have been outbreaks in the adjoining counties…” From Kent, Mike Temple wrote, “At a meeting of the County Council cabinet today (9 May) it was decided to re-open RoW in Kent from 0600 Saturday 12 May, subject to the following restrictions:
-all paths N of the M2 to remain closed (further cull of 2000 sheep in Sheppey last weekend)
-all paths to remain closed in an infected area
-all paths to remain closed within 3km of an infected area, and -all paths to remain closed where they are grazed…”
We grieve for Cumbria. Will the Lakes ever again be populated by the Herdwicks? On 9 May, Peter Jones wrote that the earliest estimate for some reopening of the high fell was July. Nevertheless, the Lake District is opening what it can, www.cumbria.gov.uk, and would love to see anyone who would visit (but disinfect your boots, wash your socks & and use a car-wash before returning to Cambs!).
To end this section on an upbeat, we learnt from Ron Moore on 16 May that Wilts CC had just decided to open all paths, except those that go through farmyards or those that are used for moving livestock. Closed paths will be marked.
Back in Cambridgshire
We have received several enquiries, as to where we have made or plan our private walks, recently. Here are some ideas. The paths were open and available when we made the walks, but it is advisable to check that the situation has not changed.
Fulbourn Area: The Nature Reserve remains closed, but the local paths are open and attractive. Extend the walk along Fleam Dyke, use the footbridge over the A11, and continue along the Dyke, to use “Fox Road”, the byway into Balsham. Return along the Roman Road, and turn right along the footpath or byway back to Fulbourn. (12 – 16 miles, depending on route through Balsham) Alternatively, for an 8 mile circuit, after using the A11 footbridge, take the path alongside the A11 for a short way, pick up the old roadway to the chalkpit, turn left, and use the roadbridge over the A11. A good verge takes you to Gt. Wilbraham, and thence on paths back to Fulbourn. Or just visit Great & Little Wilbraham from Fulbourn .
Hatley Area: Some paths are closed S of the road, but all but 2 of the paths N of the road through Hatley St. George are open, so it is possible to use the bridleways to visit Hayley Wood (good flowers, but v. wet) and back. Alternatively, from East Hatley, take a path to Old Harts Farm ruin, and thence to the Clopton Way. This is open all the way to Arrington. One can visit the Queen Adelaide in Croydon, and turn back on paths from the church to Hatley. Note, however, that all Croydon paths have the “please do not use” non-statutory notices, that CCC is trying to get parish councils to remove.
Grafham Water: We walked all round the cycleway, and turned off to visit the Nature Reserves, and display areas, which were also open. (ca. 10 miles) Note parking in the main car-parks is now £3
Steeple Morden & Guilden Morden, Litlington, Abington Pigotts: CCC’s website shows relatively few path closures in this area. Several paths near Morden Hall are closed to protect the ? alpaccas, but otherwise there is considerable scope. We plan a walk for the Cambridge Rambling Club at the end of May, which will take in the flower meadow behind Steeple Morden rec, Ashwell Street, paths by the chalk pit,, and Litlington (PH) . Two paths are closed in the middle of the village, going through pasture fields, but on footpaths across arable to Cheyney Water and Bogs Gap Lane the only impediment is oilseed. Many other walks are possible round here, including from the Little Chef on the outskirts of Royston, over the railway line, to take the long diagonal path across the fields to Litlington. Most paths in Abington Pigotts are also available, but in late April, there was still flooding on the path near Bible Grove.
Chrishill and Heydon: Take care here not to venture inadvertently into Essex, but it is possible to do a pleasant hilly (!) circuit from Chishill down by New Buildings Farm onto a section of the Icknield Way track, which can be followed until the Icknield Way LDP turns right uphill into Heydon, and thence back to Chishill.
Ickleton & Duxford: Several paths have recently been re-opened here, making a fairly sedate circuit possible. Remember that the nearby village of Great Chesterford is in Essex, and will have path closures.
Stetchworth, Woodditton, Dullingham: We have recently enjoyed 2 very good walks in this area where marking of re-opened paths is particularly clear. Starting from Stetchworth and circling round from Devil’s Dyke, if you take the bridleway from Court Barns, it is necessary to avoid the route through Camois Hall, by emerging on a path by The Three Blackbirds PH, or continuing N towards Woodditton Church.
Another route followed the Dyke from Stetchworth to Ditton Green, then Ditton Park Wood (no closure notices), and paths skirting Lucy Wood, before choosing the long bridleway back to Ditton Green, where remark the new Millennium orrery and weathervane.
Other possibilities include (i) Whaddon – Orwell – Meldreth; (ii) Haslingfield – Harston – Barrington – Haslingfield (beware road); (iii) St Ives – Houghton – The Hemingfords. Many other walks are, of course, possible. These are just some ideas in response to friends’ requests.
This is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or the author of an individual item.
Short contributions are welcome.
Janet Moreton 01223 356889
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© Janet Moreton, 16 May 2001