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CANTAB10 December 2001

CANTAB10 December 2001 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


This is the tenth Cantab Rambler, which proves it has some staying power, if nothing else! This is the Christmas issue, and ought to be full of jollifications, but I will apologise now, because it contains some serious discussion. First, remember the difficult year for ramblers that has just passed –  flooding in our county both in the Spring, and again in October;  and the dreary months of Foot & Mouth restrictions. There have been no new cases nationally since September, so we will hope fervently that there will be no further outbreak in the Spring, and that we can look forward to 2002 being a halcyon year for walking.

Then consider one of the less-well publicised effects of the new legislation on the registration of further rights of way on the definitive map.  Most people have heard of the mapping of access areas, and the controversy generated by the drawing up of draft maps across the country, portion by portion.  But also included in the legislation is the condition that historic routes not presently recorded on the Definitive Map (which is held, county by county) must be recorded by 2026, or they will be lost forever.  This does not apply to routes claimed by virtue of recent usage over the last 20 years, but rather to routes which are indicated in various old documents.

Finally, what is the future of the Cambridge Green Belt, and local access on foot in the light of present building bonanza, and re-assessment of the A14 corridor? I seek to put out some ideas, and would welcome correspondence.

The Fen Rivers Way Walk
The last two sections of the walk from Cambridge to Kings Lynn were completed successfully in good weather on 3 Nov. and 10 Nov., starting from Downham Market and Watlington respectively, after a long gap in the summer occasioned by the Foot & Mouth crisis. Some 59 people attended the final walk, and were present to see the opening ceremony on the Kings Lynn waterfront, when Dr Norris, Chairman of Norfolk County Council, cut the ribbon, and declared the route officially open.  Afterwards, there was a splendid tea in the Green Quay Centre. In this venture The Fen Rivers Way Association had liaised with RA Cambridge Group, and was supported with many walkers from Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and particularly Hertfordshire.

Have you bought the guidebook?  The Third Edition (silver cover) is now on sale at £4 inc. p/p from D. Stevens, 89 Way Lane, Waterbeach, Cambridge CB5 9NQ.  tel. 01223 861019
Visit the FRWA’s website –, and see s splendid photos taken along the route!

Cumbria:  8 – 14 May 2002
We now have almost a full house for the walking week at Kilnhill Barn, Bassenthwaite, Cumbria on 8 – 14 May 2002.  If there is anyone else wanting to join us, please contact Janet & Roger (phone number next column).

Finding new paths on old maps
Recently, the Cambridge Evening News of 6 December carried an article entitled “Map it or lose it“, relating to a press release put out by Alysoun Hodges, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Senior Definitive Map Officer.

The background to the issue is as follows. When the County’s Definitive Map was drawn up in the 1950s, as well as user evidence from  people in each parish, searches were made of old documents to find what highway rights (such as carriage road, highway, byway, bridleway, footpath) existed. Paths were then recorded on the Definitive Map, and this forms the basis of the network we find on the OS sheets today.  Legal documents, called Definitive Map Orders, have made changes to these paths since the 1950s.

The Definitive Map may be inspected at Shire Hall during working hours, and copies are available in the major county libraries.  It is planned to make this vital map available on the Internet, but this is still a year or two away.

Paths may be added to the Definitive Map in a number of ways, including by Modification Orders based on evidence of use by people over 20 years.  Quite often such evidence is challenged by a landowner, and then a public inquiry is held, the outcome of which will determine whether or not the new path is added to the Definitive Map.  This way of adding new paths will not change with the new legislation, but remember that such evidence is often based on the memory of the elderly, so if you wish to claim a path by this method, time may be of the essence.

However, it has up to now also been possible to add new paths to the Definitive Map, based on convincing evidence found in old documents, on the principle, “once a highway, always a highway“.  This is about to change.

The access clauses of the new Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 have been widely discussed, but the Act also requires that all rights of way be registered on Definitive Maps held in County Council offices by 2026. Any path not registered by 2026 could thus be lost forever. In legal terms, this is a short time-scale, especially since Cambridgeshire County Council is known to have a backlog of cases waiting for processing.

Roger & I recently attended a Ramblers’ Association Seminar in Bury St Edmunds on how to claim rights of way and get them added to the Definitive MapAbout 25 people were present, mostly from Norfolk, Suffolk & Essex.  Speakers were John Trevelyan on  “The relevance of Definitive Map work to walking“.  This covered types of  legal Order; claiming rights of way based on user evidence, and the historical background.  John Andrews illustrated the use of documentary evidence in claiming rights of way.  He cited:  Highway Orders;  highway maintenance records, also parish & district council records;  Inclosure Awards & maps;  deposited plans;  tithe maps & apportionments;  the RoW Act 1932;  the Finance Act 1910;  Ordnance Survey documentation (OS maps, first survey manuscript drawings, books of reference, object name books, boundary dispute documents);  defence legislation;  published private maps;  estate & property maps;  glebe terriers & manorial records;  and railway & drainage maps.  He dealt with where to obtain sight of these;  how to interpret them (and to look for things that are missing and what is present);  problems with scale & orientation; and the relative importance and reliability of different types of document.  Later, we all did individual exercises:  finding a likely missing byway on a piece of map and verifying it using three pieces of documentation;  deciding whether to claim a Modification Order, based on a long list of mutually contradictory evidence;  and deciding how to claim a missing link path based on a set of old documents.  Finally John Trevelyan spoke of the need for much work now, to claim historical paths missed from the record, so that they are safely on the Definitive Map by 2026.  We owe this to the next walking generation, just as we are indebted to those of the 1950s..

Whilst Roger & I are intrigued to do some work like this, we spend much time out on the footpaths, following up present problems. Cambridgeshire  needs several ramblers who are equally at home in libraries to specialise in this field.

“Once around Wandlebury”
The story of Wandlebury estate by Wendy Clark is priced at £7, and is available from the Cambridge Preservation Society office.

Footpath Worker is a sober quarterly bulletin published by The Ramblers’ Association, for all concerned with the care and protection of public rights of way.

It contains descriptions of parliamentary and local government matters affecting paths, publications (e.g. the new British Standard for gaps, gates and stiles), court cases relating to paths, and details of public path orders. Vol.21, No.1, Oct. 2001 contains as usual a selection of Definitive Map Modification Order Cases. One of these is summarised here,  as it illustrates the type of work involving old documents, described on the previous page.

John Andrews of Suffolk was successful in his campaign to have a byway added under section 53 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

Popes Green Lane, SE of Polstead Heath, ran E through a farm.  The earliest cartographic record was 1594 depicting the route, labelled “via ducens a Polstede heath versus Layham”. The Layham Tithe Map showed the route in various versions, but by the mid-1860s only part was maintainable at public expense.  Records under the Finance Act of 1910 were apparently inconclusive.  Seemingly, there are a couple of nearby routes going the same way, but it is argued, based on the earliest records, that in the C16th, when roads were unmade, several would have provided a seasonal selection, based on ground conditions. The successful use of so early a map in a claim is apparently unusual.

Interested readers may subscribe to Footpath Worker.. phone 020 7339 8500.

Green Belt, Green Tracks.
South Cambridgeshire District Council is debating the construction of a new golf course  in the Green Belt, in the parish of Great Shelford. If this is approved, it seems likely that part of the “package” will include a new footpath, to run from Granhams Road towards Hinton Way, thus providing another step in a footpath route out of Cambridge to Magog Down. Local people are reputed to be prepared to accept a hotel and golf course buildings on their open Green Belt land, in hopes of thus protecting this land from the ever encroaching menace of more houses.

But at the same time, the Cambridge Evening News of 13 December, bearing details of the government’s backing for A14 plans, described a guided bus route linking the middle of Cambridge to Addenbrooke’s hospital and Trumpington. Such a bus would run along the former Bedford to Cambridge railway line, passing under Long Road.

What the paper does not add is that the track of the old railway is presently a very useful and quite attractive permissive footpath, part of a link from near the Botanic Gardens via Empty Common, and towards Nine Wells.  So does this mean we shall lose our path?  Probably, but few would deny the need for solutions to the Cambridge traffic problem. It is particularly saddening that whenever such a scheme is envisaged, the footpath network seems literally the last factor that is considered.

A new long walk for 2002?
The sectional walk of the Fen Rivers Way between Cambridge and Kings Lynn was so popular, that we have been asked to plan another series of walks elsewhere.  So four intrepid ramblers are presently engaged on planning the West Anglian Way, which will be led from Cambridge to King Harold’s Cathedral at Waltham Cross.  It will consist of a number of sections, each of approximately 9 – 12 miles, and will be accessible by rail transport, to avoid the problems of using a coach, or shuffling cars to & fro.

So watch this space!

And Green Trees, Green Spaces.
Compared with many towns of the same size, Cambridge is well off for open space.  The Cambridge Preservation Society notes there are almost 100 hectares (ca. 250 acres) of open space, and a further 150 hectares (370 acres) of recreation grounds & parks, and other available land (not counting playing fields and allotments).  The City itself has some fine trees in parks and gardens (especially The Botanic Gardens, Cherry Hinton hall grounds, and of course, the numerous college grounds) but looking more widely into the county as a whole, it sadly lacks for trees.  In the last issue, we described Woodland Trust initiatives which, together with private plantings, and tree planting on County Farms land have greatly increased tree cover in the County, from ca 1%  to about 2 % in the last 10 years.  A Cambs.C.C. publication in 1991 “Discovering Cambridgeshire Woodlands” admitted that Cambridgeshire was the least wooded of all English Counties, and that there was then a larger area of tarmac road than of woodlands.

Since that time, there have been more bypasses, and more roads widened.

At Cambourne, many new trees have been planted, but a large swathe has been cut into the adjacent established woodland to allow the dualling of a section of the A428.  And now there is the threat of yet more houses – thousands and thousands to be built in the next ten years.  A few are to be squeezed here and there into pleasant corners in towns and villages, to make us feel more cramped.  Other new estates will extend across footpaths, turning the paths into tarmac alleys between high garden fences.  And somewhere or other (is it to be in Oakington and Longstanton?) there are to be some thousands of houses built.

In the face of this expansion of roads and real estate on all fronts, individually we are powerless. This should not deter us from making our views known to our local councillors.  Organisations are contributing to the issues report response form, in preparation for the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan no.3.

Most of us belong to some organisations like The Ramblers’ Association, The National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, The Open Spaces Society, The RSPB, all of which campaign for open countryside, and in many cases actually purchase land to preserve it for posterity.  So in Cambridgeshire, the National Trust is seeking to obtain control of hundreds of acres (sorry, hectares!) to extend Wicken Fen. The Cambridge Preservation Society is planning to make a further Country Park near Coton.  The Woodland Trust is always seeking funds to buy woods to protect them from destruction and development.

So should this be our New Year present to the Countryside?  Our “widow’s mite” put towards buying and protecting some little bit of land in Cambridgeshire, for public access? After all, the “access” part of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 isn’t going to add much to Cambridgeshire’s strolling acres (sorry, hectares!).

And good walking in 2002!

This is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or the author of an individual item.  Janet Moreton 01223 356889


Price 10 pence where sold; no postal sales

© Janet Moreton, December 2001

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