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CANTAB16 December 2002

CANTAB16 December 2002 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Happy Christmas, and . . . .   Good Walking now & in 2003

More about Boots
Last issue’s sad story about cracked up boots must have struck a chord, and I have received several tales of boots that, for one reason or another, failed to make the grade.

The news-sheet of the Cambridge Rambling Club from time-to-time has sad little adverts “For Sale, …boots as new, only worn once“.  Has the seller been obliged to give up serious walking?  Did they prove too large or too small?  Or were they too ferocious to be broken in?

I have been taken aside at a meeting, and shown a pair of heavy-duty boots, worn only on four mountain holidays, with a large slit in the leather at one side, and effectively useless.

On the other hand, not all walkers regard the tendency of uppers to crack with the same horror, it seems.  In a letter from a distant friend, she statesAll my walking boots have cracks across the toes. It is part of the breaking-in process and I would rather have cracks than strata of blisters on the heels which seems to be the alternative.  They let in water, but that doesn’t bother me.  I have two very aged and one fairly aged pair of boots, so some buying and breaking in is going to happen soon...”

Well, let us hope that Santa, or at least the January Sales will come up with perfect footware for all our readers.

The West Anglian Way – off to a good start!
On the 3 November, 40 ramblers left Cambridge station, on the first leg of their route to Cheshunt. Walkers came from the Cambridge area, and from all over Hertfordshire, 4 from London, including one lady here for a few months from Australia. Kate Day, Cambs C.C.Countryside Access Team Leader, accompanied by her little son, Benjamin, had sent us on our way with welcome words of encouragement and support.

The route took us past allotment gardens, along the track of the old Cambridge to Bletchley railway line, and to the monument at Nine Wells, which commemorates the activities of Thomas Hobson and friends, who first brought a water supply to Cambridge. We passed briefly through Shelford, and paused for lunch at The Tree in Stapleford.  So far, the weather had been fine and mild.  But rain in the afternoon, at first a drizzle, gradually increased as we left the fields and Rowley Lane, and traversed Sawston’s recreation ground.  We hastened up Church Lane, and along the High Street, to take to field paths once more to cross the bypass, and make for Whittlesford.  This was not the afternoon to linger on the green for a teabreak, but instead, we hastened to the station for the trains to take us our several ways…

The early mist on Sat. 16 November did not delay the trains, so 42 ramblers were able to set off  promptly at 10 am from Whittlesford Station, under the expert guidance of Gwen and Lawrence Gerhardt.  Crossing the A505 was fortunately fairly easy, due to roadworks, and in future a central refuge here should ease the problem. We walked south through Duxford, passing the redundant church of St Johns, the charming village green, and the church of St. Peters. We continued down the road past the new housing and the chemical works, and over the level crossing and the footbridge over the ford.  The deep water here ensures that little traffic ventures, making this a quiet lane for pedestrians. In Hinxton, we turned off through the grounds of Hinxton Mill (owned by Cambridge Preservation  Society, the mill being open to the public on some Summer Sundays).

A worn grass path led by the swollen river Cam, and then alongside the railway, where Gwen & Lawrence had put in work to clear the path of branches brought down by the October storm debris. Field paths took us to Butchers Lane, Hinxton, and down a passage where  we had to scramble over the debris of a fallen flint wall.  Some of the party took coffee break on the ample seats of the recreation ground, while others repaired to the welcoming  Ickleton Lion.  We continued along Back Lane, and turned into the quiet Coploe Road, which climbs steeply uphill, crossing the M11, and passing a local nature reserve, bright with chalkland flowers in Summer, but bleak now.  As we climbed the hill, gleams of sunshine came through the clearing mist, giving atmospheric views of the high land ahead. The party had left Cambridgeshire for the last time on this walk, and from now on would, for many miles be in Essex’s Uttlesford District.

A picnic lunch was taken in the graveyard of the isolated St Mary’s Church, Strethall. We pressed on swiftly, field paths taking us past St Ann’s Wood, to emerge from a muddy bridleway into Littlebury Green.  Here we crossed the village street straight over onto further good paths leading us over the M11, and down into Wendens Ambo, where there was a brief pause to admire the old church of St Mary the Virgin, with its fine Norman doorway.  Over the recreation ground, we took the lane route to Norton End (avoiding the field path with regular Winter flooding), and took a concrete bridleway south over the hill towards Whiteditch Lane, Newport.  Conversation flagged as we made this steep climb late in the walk!  We made a final uphill across the recreation ground to St Mary’s Church, and at last along Newport High Street, admiring the many splendid old buildings, several of which were once coaching inns.  The station was reached by 3.30 pm, not bad going for a longish walk.  All the future sections are shorter!

The third section of the West Anglian Way will be led by your editor on Saturday 30 November, when walkers will leave Newport Station at 10 am, for a 10 mile walk to Bishops Stortford. Morning coffee break will be held at Rickling Green, and a lunchbreak will be taken at Stansted Mountfichet, where there are several pubs and eating places, and the opportunity for those wanting a shorter walk to leave us at Stansted station.  Note that this is the last of the walks in the series before Christmas.

The fourth section of the Way starts from Bishops Stortford Station on Sat.18 January 2003, starting at 9.40 am from the station forecourt.  Walkers from Cambridge note the earlier train leaving at 9.05.  This is the now traditional bun walk.  For the uninitiated, participants on one Cambridge Group walk every January are offered  a cake or bun as a festive season gesture and to help sustain them against the winter chill!  Do all come along for a 10 mile largely riverside walk to Harlow, and work off all that Christmas sloth.

We look forward to the Fifth Section of the walk, Harlow to Broxbourne, on Saturday 8 February, and the final section to Cheshunt Station, via Waltham Abbey,  on Saturday 22 February. Both of these walks will be expertly led by Mark Westley on his home territory.  There will be certificates for those who have completed all the walks.

Isle of Man Coastal Path
It came as a surprise, on a visit to the Isle of Man a few years ago, to discover that not only did a coastal path exist, but that it extended to 96 miles – an ideal length for a week’s walking.  I returned to the Island in May to tackle the Coastal Path Challenge, as the Raad ny Foillon (path of the seagull) was described by Legs of Man, the company who organised my trip.

Right from the start, variety was the watchword.  The bustling town of Douglas was soon left behind.  Marine Drive, a Victorian-built road now closed to traffic, provided an easy level walk for the first few miles, overlooking splendid rock scenery.  A mixture of road, field and coastal path led to Castletown, passing Ronaldsway Airport, scene of a battle between Scots and Irish in 1275.  The second day featured the Chasms, a rocky area with fissures dropping down 200ft to the sea below, and the Calf of Man, a tiny picturesque island used as a bird sanctuary, finishing at Port Erin after passing literally within inches of nesting seagulls.  The route to Peel involved about 4500 feet of climbing, with three dramatic moorland mountains to scale, but proved less strenuous than I expected.  By contrast, two days with some long stretches of level sandy beach walking were surprisingly tiring.  The final two stretches featured too much road walking, even if we did pass Norman Wisdom’s house, but fine views of a couple of ancient churches were a compensation.  On the last day, a ceremonial tape stretched across Douglas promenade completed the walk, and the Island’s Director of Tourism appeared in person to present us with our certificates over a glass of champagne!

David Harrison

Christmas Presents?
*Out of Date* For up-to-date info see link.
The Ramblers’ Association Cambridge Group offers a selection of reasonably priced walking guides, all available at £4.50 by post from Bernard Hawes, 52 Maids Causeway, Cambridge, CB5 8DD. Cheques should be made payable to “Cambridge Group of the Ramblers’ Association“.

All have sketch maps and drawings, route descriptions, and points of interest. And look at the number of walks you get for your money! Compare these with commercially published guidebooks, typically having only 10 or 12 walks.

Walks in South Cambridgeshire
23 walks from 4 to 20 miles, covering Cambridge, and many of the villages to the west, south and east.  This is the Group’s classic best seller, first published 1987, with regular revisions and new editions since.

Walks in East Cambridgeshire
30 walks from 1.5 to 17 miles, covering the fens near Littleport, Ely, Wicken and Soham, and the horse-stud belt around Newmarket.

Walks on The South Cambridgeshire Borders
28 walks, most with longer or shorter options, giving routes from 4 to 18 miles.  This is the book for readers wishing to venture outside the immediate Cambridge area, as the walks spread over the borders of Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Essex and Hertfordshire.

The Complete Fen Rivers Way – Cambridge to the Wash, and other walks
Formerly marketed by The Fen Rivers Way Association, this popular guide is now in its third edition, covering the Fen Rivers Way,  a linear walk from Cambridge to Kings Lynn and beyond, together with a dozen circular walks based on the Cam & Great Ouse.

The Bramble – Friend or Foe?
The season for blackberrying is past, and only the last, dark, moist remnants now hang at the ends of leafless trailing brambles, threatening to trip the unwary path user.

But who has not enjoyed the September hedgerow harvest straight from the plant in passing, or gathered into the post-prandial lunch box?  Or how many have not set out more purposefully to gather the fruit in pound or kilogramme amounts for blackberry-and-apple pie, crumble, jams, jellies, or for the freezer?

The fruit is very rich in vitamin C. It is possible to make good jam or pip-free jellies using blackberry alone, but a firm set is more easily obtained especially in jellies, by adding strained juices of apple or crab apple.

The bramble, Rubus fruticosus is botanically of the rose family, and is not a single species, but rather a group of up to 400 subspecies, or microspecies, as found in Britain and mainland Europe. Differences between the subspecies depend on factors such as habit (erect or creeping); type, size and colour of prickles; leaf form, colour and hairiness; flower (colour and size); and fruit (number of drupelets). Keeble-Martin, and O.Polunin whose volumes provided this information do not, unfortunately correlate the information with which main subspecies give the pleasantest fruit to eat! In my opinion, however, the average wild berry has a superiour flavour to the cultivated types, although it is generally only about a third of the size.

It is worth being aware that there is a separate species, the dewberry, Rubus caesius, which is similar to the blackberry in appearance, but is not good to eat (although not poisonous). The fruits of this plant have large, grey-bloomed drupelets, which tend to ripen earlier in the year than the blackberry.

Now to consider the Jekyl & Hyde character of the common bramble. The trouble arises when this fast-growing character lurks beside a footpath in a confined space. Walking beside a bramble hedge is unwise in one’s newest Goretex jacket, as the breathability is likely to be enhanced! From a tall hedge, trailers hang down to snag the hair or the woolly hat, or the creeping, low-growing variety send out long low shoots to trip the unwary.  From the plant’s viewpoint, this is a useful means of propagation, as the end of the shoot can root elsewhere in the ground, to form a new plant in the middle of the path.  In the space of a year or two, the path, if not kept trimmed, can become a solid mass of impenetrable bramble, often interspersed with its friend the common stinging nettle.

Following last year’s Foot & Mouth epidemic, and consequent path restrictions and neglect, we have become very aware of the power of the bramble.

From the B1061 at Slugs Green, near the water-tower, south of Dullingham, an attractive path runs west to Underwood Hall, Westley Waterless.  The earlier sections of this path run beside a ditch to right, and are closely fenced to left.  Until this was cleared, the brambles, growing exuberantly in the adjacent ditch completely choked the path.

Recently we walked in Castle Camps, and visited Great Bendysh Wood, emerging on the road near Olmstead Green.  A newly signed and waymarked footpath runs through the grounds of “Meadowside”. As the route exits over a splendid new County Council bridge to give access to the field beyond, we found our way over the bridge totally blocked by brambles, that had encroached from the side, and insinuated their way between the wooden boards.  Without secateurs (and a spare half-hour) we would not have won through!  This had occurred in a mere 18 months.

Brambles conceal waymark posts and  signposts, such as the one (now replaced) for the path beside Shepreth’s lakes, starting on the A10; they hide humps and hollows in the ground; and they cover ground in nature reserves choking out more tender plants…

The only advice I can offer is to carry secateurs as routine, and to report serious encroachments to the County Council – sometimes action is taken before the path is totally blocked!

But I still like blackberry jam!

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


Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, December 2002

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