** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
There is presently much emphasis on “Walking for Health”, and there is no doubt that rambling is fine exercise. But for most of us, it is much more – the opportunity to enjoy the countryside, and its villages, to appreciate solitude or good company, and to value a change of scene, or a new path.
For me, the enjoyment of a walk is enhanced by local knowledge: the history of a village and its paths; knowing where there is a comfortable seat; enjoying the local flora and fauna. Most of us plan our holidays by buying a local guidebook and perusing it in advance. Do you pre-arm yourself with information on your local walks…
And do you arm yourself with insect repellant and sting relief, so that you are set up for the Summer?
A New Footpath on the map in Bartlow
The village of Bartlow, about two miles SE from Linton, now officially has a public footpath connecting Church Lane and Ashdon Road. The path, which goes from just S of the churchyard gate, through a former farm yard where buildings have been converted into houses, then along a narrow road to come out opposite the turning to Hadstock, had been in use for more than 50 years as a short cut across the village, and as a route to the railway station before the line was closed in the 1960s; but it had never been shown on maps as a right of way. When coming from Horseheath or Shudy Camps it makes a short cut on the route towards Hadstock, and a way to the “Three Hills” pub, without using the narrow, winding road which has no footway.
Trouble started in the year 2000, with plans for a new garage and enclosed yard at Church House that would have blocked the path.
There was a local outcry, and in March 2001 the RA was asked by a village resident to make a formal submission to the County Council, using evidence from Bartlow people that the path had been used as a public right of way. Three years on, after initial refusal by the County Council to act on our claim, a successful appeal by the RA to the Secretary of State, objections from landowners, and a Public Inquiry last November, an Order recording the path as a Public Footpath is finally to be confirmed by the Secretary of State, and we are confident that Public Footpath Number 6 at Bartlow will always be there for all to use. Our grateful thanks are due to Eugene Suggett from RA Central Office, who presented the case on our behalf, to RA members John Fuller and Eric Chardin who gave evidence of use by parties of walkers, and to all the Bartlow people who supported our case, especially Mrs Catriona Ogilvy who had used the path nearly every day, since 1939!
To find the “new” path, go down Church Lane, past the church gate (which already has a footpath sign, for the path through the churchyard to the “Bartlow Hills” tumuli), and go through a small gate on the right, into a narrow passage between walls. It isn’t easy to see, but we expect in due course to find a new footpath sign, once the legal work has been completed. Cross a gravelled yard to another gate, then follow the narrow tarmac road past the “Bartlow Barns” development, to come out on Ashdon Road, just opposite the road to Hadstock.
We are hoping to lead a walk in the Autumn, taking in the new path, so look in the next RA walks programme when it comes out in April.
Parish of the Month – Toft
The parish of Toft, meaning “simple farm-stead” has kept its name since ancient times. The parish (1) of little over 500 ha lies on boulder clay, but the village itself sits on a ridge of gravel.
The original village developed, sandwiched between between the intersection of roads. The ancient Armshold Lane (now a leafy bridleway) ran N – S from Arrington Bridge through Wimpole and Hardwick. Parallel to it was the High St (B 1046). At right angles to these, were the Millers Road (still named as a dead-end road in the village), and the ancient Lot Way past the church. Lot Way(1, 2) ran E – W close to the Bourn Brook for most of the way from Grantchester, to Barton, Comberton, Toft, Caldecote, Bourn and Eltisley from at least Roman times.
What a pity we no longer have all this route as a footpath! Later roads within the village developed around the geometric field system. One such was the zig-zag route from the church to Lot Way to the river crossing. This route was used as part of a long-distance route from Cambridge to Oxford, passing through Toft.
Toft’s village sign (situated near the junction of Comberton & Church Roads) celebrates the village founding, depicting a Norseman. The plaque reads “A thousand years ago a man such as he was the founder of our village, laying aside his weapons he cleared the land of shrubs & trees, built himself a homestead, a Toft“. On the other side, a visit of John Bunyan, preaching from a wagon is illustrated, “In the year 1659, when England was torn by political & religious strife, the author of Pilgrims Progress came to preach to a meeting in a barn at Toft“.
Much of Toft belonged to Ely from the C10th, and the church was constructed by Lot Way. The present perpendicular church is partly rebuilt- it has an old font, an oak pulpit and an ancient timbered roof, alabaster figures and Victorian glass. The manor house is nearby. The Domesday population was a mere 23, and there were only 76 poll-tax payers in 1377. There were still only 173 people at the end of the C18th. By 1951, however, there were 380 inhabitants, and 560 in 1996.
The village today has buildings of a mixture of ages, an excellent village shop , and the “Red Lion” Chinese restaurant, whose friendly proprietors also serve drinks and fish & chips. Nowadays, there is a dense network of paths within the village, and 8 paths leading out into other parishes, making a total of 19 paths. A useful free car park is signed off School Lane.
Most readers will consider Toft to be an excellent centre for day-long walks. The book, “Walks in South Cambridgeshire”(3) gives two classic suggestions. Route No.18 describes a 9 mile circuit from Hardwick, taking in Toft and Comberton, which could just as easily be started from Toft. Route No. 19 gives a Toft circular of 7 miles, going via Great Eversden, although this could readily be extended via Wimpole, to make a 10 or 12 mile day.
However, I would encourage readers to explore the many short paths within the village envelope, investigating the nooks and crannies of this interesting village, where a short day could be had without venturing far from shelter, in case of showers, or where a display of local knowledge can be used to impress visitors as a finale to a longer walk.
1. South Cambridgeshire Official Guide
2. Archaeology of Cambridgeshire, Vol. 1
South West Cambridgeshire, by Alison Taylor, Publ. Cambs.C.C. 1997.
3. Walks in South Cambridgeshire,Publ. Ramblers’ Assoc. Cambridge Group, Second Edition, 1993.
1. South loop
Leave the rear of the carpark on the short tarmac fp 9 into High Street. Turn right to a sign, “Public Footpath Caldecote ¾”, showing Fp1 running W along house no.22’s drive. A stile leads out of a gravel passage to pasture, where go downhill to cross a stream on a culvert bridge and continue to a stile in a crossing fence, and a flat bridge over a ditch.* [*This is the start of the main route out of the village to the W. If you keep on going in the same direction, eventually paths will take you to Caldecote Church, then thence across field paths to Bourn.]
For the present, turn left over the bridge along a narrow grass headland, with ditch & trees to left. This is Fp 19 as far as a little bridge on the left, leading back over the ditch. (Ignore this path over the ditch, which leads across the field & through paddocks, back to High St.)
Continue on the path (now designated Fp 2) to cross a footbridge over Bourn Brook., to emerge through kissing gates (or beside the brook) and up steps onto B1046 by Toft Road bridge. (The patch of rough pasture here is stewardship scheme land, with blue meadow cranesbill in Summer).
Here, by the roadbridge, we are in Kingston parish, and Kingston Footpath 6 is signed opposite going SSW then W to Kingston village. But from the road bridge, continue E along “Brookside“. We pass an attractive stream-side allotment on the right, and find a fine footbridge over the stream. This path is actually numbered in Kingston parish. Continue forward in the pasture, with the hedge & ditch on left, cross the stile onto the disused railway, turn left, and, at the begining of the golf course, turn right down the hedged lane. This is the ancient Armshold Lane, along the Eversden parish boundary. However, bridleway rights were not maintained when the railway was built, and Toft Fp 8 in the field to the N has only footpath rights. [Armshold Lane can be used as a startpoint for Eversden Wood via Kingston fp 12, and thence to Wimpole].
Let us return over the bridge to Brookside, which soon narrows and becomes Church Road. There is a seat here for tea-break, or a careful examination of the map!
Just ahead, an unsigned footpath should run through a spinney adjacent to an Anglian Water sewage pumping station. The route crosses the Bourn Brook a few metres behind the spinney, but there is no bridge and the old ford was destroyed by dredging. On the bank beyond, barbed wire obstructs progress. The right of way continues along the former “Watery Lane“, following the parish boundary, now gouged out, fenced & ditched on the Kingston side. It is possible to walk SSW in a pasture with the fence on right (E), and open pasture to left At TL 359 554, a double crossing fence is reached, having trees between. There are no stiles in this fence to give access to continuing Eversden Bridleway 1 on the other side of the old railway. (In the preceding para. we walked on part of the remains of the route in the adjacent field, on the other side of the ditch).
Having mused sadly over this obstructed route, return to the bridge over the brook. The short Fp 17 cuts the field corner to a stile in the fence, then runs SSE across pasture to a second stile & onto Meridian Golf Course.
A well-signed path (Eversden fp 2) leads across the golf course, a short arable field, and down a wide grassy avenue towards Kingston Road, Eversden. [A popular 2 mile dog walking circuit for Toft residents consists of up the golf course path towards Eversden, and back down Armshold Lane.].
Now continue up Church Lane towards the church, noticing the service tree in the graveyard. Just beyond the church starts Lot Way, the wide fp 16, signed “Public Footpath Comberton 1½” running E between hedges, and continuing beyond the stile into the golf course., where it runs at first as a verge beside a hedge on right.
In the middle of the golf course, there is a slight dog-leg marked in the route and various reassuring signs – “Walkers have priority. Watch out for golfers playing from your right“. At the end of the golf course, the path continues, across arable fields, becoming fp 9 in Comberton. What a pity the farmer here insists on cultivating the right of way, when, in so vast a field, a continuous grass strip could hardly be a great impediment to farming practice.
Today, however, we are going no further than peering over the stile, to admire a fine plant of spurge laurel by the hedge. Return down the lane to the church, and turn back down Church Road the way we came. Very shortly, observe a stile in the fence, giving access to a pasture, with pronouced ridge & furrows. Often sheep graze. The direct route of fp 14 goes NW across the field to a wooden signpost & stile on School Lane, not far from the car-park. However, to dally longer, steer W across a short section of the field, (fp 15) and find another stile hidden under the branches of a tree. This gives access to Bp 11, an interesting dark, green lane running between Church Road and School Lane. Bp 12 is another such dark, dank lane (watch out for wet feet!), starting further down Church Road.
Meanwhile, a challenge is to find fp 13, which leaves bp 11 over a narrow stile at TL 3604 5585, by a metal sign, “Public Footpath”. It runs W between hedges & walls, sometimes only 0.7m wide, and then down the side of a garden. It exits onto School Lane, to continue opposite down the gravelled drive of house no. 42A (an infiller?) to pass beside a garage. It ends down the drive of no. 55A High Street.
Tarmac “Stony Lane” (fp 10) runs E between houses 39 & 41 onto School Lane. Stagger back to the carpark! (2 miles?)
Leave the carpark for High Street, and turn N past The Red Lion, continuing up Mill Lane, which becomes a footpath. At a T-junction of paths turn left down towards the stream, and follow Fp5 across the stream on a footbridge. The narrow path follows a ditch uphill to meet a good track, Fp4 not far from Wood Farm. Follow this left to Hardwick Wood Wildlife Trust Reserve, and continue on the grassy path along the S edge of the reserve. [Ancient Hardwick Wood was recorded in the Bishop of Ely’s Coucher Book of 1251, and is well-known for oxlips. Access is restricted, but the flowers can be seen from the path] Go through a wide gap in a crossing hedge, and briefly join The Wimpole Way (at this point Caldecote Bp4).
Just before the bridleway turns right, go through a gap in the hedge on the left. and continue on the other side of the hedge on Toft Fp7. This was diverted in 1995 to follow the field edge, and takes you back towards Toft, to Millers Road. On the return, detour to walk round Toft Wood (Woodland Trust, 3.2ha), and pick up the stream-side Fp3, which crosses Miller Road, and takes one through a spinney into the field and the junction of Fps 1 and 19, on the S loop walk, point *. From here return to the car park, reversing the description given in the S loop. (ca 3 miles).
You have now walked parts of most of the inner-village paths of Toft. For interest, this is the sort of design of route needed for path surveying, when the exercise may take all day, whilst pausing to note details.
Beware Midges, or Midges beware?
Recent correspondence in Ramblers’Net discuss the age-old problem of midges in Scotland, Scandinavia (and especially Iceland, where they are known to be especially voracious). Travellers going North this Summer may wish to read this.
There are many species of midge, the tiny swarming flies of the order Diptera, but the one of greatest interest here is the Highland Midge Culicoides Impunctatus which attacks humans, and whose females need a blood meal before they can breed. Midges start to be a problem in June, through to August or September; they like damp conditions and still air and dislike strong sunlight or torrential rain. They are said to be more attracted to dark-coloured clothing than to light.
It is easy to buy nylon (or more rarely cotton) midge-nets in Scotland to go over the head. I find these hot, and they obscure the field of view. Walking at a decent pace generally keeps these tiny insects at bay. The real problems come when stopping. And have you ever tried to eat a sandwich under a midge net?
It does help to have an insect repellant, but this seems only effective on the area treated, so if you miss applying the spray or lotion to one part (e.g. one’s ears) they become a popular target! Most common deterrents are brands containing DEET (di-ethyl toluamide) or DMP (dimethyl phthalate). Ranges of natural alternatives are available, which may contain citronella, eucalyptus, or tea-tree oils, but these may be less effective.
People’s response to midge bites vary, and deterrents and remedies which work for some may be ineffective for others. Some walkers sucessfully use Avon’s “Skin so Soft”, and one writer does not leave home without Apis Mel, a homeopathic remedy based on bee venom. It does, however, sound as though “Jungle Formula” containing DEET may be the most effective – but read the cautionary labels, so that it is not toxic to the user as well as to the predator. It has the advantage that it will also deter mosquitos and ticks.
For further information, read “Midges in Scotland” by George Hendry (ISBN 0 08 0365957).
West Anglian Way Guide now available
A guide to the West Anglian Way, a linear route between Cambridge and Waltham Abbey, is now available at £2 by hand (Cambridge RA Group Saturday walks) or £3 by post from Bernard Hawes, 52 Maids Causeway, Cambridge, CB5 8DD.
The guide to the 64 mile route is in loose-leaf A4 format, on heavy paper in a transparent envelope, so that individual sheets may be used separately. A coloured route map is included, but the guide is intended to be used in conjunction with Explorer OS sheets.
Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab usually appears every two months. A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 10p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink. If you would like to receive an issue by post, please send a large SAE, and a 10p stamp.
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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
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© Janet Moreton, 2004