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CANTAB26 September 2004

CANTAB26 September 2004 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


In this issue, we assess a recent walking break in Durham attended by 8 members of RA Cambridge Group, and look forward to a group holiday in 2005.

By popular request, we focus on another village in north Essex, this time Elmdon, on the Icknield Way, and we chart progress (or otherwise)  being made with the Coton Country Park.

Finally, we look at the time taken for changes to the path network to pass through various stages of consultation, negotiation, and legal requirements. Planning matters, road building and widening, the wishes of landowners, and the law’s delay all affect the path network.  The walker on the ground, especially when visiting an area infrequently, may be unaware of impending changes.  Then one day large notices and maps posted at the end of the path will inform of a diversion, which may affect the day’s schedule.  More depressing still are promised improvements in an area which may yet be awaited 10 years on… Perhaps this is one reason why footpath workers are often not so young!

Janet Moreton

SAGA walking holiday in Durham
In mid-August, six members of the Ramblers’ Association from the Cambridge area, and two members now resident in France, joined a SAGA walking holiday, based on Trevelyan College in Durham.

The grade was described as *** for 8 to 11 mile walks, with a maximum ascent  750 – 1250 ft, probably equivalent to Ramblers’ D/D+.  Five  walks were led, with the coach fare being included in the price.  As well as the leader, a SAGA courier went along each day as a “back-stop”.

At £320 basic price (more if you chose en-suite), we thought that the holiday was good value for money (compared with HF, Ramblers, Waymark etc);  that the walks selection was good, and that the food was very acceptable, with generous helpings and a daily choice of main courses, as well as a salad bar.  The accommodation was what one would expect for a college, with a predominance of single rooms, and a few twin. Running concurrently with the walking was a traditional sightseeing holiday, with daily coach-outings. It was very convenient to have these trips to stately homes as a back-up option, especially for two of our number who did not want to walk every day.  We were very attracted to Durham – one of the loveliest Northern towns. There were entertainments laid on each evening e.g. the well-known Easington Colliery Band, a male voice choir, and an illustrated talk on Durham.  I avoided the evening of line-dancing!

The walks included linear walks in Weardale, Teesdale, and one from Durham itself, following the river out of the city, and between wooded banks.  For me the highlight was a linear walk along Hadrians Wall, which we last visited in 1967, when Roger & I walked the whole length.

On the downside was only the size of the party – up to 30 people on the coach.  Aged 45 – 80 plus, we were a tough bunch, with only the occasional very steep pull up a hill sorting the sheep from the goats!

For anyone organising a group, especially when numbers of single rooms are required, I would advise them to consider accommodation in university halls of residence in the Summer season. A convenient way to book is via SAGA, who provide additional excellent back-up services for lively customers with an age range of some 40 years. Don’t be put off by the image.  For next year’s University Holidays brochure, ring free-phone 0800 856 2851.

(No, we don’t have shares in SAGA!)

And for details of next year’s Group Holiday with Cambridge RA Group, turn the page . . . Planned holiday in Penrith
We are organising a week’s holiday from 14 to 21 August 2005, staying at Newton Rigg College, which is just over a mile from Penrith, Cumbria.

We plan to walk in the fells, say 9 to 12 miles daily, aiming for a summit or two each day if the weather is clear, or investigating lowland routes if it is not.  We invite friends to join us, but prefer to keep the party to about 12 to 16, in hopes of recapturing the pleasant intimate atmosphere our groups enjoyed for several years at Bassenthwaite.

To this end, we have made preliminary reservations, to be confirmed before Christmas, at this attractive college whose full title and address is “University of Central Lancashire, Cumbria Campus, Newton Rigg, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0AH, tel. 01772 894061  e-mail:  website:  The contact is Janet Rowbury.

The college has accommodation for 280 people, and regularly receives groups of walkers through the Summer.  There are a few twin en suite rooms, and some en suite single rooms.

Prices in 2004 (to be held for early bookings)

standard single £20.00
standard twin £18.50
en-suite single £23.00
en-suite twin £21.50

This price per person includes full English breakfast.  A self-service, 3-course evening meal is available at £8.25, which we will book.

The residential buildings are set in pleasant lawns and trees, with delightful central gardens, and plenty of paths on the site for evening walks.  A quiet pedestrian-and-cycleway leads directly to Penrith, well away from the roads. A car-journey of 20 – 40 minutes will take us to the Northern and Eastern fells, and the interesting limestone walking country to the east is also accessible.

We have stayed the the college for a few days this year, and were particularly impressed by the pleasant, friendly staff. On that occasion, we were able to make a few preliminary investigations of suitable walking opportunities.

Would you like to join us? If so, please let us know, then make your own bookings, letting Ms Rowbury know that you are part of the Moretons’ Cambridge walking party. Finally, do note that there is no “B” group!

Janet & Roger Moreton

News of Coton Country Park
We recently walked in the locality of Coton, and were rather disappointed to see no signs on the ground of the proposed greater access, wildlife protection, and facilities for enjoying the countryside, which were proposed last year on land at St Catherine’s Hall Farm, owned by the Cambridge Preservation Society. However, we read in the Society’s journal, The Ring, that progress will be made soon.

The project was given planning permission last August but in January of this year received the very considerable boost of a grant from the ODPM (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) of £725000.  The money has to be spent during the financial years 2004-6, and will be used primarily for the creation of new wildlife habitats and the establishment of new areas of tree planting, picnic site, a footpath network, and a bridleway and cycleway through the site…..The Society has also applied to DEFRA to include the farm in a Countryside Stewardship scheme.

Four new staff have been appointed to the project, so we look forward to seeing progress on the ground in the near future.

Parish of the Month – Elmdon, Essex
To those of us living over the Cambridgeshire border, the villages of the upland chalk over the Essex border have the attraction of a slight distance lending enchantment to the already very good views.  Elmdon is one such, and like Great & Little Chesterford (see Cantab of April 2004) lies on the route of the Icknield Way Long Distance Path.

Footpaths are generally well signed and in good order, except for a tendency to deep sticky mud in Winter, derived from the boulder clay overlying the chalk.  This sticky mud must have been very much a feature of life for those living in the village 60 or more years ago, when roads were unsurfaced, and when walking was for business, not for pleasure.

I recently discovered an interesting book by Jean Robin, “Elmdon – continuity and change in a north-west Essex village 1861- 1964” (Cambridge University Press 1980, ISBN 00 521 22820 4).  It describes the situation in the village in 1861: landownership; employment; marriage; status & social mobility; then goes on to chart migration in the later C19th, and makes a comparison with Elmdon in 1964. These chapters provide insight in what we see on our walks today.

Elmdon, lying on minor roads, was always an agricultural community.  The Domesday register listed 26 swine and 288 sheep in the lord’s demesne, and 250 swine in the common forestry. In 1770, the villagers were described as being “supported by husbandry and spinning“, and fustian cloth & fine yarn for Norfolk worsteds was finished in Saffron Walden.  By 1861, 7 shepherds were listed in the census, out of a population of 520.

Since the C16th, NW Essex seems always to have been an area of large landowners.  To the  south was the manor house of Wenden Lofts, bought by Sir Thomas Meade in 1571.   The Meade family also bought Pigots Manor, and Elmdon Bury.  In 1717, the estate (and part of Elmdon village)  was sold to a Londoner, Nathaniel Wilkes. This estate grew by purchase and enclosure up to the depression, when it was finally sold in 1927. There is a similar story for other local farms. For example Rockells Farm was bought in 1838 at £26 per acre, but in 1927 Freewood Farm fetched only £7 per acre at auction.  Lofts Hall itself was burnt down in 1934.

In 1861, there were blacksmiths, thatchers, builders, carpenters, a tailor, cobbler, bakers, dressmaker, draper, a miller and carrier in the village, as well as a clergyman and school-teacher.  But the largest number were employed on the land (ca. 120 men & boys, and 12 women), with a further 30 people employed as household servants. The weekly earnings of the farm workers were some 10, 4, and 3 shillings for men, women and children respectively, with typically a shilling’s worth of beer provided.

By 1961, a proportion of professional people were living in the village, but the population had shrunk to 490. Some 40% of Elmdon men were still engaged in agriculture by 1964, but by then, school leavers were being attracted away by Ciba-Geigy (set up in Duxford 1905), Spicers paper factory in Sawston (established 1914), and to jobs in Royston and Saffron Walden. Improved ‘bus services after WWII  opened employment beyond the village.

But what of the land itself?  The 3-field strip system persisted until an Act of 1824 was laid before Parliament “for inclosing lands in the parishes of Wendens Lofts and Elmdon in the county of Essex, and for extinguishing Tithes in the said parishes“. (Awarded 1829, see Essex County Records Office).

The cost of the obligatory fencing after inclosure fell heavily on small-holders, who in some cases sold out to larger men. Agriculture changed with the years, although wheat & barley remain dominant.  Sheep had almost disappeared by 1964.  In 1920, the Fison family at Elmdon Lodge introduced dairy shorthorns, superceded by Mrs Watson’s herd at Lofts Hall, and finally by the large herd of jerseys at Freewood Farm.  Sugar beet was first planted in 1926.

The church was much as now, but The Kings Head and The Carrier pubs have both closed in recent years, and the shop/post office has now gone. Many fine buildings remain. C17th “Pigots” on the site of an old manor house is finely timbered and moated.  Hill Farm is the oldest building in Elmdon with a C15th wing, and two ancient barns on the slope of the hill below.  Church Farm dates from 1626. Elmdon Bury is still used as a farm, but the house has been greatly restored. A large and lovely Tudor House is “Bangles”.  Above it is an imposing vicarage, early Victorian and one of the first Elmdon houses to be erected in brick.  A turning off High Street leads to the attractive Kings Lane, once site of controversy when builders sought to construct bungalows.

To see Elmdon for yourself, either pass through the village on the Icknield Way LDP, as highlighted on Explorer Sheet 195 or Landranger 154, or try walks 15 and 16 in “Walks on the South Cambridgeshire Borders” (publ. RA Cambridge Group, available from B.Hawes, 52 Maids Causeway, Cambridge, CB5 8DD).

Slow Motion on Path Improvements
During WWII, the footbridge over the River Cam, between Babraham and Stapleford,  was blown up as an army exercise.  It was finally replaced after many years of campaigning by RA workers, some 40 years later, in October 1985.  This route is now part of a popular circular walk promoted by Cambridgeshire County Council.

This path problem was among the earliest we encountered as Footpath Secretaries for South Cambridgeshire District, on behalf of RA Cambridge Group.  Since then, we have become only too aware that obtaining a solution to the average path problem takes months or years, rather than days or weeks.

Take the case of a missing signpost. A new path, Bartlow 6 was added to the definitive map in April this year, following RA success at a public inquiry held in November 2003. Currently, in spite of our complaints, it is yet to have statutory signposts at each end, so of course, only those who were aware of the outcome of the public inquiry know that the path is open.  The usual argument is that signposts are erected by area, in batches, for economy. But surely this is a special case?

Even when matters are progressing “well”, the business of diversions, path creations and extinguishments takes an exceedingly long time.  Consider a diversion package in West Wratting.  The Ramblers’ Association and others were first consulted by the Parish Council in September 2001, on a set of proposals for paths in the parish.  Nothing more happened until the County Council took up the scheme in April 2003, since when it has been back and forth innumerable times, until a final version was accepted by the RA in May 2004.  We are still waiting for the Diversion Orders to appear, after which it will probably take another 6 months to get them confirmed, so that we can start enjoying the new routes.

A particularly difficult case is that of Graveley Footpath 10, which ought to lead from the village to Toseland Road  and the path network to the SW.  However, the Toseland Road end has been fenced off and taken into a private garden.  The obstruction was reported in the RA’s first survey of South Cambs. in 1982. The County Council declined to act, saying the Parish Council “didn’t want the path signposted”.  Repeated reports finally brought a promise of action from Cambs.CC in March 1997. Seven months later we got a signpost and bridge over the roadside ditch, but there  were still obstructing fences beyond, and we learnt that one of the landowners had challenged the existence of the path.  By November 1998 County Council staff  suggested that the bridge was wrongly sited, and by December 1999 both bridge and signpost had been removed.  A replacement was promised “when the correct line has been agreed”.  Despite further promises, there was still no bridge by November 2001.  By this time the legal dispute had been resolved, but we were told that “the legal route goes through the garden of Vine Cottage, where the 87-year old resident is very frail, so Cambs.CC will not act”.  In April 2004 we enquired again, but were told that the resident is “even frailer”. Effectively the County Council is waiting for the cottage to change hands.

These are just a very few of the path cases hanging fire, the problems unresolved. And what happens when these legal cases remain unresolved in 2026, when historical evidence can no longer be invoked to claim new rights of way?

Janet & Roger Moreton

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post:  Issue 26.
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.

Offers of brief articles will be gratefully received.

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


Issue 26; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2004.

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