** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
Editorial: New Year – New Paths
Have you walked any “new” paths lately – that is, paths that are “new for you”?
It is all too easy to develop a set of favourite walks, and do these to the exclusion of other routes, which may be equally pleasant, were you to get to know them. For some, the value of the led walks programme put on by the local Ramblers’ Association and rambling clubs is the opportunity to learn some new walking areas, thus extending our own repertoire.
But we can, of course, learn new paths alone, using guidebooks and OS maps. I remember an article in a walkers’ magazine entitled “Don’t be a guide-book junkie“. But I would say that walking guides have their place, especially for walkers seeking to extend their areas of knowledge, especially where the path network is known to be less than perfect. One can plan a 10 mile walk using an Explorer map, and set out along the route, only to find a missing bridge, a missing stile, or a footpath across a morass. The map might show an area of bog, but neither of the other problems. But the guidebook route should at least have been checked, probably 3 or 4 times, before going into print, and the publicity given to the route may well have ensured its continuing viability. And even the new OS Explorer sheets can’t include many points of interest.
One of the aims of Cantab is to suggest new walking options, partly by means of the “Parish of the Month” slot, which is also intended to suggest what to be aware of along the route. While this newsletter is too small to give comprehensive route descriptions, the aim is to outline possibilities. The other purpose is to give news of “What’s on” in the local rambling scene, which includes reporting path improvements, and, indeed, really “new” paths. As a free agent in my editorial role, naturally I include what interests me. If you would like to see any other material here, write and tell me.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s
Countryside Services Team –
Annual Report to March 2004
The report describes the resources and activities of a team of 21 staff. Extracts from the report are summarised. (My comments are in italics).
The team has information on CCC’s website, www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk, and its own e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Details are given of publicity, events, and leaflets. The team responded to 177 planning applications in the period, and made comments on biodiversity & landscape in respect of the proposed Northstowe development and the Guided Bus scheme.
The Countryside Project Unit describes its biodiversity grant schemes, and work on green spaces, county wildlife sites and protected road verges.
The Countryside Access Unit outlines its work with the Parish Paths Partnership (P3) Scheme, which currently involves 88 parishes in the County. Work in the other 149 parishes was organised directly through the team.
Surface vegetation was given 2 maintenance cuts in May and July, involving 516 km of paths cut under contract, and 194 km cut by P3. (Note that, unlike footpaths, roadside verges are cut 6-weekly; the grass grows after July; and this falls far short of all the paths that could be improved by cutting). Some 33 new bridges were installed, and 17 were repaired. (CCC are good on bridges – essential in our watery county). A round of signposting was made in early 2004. (If a signpost is reported destroyed, it can take at least a year before it is replaced – an encouragement to malefactors). A path condition survey was made on 5% of the network, in May and November. (The worst records are for ploughing and cropping, with 20.8% of the network ploughed or cropped over in May, and 51.4% in November.) Overall, only 58% of paths were found easy to use. Some 815 complaints were received re Footpaths, of which 395 were reported resolved. Of 116 bridleway reports, 73 were resolved, and of 152 byway reports, 64 were resolved. (Of the reports submitted by the RA Footpath Secretaries for South Cambs District, a smaller proportion than the above figures were sorted out).
The Definitive Map and Records Unit keeps the Definitive Map and Statement under continuous review. The Unit is currently working on a project to check the status of every recorded public right of way, and record them electronically by digitising them onto a GIS (geographical information System). In the year, the unit investigated 20 applications for Definitive Map Modification Orders (DMMOs), 41 public path order proposals (23 were carried forward from last year). They made 5 DMMOs, 15 diversions, 5 creations, and 8 extinguishments. A “Lost Highways Project” has been initiated.
This report is publicly available, should you wish to read the whole.
Parish of the Month-The Wilbrahams
A justification for putting Great and Little Wilbraham together, is that they were a single parish until the C13th.
The parishes contain low-lying areas of fen & alluvium, although most of the land is on chalk. Around the village of Little Wilbraham, and at Wilbraham Temple, the chalk is overlain by glacial gravels. A tributary rises near Wilbraham Temple, then forms the boundary between Gt & Lt Wilbraham. The open fields of both parishes were enclosed following awards ca. 1801, and the Commissioners were given power to straighten the courses of the rivers and construct public drains, although extensive areas of common survive near the streams.
There are 16 public rights of way in Little Wilbraham, 9 in Great Wilbraham, and several permissive paths, so there is a wealth of walking opportunities, both on low-lying ground, and on the relatively high chalk ground along Street Way.
A modest amount of walking literature exists, but some may be out of print.
Willows and Wildfowl – a 7 km walk through Wilbraham Fen, a leaflet publ. by Cambs.CC in 1995. The walk starts at Frog End, Lt Wilbraham, and takes the cross-field path towards Hawk Mill Farm buildings, along the drive to the farm, then along the footpath beside Little Wilbraham River. Approaching the A1303 near Quy Roundabout, it does not leave the fen, but turns right over a bridge on a permissive path, to another bridge giving access to the byway, Long Drove Way, which leads back to Frog End. Parking is easier in the layby on the A1303 than in Lt Wilbraham.
A lake once occupied Lt Wilbraham Fen, water escaping N over a gravel-tipped ridge at Quy water bridges, and into the Cam. As the water level fell, peat formed, but a marshy pool remained until the early C19th. Peat level was higher before successful artificial drainage in the C18th & C19th.
Of interest are Hawk Windmill, TL 535 583 used until 1936, but now residential, with just a squat, tarred tower with a cap and Hawk Mill Farm, dating from 1279, and whose watermill provided the wheel for the Cambridge Museum of Technology.
I would not recommend this route in Winter, as the paths are liable to flood.
Another leaflet in a similar format, Local Walks – Fulbourn, Teversham & The Wilbrahams, publ. by the Cambridge Green Belt Project ca. 1995, simply provides a sketch map of paths in the locality.
A leaflet, The Fleam Dyke Footpath, publ. by The Cambridge Green Belt team, ca. 1995, gives an excellent description of the pre-history and natural history of the Dyke, but only suggests a linear walk along its length from Balsham to Fulbourn.
This Anglo-Saxon defensive barrier forms part of Gt Wilbraham’s parish boundary, and I would recommend the following walk, suitable for Winter. See also the magazine of the Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke for points of interest along the Dyke.
Park considerately near Temple End, Gt Wilbraham. (Wilbraham Temple was in the hands of the Knights Templar in the C13th. The oldest parts of the house surviving are C17th, built for Robert Huddlestone. What a pity we cannot see this interesting place from any path!). Walk through the village, passing the Axe & Compass PH, to Frog End, Gt.Wilbraham. (Note both Gt & Lt W have Frog Ends – confusing!). Take the footpath, crossing the railway towards the start of Fleam Dyke. Go along the Dyke, passing Mutlow Hill tumulus, and cross the bridge over the A11. On the other side, take the path beside the road, passing the continuation of Fleam Dyke. Continue on this path, behind a hedge, to come to a cut-off road, now a bridleway. Pass West Wratting Valley Farm, and on reaching the active chalk pit, turn left along the road. Cross the road-bridge over the A11, and continue down the road-verge to Gt Wilbraham Chalk Pit Reserve. This area of trees & grass has a seat looking out over fields at the rear. Continue down the quiet road towards Gt Wilbraham. (8 miles)
A new path in Bottisham parish makes possible a circular walk from the Wilbrahams. Park considerately near Church End, Gt Wilbraham. Walk to Little Wilbraham Church on the roadside footway. Walk up the drive of the C14th church. Outside the porch may be seen the base of an old cross. The church contains a brass dated 1521, and the font is 500y old. Pass beside the church and into a wooded pit. A narrow path goes forward, and climbs steps onto a grassy area with trees and a seat. Exit over a stile. Turn left on Little Wilbraham Road, and left again into Primrose Farm Road. Go along a footpath fenced at first behind the “Hole in the Wall” PH . This passes behind the rec., and continues across arable to Frog End. Take the signed path NNW behind the barn, cross Little Wilbraham Rd., continue across a field to TL543596, where turn right along a field boundary. Gain the road just before the bridge over the A14. Go forward to the A1303, cross, and turn left on the footway. After 300m take the footpath to Bottisham, emerging near the church. Go through the churchyard, and take a path and estate roads to Beechwood Ave., then a signed path across fields to the Swaffham Bulbeck Rd, near Stone Bridge. Walk to Park End, and take the footpath ESE from the farmyard. Continue to TL567613, where turn right on a new bridleway by a hedge. Follow this back to the A1303. Turn right, to cross the road, and pass the scrap yard to join the byway called Heath Road. This crosses the A14 on the bridge – regrettably, there is usually rubbish dumped here. (Do report this, if present, to the District Council). Continue to a cross-roads of tracks at TL573587, and turn right along Street Way. Cross the Six Mile Bottom Road, and continue along Street Way back to Temple End, and Church End, Gt Wilbraham.(9 miles)
Probably the “classic” walk in the area is that between Fulbourn & The Wilbrahams. The start is usually in Stonebridge Lane, Fulbourn, but for present purposes, begin at Church End, Gt. Wilbraham. Walk up the road footway to Lt Wilbraham, and take the footpath down the driveway past Hawk Windmill, and continue past Hawk Mill Farm on a earth farm track, soon between arable fields. At TL531580, old signs, “Footpath” point both ways along the path, by a hedge. At TL531576, a stile accesses Gt Wilbraham Common (worth a visit), but continue across the field to Coles Bridge. Turn right on the Wilbraham Road (care) , and take a signed route across an arable field to the rear of some grain silos. A path runs between fences to emerge near the Fulbourn railway crossing. Walk towards the village, either turning off on a permissive path towards the nature reserve (well-waymarked), or continue to the village almshouses, to take the bridleway (left) leading to the reserve. Either way, reach Stonebridge Lane, Fulbourn. Follow the lane round, past the end of Fleam Dyke, then take the path across fields to join the Drove Way, which crosses the railway, and comes to London Road. Turn left into Gt Wilbraham. (6 miles)
Little Wilbraham may be a small village, but the parish extends a long way, including part of Six Mile Bottom. The hamlet here did not exist until the coming of the railway in 1848. when some cottages were built. Lord Byron wrote “The Corsair” here. There is an interesting path alongside the railway, which may be connected with the Street Way complex. Other paths extend E towards Weston Colville.
Do investigate the inner-village paths of Great Wilbraham. Toft Lane, from Frog End, is a site of early settlement. There is a vast prehistoric, Roman, Saxon and medieval history in the Wilbrahams, too detailed to relate here.
And what’s a Wapentake?
In November’s Cantab Rambler, we traced the history of Balsham, and related the devastating effect of the Danish invasion. This issue considers briefly the derivation of terms used in old land measurements, old names on a map, and features in the landscape.
In 1086, the Domesday Survey, essentially a means of tax assessment, was taking place in Balsham and all over England. We are fortunate as The Domesday Book for Cambridgeshire is supplemented by two additional records, the Inquisito Comitatus Cantabrigiensis & the Inquisito Eliensis.Thus knowledge of the land distribution (hideage) of Cambridgeshire in the C11th is more precise & detailed than for any other county.
Two centuries had passed since the Danes occupied Cambridge in 877, and slaughtered the inhabitants of Balsham. Over the years, the Danes settled, and introduced a taxation unit called the ploughland (that which could be ploughed in a season by a team of 8 oxen). There were nominally 120 acres to each ploughland. An intermediate unit of local government was created, a subdivision of the Danish army settlement area called the Wapentake. This was a territory with fixed boundaries, overseen by regular open-air assemblies of army settlers. Danish Cambridgeshire comprised 1600 to 2000 ploughlands, administered by 16 Wapentakes. Forty years after the Danish invasion, Cambridgeshire came under the domination of the English King Edward the Elder. The old Anglo-Saxon term hide (first used in the C7th) was reintroduced. The Wapentakes were retained, but, in their simplest form, assessed at 100 hides (a Hundred). From the mid- C10th to after the Norman Conquest there were about 1200 hides in Cambridgeshire. In Balsham, in the Radfield Hundred, tenants Ely Abbey and Count Alan between them held 10 hides. Within each Hundred, individual named parishes originally derived from ecclesiastical units, based on ancient churches with their own graveyards. Tenth century tithes (religious taxes) speeded the definition of hard demarkation between church territories. With the passing of centuries, church parishes and civil parishes often ceased to share the same bounds. But traces of former boundaries often persist based on ancient usage.
In Balsham, the Northern parish boundary is along Fleam Dyke, the Dark Ages defensive earthwork, which, further along its length, also forms part of the parish boundary of Great Wilbraham with Fulbourn. The tumulus, Mutlow Hill, (on the Dyke, just west of the crossing with the A11) is the meeting place of 4 parishes (Fulbourn, Great Wilbraham, West Wratting, and Balsham) and, in Saxon & medieval times, 3 Hundreds (Staine, Radfield and Flendish). To the South, Balsham’s parish boundary runs along the centre of the Roman Via Devana (Wool Street). Parish boundaries often follow physical features e.g. a stream or ditch or perhaps a double hedge.
Before the mapping of the six-inch OS sheets, parish boundaries were passed down by word of mouth, and by ritual “beating the bounds” carried out at Rogationtide, (between the 5th Sunday after Easter and Ascension Day). A procession of local officials and the populace paraded the parish limits, typically “beating” the young lads at particular points, presumably as an aid to recollection.
Nowadays the fields are ploughed with diesel, not bullocks; our council tax is extracted fairly painlessly by direct debit on the basis of property holdings; and Explorer Sheet 209 is all that is necessary to tell us the boundaries of a parish. But a good walk in the countryside will present us with many clues to previous land use and occupation.
Suggested Further reading
The Hidation of Cambridgeshire by Cyril Hart, Publ. Leicester University Press, 1974.
ISBN 0 7185 2030 0
Discovering Parish Boundaries by Angus Winchester, Shire Publications Ltd., 1990,
ISBN 0 7478 0060 X
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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
Issue 28; Price 10 pence where sold
© Janet Moreton, 2005