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CANTAB41 April 2007

CANTAB41 April 2007 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Parts of this issue of Cantab Rambler are going to look rather negative, as I am passing on various reports of paths presently closed, or unavailable.  But it is surely better to find this out here, than to be half-way along a river bank, and find a path blocked or a bridge missing.

So good luck with the Spring walking, and do pass on reports of paths blocked, or temporarily closed.

Janet Moreton

Paths currently unavailable

Braham Dock
We are disturbed to note that the crossing of Braham Dock on the Fen Rivers Way at TL 540 774 on the west side of the River Great Ouse is still closed.  Construction  of a new bridge has now been rescheduled to start at the end of March, and diversion notices are posted.  Cambridge Group recently walked the stretch to Ely on the east side of the river, where there were no problems.

Five Fools Meadow, Shepreth
Permissive access is still allowed on Cambs.C.C. land at Shepreth, with a small car park at TL 384 492 but the continuing permissive path on private land through to Malton Road, Meldreth is now closed.  This is thought to be due to concern over falling trees and insurance implications.

Wendens Ambo’s pylon Repairs
Through the Winter, we have received complaints from time to time regarding unexpected closures of paths without warning in the Linton locality.  There is a major refurbishment programme underway on the whole cross-country line going north from Brent Pelham.  The whole programme is scheduled to take 2 years, but is now at least half-way through.

The latest reports have been from Wendens Ambo, near Audley End house, Essex. The popular Fp3, which leaves the B1383 at TL 519 369 to lead across the railway and towards Littlebury Green has a “Path Closed” notice. It is closed for 6 months “or earlier” from 12 March.

Sustaining the inner man!
On a happier note, here are recommendations for those who like their walking punctuated by a little liquid refreshment…

The King’s Head, Hadstock, Essex
David Elsom writes, “Happy to report that the Kings Head at Hadstock has reopened after six months and serving excellent home-made soup, granary bread, sandwiches etc. Log fires as ever. Another young couple making a brave attempt to revive the pub: gradually getting evening food going too”.

Abington Pottery & Craft Shop
High Street, Lt Abington, S.Cambs.
One of my own favourites is the tea-shop associated with this business, where handmade stoneware pottery is produced on the premises. The house is a medieval open hall house, restored in 1964. Browse amongst the pottery & craft exhibits after enjoying tea, coffee & home-made cakes.

Poppies Bistro, Soham, E.Cambs
We newly discovered this charming café, opposite St Andrew’s church, after a Cambridge RA Group walk on the Soham Millennium waymarked walks. Whilst serving excellent traditional British tea and cakes and morning coffee, lunches and evening meals with a Portuguese slant are also available.

By David Elsom

After about ten years work, this path was opened by Thames Water in 2003. It follows the New River, built in 1613 by a group of  “adventurers” led by Sir Hugh Myddleton, to carry fresh water for about 30 miles from the springs and rivers in the Hertford/Ware area into the City of London. Even today 10% of London’s water supply is delivered by this route.

The Path starts from Hertford, and is essentially rural until reaching Enfield, but even then often forms a green finger through the North London suburbs. On reaching Canonbury and Islington the line of the New River is preserved through a series of narrow public parks, until reaching New River Head, off Myddleton  Square and close to Saddlers Wells.

Some Cambridge RA Group Saturday walkers recently completed the walk in three stages, using the two distinct railway lines serving Hertford:

1. Hertford East railway station to Cheshunt railway station, which is about 12/13 miles, lunching at Broxbourne, in the park set up by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority

2. Cheshunt railway station to Bowes Park railway station [near Alexandra Palace]. For this stage we parked at Hertford North railway station, walked to Hertford East to catch a train to Cheshunt, and then caught the train back to Hertford North. Lunch was enjoyed at Forty Hall, a magnificent house at the centre of a London Borough of Enfield country park. Plenty of pubs in Enfield Town, as we discovered. Old Enfield was a revelation to us all. Another 12/13 miles

3. Bowes Park railway station into the City of London, returning from Kings Cross to Hertford North, where we had parked to travel down to Bowes Park. Lunch was taken in Clissold Park, where there are good facilities and pleasant gardens. Only 8/9 miles

It is not very complicated to do this walk, and by doing it on a Saturday or Sunday, parking at the Hertford stations is plentiful and cheap [£1 all day].

Thames Water produce a good booklet “The New River Path” ***, which is essential [though the street map of Cheshunt area is wrong – ring David 01223 842074 for illumination]; OS Explorer 174 Epping Forest and Lee Valley covers all but the last two miles of the walk; and in general the signage is good.

*** ring Thames Water 0845 9200 800 to obtain your copy of the free booklet

For a surprising and different walk, do give it a go!

Parish of the Month – Conington,
South Cambridgeshire
Don’t confuse this little parish in South Cambridgeshire, with the other parish of the same name in Huntingdonshire!  This parish traditionally looked north to Fen Drayton for its shared vicar, and the good folk of Fen Drayton ambled south down a footpath of an evening, crossed the main road (Via Devana or Wool Street, later the A604, and now the A14) to reach Conington’s White Swan pub. Regular foot-traffic across this road has long since ceased – we last crossed nervously on a Sunday morning some 10 years ago or more – and Conington now looks to neighbouring Fenstanton for its shops, buses, and connections with the outside world.

There were never many folk living in Conington.* The population was recorded as 24 in the Domesday survey; 182 in the census of 1801; and 150 in 1996. Its only public building, the church  (usually kept locked) is partly rebuilt, with huge brick buttresses, but still boasts a C14th spire, which contains 3 medieval bells. The parish is low-lying  (ca 15m, rising to some 30m towards the Boxworth parish boundary).

Some archaeological excavations were made in the 1990s before a pit was filled with waste adjacent to the A14. After the Romans, who left evidence of coins, and a Roman Milestone on the main road, came the Saxons, a C10th lord being named Aefhelm Polga.  The Saxon village may have been to the south of the church.

There are said to be “irregular low banks still just visible in a ploughed field bounded by 3 hollow ways and the present School Lane”.  Perhaps one needs to visit of a Summer evening, in a low sun?  With the centuries, the village (never large) moved north & east along Town Street. The hall was built in the C17th. Later the village extended along Town Street. An extension of the Park in the C19th led to the demolition of old closes in the Hall grounds, leaving visible earthworks. The houses were originally replaced by “model cottages” on the other side of the road, but these, in turn, were replaced in the 1970s.

In the late C18th, the Hall, owned by the Cotton family, was let with stables, fish- ponds, gardens, etc, a very des.res. In 1818, trespassers were warned publicly that “Man-traps, Spring Ginns and Dog Traps are actually set in the rookeries and all the plantations about the premises at Conington”.

Nowadays you will find a friendly welcome at The Swan Inn, and no traps on the 4 local paths.

Fp 1 leaves the Fenstanton Road, signed at TL 322669, to run N over an arable field to a stile. The path crosses a small grass field to a second stile, and then joins the continuing Fenstanton Fp14. (This path reaches the flyover for the A14, and is the best route on foot into Fenstanton).

Along a minor road leading from the cross-roads by the White Swan, is an optimistic sign, “Public Footpath Fen Drayton 1¼”.  This indicates Fp2 going NE on a 1m wide rough grass headland beside a ditch in an arable field. The path runs to a signpost and bridge over the roadside ditch beside the A14, where the path is effectively dead-ended.  There are signs of folk having used this path – presumably a “there and back” for local dogwalkers.  There is presently a campaign within the village to obtain a crossing here, when the A14 is widened. If you can help, contact Cllr N Wright, (S.Cambs.District Councillor).

Fp 3, however, gives an excellent through route from School Lane, at TL 321661, where it starts from a signpost, along a hedged lane.  Soon the path emerges, to run along an attractive grassy track by a stream between fields.  It crosses a couple of bridges over side-ditches, and continues as Elsworth Fp9, skirting below a reservoir, and passing through pasture before entering Elsworth.

A  sign, “Public Bridleway Boxworth 2” on Elsworth Road at TL 325662, indicates Bp 4 entering pastures. The route runs ESE crossing a stream on a timber bridge at the end of the first field. After a second grass field, a metal farm-gate & a wide culvert over a side-ditch at TL 330658, lead out of the pasture and onto a  grass field-edge path. This path continues, with turns, to cross the  parish boundary at TL 336654, continuing as Boxworth Bp 1.

As well as the above rights of way, there is an important permissive path, going to Hilton along a farm track. It is signed “Footpath” on the Fenstanton Road at TL 316673.

Walks around Conington
Although it is possible to park a few cars considerately around the village, ramblers may prefer to park in adjacent villages, and walk to Conington, to use the pub, or sit on the patch of grass by the pond adjacent to the church for a picnic.  The following circuits are “tried and tested” routes.

(A) Elsworth (park beside the rec in Broad End) ; fp to Conington; detour to visit church; along High Street to the White Swan, left at junction along the road to Fenstanton. Turn off by the wooden sign on the left at TL 316673 to take the track to Hilton. Detour to visit Hilton’s huge village green, the maze, the church. Take the bridleway to Pitt Dene farm and Elsworth.  (approx. 7 miles)

(B) Elsworth; fp from behind church to Knapwell (detour to visit church and nature reserve); fp to Boxworth; bp to Conington; fp to Elsworth. (approx 7 miles)
Note it is equally convenient to start from Knapwell, where there is parking in the lane to the church. From Conington, include the Hilton extension to make 11 miles.

(C) For a linear route taking in Conington, try the following bus-based excursion.
Take a Whippet 1a or Hunts & District bus from Drummer Street, Cambridge to Fenstanton Clock Tower. Walk back through Fenstanton, and over the flyover, and take the signed path (through 3 fields, last one presently in oilseed, reinstatement promised) to Conington Road, and go to the cross roads by the White Swan. Take bp 4 to Boxworth, and continue to Lolworth, from whence a hard footpath crosses the fields to Bar Hill.  Turn left along the bridleway in the trees, and catch the bus from in front of Tesco Stores back to Cambridge.  (approx. 7 miles)

(D) Alternatively, take the same bus to Fenstanton Clock Tower, and walk to Conington. Continue to Elsworth and Knapwell, as in Walk (B). From Knapwell, take the footpath to Cold Harbour Farm, and the bridge over the A428 approaching Cambourne. Walk into Cambourne, making for Morrison’s. Citi4 buses leave from opposite the supermarket every 20 minutes for Cambridge.  (7 miles)

All of the above routes can be extended to give walks of up to 14 miles by including the villages of Lolworth, Childerley and Dry Drayton. Paths are generally in good order, but heavy in Winter on the boulder clay. By April, however, one would expect them to be drying out nicely.
*Historical notes are based partly on”Archaeology of Cambridgeshire”, Vol. 1 by Alison Taylor, Publ. Cambs.C.C. 1997

Quotation of the Month
from John Clare-the Helpston Poet, 1793-1864
“Swamps of wild rushbeds and sloughs squashy traces,
Grounds of rough fallows with thistles and weeds,
Flats of low valleys of kingcups and daisies,
Sweetest of subjects are ye for my reed;”…

(This is part of a poem published in “Rambles with John Clare”, by Daniel Crowson, Publ. by C.E.Cutforth, Helpston, 1978, and now, sadly, believed to be out of print).

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, 20p 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 20p 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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Cantab 41  © Janet Moreton, 2007

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