** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
This month’s issue spans Essex, Herts, as well as Cambs, in sympathy with the long-distance itch which affects ramblers in the Spring. But for those who want a quiet local walk, what about neglected Landbeach, which I was inspired to revisit by a friend, Janet Pake, or the new university woodland at Madingley?
Obituary – Ken Payne
Ken died on 6 March 2011, aged 92. He had been active in voluntary footpath work in Hertfordshire until very recently – indeed, I was in correspondence with him over a path claim on the Icknield Way just a few months ago. For many years, Ken was the Ramblers’ Association Footpath Secretary for Herts & North Middlesex , and later was elected Honorary President of the Area. I knew him best as a committee member of the Icknield Way Association. All East Anglian walkers have cause to be grateful for Ken’s work, over a very long period. He was a gentle man in all senses of the word, and his careful work and persistence opened many paths.
Any donations in Ken’s memory should be made payable to Friends of the Earth, via Austin’s Funeral Directors http://www.austins.co.uk/.
Along the Hertfordshire Way by Dave Harrison Having come across a new edition of the guidebook in a local bookshop, I was inspired to offer the stages for the Cambridge RA Group programme over the last three Summers. Turnout varied from two to a dozen or so, with Lisa Woodburn being the only person to complete every stage.
A considerable research effort resulted in public transport being used in every case, with local taxis supplementing trains only on rare occasions.
The pattern of walks was soon established, around 10 – 13 miles in level or gently rolling countryside, mostly out of sight or earshot of major roads, and with plenty of woods, rivers, wheat fields and churches.
Highlights: The Royse Stone at the beginning and end of The Way; Childwick Green once used in an episode of “The Avengers”; St Albans Cathedral; The Bridgewater Monument (great views from the top); the Grand Union Canal; a cricket ground laid out by W.G.Grace; Bayford Wood; Parliament Square, Hertford; a coalpost in Wormley Wood; the New River; the Lee Valley; Woodhall Park; Much Hadham Church; Henry Moore sculptures; the River Stort; US Air Force memorabilia at Nuthampstead; and St George’s Church, Anstey.
For more information and photographs, visit the Cambridge RA website at www.cambridgeramblers.org/photographs-from-walks/
Dave and Alison have recently moved to Cumbria, where we wish them a very happy retirement, and thank them for many years of leading the Cambridge RA Group.
Bill Bryson, currently the president of CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) but perhaps better known for his charismatic books eg “A Walk in the Woods” was reported in the Cambridge News of 17 February.
He was concerned specifically about litter on the railway tracks near Cambridge Station. CPRE are seeking a Litter Abatement Order against Network Rail. He had written to Cambridge City Council and to Network Rail in 2005, but Network Rail never responded. With the possible (relatively) imminent completion of the Guided Busway, walkers on the adjacent new bridleway near Cambridge station will be more aware of the rubbish and flying paper. We can do our bit by complaining too!
Parish of the Month – Landbeach
J R Ravensdale, in his book, “Liable to Floods” wrote the story of the development of Landbeach, a continuing tale of struggles against flooding. Landbeach parish lies between 5 and 10m above sea-level, and in historic times building was on land above the 6m contour, which surrounds ground seemingly safe from the great floods of history. The safe margin between fen and higher land has shifted backwards and forwards in documented times due to sea-level changes, climate variations, and persistence, success, or failure of fen drainage within the technology of a particular century.
The Romans settled quite densely on gravelly areas close to the fen edge, above the level of flooding (2m) at that period. Alison Taylor’s “Archaeology of Cambridgeshire” shows the Roman settlement in fields between Green End and Cottenham Road, not far from the line of the Roman Akeman Street, constructed in the C2nd. Akeman Street has since been used as a parish boundary, and the section South from Cockfen Lane remains first a public road, then continuing as a restricted public byway towards Milton. North of Cockfen Lane, where exposed in arable soil, Akeman Street is said to show as a straight slight bank of gravel, but sadly, this section has no access. The Romans dug Car Dyke in the C2nd, for drainage and water transport, and part of this in the parish is still used as a drain and kept scoured.
There is evidence of some three periods of rising water tables in post-Roman through medieval times, although contemporary commentaries are confusing, being biased by expected normal seasonal flooding, even within houses, rather like parts of present-day Bangladesh.
Until the thirteenth century, when Beach Lode was dug & used as the boundary, the parish was part of Waterbeach. In the early C14th, periods of wetter weather led to flooding, and banks and ditches were constructed across the north end of the village. Also at the north end a green was created the the C15th, when a plot fell vacant. Expansion towards higher ground nearer to Cambridge was encouraged by early clearances, the land being too wet in other directions.
The fens in the north were marshy until they were drained in the C17 – C18th, and were used for common pasture. Parts of the centre of the parish, flooding less often, were used for sheepwalks, only the south of the parish having land suitable for arable. Cole, a landowner in the adjacent parish, recorded famously in 1769: “Not being a water-rat, I left Waterbeach”, after his estate was drowned 3 times in 5 years. In 1813, an Enclosure Award enclosed the Landbeach’s open fields.
As in most villages, the parish church, C13th – 15th, with a fine Midland stone spire, is the most considerable building to survive from medieval times. It is rich in medieval woodwork and has a splendid collection of stained glass windows. The medieval pulpit was brought here from Jesus College in 1787. Two misericords bear the arms of C14th bishops.
Near the church is the tythe barn, a thatched late medieval building preserved by The Village Society. Close to the church is the remains of Chamberlains, one of two empty moated manor-house sites, and an extensive set of ditches and flood banks which survive from the Middle Ages. The moated site is still a defined feature with adjoining ditched paddocks in a pasture field at the north end of High Street. In C14th, the manor was acquired by Corpus Christi and the old site went out of use.
Much of the rectory, now the oldest building in the village, is medieval & early Tudor behind a pleasant brick exterior. Its C14th cellar has a carved coat of arms. The present house was originally an aisled hall, converted into a rectory in the early C16th, with a farmhouse added. This house was used by Matthew Parker, Master of Corpus Christi, and later Elizabeth I’s Archbishop of Canterbury.
The second Manor, Bray’s, stood within the original village, surrounded by a moat, in a field in the centre of the village, now part of an extensive public park and nature reserve in the hands of the County Council, and with informative display boards. Access is via a kissing gate off Cockfen Lane, opposite the public car park and recreation ground. Bray’s estate was given to two king’s carpenters after 1066, and was held by the de Brays until the C14th. In the C16th, Robert Kirby inherited. His son, Richard, illegally enclosed land, overstocked sheepwalks, and evicted 14 crofts. Matthew Parker defended the villagers’ case in successive courts up to the Star Chamber.
South of the village were the docks where boats approaching along Beach Lode could unload. These docks appear as broad shallow hollows in pasture, a little way from the cross-roads along Flood Lane. North of the parish, near the former Goose Hall (now a private emparked group of offices off the A10) are a couple of old byways near Car Dyke, where path diversions and a permissive link allow a short circuit, off the minor road at TL 479 665. An area of lakes between here and Beach Ditch is enclosed as a nature reserve, with limited access and a display board. Sadly, there appears to be no access here to Beach Ditch.
References The historical summary has been compiled from various sources, of which the most important are: Ravensdale, J.R. Liable to Floods, CUP 1974, ISBN 0 521 20285x Taylor, A. Archaeology of Cambridgeshire Vol.2: SE Cambridgeshire & the Fen Edge Cambs C.C. 1998, ISBN 1 870724 84 4
Where to walk in Landbeach?
In the 1950s, when parish councils were asked to record public rights of way in their parishes, the local councillors seem to have come up with very few public paths.
However, a stroll around the village, inspecting the buildings and visible earthworks described in the preceding paragraphs is recommended. Easiest parking is in the free public carpark off Cockfen Lane, by the recreation ground, and opposite the County Council’s park on the site of the former village and Bray’s manor.
Paths in the North of the parish Footpath 1 and Bridleway 2 to the north of the parish, can be accessed off Green End Road. Walk here from Cockfen Road, first going over the recreation ground, as there is little parking at the access point, TL 479 665. A pleasant short circuit may be made, giving views of a section of Car Dyke, and of a small fenced watery nature reserve.
As described in the historical summary, Akeman Street survives in part as a useful byway to Milton, and beyond to the outskirts of Cambridge, where one can join the bridleway adjacent to the Guided Bus route. Surface improvements and a traffic restriction order (TRO) have made this a pleasant walk at most times of year.
Circular route, 4 miles.
A permitted footpath giving a circular route from Akeman Street, and having a short branch to the Cottenham Road, has been established on farm land owned by Cambs. County Council, and with Countryside Commission (now DEFRA) logo. The route was originally well-waymarked, but some posts and arrows have disappeared, and stiles & low fences are in decay – there are however, no problems in use. The following route summary may help you to mark the route on your map, or use with a GPS.
At TL 4658 6387, the path leaves Akeman Street & runs WNW along a fieldedge. At a crossing hedge, TL 4639 6398, the path turns right (N), with ditch & hedge to right. After 50m it turns left, following the ditch, and at TL 4640 6404, it crosses the ditch on a wooden bridge Entering young mixed wood no 1, it meanders NNW , & leaves this wood at TL 4633 6418, to continue WNW on a grass fieldedge by a hedge. Hedge & path turn right at TL 4624 6425 to go NNE for 70m, then enters wood no 2 at TL 4626 6432. Turning half-left, the mown grass track runs NW between trees to a stile at TL 4609 6449. Just beyond, it crosses a ditch by a wide, hidden culvert, and goes into wood no 3. The mown path runs NNW between more young trees to exit over a stile. The route turns right & left on a grass headland, with tall hedge to left After 30m, at TL 4598 6464, it crosses a ditch on a footbridge Here, the path turns left (unclear) into a field corner, then right (NW) on a grass headland with ditch & tall old hedge to left and open arable to right. The path goes round 2 corners, to pass a power-pole, & under a low-voltage power line , waymarked at TL 4578 6486. It enters a wood no. 4 to run NE on a mown grass. Beyond a gravel track at TL 4600 6495, the route enters wood no. 5, to continue NE.. After 100m, the mown line turns half-right (E) to make for the boundary fence and a stile.
A waymark indicates a sharp left turn on a mown track WNW following the fence ca. 200m back to another stile out of wood 5 at TL 4596 6530, where a ditch in a hedge-gap is crossed on a timber bridge The path turns right (N) on a concrete/gravel track. At TL 4609 6572, there is a concrete loading bay, and a waymark post indicating the route back, and also left (to Cottenham), but not right, where the circuit returns to Landbeach. (A waymark 50m down the Cottenham path, however, indicates the route to Landbeach).
For LANDBEACH, the path turns right (SE) along a gravel track. It passes under power lines to approach Rectory Farm, turning left (indicated by a waymark) over the ditch on a hidden culvert just short of the farm at TL 4650 6538, to run ESE on an headland parallel to the farm-track, but on the other side of the hedge. At the field corner, TL 4660 6535, the path turns left (NNE) on a headland with drain to right. At TL 4673 6560, by a waymarked power pole, the path turns right (ESE) over a culvert to continue on a grass headland with arable to left & ditch to right, following a line of power-poles. It passes through a gap in a tall crossing hedge at TL 4727 6535 and turns right (S), with hedge on right, & trees to left, in an overhung defile to reach the tarmac section of Akeman Street at its junction with Cockfen Lane, TL 4722 6520, where there are further signs.
For COTTENHAM (from the concrete loading area at TL 4609 6572), the route turns left (NW) on a gravel track for 50m, turning right at TL 4606 6578 over a drain on a wooden bridge The path runs NE on a grass field-edge with drain& hedge to left. At the end of the drain it turns left (NW) by a waymark post, TL 4630 6595, on a rough path with hedge to left and arable to right. It crosses a drain at TL 4618 6611 by a hidden culvert, and continues NW on rough grass, with hedge to left. At TL 4607 6625 it meets the Beach Ditch. In absence of a bridge to Hay Lane opposite, it is necessary to turn right along a 2m wide long grass headland, with Beach Ditch left, arable to right. At TL 4626 6638, a grassy track joins from right, and is followed to Cottenham Road at TL 4637 6647, where it is possible to squeeze round the end of a locked metal barrier.
Watery Olympics in Essex
Essex Area Update of April 2011 reports on the development of the White Water Centre in Lea Valley Country Park. Essex is hosting the canoeing and kayaking events for the 2012 Olympics. The high-tech arrangement causes water to rush down and around barrages and competitors, but when they reach the end of the course, they merely have to sit in their boats to be taken back to the start by a sort of escalator. This, the first Olympic site to be completed, will be open to the public from 22 April 2011. It is possible to tour the site, and include it in your day’s walk absolutely free.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s rights of way funding is cut by £50 000 from April. This amounts to roughly 25%.
Cantab 62, May 2011
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