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CANTAB89 – August 2017

CANTAB89 – August 2017 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


This issue, our “Parish of the Month” lies outside Cambridgeshire, although Ashwell is only just over the county border into Hertfordshire. A glance at Cambridge Group programme confirms that members regularly go further afield, so I hope the enclosed is of interest.
Janet Moreton

Steeple Morden Footpath7
Cantab March 2017 contained an appeal to readers for funds to cover the County Council’s external costs in publishing a Diversion Order for parts of Steeple Morden Footpath 7 and Footpath 14.

Readers will be pleased to learn that over £500 was raised. Contributors included the landowner and tenant farmer, Ramblers’ Cambridge Group Committee and donations made in Steeple Morden post office, and by cheque to the local organiser, Sue Norton. Grateful thanks are sent to all who were involved. It is hoped that the Order will be made this year, and already the County Council has sent out a formal consultation (the first stage in the process) to interested parties.

The situation was an unusual one. The emergence of Footpath 7 on Brook End had been signed by the County Council many years ago, in the “wrong” place, along the field edge path in regular use. The definitive line of the right of way crossed an arable field, reaching the Brook End verge over an unbridged ditch. When the County Council proposed to move the signpost and put in a bridge, local people and ramblers demurred. After negotiations, a solution has been found which is agreeable to all parties.

Early Mass Trespass?
I felt oddly moved, on reading this description of Cambridge local people asserting their access rights on 10 July 1549. The quotation is taken from “The Town of Cambridge” by A Gray, publ. Heffer & Sons, 1925.

“On this day, ‘a hundred persons or more’ met together with drums and proceeded to pull down the fences of an enclosure at Barnwell. Wool had become an important and lucrative export and there was not enough common pasture in Cambridge to accommodate the sheep needed. Landlords began to enclose open arable land for use as pasture, thus depriving many workers of their livelihood, at the same time changing the agricultural and social models of the Middle Ages. The Mayor and the Vice-Chancellor were united in their desire to prevent ‘further mischief”and with difficulty managed to pacify the rioters. A general pardon was later obtained for the offenders, and the Duke of Somerset wrote to the Cambridge authorities recommending gentle dealing, in order that ‘the difference may be tried betwixt the ignorant and the learned, the rude and the taught’. This was in many ways a victory for the workers: they were able to preserve green open spaces in Cambridge for the use of every one in town, not for private profit, and we owe them a debt for ‘restoring common to the commons’.”

Trumpington History Trails
Trumpington Residents’ Association and the Local History Group have, with the aid of Cambridge City Council, recently developed 10 walking and cycling trails around Trumpington and the surrounding area. Printed copies are available free of charge from The Clay Farm Centre and Trumpington Pavilion.

The walks all start from The Green by the shops on Anstey Way, and vary in length from about 1 to 7 miles. Each leaflet is attractively produced, with a wealth of scholarly historic information, a strip map, and route description. No parking suggestions are made, but there is inexpensive parking at the Park and Ride carpark, or gratis at Byrons Pool.

In addition to the walks, each leaflet has 4 panels of relevant information. So the first leaflet covers the Historic Centre of Trumpington, with information panels on: early development of the village; the village after 1800; Cross Hill and War memorial; and The Parish Church.

Other trails lead one into Cambridge (No2), harking back to the turnpike era, and Thomas Hobson, the C17th Cambridge carrier. No3 deals with changes on the S side of Trumpington since the C19th, and the busway cutting on the line of the former Bedford railway. Nos 4 & 5 take one east of the village centre and onto the Clay Farm site, introducing Hobson Square and Hobson Park, then over to Hobson’s Brook and Nine Wells. No 6 gives us the now more familiar routes round Byrons Pool and Trumpington Country Park. No 7, the longest circuit, goes to Hauxton and the Shelfords and No. 8 follows the railway line path to Great Shelford. No.9 goes to Grantchester. The route of No10 includes Addenbrookes’ Art Gallery!

Some of these routes are largely on tarmac, and would be more attractive in Winter when footpaths can be so muddy, or perhaps more suitable for a cyclist. But there is a wealth of information here, and the authors are much to be congratulated.

Icknield Way Association AGM
The Spring issue of the IWA newsletter announces the 2017 AGM at The Pavilion, Ashley near Newmarket, CB8 9DX at 2pm. The guest speaker will be David Rippington, on the history of The Icknield Way.

There will be a morning walk, starting from the hall at 10am. For details, contact Sue Prigg,
tel. 01638 751289

Parish of the Month – Ashwell
OS Explorer Sheets 193, 208

The OS Sheets are inconvenient – a street plan of the village would be helpful, or obtain Ashwell parish’s helpful leaflet from some village shops. There can be few ramblers living in the Cambridge area who have not visited Ashwell, and, in particular, spent time in the dominant and beautiful church. But there are many other well preserved buildings in the village of historic interest. In fact, for the less able, this is a good place to walk perhaps a two miles or less with great enjoyment.

Park considerately in the lanes near the church (but not on a Sunday) or on Lucas Lane opposite the recreation ground (where public toilets are usually open). There are currently several shops, at least 2 pubs in the village, and a café, and teas are available on Summer Sunday afternoons in The Parish Room next to the museum on Swan Street.

History and Points of Interest
The village name comes from The Springs, found in a large railed enclosure off High Street. The three path entrances, stepping stones and attractive setting make it a must for active visitors. The Springs are designated an SSSI, mainly because of the presence of a rare Ice Age flat worm, Crenobia alpina. The spring is the source of the main tributary of the River Cam, the River Rhee. Ashwell in ancient times may have been important on the route of The Icknield Way, whose modern trail proceeds through the back of the village along Ashwell Street. The prehistoric Icknield Way route could have been defended by the Iron Age hill fort Arbury Banks, shown on the map just beyond Ashwell.

Post Norman invasion, records report a regular market and four fairs yearly. The Domesday Book records that “The Abbot of St Peters holds Escewell in Odsey Hundredth”. In 913, Saxon King Egbert had granted Ashwell to the Abbot of Westminster, remaining under his control until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. St Mary’s was begun early C14th, built mainly of clunch and probably incorporating materials from previous structures. The chancel was completed 1368. The tower, 176ft, is the highest in Hertfordshire. Famous graffiti refer to Old St Paul’s cathedral; to the ravages of The Black Death (1350); and to a severe storm (1361). The church is open daily and caters well for its visitors with informative leaflets.

Beyond the east end of the church is The Rectory, described in 1829 as the Mansion House. It is now half its original size, the Elizabethan part having been demolished in the 1920s. Beneath the present Georgian building are clunch foundations of the supposed residence of the old Abbot of Westminster. Further along Hodwell, near the lane to The Springs is a quaint old lock-up.

Numbers of ancient attractive buildings are found about the village. The Chantry House, at the West End, has been inhabited since 1400, and was recorded in 1547, as the home of John Smarte. In the C19th, it became a pub, called “The British Queen”.

Bear House on High St (presently under scaffolding), and Ducklake Farmhouse (on Spring Lane) are Ashwell’s oldest houses.. The moated Westbury Farm, Dixies Farmhouse, Kirby Manor and The Rose and Crown pub in the High St were all built with overhanging twin gables in the C15th. Ashwell Bury, visible from Gardiners Lane, was originally built in the C19th, but in the 1920s was redesigned by Sir Edward Lutyens.

Further afield, Bluegates Farm is a modernised C16th dwelling, once two cottages, with the remains of a moat. Briefly in the late C19th, this was a pub, catering for the coprolite diggers.

Ashwell Museum is an early Tudor town house, built for the Abbot of Westminster in the early C15th, for use as an office in the centre of the Market Place. In later times it became a licensed meeting place for Protestant dissenters. The building was modernised in the 1840s, but by 1929 had deteriorated and was condemned. It was bought by two local youths, who started a collection of bygones. The museum, now scheduled as an ancient monument, is open on Sunday afternoons. Also note a delightful public garden with seats very near the Museum.

Walk suggestions from Ashwell.
(a)Visiting Arbury Banks
From the church, walk generally W through the village to the junction of Hinxton Rd and Newnham Way. Turn S up Partridge Hill, a rough road between tall hedges. Look for a signed gap in the hedge on the right, for a field path leading to Arbory Banks. The monument is not impressive, but the views are good. Continue SW over Ash Hill, and at TL 255 380, turn right (NW) down a farm drive, passing buildings to reach the road, Newnham Way. Turn left along the road to TL 251 382, where take the bridleway NW, then at TL 246 386 turn right over Newnham Hill, to return to Ashwell. (4 miles); stile free. An extension may be made to visit Caldecote old church and the interesting old house at Hinxworth Place. (total distance 6 miles)

(b) A section of the Icknield Way
Hourly trains take one from Cambridge to Ashwell & Morden Station, in the hamlet of Odsey. Turn right (N) out of the and shortly turn left along Station Rd towards Ashwell. There is no footway. However, just before a residential caravan site, turn right on a byway on the line of Shire Balk. This leads to Ashwell Street, one of the routes of The Icknield Way. Turn left (W) along this pleasant byway, into the outskirts of Ashwell. Go through the village, either on the line of The Icknield Way, or along Lucas Lane & High Street. At the end of the village, follow the instructions as in (a) for the path up Partridge Hill. Follow the route of the Icknield Way Trail indicated on Sheet 193, meeting a road, which follow to beyond The Knoll, turning off right at spot height 61m. The IW route goes over Gravelpit Hill, and down into Baldock via the footway of North Rd and to Baldock Station. (8 miles). A longer, but more interesting alternative, pioneered by Lisa Woodburn on a recent Cambridge Group walk, takes a detour along part of Cat Ditch, and visits Park Wood, and the secluded hamlet of Bygrave, and makes the final approach to Baldock Station via the bridleway approaching Laymore Farm.

(c) Towards Guilden Morden
From the church, walk N up Mill St, noting the much-restored old watermill. Continue ahead on a signed path through pasture to meet Northfield Rd. Opposite is a sign indicating the field path NNE to the County boundary. (Ignore a permissive path along the county boundary ditch). Cross the ditch here, and continue in the same direction to the driveway of Cold Harbour Farm. The path reaches the road junction alongside the driveway (not as shown on older maps). For a short walk, take the wide grassy byway opposite, passing Rudery Spring, and turn right onto the IW path along the line of Ashwell St. (see walk (b) Return to Ashwell, 3.5 miles. Several longer routes may be attempted, beyond Cold Harbour’s driveway. A long field path runs North from the road at TL 279 416, leading to Guilden Morden, and thence to Steeple Morden. Both of these parishes have more than 50 numbered rights of way – for the strong and ingenious walker, the possibilities are endless. A convenient return route could be made from Morden Green, to Ashwell Street at Upper Gatley End. A minimum distance for such a circuit from Ashwell might be 8 miles.

(d) A short rural saunter
From the church, follow route (c) past the watermill to Northfield Rd. Here turn left on a permissive path inside the tree belt. Follow this path round the boundary of Elbrook House, to emerge on the side-road just before Bluegates Dairy. Continue to the T-junction, and turn right, away from the village. Pass a seat, and turn left at TL 261 400 on a well-waymarked path leading to a byway at TL 257 397. Follow this shady lane N to TL 256 400, and take the signed route right (W) across a field, to return further up the lane you left 30 minutes ago! Turn right, generally SE, and take lanes back to the village, with the massive tower of the church as a guide. Pass or pause at the Bushel and Strike! (2.5 miles) This route is stile-free.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now appears some four times a year. A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail.

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
Cantab89 © Janet Moreton, 2017.

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