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CANTAB79 December 2014

CANTAB79 December 2014 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Manifesto for Open Spaces
The Open Spaces Society (OSS), in its Summer 2014 magazine defines its policies in advance of the next General Election in Spring 2015. It is suggested that committed walkers and lovers of green spaces have ready a number of questions to put to their MPs and Candidates, and to be prepared to press them to promote the Open Space’s Action Plan.

The Plan seems full of good ideas (or ideals!) some of which are noted below.

Public Paths
The OSS considers that routes in regular use should be exempt from the 2026 deadline for claiming new public paths, with a commitment to lift this deadline should the new procedures in the Deregulation Bill not prove effective in accelerating and simplifying claims.  Highway Authorities must have sufficient funding to carry out their statutory duties with respect to public paths. Grants to landowners should be conditional on all public rights of way on their land being unobstructed.

Space close to homes
Every citizen should have access to good quality open space within 5 minutes walk of home. To this end, there should be clearly defined criteria designating open spaces, e.g. in local plans. There should be a requirement to provide suitable alternative land before a public open space is taken for another purpose. There should be incentives for developers to provide areas of public open space through the planning system, and support for communities to acquire land for public open space.

Village Greens
Where an application has been submitted for a town green or village green, the land should be protected from development until the application has been determined.

Common Land
County & Unitary Authorities should have a duty to take action against unlawful works on Common Land. And the whole of Part 1 of The Commons Act, 2006 should be implemented in England, so that registers are finally correct after 50years. The OSS would like to see a 20mph speed limit on unfenced roads passing commons.

New Public Footpath at Coton
See Explorer Sheet 208

A public path creation agreement has been signed between Cambridge Past, Present and Future ( PPF formerly the Cambridge Preservation Society), and Cambridgeshire County Council.  The Order has been made under the Highways Act 1980 section 25 creating Public Footpath No.10 in Coton, Cambs.

The path has been made possible by the construction of a new footbridge over The Bin Brook, using £36 000 raised by PPF. with generous assistance from various grant-giving bodies. The footbridge was opened with acclaim last June, by Mrs Beryl Smart, rambler, long-time Coton resident, and a dedicated volunteer in the County Council’s Parish Paths Partnership scheme.

Some notes on locating the path might be helpful. From Coton Church, turn along Whitwell Way, passing the school on the right, and a couple of cul de sacs on the left. Turn left down St Peter’s Road, to reach Brookfield Road at a T-junction. Here, turn left, and Fp10 starts in the corner of the cul de sac, at TL 4087 5852. The route goes through a kissing gate, and crosses the Bin Brook on a new foot-bridge, then goes through a second gate into a large meadow. The right of way leaves the field in the diagonally opposite corner, at TL 4106 5831.

However, looking across the field from near the Bin Brook, it is not possible to see the exit on the far side, but on approaching, an obvious route continues east on a grassy lane between hedges, passing the sewage works. At TL 4111 5831, the right of way exits through a gate onto a tarmac lane, a shared access with the sewage works, and meets Grantchester Road at TL 4125 5832.

Opposite, a permissive path leads into Coton Countryside Reserve, and a network of other paths.

From the new bridge over the Bin Brook, it is also possible to turn right in the meadow, following the hedge on the right to the corner at TL 4095 5830. A hand-gate leads to permissive paths circum-navigating a large arable field, part of Rectory Farm, and privately owned, and leading to other permissive paths in The Countryside Reserve.

Parish of the Month – Abingtons
OS Explorer 208
Great and Little Abington face each other across the usually narrow stream of the R Granta. The impression is of a single village, with many very pretty old cottages, interspersed with a couple of small C20th housing estates, and retirement bungalows, and, set apart, the former Land Settlement housing amidst what was once market gardens.

Great Abington has 9 public paths, and Little Abington has 6. Taken together, these paths make only for gentle strolls, were one to stay rigorously within the parishes, but linked with the wider network into Babraham, Hildersham, Linton or into Essex at Great Chesterford, some fine walks are available.

Like much of Cambridgeshire, the Abingtons have evidence of prehistoric occupation, with groups of round barrows built along the main route of the ancient Icknield Way. But there is nothing to see – they were ploughed out in the C20th. Pieces of Bronze Age pottery were found, ploughed into ditches, and occasional sherds of Iron Age pottery connected with an Iron Age cemetery in nearby Pampisford. Roman pottery was found, in two separate sites in Great Abington especially near the church and river.

Part of the Anglo-Saxon Brent Ditch, with very little trace of bank surviving, alas, runs NW from the tongue of chalky boulder clay , stretching W to Abington Park Farm, up to the A11, then across to the wooded park of Pampisford Hall, ending in the springs in Dickman’s Grove.

Walkers love maps, and we are fortunate to have in the Cambridgeshire archives some historic maps of The Abingtons, acquired in 2003. They are an important record of changes in the landscape, land use, and buildings in the village. They may be seen, by appointment, at the County Records Office (R 103/52). I discovered this source from a charming calendar produced in 2004 by the Abington History Group.

Five maps acquired 2003 are:
Plan of the Manor of Little Abington (Norden, 1603); An exact map of the Manor Farm of Abington Hall, (Fallowes, 1716); Plan of the farms at Great Abington belonging to the Executors of John Mortlock (Watford, 1818); Plan of the Parish of Great Abington c. 1800; Plan of the Parish of Little Abington 1803.

Other available maps are: Plan of the River Sluices and New Cut in Little Abington 1719; Plan of a Watercourse and parts adjacent in the Parish of Little Abington, 1837; Map of Clare College Land in Little Abington, 1790.

Taken together, these maps show the growth and redistributions of buildings in the villages, the presence of roads no longer in use, the names of holders of strips in the common fields, up to the time of Inclosure (1803, 1807), the park around Abington Hall, and the changes in watercourses, and major roads.

After 1066
The whole of the Manor of Great Abington was given to the de Veres. Their manor house was on the site of Abington Hall, 1060 – 1570. The hall was rebuilt in the C15th, sold in the late C17th, and rebuilt 1712 and the park landscaped by Humphrey Repton. A few fine parkland trees survive, in the (now inaccessible) grounds of The Welding Institute, occupant since the mid 1940s.

The N boundary of Little Abington parish is formed by the Cambridge to Colchester Roman Road, known as Worsted Way or The Via Devana. The W boundary of the parish follows one of the strands of the ancient Icknield Way. The original villages were sited on routes which took advantage of river crossings. Two such tracks also crossed old river-edge routes between Cambridge and Linton, on opposite sides of the river. Later shifts of settlement patterns led to building further from the churches, slight earthworks of the two medieval villages being visible near both churches. The park around Abington Hall blocked growth in that direction.

Little Abington village developed along a street at right angles to the river. Over the years, this E – W trading route was replaced by a N – S route, causing C20th traffic problems before a village bypass.

But it is the churches that lead us into recorded history, for Little Abington’s church, at the edge of the park, has 2 doors and a N window of the Anglo Saxon type, although probably dating post-conquest. The building was restored in 1885, but the narrow original Norman S doorway survives. The font has been in use for 700years. The Kempe window, 1901, depicts the adoration of the Magi.

Great Abington’s church has a Norman font with a Jacobean cover, a C13th South arcade and lancet windows. A life-sized knight in Caroline marble, Sir William Halton, lawyer, 1639, leans on his elbow.

Both villages possess clusters of thatched timber framed cottages. Later buildings in Cambridgeshire Cottage Improvement Society’s characteristic “Cottage Gothic” are preserved. On the bend in the High Street, Jeremiah’s Cottage recalls Jeremiah Lagden, a legendary highwayman of the Newmarket Road who lived at Old House, Little Abington.

In 1936, The Land Settlement Association was formed to give unemployed men a chance to begin farming, as here on the edge of Great Abington, which two generations later was sold to the occupiers. Subsequently, the estate roads were dedicated as public footpaths in 1988, following a public inquiry.

More housing had been built in both villages after 1950. From a combined population of 34 in 1086, by 1996, some 1340 people lived in The Abingtons.

The Paths – Little Abington
Byway 1 is a section of the old “Via Devana” Roman Road, from TL 5479 5057 to Worsted Lodge.

Fp2 runs from the Cambridge Road, A1307, at TL 5300 4960, leading N up the field boundary.
It reaches “The Pits” (wooded old chalk diggings to left) to continue as a slight worn track on a grass field-edge then goes across a field to end at Grange Farm Cottage. It is a pity it does not go through to the Roman Road.

Fp3 starts at TL 5210 4970 on the old A11, signed going WNW on a strip across arable, to cross the huge metal bridge over the new A11. It joins Babraham fp 4, making a useful & pleasant through route.

Fp4 starts at a sign at TL 5300 4958 on the A1307. It runs S between garden fences of houses 29 & 31. The path crosses a stile into pasture, and leaves by a squeeze stile the other side, emerging into Church Lane between houses 36 & 36A, not far from the church. Together with Fp6 (below) it makes a pleasant short circuit.

Fp5 starts at TL 5312 4925, on Church Lane on a fenced gravel path behind gardens, with the former scouts camping ground to left. It crosses the R Granta on an attractive bridge (supplied by The Welding Institute), and continues across the recreation ground, with views of Abington Hall across fields to the right. A kissing gate leads to the drive to Great Abington Church, and thence to High Street, having become Great Abington Fp1 at some point on the recreation ground.

Fp6 leaves the A1307 at TL 5293 4959, going S between houses no 31A & 33 to right, as a gravel path between fences. It reaches Bourn Bridge Road at TL 5292 4947, between Weavers Cottage and Meadowside.

The Paths – Great Abington
Fp1 joins Little Abington Fp5 on the rec, forming a pleasant route between Church Lane & High Street.

Fp2 starts from High Street, adjacent to a ‘bus shelter at TL 5315 4852, entering a rough grass field. Handgates lead in and out of a large garden, continuing beyond SW across a grass emerge on Pampisford Road at TL 5291 4819.

From Pampisford Road, opposite the S end of High Street at TL 5313 4813, Footpath 3 runs S through the former land settlement, at first along a narrow hard path, then along a concrete road. “Chalky Road” between houses and greenhouses. Fp6 & Fp7 turn off right in the private estate. Beyond the housing, the track continues uphill on a hard path, later between arable fields, to meet Fp4 at a T-junction, TL 5276 4610 on the hill crest. This path and fp 4 are the key to routes into Great Chesterford and Linton.

Fp4 starts at the junction with Great Chesterford Fp 1 (Essex) at TL 5236 4579, crosses the county boundary ditch by a culvert The path runs NNE with ditch & hedge to left, reaching a corner by the buildings of Abington Park Farm, TL 5246 4613. Here the path turns right (ESE) on a 3m wide concrete farm road. It soon passes Park Farm Cottages on left, and continues to the junction with Fp 3 turning off left at TL 5276 4610. Fp 4 continues ca. ESE on a grass track, later, passing a young wood on right. The path reaches a crossing ditch & culvert by Hildersham Wood at TL 5329 4587 to continue as Hildersham Fp 11.  A continuation gives access to paths to Linton & Great Chesterford.

Fps 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 were added to the Definitive Map in 1988, and are all paths in the former land settlement estate, very suitable for a dry-shod Winter walk.

Fp5 is Cutting Rd, leaving Pampisford Rd by the phone box, TL 5267 4821. Fp6 is North Rd, leaving the old A11 at TL 5174 4835, & Fp7 is South Rd, leaving the old A11 at TL 5157 4777.

Fp8 is a narrow footpath between trees, going S between Cutting Rd and South Rd , and Fp9 is a narrow path alongside garden fences from North Rd, TL 5194 4825 going S to South Rd at TL 5184 4759.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now usually appears every three months. A large number of you receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 20p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink.  Also available on website:

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
Cantab79 ©
Janet Moreton, 2014

CANTAB78 September 2014

CANTAB78 September 2014 published on

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


What’s in a Name?
The Bumpsteads
Steeple Bumpstead and neighbouring Helions Bumpstead, just over the Essex border from Cambs, take their name from reed production (Old English, “bune” and “stede”). The two settlements were distinguished by the Normans, as the village church with a steeple, and the manor belonging to Tihel de Helion. There are few reeds growing today – the parishes are largely arable.

Whilst this magazine has a Cambridge focus, I have started this issue with an item from “over the border” to encourage reports and comments of general interest more widely from elsewhere in East Anglia.

Janet Moreton

New Path in Shudy Camps
Shudy Camps, one of South Cambridgeshire’s more distant parishes, shares a border with the Essex Bumpsteads. We are pleased to receive path news from a local member.

With the kind agreement of the landowner, John Latham, there is now a new, waymarked, permissive path in Shudy Camps. Some 400m long, it starts from the junction of footpaths 4, 5 & 6 at TL 617 452, which is close to the kissing gate and sleeper bridge behind the meadows in Main Street. The new path runs alongside a drainage ditch to New Road at TL 621 451, opposite Footpath 8, which crosses Shudy Camps Park.

Roger Lemon

Wimpole struck by hail!
Yes, but not recently! We received a delightful book last Christmas called “The wrong kind of snow” by Anthony Woodward and Robert Penn (Hodder). It describes what the weather was doing somewhere in Britain for every day of the year, over the course of many centuries. So, for 9 August 1843, we have a report from the then rector of Wimpole, “ The lightning and hail were terrific, the former like sheets of fire filled the air and ran along the ground, the latter as large as pigeons eggs”. He goes on to describe the broken windows of the hall, standing corn threshed out by the hail, limbs torn off trees, sheep struck by lightning , and men washed off their feet.

Perhaps we didn’t have so bad a Summer this year after all!

New Sunday bus from Cambridge to Wimpole and Gamlingay
The National Trust and South Cambs District Council are jointly funding a bus service running 4 times a day on Sundays and Bank Holidays from Cambridge Station. It will operate for a year, and started on 27 July. For example, the 9 am bus from Station Road Cambridge arrives at Wimpole Hall at 9.35, and the 16.07 from Wimpole returns to Cambridge at 16.42. There is also a trailer to carry bicycles. [Ed: This service no longer operates.]

Fulbourn Fen
On 6 August, I took a walk in Fulbourn, and found the meadow in the Nature Reserve closed, and the gate padlocked. A notice said the closure had been implemented following irresponsible behaviour (unspecified). It is possible to reach other parts of the reserve by a round-about route.

Bourn bench
If you go down to the woods today in Bourn, you will find a substantial new bench on Footpath 28, in the angle of Bourn Wood, TL 316 557. This was donated to the parish by Ramblers’ Association Cambridge Group, using funds derived from guidebook sales.

Toft Seat
I have just learnt that the new seat funded by RA Cambridge Group is in position – it looks very good from the picture on e-mail. But where is it! There’s a challenge for readers!

And in Foxton
The Parish Council have accepted Cambridge RA Group’s offer of a bench, to be sited on the path from Caxton Lane to Fowlmere. The bench is to be located over the top of the hill near the gates to the plantations on the Fowlmere side.

Comberton’s new permissive path
I have only just visited Comberton’s useful permissive Diamond Jubilee path. It runs from the churchyard extension, over towards Byway 7 at TL 389 556. To locate the start, go to Comberton Church, and leave the rear of the churchyard, going through a gate onto Church Path. Very shortly, turn right through a new gate, into the burial ground extension. Walk to the back of the hedged enclosure, where there is a display board. There are actually 2 paths. The more direct route to the byway was found mown in August, but the second path, continuing around the edge of the field to reach the byway at TL 389 559, was rather overgrown.

Parish of the Month – Lakenheath
Explorer 228
Lakenheath was originally a hythe or landing place, overlooking the fens. The parish covers 11 000acres (4450ha)

About a third of the parish is occupied by the USAF base. This was originally Lakenheath Warren on Lord Iveagh’s Estate. During WWI it was a training area, and in WWII it was a decoy airfield for RAF Feltwell. It has been occupied by the USAF since 1948. Airfield viewing points for cars are signed off the A11. One of the nature reserves, Maidscross Common, looks down on the USAF airfield, which can be considered either interesting, or a noisy intrusion and eyesore depending on your viewpoint.

In medieval times, Lakenheath was a market town on the line of an ancient droving route skirting the fen edge. Barges sailed from its quays to the River Little Ouse and thence to The Wash. There were pits for chalk, clay, sand, flints and gravel, many of the old workings having been left to grow over, forming attractive nature sites.

The church, St Mary’s, is accounted one of the most beautiful in Suffolk. The headstones and the base of the tower are limestone, and the fabric of the church includes chalk, early Tudor redbrick, and flint. There is a Norman chancel arch, a very fine C13th font, and some striking C14th wall paintings. Some bench-ends are c1483, with carved figures and a wonderful carved roof. Some of the buildings on High Street date from the C17th.

The Present Day
The huge airbase and the residential quarters naturally dominate the parish. On the High Street, the requirements of the visiting American population influence the snackbars etc. Once out of the village, the countryside is dissected by waterways on the lower ground. The massive Cut-off Channel, running parallel to the High Street, was built to control flooding of the River Lark. It joins the River Lark at Barton Mills and allows flood water to flow into the River Ouse at Denver, some 3 miles short of Kings Lynn.

Walking in Lakenheath
Generally the footing is excellent on dry sandy soil. However several of the smaller rights of way shown on the map seem liable to serious overgrowth, and some do not make good connections. I have concentrated on available walking based on nature reserves and points of interest. Wings Road car park gives a good starting point/meeting point, and there are several cafes/food outlets in the village. Insect repellent is recommended on some of these walks in high Summer.

Maidscross Hill Local Nature Reserve and SSSI
This is a valuable and important remnant of Brecks heathland, covering ca 50ha. The Brecks were created by Mesolithic farmers who cut down the forests for agriculture 10, 000 years ago. They farmed areas until the soil was exhausted, and the heathland we see today developed on the residual poor soil, giving a unique variety of wild flowers and insects. In late Summer, look for vipers bugloss, centuary, harebells, wood sage, and great stands of rosebay willowherb. Earlier in the Summer, rarities such as Spanish catchfly are reported.

The common consists of grassland interspersed with scrub and bracken, and interesting old shallow gravel pits, all threaded with paths of short turf. Gravel extraction was practiced for over a century up to WWII, the reserve being opened in 2004.

There is a small carpark off Wings Road, at TL 727 828, and it is possible to include the Common in some circular walks. One can start from the larger, signed carpark in Lakenheath, TL 713 829 (WC), walking over a mile up the residential road to the upper carpark, where there are picnic tables just inside the common, then return to Lakenheath down a public path behind gardens. This route is boring and is not recommended. It is better to park at Maidcross, and take Sandy Drove (track almost opposite the carpark) to explore Pashford Poors Fen, as well as Maidcross Common. Pashford Poors is another Suffolk Wildlife Trust Reserve, a remnant of the vast wetland formerly on the Suffolk-Cambs border.

Lakenheath Fen, RSPB reserve
This is a large wetland reserve, consisting mainly of reedbeds, as well as grazing marsh and poplar woods. The carpark (fee) is not far from Lakenheath station, TL 723 865, off the B1112. (Sadly, few trains stop at this station.) The reserve boasts reed warblers, sedge warblers, reed buntings nesting in quantity; bitterns, storks, hobbies in season, marsh harriers, and waders. There is a visitor centre with WCs and a walk of ca 2 miles around the reserve. Alternatively it is possible to walk from Lakenheath along Stallode Bank, crossing the railway, and then circling the reserve on the bank of the Little Ouse River. Note it is possible to start the walk in Lakenheath, along a path reaching Highbridge Gravel Drove (road) at TL 702 837, crossing the road onto a raised grassy bank, to veer away from the road, NW along Stallode Bank. (7 miles one way). To extend the walk, it is possible to walk along a good bridleway east from Lakenheath station to Brandon. From Brandon, buses towards Mildenhall depart nearly hourly from opposite 18 Manor Road to Lakenheath Post Office, or, of course, the reverse. (Coach services bus 201, see ), or phone 01842 821509.

The walking route from Lakenheath via the RSPB reserve and Lakenheath Station, then into Brandon along the bridleway is about 11 miles.

Lakenheath Poors Fen & circular walk
Once the poor could cut peat for fuel and reeds for thatching and floor coverings. The last peat was cut in the 1920s, and the site (entrance at TL 702 827) is now an SSSI. The fenced reserve is marshy and tussocky and not easy to walk, but the surrounding droves are rich in wild flowers.

The following walk is recommended. Park at the carpark in Wings Road near the church, TL 713 828. Go through the churchyard, and visit the church if open.

On High Street, 100m past the church, cross the road opposite a Chinese restaurant, and take a signed path between fences, crossing Undley Bridge over the flood relief channel. Continue ahead over a junction of 4 tracks, and under a bank hiding a waste-paper works. Turn right on Furthest Drove (a stony track). Pass Lakenheath Poors Fen (information board, and derelict stile). Follow the attractive tracks of Broadcorner Drove and Millmarsh Drove (both permissive routes) to the road, Highbridge Gravel Drove. All along this route are very good flowers, especially by the drains, and at their best in High Summer, but continuing into September. Where a footpath leaves Highbridge Gravel Drove, TL 702 837, follow it, and turning up to the road in Lakenheath, to return to the church or carpark. Alternatively, follow the track back to Undley Bridge. (4 miles).

Shakers Road
This is an attractive old track, which finishes abruptly on the A11. The name of the track indicates it was once a sheep run, “Shakland” denoting a sheep pasture in East Anglia.

The Shakers’ Road from Mayday Farm , (TL 795 834, on the B1106 south of Brandon) is crossed by a broad track. If one continues south, one emerges on the A11, to the west of the tall memorial dominating Weather Heath, and commemorating the men of the Elvedon Estate who perished in WW1. A part of Shakers Road lies within Lakenheath parish. The path to the west at TL 776 799 goes across heathland to emerge on Brandon Road in Eriswell parish south of Lakenheath airfield.

“Alert 5” Alarm system
Many walkers now carry a mobile phone, and/or a GPS, both of which can be helpful in emergency. A friend was sent details of some new equipment, “Alert 5”, which can ask up to 5 people for assistance, giving details of one’s exact location. It is said to be simple to set up and use, by simply tapping the help button on the opening screen.   I have not seen or used this equipment, but further details may be obtained by visiting [ed. this link no longer works, 23 Mar 2015]

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now appears every three months. A large number of you 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. 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
Cantab78 ©
Janet Moreton, 2014

CANTAB77 June 2014

CANTAB77 June 2014 published on

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


All Creatures Great and Small
Compiled by Laurie Friday and Basil Harley, the “Checklist of The Flora and Fauna of Wicken Fen” was published by Harley Books in 2000. I have just bought it at the knockdown price of 50 pence in Wicken Fen Information Centre.

My interest lies with flowering plants, ferns etc, covered in 8 pages, and in fungi (2 pages), and bird and mammal life (6 pages). The rest of the 103 page volume covers bacteria, algae and protists; lichens, liverworts and mosses; spiders, harvestmen, mites and ticks and the like; copepods, ostracods, fishlice, crayfish, etc; mayflies, dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, earwigs, lice; bugs and leafhoppers; moths (lots and lots) and butterflies; and innumerable lists of different types of flies.

One thing my bargain buy has confirmed is that there are huge numbers and types of these lesser creatures (many of which I had never heard of). And they are not just in Wicken Fen, but of course various species are distributed all over the countryside.

On the whole, we co-exist with them reasonably well, putting up a fight against the odd mosquito, or being aware when we pass a farmer spraying his crop against the concerted attack of some maverick organism.

Janet Moreton

Could it happen now?
Last issue’s article on the 1993 protest walk in Lincolnshire received some interesting feedback.

From Kate Day, Cambs CC’s Project Manager for Local Infrastructure and Street Management came the comment:
” Brett Collier was married to my geography teacher so I knew him, although not well, so nice to see him mentioned in print again. After 27 years with Cambs CC, it is interesting to see how the circle turns – I still have the Ombudsman and committee report from 1988!”

Peter Dene is our correspondent from the Little Shelford Footpaths Group.
“Thank you for the latest inspiring look back. I’ve forwarded it to fellow members of the LS Footpaths Group (LSPC). Now in process of making final submission before imminent Public Inquiry on our Bradmere Lane/Garden Fields ROW saga in Little Shelford. It’s into its 11th year…

I was delighted to hear from Stan Knaffler, formerly of RA Lincs, now living in Cumbria.
Lovely to read your piece about the campaigns that were organised to open up the PROW system to walkers in the 80s & 90s and Metheringham in particular. Metheringham was unusual in that it had an over-abundance of PROW and consequently landowners simply ignored their obligations. However, the major landowner (of 16 000 acres) met us and we agreed a rationalisation programme which provided an excellent network of paths, including links to other parishes. He then ensured that this was legally actioned.

In the eighties, I invited my MP, one Edward Leigh, to accompany us through some local parishes where I lived (south of Market Rasen) to see the extent of the problem of obstructed PROW. He was about to introduce a Private Members’ Bill to provide freedom to roam based on the Swedish model. However, he was told that such a “freedom” would fail to obtain enough votes in the house and was persuaded to introduce what became the 1990 Act which dealt with legal widths of paths and procedures for diversions etc. This strengthened our ability to challenge both landowners and County Councils who were not doing sufficient to keep paths clear.

There are still a number of PROW problems today, but it was only by campaigning (the slogan was “Feet on Paths”) that Rural Councils (many of which had landowner-councillors) took notice and pressurised landowners to comply with the law.

“Parish” of the Month – Newnham in Cambridge
Note: a street-plan is recommended, as well as OS Explorer Sheet 209.

The neighbourhood of Cambridge W of the river has been known since the Middle Ages as Newnham. This is not a separate village, being enclosed within Cambridge City boundaries – but it still has something of the atmosphere of a village, and is the starting point for some good walks.

There are indications of settlement in early times. From Newnham Croft finds included bangles, bosses and rings, and a fine bronze broach. By Roman times, Cambridge was ringed by nearby settlements, including one at Newnham.

There was an order of Carmelite friars established near the mill for about 40 y in the latter half of the C13th. Medieval Newnham must have been a hamlet without a church, as the first church, a wooden structure, was not built until about 150y ago, to be replaced by the present St Marks, Barton Road, in 1900. Travelling from Newnham to Cambridge in early times might sometimes have been difficult, with the River Cam’s several channels crossing the trackway where Silver St is now.

Until the Parliamentary Inclosure of the western fields in 1802 – 4, there were only a few buildings, mostly around Newnham Mill and pond. The mill race is reputed to predate Domesday book. The outward appearance of the mill remained much the same when rebuilt after a fire in 1853, although now modified as a restaurant.

In the early C19th, there were a few cottages along Malting Lane. More development followed in the late C19th. The then 100y old Malting House on the corner of Malting Rd was rebuilt before WWI.

Following inclosure of the west fields, college gardens were made on the Queen’s Road – Grange Road area, and a few substantial houses were built.

Newnham developed into a residential suburb in the second half of the C19th. Newnham Croft was begun in 1850s and 1860s with the building of terraced houses in Derby Street, Hardwick Street and the W side of Grantchester Street. The roads remained unpaved until the early years of the C20th. Gradually houses were added in Merton Street through the 1880s. In 1882, University statutes first allowed fellows of colleges to be married, when Newnham became a desirable residential suburb. Building activity increased in the years up to WW1.

Open land disappeared as houses were built in Owlstone Road (1900 – 04) replacing private gardens known as Paradise. There had been a path across the field leading from Gravel Pit Lane (Grantchester Street) across to the bathing place and houses at the end of Grantchester Meadows. By 1903 Rev Symmonds was complaining that cyclists were making the path very muddy. Paradise House, built on a small island in the Cam near the end C18th, remains well hidden by trees and undergrowth- gates close the bridged access.

About 1820, a house was built on land now occupied by Owlstone Croft. In the 1920s-30s this was a girls’ school; later commandeered by the army in WWII; sold to Addenbrookes in 1946; and now being redeveloped again.

The alley that connects the closed end of Marlowe Road with the bend in Millington Road was made in this form in 1911 – 2, though there had been a narrow lane on the site of Marlow Rd. At one time a gate was locked once a year, but this had gone by 1939. Elsewhere, a break in the paled fence gives pedestrian and cycle access from the lane extension of Kings Rd into Millington Road.

Until the late C19th there were no buildings at the country end of Barton Road on the S side The land was developed around 1900. The OS map of 1886 shows 2 houses W of Grantchester Rd, Grays Fm & a cottage (now 78, 86 Barton Rd). The land opposite was marshy & needed a wind-pump to reduce the water level. Beyond was an orchard and open farmland, through which ran the Bin Brook. Development started in 1911 just beyond Grantchester Road., with the building of a house called Tollbar.

The Perse Almshouses, Newnham Road, originally donated 1625, were re-erected by William Sindall 1886. The adjacent filling station was once the Tally Ho pub. The Causewayside Flats, 1930s, occupy part of the previous Motts Dairy site.

A curious feature is a 2 acre wooded lake called Bolton’s Pit, lying SW of the Barton Rd – Grantchester Rd corner but totally invisible to the public gaze

Colleges and University Buildings:
On Sidgwick Ave, one may visit the Museum of Classical Archaeology displaying plaster casts of antique figures – mostly white – although it is a shock to discover the original statues were painted in bright colours!

Beyond stretch the University Arts Faculty buildings, housing the English Faculty library, the History Faculty, Oriental studies and Criminology and others, all post-1960s. Wander through here towards West Road and the University Library…

Newnham College, fronting Sidgwick Ave., opened 1875 was designed by Basil Champneys The Bronze entrance gates to Old Hall were presented in memory of Miss Clough, the 1st Principal The E part (the Pfeiffer building) was built in 1893, and connects by nearly 0.5km of corridors to Old Hall and Sedgwick. Kennedy Buildings were built 1905, Peile Hall 1910 Off Sidgwick Ave, note the modern Library extension (1961) and particularly the more recent Archives building, built to resemble an old chest.

Ridley Hall (1881) on Sidgwick Avenue houses graduates from any university, who intend to take Church of England Orders. Round the corner on Grange Rd is the Anglican Selwyn College, founded 1882. Red-brick Robinson College, a recent foundation, presents an almost military face to Grange Road.

By Silver St Bridge is Darwin College, its name commemorating the author of The Origin of Species. This small college of graduates, founded 1964, incorporates the riverside house, Newnham Grange, bought in 1885 by Charles son, George Darwin. George’s daughter, Gwen Raverat, wrote the Cambridge Classic, “Period Piece”, published in 1952.

Walk Newnham
1. Most readers will be familiar with the free parking available at Lammas Land at TL 447574. Be aware that it opens at 10 am. This carpark is ideally placed for leading visitors on walks north along the Backs, using the Fen Causeway crossing near the Ley’s School. In Spring, note purple toothwort parasitic on hazel growing on Crusoe Island.

2. The hard path from Grantchester Meadows Road leads, of course, to The Red Lion, The Green Man, and The Orchard, and other Grantchester attractions. Use the muddy riverside path to return, for preference. Did you know the riverside alternative only became a legal right of way by dedication in November 2001? (4 miles)

3. Discover the recently improved surface of the riverside path through Paradise, noting the alternative boardwalk through the willow thickets by Owlstone Croft.  In Spring, the nature reserve is known for its snowdrops, and later a good display of scented butterbur. (1 mile)

4. Use the Lammas Land parking, to walk your visitors to the Millpond, up Malting Lane, past Ridley and Newnham colleges, through the Sidgwick Site to West Road, in front of the University Library, along Burrell’s Walk, back along Grange Road, passing Selwyn College. Turn left at Barton Rd, Millington Rd, Marlowe Rd, Grantchester Meadows, and back through Paradise. (3 miles)

5. For a longer circuit, from (3) turn right on Barton Rd and use the newly signed (TL 427 574) permissive path on Barton Rd opposite Laundry Farm to connect with the end of Fulbrooke Road. Return to Lammas Land via Selwyn Road, Millington Road etc as above. (5 miles)

6. From the Grantchester Footpath, a permissive path at TL 439 569 leads past Pembroke College Sports Ground onto Grantchester Rd. Opposite, a further permissive path leads round the edges of arable fields to the outskirts of Grantchester at TL 427 560.

Newnham – John A Gray
Hanwell 1977, ISBN 0 9505992 0 4

A history of Cambridge – Bruce Galloway, Phillimore,1983,
ISBN 0 85033 450 0

Cambridgeshire – Norman Scarfe
Shell, 1983, ISBN 0 571 13250 2

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now appears every three 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 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.


Cantab 77 © Janet Moreton, 2014.

CANTAB76 March 2014

CANTAB76 March 2014 published on

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


Could this happen now?

On 12 July 1993, the Lowland Counties Action Day was held at Metheringham, Lincs. Brett Collier, the then RA Lincolnshire Area President, spoke of the parish having arguably the worst paths in the worst county for public rights of way. Standing in the station yard, Stan Knaffler, the Ramblers’ Area Footpath Secretary, was able to point out a problem just over the fence!

The invited speaker, Cath MacKay of Sheffield Group spoke compellingly of the continuing problems of lack of reinstatement and crop obstruction on field paths. She stressed the need for local authorities to use the 1990 Rights of Way Act effectively; for landowners and farmers to recognise their responsibilities under the law; and for ramblers to continue to use difficult paths and to report every problem encountered to the local authority.

We had a press photographer standing by to rush the pictures to the local paper for a major article, and it was difficult to decide whether the unobtrusive police presence was to sort out traffic problems, prevent a riot, or to protect us from incensed landowners. In fact, none of these things seemed likely, as we crossed a couple of unbridged ditches, climbed some obstructing barbed wire fences, and walked in single field across unreinstated paths in fields either ploughed, or under sugarbeet or cereal. We were a sober lot, standing in the sun listening to the history of each sad case of obstruction, before walking carefully and quietly through the garden of a property illegally built across the line of a path, under the anguished eye of the householder, and the detatched gaze of a couple of policemen.

Roger and I were present on behalf of RA Cambridge Group, and I base the above on a report we made for our committee. We had not enjoyed going 100 miles to climb barbed wire fences, and walk through a private garden, but we felt this needed to be done, in the public eye, as a statement of the serious intent of East Anglian ramblers to see our rights upheld. In general, I have always agreed that the pen is mightier than the sword. The same year, there were a couple of walks on the local Cambridge programme, specifically designed to show members problem paths. These walks were not well attended – our members clearly did not want a route that was deliberately difficult, although they were ready enough to report problems to be passed to the County Council.

I suspect that an unwillingness to demonstrate would still be the case today, and, more important, it would be increasingly difficult (though not impossible) to find pockets of bad, obstructed or neglected paths. But especially in a climate of County Council cutbacks, we need to be vigilant, and, even if we don’t line up with placards and demonstrate, we need to keep the reports rolling in.

Your comments are invited.
Janet Moreton

The effect on the local landscape of Roman and Medieval Roads
In the April 2013 issue, we looked at the history of Wimpole parish, mostly in terms of site occupation from medieval times to the present day. Since then, the Ramblers’ Association has been consulted by the National Trust regarding a fairly large scale path rationalisation scheme, involving paths across Trust–owned pasture and arable land surrounding the core parkland.

RA Cambridge Group has commented on the proposals, and we await a further consultation. This has prompted me to look at the early history of roads and paths around Wimpole, and elsewhere, and to consider what factors from long ago have caused a road or path to develop or remain in the position we find it today.  An inspection of parish boundaries on the OS Explorer 209 will show that Ermine Street forms a boundary of several parishes. So, going N from Royston, to the W of Ermine Street, we have Bassingbourn, Shingay cum Wendy, Arrington & Longstowe, all with a boundary on the road. Similarly, to the E are in turn, Whaddon, Wimpole & Bourn.

With the exception of Wimpole, whose settlement pattern was destroyed by incoming landowners, the layout of most of the parishes and villages hereabouts were determined by at least the medieval period, and often much earlier. The continuing influence of Roman roads through the medieval period and later is manifest.  By medieval times, there remained in England at least 10 000 miles of Roman roads, built mostly by 150AD, but which had not been well maintained over the intervening 600 years. Many of these roads continued in use, providing a basic network. But elsewhere, many of the new medieval towns e.g. Oxford, were not on Roman Roads and new roads were needed to serve these and many new villages.

These new medieval roads were not a thin strip of land with definite boundaries, but rather a right of way, an “easement” with both legal and customary status. If the route was heavily used it became a physical track, but with provisos. If the road became obstructed, or founderous in wet weather, then the traveller had the right to diverge from it, even if this involved trampling crops. This was enshrined in the Statute of Winchester in 1285. Where the road climbed a steep hill or bank, multiple tracks would develop, the traveller taking the most convenient strand available at the time of use. Users of the modern footpath and bridleway network are often restrained from achieving such manoeuvres by restricting boundaries!

Most surviving sections of medieval road come into this “multiple track” category, where roads left cultivated land and tracks have not been ploughed out or otherwise destroyed.

A few new roads were built in the medieval period. Several royal statutes made requirements regarding road widths, or clearance to be made on both sides, for fear of highwaymen. The three causeways to Ely across fenland may constitute the largest medieval road-building works. The four great highways: Watling Street; Ermine Street; Fosse Way; and The Icknield Way were always regarded as being under the king’s special protection, which supports the idea that Roman roads remained in comprehensive use in the medieval period.

Janet Moreton

See also :Medieval Roads and Tracks by Paul Hindle (Shire, 2002).

On the Web…
If you have not looked recently, please try the Cambridge Ramblers website at

I re-organised it last Autumn and am hoping it will be useful for ramblers to look up forthcoming Walks
and items of local news, events and other information.

Back copies of CANTAB Rambler are now on the website, together with an index to all issues, including
“Parish of the Month” – see

Paul Cutmore

Arrington calling…
This parish is sorely missing the path worker who cared for their paths for many years, and who has now retired. No one else has come forward to fill the voluntary position, and I have been asked to advertise the vacancy.

It would be hoped that the successful applicant would be able to do some “hands on” work (e.g. cutting back overgrowth around stiles) as well as liaising over more serious problems with the County Council.

If interested, please contact

The Drainage of Fens in The Wilbrahams, Fulbourn and Teversham
The very wet winter, and flooding of low lying land and footpaths in the Cambridge area, has prompted me to read again a very scholarly study by T D Hawkins, published by the author in1990, ISBN 0-9516533-DX.

Dr Hawkins carried out a field survey of local watercourses following two years of heavy rainfall, in the winter of 1987/8. With all ditches full of water the direction of flow was clear. Subsequent studies of the history of the drainage of the area, gave an insight into the very complex drainage system in these parishes. In other fen-edge parishes in Cambridgeshire, such as Rampton, Cottenham, Willingham, the watercourses have similar complex histories, which repay study, especially when (or before) problems threaten. This subject is of more than academic interest to the walker. Many of our rights of way run along the banks of ditches and drains. In low-lying areas, those paths that are not elevated may well be regularly unusable for a few weeks every winter, and in a wet winter, like the one just past, may be out of bounds for months.

The ancient lines of watercourses in the Fulbourn fens before drainage are marked by peat-filled channels in the gravels. Land levels overlying the peat before artificial drainage were higher than at present, and especially before the extensive works of the C18th and C19th. Improved drainage leads to shrinkage of the peat from dehydration, oxidation, and wind erosion.

Early changes to watercourses were promoted by watermills, some of which are mentioned in the Domesday survey. Streams were diverted to serve the mills which significantly altered the local drainage, creating 3 different water levels.

From medieval times until the middle of the C17th, there were growing pressures to reclaim fen for farmland. Manipulation of water levels by dams, sluices and drainage, and piecemeal reclamation of fen edges already occurred. In absence of co-ordinated effort, drainage in one place led to problems elsewhere, leading to conflict and the need for arbitration. In 1367, for example, “It was found by jurors that the Prior of Ely did obstruct the course of the water at Wilburgeham Magna …such as the Commons belonging in the town of Fulbourne were overflowed to the damage of the whole country”.

There is some documentation of changes to the courses of the Great Wilbraham River, the Little Wilbraham River and Black Ditch. Parliamentary Inclosure occurred in these parishes between 1797 and 1810, at which time capital investment in drainage was found to be financially rewarding, and a drainage system was devised by the Parliamentary Commissioners.

For example, in Little Wilbraham, 4 public drains were constructed along the newly created Short and Long Droves. A tunnel (made of a hollowed tree) was made under the bed of the embanked Wilbraham River, to take water from a drainage ditch to a new drain running to the west of Quy Water south of the Turnpike. New Cut was dug, and a new public drain was made to by-pass Hawk Millrace.

Fulbourn parish had 13 miles (1070 chains) of new public drains, following Inclosure in 1808, and Teversham had 6 miles of new public drains. Great Wilbraham had 3 miles of new public drains, also tunnels and bridges.

Further improvements in the drainage were made piecemeal until the 1920s, and may be traced by observation on large scale Ordnance Survey maps, especially those published after 1896. Cambridge Water Co. built a pumping station in 1891 to extract water from a bore adjacent to Poor’s Well, Fulbourn. (A display board on Cow Lane Fulbourn, gives the history of the site, and the adjacent pumping station is now called Telford House, the premises of consulting engineers). The pumping station was progressively upgraded and finally closed in 1988, but meanwhile in 1921, a new pumping station had opened adjacent to Fleam Dyke, in the same water catchment area. The lowering of the water-table due to extraction greatly reduced the flow of water from the springs feeding Great and Little Wilbraham rivers.

From the end of the C19th onwards, the drainage system had begun to deteriorate, due to inadequate maintenance, and the long-term effects of WWI. In 1931, the Drainage Committee of the Rural District Council responded to complaints of all-year flooding due to the poor state of repair of the river banks, over the lower courses of the Great & Little Wilbraham rivers. In spite of the setting up of an Internal Drainage Board, and site works, no very effective improvements were made until 1960s, when a more co-ordinated programme was gradually introduced.

Folded into my copy of Dr Hawkin’s book is a pamphlet, “Managing Water Resources” produced by the Anglian Region of the National Rivers Authority (NRA), following the Water Act of 1989.  The NRA has since been superseded by the Environment Agency (EA) whose continuing efforts, hopefully, will be fuelled by the Government’s recent pledge for further funds to defeat flooding.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now is scheduled approximately every three 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 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


Cantab 76 © Janet Moreton, 2014.

CANTAB75 December 2013

CANTAB75 December 2013 published on

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


When Roger was stricken by a serious stroke in May this year, Cantab was nearly written off. But as Roger is making slow steps towards recovery, the blandishments of kind friends to give Cantab, too, a second lease of life have received attention.

I kept several items of current interest through the Summer, only to find by such time when there were hours or minutes in the day to work on the next edition, many of my notes were dead letters. So this edition contains mostly references to other outdoor concerns that flourish around us, and comes with the hope that walking in Cambridge-shire and the wider East Anglia continues to thrive. In spite of local government cutbacks affecting path maintenance, I am pleased to report on two cycleway / footpath initiatives, which will make passage safer on some sections of a walk obliged to pass along a busy road.

Finally, Roger sends to all who sent him cards and messages of goodwill his grateful thanks, and hopes to make an appearance on some of the shorter walks during 2014.

Janet Moreton

John Muir 1839 – 1914
2014 will be notable not only for the centenary of the commencement of WW1, but also for that of the death of rambler and naturalist, John Muir.

His writings are celebrated both in the United States, where he campaigned for the protection of wild places, and in the UK, especially in Scotland, where the head office of the John Muir Trust is located in Pitlochry.

John Muir was decades ahead of his time in arguing for the intrinsic value of nature, and for the restorative and spiritual effects of experiencing nature and wilderness. He wanted to educate people about the wonders of the natural world and inspire them to experience it for themselves. He campaigned for the protection of wild places.

The John Muir Trust interprets his philosophy in terms of education, with projects for young people, and the new Wild Space visitor centre at Pitlochry. The Trust also works on path restoration schemes in Scotland, the Autumn 2103 journal featuring the success of restoring the popular path up the 1083m conical peak, Schiehallion. Combining with other environment groups, the Trust fights development in Scotland’s wild places.

For more information, see:

Quotation of the Month:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread – places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

John Muir, writing about Yosemite

The Downsman – 90 years old
The Society of Sussex Downsman was founded 1923. One of its first successes, in 1925 was to help save the (Sussex) Devil’s Dyke from bungalows! In 1926, the Society fended off development just behind the Seven Sisters. In absence of planning controls, the Society raised £17,000 to buy the land from the developers, and subsequently presented the land to The National Trust. In the 1930s, the Society campaigned against pylons stretched across the Downs. In the current century, the Society campaigned for The South Downs National Park, which finally came into being in March 2010. The Society changed its name to the South Downs Society, and continues to ensure that the unique chalk landscape stays safe.

The South Downs were my first walking territory, and membership of the South Downs Society keeps me in touch with local issues. See

The following gives news of a couple of local planned cycleway / footways alongside busy roads. Whilst no-one would suggest a long walk along here, these will provide walkers with a safer transit from one side path to another.

Swavesey to Buckingham Business Park Cycleway
Cambridgeshire County Council is proposing a new foot and cycleway from Boxworth End to Bucking Way Road in Swavesey. The path will provide a link to Buckingway Business Park and on to Cambridge Services.

The new cycle and footway is estimated to cost £450,000 and is being funded by Cambs C C’s successful bid to the Department for Transport for £4.1m from the Cycle City Ambition Fund.

It is hoped to start construction from April with the path planned to open in June 2014.

Wandlebury to Babraham Research Campus – a footway & cycleway beside the A 1307
There are plans to build a new cycleway and footpath between Wandlebury Country Park and the Babraham Research Campus alongside the A1037. The new path will also link up with the existing cycleway to the Babraham Road Park and Ride site and create a direct route for those travelling into Cambridge.

The new path is to be constructed in two phases: the Wandlebury to Copley Hill section in February-March 2014; and Copley Hill to Babraham in June-July 2014. The path is scheduled to open in August 2014.

The scheme has been developed in partnership with Babraham Research Campus, who is contributing £200,000 towards the new cycle and footpath. Cambs C C is providing £450,000 from their earlier success this year in securing over £4.1million from the Department for Transport’s Cycle City Ambition Fund.

A Walking Guide to the Fulbourn Area
Have you seen this excellent little book? It is published in 2013 by the Fulbourn Forum for Community Action, Fulbourn Village History Society and Fulbourn Village Library.

With such a pedigree, it is not surprising that it is a splendidly produced, interesting guide to the walking in the parish, but not to just the public rights of way, but also the highways, byways, and village corners. If you are already familiar with the local paths, you will still find much that is new in these pages. The text is rich in wildlife information, and particularly strong on historical details of the village, and the photographs of a very high quality.

And the guide does not confine itself to the past. We are introduced to The Fulbourn Life Wall, a monument by Andrew Tanser, made of black Granite from Zimbabwe, in the Windmill Estate. The West side illustrates the early history of “Fugolburna”, the Anglo- Saxon name for the village,on the East side we are brought up-to-date with the more modern history of “Fulbourn”.

The guide may be obtained from the village library, RRP £4.50.

The Fulbourn Swift Project
This was the title of an illustrated lecture given on 27 November at the St John the Evangelist church hall, Cambridge, under the auspices of The Wildlife Trust.

Rob Mungovan, South Cambs District Council’s Environmental Officer had worked for a period attempting to re-house a large colony of swifts, which formerly had nested in the old twostorey prefabricated buildings of the Windmill Estate. As the old houses were demolished, and the new houses were built, the developers were assisted in providing new nesting sites. A majority of these were within the roof spaces of the new buildings, with only a little access pipe for the birds’ entry giving a clue to their presence. Other boxes were sited on the outside of the new buildings. Some local residents formed a “Swifts Group” and monitored the success of the venture. Some 10 of the new boxes were used in 2011, and 27 in 2012. One of the roads in the estate is named after the swifts, and May to July is recommended for a visit.

n.b. Other parties of swifts nest elsewhere in Fulbourn, such as on the Church and Old Manor. And in the old terraced rows of streets of Petersfield district in Cambridge, swifts may also be found hoovering up insects in the dusk, or circling high in the sky above their nests.

Moves to re-open a footpath from Commercial End to the Former Swaffham Prior station.
The Ramblers’ Association was asked by a local resident to assist in trying to re-open a path which once ran from Commercial End, Swaffham Bulbeck, to the former Swaffham Prior station, located at TL 561 644. The path was set up when the railway was running as a short cut for the people of Swaffham Bulbeck, but fell out of use when the railway closed in 1965. The path could still provide a pleasant country walk from either Swaffham Prior or Swaffham Bulbeck.

An advert was placed in two local magazines, the “Swaffham Crier”, and the “Bulbeck Beacon”. As a result about 20 people wrote in support of the proposals. Anyone else with knowledge of the path who has yet to make contact is invited to do so. A request has been sent to Cambs. C.C., asking them to look into the proposal, and citing the possible availability of funds for local path development projects.

Commercial End, Swaffham Bulbeck
This is not a modern industrial estate, as the name suggests, but a charming part of the old village, whose history goes back a long way.

The adjacent Swaffham Lode is probably of Roman origin, and is known to have been used to transport goods by water in medieval times. Its main development as a C19th fen port was the work of Thomas Bowyer. He erected several warehouses, many of which have been converted into charming houses.

Take a walk along Commercial End, and admire several fine and interesting buildings.

Thatched and pantiled cottages date from 1730. There is a Victorian fire hydrant, and a former malting house 1697 with an attractive shell doorway.

A late C17th merchant’s house overlooks the wharf – it was extended in the early C19th to provide a counting house. Spot a large, former granary, now a house, dated 1815, and with wall-anchors in the form of TB.

Continue past the site of the former Benedictine nunnery, and walk the quiet Fen Lane to Cow Bridge, where there is a seat. Use either a signed footpath beyond on the left, or continue on the road, in both cases, to Swaffham Bulbeck Green, opposite the Three Horseshoes Pub. The ironwork village sign, made locally by Frank Turner of Mitchel Lodge Farm, dates from 1978. (under 2 miles)

Other Swaffham Bulbeck Walks
From Cow Bridge, on Fen Road, take the footpath to Longmeadow, and then make a very pleasant circuit via Docking and Cranney Drove. (3 miles)

This walk may be extended into Lode from Longmeadow, taking a signed tarmac path to Lode recreation ground, and returning from Lode village via Millards Lane. At the end of this residential lane, take the field path back to Longmeadow. (Note the path’s central section may be cultivated). (5 miles)

Parking is not advised in Longmeadow hamlet, where the road is very narrow. It is possible to park in Commercial End, with care, or there is a carpark on the edge of Swaffham Bulbeck Green. Also one can start the walks from Anglesey Abbey, thus making the longest circuit 6 miles.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 20p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink. 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


Cantab 75 Price 20 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2013

CANTAB73 April 2013

CANTAB73 April 2013 published on

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


Thurstan Shaw, 1914 – 2013
Professor Charles Thurstan Shaw died on 8 March, aged almost 99. Probably the most distinguished of Cambridge walkers, he was first involved as a member of Cambridge RA Group Committee in the mid-1970s. Following on from this, he was the pioneer of the Icknield Way Long Distance Path, being Chairman of the Icknield Way Association for many years from its inception in 1984, and personally responsible for treading out many miles of track, before an attractive and feasible route was identified.

The first edition of the walkers’ guide to the path, running from Ivinghoe Beacon to Knettishall Heath, appeared in late1984, and Thurstan lived long enough to know of the recently published 6th edition. The route passes through six counties, and joins two National Trails, the Peddars Way in the east, and The Ridgeway Path in the west. It was Thurstan’s ambition to see The Icknield Way also as a National Trail, resolving this anomaly, but up to the present it has only the lower status of a regional route, though as such it still receives preferential treatment in terms of waymarking and maintenance from the relevant county councils.

Thurstan’s work for East Anglian rights of way was a labour of love in retirement. Members of the Icknield Way Association Committee, meeting in Thurstan’s study among ranks of archaeological tomes and journals, were very aware of his distinguished background in studies of prehistory in West Africa, principally in Nigeria and Ghana. Such was the fame and respect accorded in the localities where he worked, that he was made an Ibo tribal chief, and close connections were maintained until the end of his life.

At the Quaker meeting celebrating Thurstan’s life on 17 March were several representatives of the Ibo tribe, amongst his numerous family and friends, who overflowed from the large meeting room, sat on the stairs, and stood in the doorways. In an hour of tributes, very many of us wanted to stand and pay our respects to Thurstan, and to thank him for his kindness and wisdom. I feel privileged to have known him.

Thurstan is survived by his second wife, Pamela, and family of 5 children by his first wife, Ione, and their many descendants.

There is to be an archaeological memorial meeting at Sidney Sussex College in the Autumn. See also the “Times” obituary of 13 March.
Janet Moreton

Parish of the Month, Wimpole.
Explorer 209
Speak of Wimpole, and most of us think of the National Trust property – the hall, the stable block, the restaurant, the gardens and orchards, The Belts, The Park, giving scope for many days of interest and exercise. But Wimpole is also a parish of over 1000ha, bounded by The River Rhee, Ermine Street (or Old North Road) and the Cambridge-Arrington Bridge Road. In 1086, the population was 57, gradually growing to 583 in 1831, before declining steadily to 160 in 1996.

Let us consider the parish before the National Trust took control of the Hall, buildings, and 1200ha of land in 1976.

When a gas compressor station was sited by the A603, as part of the gas pipeline laid across East Anglia in 1994, pottery of the late Iron Age (ca 100BC to 100AD) was found. An archaeological dig revealed 3 circular Iron Age huts of 12 – 13m diameter.

There is evidence of much more Roman occupation. The junction of two major Roman roads at Arrington Bridge, TL 334 486 was the site of a posting station. Construction of a swimming pool at Wimpole Lodge, TL 334 487, revealed foundations of stone and clunch, with much Roman pottery and coins. This is clearly part of an extensive site, for similar finds are known from Wendy, Arrington and Whaddon, meeting at the same cross-roads. Excavations to the N of this site revealed cobbled yards and ditched enclosures that had been paddocks, garden plots and residential sites, used from the late C2nd., and being reorganised three times before the C5th. There was evidence for blacksmithing and leather and bone working, with large numbers of artefacts (hob-nails, two iron heel-plates; door hinges and key; linch-pins; reaping hook; spear; chisel; brooch, pins, knives, buckle, razor, glass and coins). In addition, Roman cremation urns were reported during WWII at TL 342 498, near Cambridge Road Farm.

An unexpected discovery during excavations at Wimpole Lodge, was a C6th Anglo Saxon cemetery. A middle-aged woman was buried with a necklace of amber beads, a bronze brooch and wrist-clasps. Bones of seven other skeletons were recovered, including new-born infants. The Roman site had been abandoned for over a century, but ditches, ruined buildings and Roman roads would still have been in use.

In Medieval Times, Wimpole was a village originally comprising a group of hamlets. The main village was adjacent to the church, but was removed in the mid C17th, when the hall was rebuilt by Sir Francis Chicherley. Two hamlets once existed to the SW (Benhall End, site of the original hall, cleared in the 1730s, when Charles Bridgeman laid out the park), and to the S (Thresham End, cleared C18th). A section of village N of the hall disappeared in the 1750s when Capability Brown extended the grounds. Wratsworth hamlet, was once located in the NE of the parish, near Cobbs Wood Farm, but was cleared in the C19th. during a further landscaping phase.

Thus, preserved in the grassland around the park are the remains of 3 parts of the old village, with streets, house-sites and gardens visible as low banks. The strategic importance of Ermine Street makes it likely that the large mound in the park, 500yd NW of the house was a C12th castle motte. A post-mill stood on it in the C17th. Old roads still survive as slight hollow ways, as do considerable areas of ridge & furrow (although some were inadvertently ploughed up by the National Trust over a decade ago, to great public complaint). There is no Inclosure Award for Wimpole because its open fields had been gradually enclosed by successive owners of the hall before the C19th.

In 1730 two hamlets were displaced to plant a 2mile long avenue of elms (lost to Dutch Elm disease, and replanted in the 1970s with limes) leading to the front of the hall. In 1850, the then owner, Admiral Sir Charles Philip Yorke erected the estate village of New Wimpole on the A603, consisting of 12 semi-detached houses in a Tudoresque style. The village church remains on its original site. Rebuilt by Flitcroft in 1749, but much Victorianised, it retains a C14th N chapel as a mausoleum. One original c14th window was kept. Contents include alabaster tombs, brasses, and a monument to the Earl of Hardwick.

Family histories
From C16th onwards, successive owners had the enthusiasm and capability to buy land at great expense for status and pleasure, rather than agriculture, and in the process depopulating the countryside. Wimpole’s estate started with a manor house, church and settlement around the later site of Wimpole Hall, which was given to Henry Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury in the C15th. His descendant, Sir Thomas Chicheley, rebuilt the hall in brick, and replaced the village around the church with gardens. Subsequent owners were the Earl of Radnor and the Duke of Newcastle. The Duke’s daughter married Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, who employed Charles Bridgeman to change the formal gardens into park land, and include an octagonal water-filled basin near Whaddon. The scholarly Harley collected books and manuscripts, which became the core of the British Library. In debt, in 1739 he sold Wimpole to the Earl of Hardwicke who employed Capability Brown for more enlargement and landscaping, removing another medieval hamlet, and joining Bridgeman’s ponds into a curving lake. These, with his medieval-style folly, remain major landmarks today. In the early C19th. Humphrey Repton introduced newer garden fashions, and in 1850 the then owner, Admiral Yorke, erected New Wimpole Estate Village on the A603. Foreclosure on a mortgage in the late C19th left the estate with the Agar-Robartes family from Llanhydrock in Cornwall, whence much of the Hall’s furnishings were removed. In the 1930s Wimpole was sold to Captain Bembridge, whose widow Elsie, daughter of Rudyard Kipling, was a recluse, and the park sank into benign neglect. In 1976 she left the Hall and 1200ha acres of the park to the National Trust.

The paths in Wimpole
The parish has 9 public rights of way. In addition, there are at least 8 other permissive paths within the Wimpole Estate, and other approved routes or open access across grassland. This makes possible a great variety of walks, within the park and the parish, and onwards into adjacent parishes. It is believed that the NT is about to propose diversions of some of these RoW. RA Cambridge Group will examine such proposals very carefully when it is consulted.

Of the definitive paths, Wimpole Bp 1 starts from TL 339 526, from the corner of the Old Cambridge Road above The Belts, and runs E along the hilltop as part of Mare Way. Beyond the water tanks at the top of the Wimpole Road, TL 352 524, Mare Way continues on both sides of a shallow ditch. On the N side it is Eversden Bp 11, leading to walks in Eversden, and on the S side it is Orwell Bp3, a dead-end which, however, has a side branch, Orwell Fp2 leading down into Orwell village.

Wimpole Fp2 is a short path starting from much the same place as Bp1, passing through a tree belt, and crossing an arable field, to join well-waymarked but muddy paths in Eversden Wood. In late Spring, the woodland rides have bluebells, oxlips, and early purple orchids.

Wimpole Fp3 leaves the minor road opposite Home Farm at TL 342 514, and follows the farm track past Cobbs Wood Farm and uphill past woodland to the multiway junction at the top of the Wimpole Road, joining Orwell Fp4 for the last few metres. Branching off Fp3, just before the bridge, is Wimpole Fp4, waymarked through the yard of a deserted house, over a bridge, and through fields to cross Victoria Drive, then over more fields to reach Orwell., via Orwell Fp1. This is a good all-weather route, and the “Bull in field” sign on stiles is left there whether the bull is present or not.

Wimpole Fp5 is the Wimpole Drive, leading to Arrington, and routes beyond. It is the start of The Clopton Way, going to Gamlingay Cinques. As the path emerges through the decorative gates onto Ermine Street, note that you have already entered Arrington parish. Note, too, the display board, recalling that this part of the park was a hospital in WWII.

On Ermine Street, A 1198, a sign shows the start of Wimpole Fp 6, starting at TL 329 500, a little way beyond The Hardwick Arms. This path crosses arable fields, and the Wimpole Avenue, then another arable field, finally to emerge down the drive of Cambridge Road Farm onto the A603. As far as the Wimpole Avenue, it is part of the Harcamlow Way. In wet conditions, this is a very sticky route.

Wimpole Fp7 leaves Fp6 at TL 337 497, to run S down the Wimpole Avenue, crossing the A603, to reach the Whaddon parish boundary at a bridge over the River Rhee, TL 337 485. From here paths lead to Whaddon, Wendy, or a WWII display board by the A1198 at TL 339 469. Sadly, there is no public path leaving the road opposite this point. However one may walk 600m north along the verge, to pick up Shingay cum Wendy Fp 8 near Road Farm at TL 329 500. This path uses mostly field edges to zig-zag to the hamlet of Wendy.

Note that in damp conditions, it is pleasanter to start this walk in the park, through a gate in the railings at ca TL 338 509, rather than going round by Fp6.

Wimpole Fp8 forms two short sections of footpath within Eversden Wood, where the parishes of Wimpole, Kingston and Eversden form an elaborate patchwork.

From Old Wimpole Road, opposite Kingston Pastures Farm at TL 329 529, Wimpole Fp9 runs S across fields to the A1198. Half-way across, there is a strip of pasture field. This pasture may be accessed from The Belts via a stile at ca TL 331 517, which is not obvious from the path.

The Permissive Paths
The best-known of these is The Belts, a track running in the woodland to the W and N of Wimpole, and part of the County Council’s promoted route, The Wimpole Way. Reaching the Old Wimpole Road at TL 339 524, it is possible to continue immediately opposite in woodland, to join FP 3 above Cobbs Wood Farm, at TL 350521.

The National Trust promotes a route across pasture, and by the Chinese Bridge over lakes to visit The Folly, and emerging on The Old Wimpole Road, a little way N of Home Farm. Alternatively, a return may be made across another portion of the lakes on a causeway. It is a pity that The Folly itself is fenced off, due to safety considerations, and that there are no seats on the hill top, where otherwise a good view could be appreciated in comfort. From The Folly, however, one can go N to follow a ditch to TL 336 524, and join The Belts, not far from the exit onto The Old Wimpole Road.

Users of Wimpole Fp4 as the route to Orwell and beyond, may wish to return another way, using the very attractive Victoria Drive, the old carriageway route, which starts in Orwell on the A603 at TL 359 507, and emerges on The Old Wimpole Road, just opposite the NT drive. It is possible to turn off Victoria Drive at TL 358 508, and follow a path by a hedge to join Orwell Fp2 up Thorn Hill, and onto Mare Way.

Almost opposite the drive to Cobbs Wood Farm (Fp 3), a kissing-gate gives access to a short-cut path across the park, to the carpark and stable block. This path is shown clearly on the 1902 1: 10 000 OS sheet, and again on the First Series 1:25 000 OS sheet as a black dotted line, but it was never registered as a public right of way.

The National Trust promotes these routes, and several other short walks around the grasslands of the park in a leaflet available for a charge.

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. 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


Cantab 73   Price 20 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2013

CANTAB72 March 2013

CANTAB72 March 2013 published on

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


Unintended countryside humour
Ramblers’ Net recently ran a series about odd notices seen in the countryside. Below is a short selection.

(Sign in English seen on a farm gate at Saksun, Faroes, sent in by Brian Reader)

(Isle of Wight private drive with public footpath, also from Brian Reader)

(Seen in Shap by Harry Whitehouse) Presumably small dogs are allowed to leave it open!

I invite readers to send East Anglian quaint or unintendedly humorous notices – or do all our local landowners ensure they say exactly what they mean?

Beyond the Icknield Way The ever popular Icknield Way Guide has gone into its sixth edition, entitled, “The Icknield Way Path – A Walkers’ Guide”. Priced at £10, including post/packing, it is obtainable from

The Icknield Way leads us from Knettishall Heath to Ivinghoe Beacon.Beyond, the Ridgeway Path leads the foot-traveller out of East Anglia, southwards and westwards.

The Friends of the Ridgeway are promoting a new path through Southern England called “The Great Stones Way”.

The route is still under development, but will run for 45 miles/68km from Barbury Castle to Stonehenge and Old Sarum, Wiltshire. Overall, K£88 has been raised for signs and stiles.

The first section to open will be the 14 mile Plain and Avon walk, from Casterley Camp above Upavon, to Amesbury and Stonehenge, via the Avon Valley. The route explores historic landscapes and pretty villages with a good supply of pubs. Grants for improving this section have been made by Plain Action and Tidworth Community Area.

For more information:

Shepreth teashop I have had a recommendation for the “Teacake” teashop in Shepreth. Situated in the centre of the village on 8, Meldreth Road, it features tea, coffee, freshly made cakes, and light lunches. A tea-garden and take-away are available. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, the teashop is open from 9 to 5 on other weekdays, and 10.30 to 4.30 at weekends.

It is convenient for Shepreth L-moor reserve, the RSPB reserve, and walks to Barrington. Phone 07565 567023 e-mail

Lesser celandine
March is the time for early Spring flowers, so one should find the small celandine, Ranunculus ficaria (a member of the buttercup family) in damp ground, especially in woods, and at the edges of ditches, growing freely all over Britain and Northern Europe. The leaves are heart-shaped, fleshy dark green, and the yellow flowers usually have 8 petals. The flowers shut up before rain, and even in good weather do not open before 9 am. By 5pm, they have already shut up for the night, so time to finish your walk!

Terry Breverton’s “Complete Herbal”, published Quercus, 2011, (ISBN 978 0 85738 336 5) is based on Culpepper’s volume of 1653 and gives details of the herb’s former usage in medicine. The plant contains saponins which are fungicidal, and locally antihaemorrhoidal, and protoanemonin in the fresh plant is antibacterial. The German name, Scharbockskraut, derives from use of the early leaves, which are rich in vitamin C. The Russians call it Chistotel (clean body) as it was brewed and used in baths to help cure dermatitis and other skin irritations.

But I am happy to leave this charming plant beside the path, glad to see the yellow flowers open in Spring sunshine.

Parish of the Month – Madingley
Explorer 209

In Domesday, it is named Madinglei – the wood or clearing of the people of Mada.

A Roman Road from Cambridge passed by Madingley, and occasional Roman coins have been found nearby. Within and outside Madingley Wood , a high point with good views, are low banks of rectangular enclosures, where a trench revealed C1st pottery (late Iron Age or Roman). Excavations close to Madingley Hall at the top of a slope used for medieval settlement, uncovered ditches containing Saxon pottery 800 – 1100 AD.

A double moat near Moor Barns Farm, close to the A428 was probably the site of a grange owned by Barnwell Priory from C12 – C16th.

In the C13th, there were originally two manors. Marhams Manor was centred on the present Manor House, a timber-framed and plastered medieval building, set back from the west side of High Street. Madingley Hall was previously part of Burdeleys Manor and originally belonged to Sheriff Picot. Later, it was bought by the Hynde family, who were restoring the parish to single ownership by the C16th.

The red-brick & stone Madingley Hall was built in 1543 by Sir John Hynde and added to in ca 1590 by Sir Frances Hynde, when material was taken from the demolished St Audrey’s church, Histon . Later, the property was owned by the Cotton family, who extended the park in 1743, when Capability Brown’s landscaping cut the village in two, with the church and some cottages to the south, and the rest of the village to the north. The last baronet at Madingley gambled away the family money in the C19th, and had to earn a living driving a stage coach.

In 1948, Cambridge University bought the village, together with Madingley Hall and some 1200 acres ( 502ha). The University holds study courses in the hall, run by the Dept of Extramural Studies, and this would seem the best opportunity to see the inside of the building.

The parish today
Madingley parish now covers 840ha, following boundary adjustments after construction of the Cambridge bypass. The soil is clay, apart from a strip of chalk marl under the village itself. The small village is centrally placed in the boundaries, having a church, village hall, pub “The Three Horseshoes,” school, but no shop. The population in 1086 was 31; rising to about 450 people in the C13th, but steady at ca 150 people through the C16th – C18th. In 1851, the population had risen to 280, but in 1996, only 220 people resided in the parish, where very little development is allowed.

The parish church, close to the gates of the park, is a fine example of the decorated period, with a C13th nave and a C15th porch. The church contains a Norman font, and a disused bell 600y old, as well as memorials to the Cotton family.

The other building of interest is the windmill, best seen from the A428.

A post-mill had been built here in the late C18th but it fell down in 1909. In the 1930s it was replaced by another post mill, parts of which date from the C16th, and which was brought from Huntingdonshire as a decorative feature. It decayed and lost its sails in the 1970s, but is now repaired.

The American Military Cemetery On the north slope of Madingley Rise is the American War Graves Cemetery and Memorial, currently under restoration. Normally it is accessible from both the A428, and the Cambridge Road, but at present only from the Cambridge Road. Land was given by the Madingley Estate in 1943. Some 9000 dead from WWII are commemorated. From the flag to the chapel, a long wall of Portland stone carries 5000 names of those dead who were never located. The graves of the rest are marked by Italian white marble crosses, fanning out radially down the slope.

The former Brook Pit and Madingley Wood both have wildlife interest. Madingley Wood, SSSI, is the nearest ancient wood to Cambridge, growing predominantly ash & maple. It has been the subject of 340 years of research, and documentation exists from 1210 onwards. John Ray in 1660 recorded 224 kinds of plant. In 1950 some185 species were found. Madingley Wood is fenced round and not open to the public, but can be seen through the fence from Footpath 4.

Adjacent to Madingley Wood, is the University’s new Octo-Centenary Wood, commemorating the University’s 800th anniversary (2009), and opened to the public on Community Outreach Day, 16 Feb 2011. Local schoolchildren took part in the planting of over 15000 trees on 10ha of the University Farm’s former arable land. The wood has been planted with native species e.g. oak, hazel and ash. The planting has been designed to retain views east across to Ely as the trees mature, and several seats are provided. There are information boards, and pedestrian access points at each end, cycle racks, but no parking. There is limited parking off the Cambridge Road at the rear of the American cemetery.

Paths and walking opportunities
There are 4 public rights of way in Madingley parish, giving rather inadequate access to parts of the parish and to through-routes beyond.

Madingley Bridlepath 1 starts from the N side of Dry Drayton Rd at TL 393 611. It runs NE on a grass fieldside track, turns left in front of a ditch, and joins Dry Drayton 12 which goes to the A14 near the crematorium, while a more useful branch continues as Dry Drayton Footpath 13.

Thus it is possible to make a through route from Madingley to Dry Drayton, first taking care along the narrow road out of the village, as far as the start of Bp1.

Madingley Bridlepath 2 starts on Cambridge Road at TL 403 599 almost opposite the Octo-Centenary Wood. It runs NE on a grass track between fields, passes a big black barn and later a small copse to cross the A428 on a concrete bridge. The RoW continues on a stony track, passing through a tunnel to emerge as Girton Bp6 on the slip road of the M11 – A14 junction. As a through route to Girton, this path does not have much going for it. It is possible (but not recommended) to turn right and walk along the verge of the slip road, until opposite Girton Fp4, where the road crossing is very difficult, or a little further along, where crossing is a little easier opposite Girton College. It is also possible to return from here on Girton Fp5, which joins Madingley Fp3, as described below. The proposals to modify the A14 which were discarded by the present government might have improved this dangerous junction for pedestrians.

Madingley Footpath 3 leaves Cambridge Road at TL 410 596, on a signed path dropping down steps to a field-edge and which, after a couple of field-edges, joins Girton fp 5 to emerge on the A14 near the University Farm. Cross the A14 with great care to continue into Girton either along the village road, or on Girton Fp 4.

Madingley Footpath 4 runs from Cambridge Road at TL 404 599 to the A428 between American Cemetery and Madingley Wood, TL 403 594. Although it is fenced in on both sides, the wire fences are not an eye-sore and have wooded views beyond on both sides.

Cross the A428 with care outside the lawns of the American cemetery, to continue into Coton on Coton Fp 2 almost opposite.

Cream Teas in Litlington!
The Crown PH in Litlington has opened a tea lounge, from 9 am to 4 pm, serving breakfasts, tea, coffee, scones etc.

Note that in early Spring, the nearby Ashwell Street gives mostly good clean walking, and the paths in the chalky fields in the locality tend to dry out faster than those on heavier land elsewhere in South Cambridgeshire District.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab appears approximately 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 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


Cantab 72 Price 20 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2013

CANTAB71 January 2013

CANTAB71 January 2013 published on

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


Happy New Year! Accept a brief season’s greetings, and an apology that this issue contains no “Parish of the Month”. You may recall that the November issue was completely taken up with Fen Ditton, so that now I have an accumulation of news items best seen before they become too stale.

Good wishes and good walking for 2013. Janet Moreton

The length of a walk
How many times at the end of a pleasant day have I overheard a remark, as follows: “Nice walk – how far did you make it then?” Estimates are made, perhaps, from a finger round the map, pedometer readings, or nowadays with a GPS. The walk’s leader may have originally entered “10 miles” in the programme, only perhaps to have changed the route slightly, over- or under-estimated the route with a piece of cotton round the map, or unwisely trusted one of those little “map-measurer” gadgets with a wheel. My own feeling is that a variation of 10% or so from the stated target distance is absolutely acceptable, but a walk of 14 miles which was supposed to be only 10 might well raise questions, if not outright complaints.

I have recently come across a series of discussions in “Ramblers Net” on the length of the British Coastline, which is relevant to the length of any path or walk. I paraphrase Pete Bland, himself summarising the contributions.

The length of anything depends on the measuring stick in use. Using a thick piece of string on your map, will give one result, but magnify your map and use thin twine and there will be a larger result. Use a GPS on the walk and the result will be different from someone else’s GPS reading. Trace the route with Anquet or Memorymap, and the computers will give yet another estimate. There is no such thing as the “correct distance”. In particular, the length of a walk given by your GPS will depend on: the frequency of position sampling; random errors in the position calculated; and the degree to which the GPS performs automatic smoothing of the data.

The problems associated with measuring coastline length led Benoit Mandlebrot to invent a new branch of mathematics called “Fractals”. The following quotation comes from “Chaos” by James Gleick (ISBN 978-0749386061), in a chapter on “A Geometry of Nature”.

“An observer trying to estimate the length of England’s coastline from a satellite will make a smaller guess than an observer trying to walk its coves and beaches, who will make a smaller guess in turn than a snail negotiating every pebble.

“Common sense suggests that, although these estimates will continue to get larger, they will approach some particular final value, the true length of the coastline. The measurements should converge, in other words. And in fact, if a coastline were some Euclidean shape, such as a circle, this method of summing finer and finer straight line distances would indeed converge. But Mandlebrot found that as the scale of measurement becomes smaller, the measurement of the coastline rises without limit, bays and peninsulas revealing ever smaller sub-bays and sub-peninsulas – at least down to atomic scales, where the process does finally come to an end”.

Shall we go for a four hour walk?

Octavia’s Walk
The National Trust has named a 6 mile circuit at Wicken after Octavia Hill, to mark the 100th anniversary of her death. The NT’s “News from the Fen” of July 2012 outlines events which led to the organisation’s formation.

In 1885, a campaign was started to raise public awareness of changes which the bringing of the railway would precipitate in the Lake District. Octavia Hill collaborated with Robert Hunter and Canon H Rawnsley on this issue, and their collaboration led the formation of The National Trust.

The promoted walk starts from the Wicken Fen Visitor Centre car park. (Note there is a parking charge, which will be refunded if the sum is spent in the visitor centre or its café).

The walk goes along Lodes Way onto Burwell Fen, on land bought by the NT in 2001. It crosses Burwell Lode, and continues south to cross Reach Lode, where walkers turn right along the bank. The route continues to Upware, and returns to the visitor centre via Wicken Lode. My experience of this area suggests that after prolonged rain, wellies would be a good idea.

Love or Hate?
Put this date in your diary for one reason or another. Between 31 August and 2 September 2013, the “Lodestar” festival will occur in Lode Fen, involving (doubtless loud) popular music, theatre, etc. You may wish to purchase tickets for this event online from

Or lovers of the quiet countryside, like me, will record the dates to ensure that on no account will they inadvertently venture near the vicinity.

Village Greens and Commons It is worth noting that the Government has published The Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which, amongst other things, contains changes to the law for registering new town and village greens. The reforms intend to exclude applications to register new greens on land that has actual or applied-for planning permission , or any land for potential development identified in a local or neighbourhood plan.

New commons and village greens are still being registered in Cambridgeshire. For example, there has been an an application to Cambs County Council to register land by Water Lane, Oakington as a common.

The Open Spaces Society has, as one of its prime aims, the protection of commons, greens and other open spaces. In 2011, the Society responded to calls from members for advice on protection and management of at least 62 commons, 28 registered greens, and 44 other open spaces. DEFRA and its Welsh equivalent sought advice on 81 applications for works on, or exchanges of common land. (The Society objected to 27 of these). Many more cases and disputes reached them via consultations from official bodies or were dealt with by the Society’s local correspondents. For more information, see

The RSPB in East Anglia
At Cambridge RA Group’s AGM on 23 November, our speaker was Graham Elliott, the RSPB’s Area Manager for Cambridgeshire and the fens, speaking especially about Fen Drayton Nature Reserve. For those who missed a good talk and slide show, here are some ideas for birdwatching walks, following my visit to another RSPB reserve at Fowlmere.


The Winter and early Spring are especially good times for birdwatching in East Anglia. Recently in the Fowlmere RSPB reserve, a copy of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ promotional pamphlet for East Anglia was pressed upon me. I am not an RSPB member. I like birds, but in general can no longer hear their high pitched songs, and have always felt more drawn to a study of flowers or fungi, or other static targets, rather than to a bird someone saw half a minute ago, but which had flown by the time they told me!

However, the list is impressive, with some 20 reserves featured.

Fowlmere Reserve itself is the nearest to Cambridge. Parking and entry are free, but a donation is always appreciated. Similarly, we all enjoy free access to Fen Drayton Lakes reserve, both along public footpaths, and on permissive trails. Indeed, most of us will have known this site before it was acquired by the RSPB, and before access via the Guided Busway from Cambridge or St Ives became so attractive an option. (See Cantab 64)

The next-nearest reserve from Cambridge is the RSPB’s headquarters outside Sandy, Bedfordshore and this again needs no introduction. I featured Sandy as Parish of the Month in Cantab 63 of July, 2011, suggesting various walks based on, or including, the delightful (sandy) walks around the reserve. It should be noted that parking for non-members is currently £4 per vehicle, so it was suggested that walkers park in the town, and use the attractive quiet Stratford Road past the station and cemetery to access the reserve.

How many readers know Lakenheath Fen Reserve, just over the Suffolk border? The RSPB created this wetland only a few years ago, out of arable farmland. Here I was absolutely amazed to see some cranes on one occasion. The reserve is accessible on foot along the Hereward Way, from Brandon, or from Lakenheath. There is a carpark charge for non-members.

The Ouse Washes Reserve is a wonderful sight in Winter. I visited once by coach for an evening floodlit “performance” by the Whooper and Bewick swans. On other occasions, we have walked in on the Hereward Way, only possible when the road bridge is not flooded.

The Nene Washes Reserve is doubtless better known to Peterborough residents, and a wonderful place for waders Access on foot is possible along the Nene Way along the South Barrier Bank some 2 miles from Whittlesea.

Other reserves are further away, and probably more suitable for a weekend break. Suffolk has two coastal reserves, at Minsmere and North Warren, and one at the ancient Wolves Wood, near Hadleigh.

Norfolk RSPB guards little terns at Great Yarmouth, displays huge numbers of waders along the coast at Snettisham, and has a wetland reserve at Titchwell Marsh. There are 3 reserves in the Yare Valley.

Essex RSPB boasts the Stour Estuary, and has a visitor centre at Wat Tyler Country Park, Pitsea.

How can the Ramblers attract and keep new members? What do members of the Ramblers want from the Association?
These are the questions posed at a recent forum attended by Cambridge Group Secretary Jill Tuffnell. The Ramblers CEO Benedict Southworth and Chairman Jonathan Kipling have been holding a series of regional meetings with representatives of local groups and Jill attended the only session covering London, the South East and East of England.

The facts are that Ramblers’ membership nationally has declined in recent years, with many new members failing to renew their subscription for a second year. Does the organisation offer what they need? Can we learn from successful local groups’ experience in terms of maintaining or increasing their numbers?

As a general rule – at least in the London/home counties – it is the groups which have a wide-ranging programme of local walks and trips, a very extensive group website with sections offering downloadable walks and also regularly updated online newsletters which are most successful. Some have been able to attract a regular inflow of new talent to their committees/officers. Success helps to support further success, with sufficient numbers of volunteers coming forward to break tasks down to manageable chunks. For example they have been able to create email lists of members who can readily be contacted. (This may seem easy, but everyone has to be contacted individually to ask for up-to-date details of such addresses and permission to use them!). The Cambridge Group is not so lucky. We rely on a few volunteers doing a lot of work. Our Area no longer functions as a decision-making body, which means more work for Groups. And – with a very successful local Rambling Club providing a wide-ranging programme of walks – we find it particularly challenging to maintain members who are only interested in a Wednesday or Sunday walk! Also in 2011 a number of new Ramblers members may have had their subscription paid by HF Holidays – and their membership may lapse one year on.

The publisher of Cantab has volunteered this slot to ensure the issue is aired amongst local Ramblers’ members. Cambridge Group welcomes any help you may be able to offer us – especially on our Committee, but also in any other role, such as helping with newsletters or developing our website.

Jill Tuffnell

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab appears approximately 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 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


Cantab 71 Price 20 pence where sold © Janet Moreton, 2013.

CANTAB70 November 2012

CANTAB70 November 2012 published on

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


Only one topic! The whole of this month’s issue is occupied with a parish on Cambridge’s frontier. With the onset of short daylight, I invite you to ramble nearer to home, and notice some new points of interest in a familiar village.

Janet Moreton

Parish of the Month:Fen Ditton
Lying just outside the urban eastern reaches of Cambridge, alongside the Cam, Fen Ditton is strategically placed for a rapid & easy escape into the countryside.

The land and its early occupation The parish lies mainly on chalk, with strips of gravel and alluvium along the river, and an area of gravel to the extreme south of the parish. Much of the present village makes use of its ridge ca 15m above sea level, but almost all of the rest of the parish is at ca 10m, apart from lower areas adjacent to the river, along the attractive water-meadows. Boundaries of the parish include the Cam, Quy Water and a drainage ditch known as Black Ditch.

Evidence of prehistoric occupation of the land is concentrated in fields near these watercourses, where Mesoliths and Neolithic flints occur at the junction of fen and slightly higher land, and several bronze age implements have been found near the fen edge to the north of the parish. However. there have been finds elsewhere including Neolithic polished stone hand-axes in both the Rectory garden and from Biggin Abbey, and a Bronze Age urn cremation at Ditton Meadows.

Fen Ditton and Horningsea parishes form a peninsula of high ground between the river and the fens which was cut off from dry land to the south by the construction of a bank and ditch, called Fleam Dyke. It is not certain when it was built, but early Anglo-Saxons were entombed in the ditch when it was almost filled, suggesting a date earlier than C6th. Elsewhere in East Anglia, dykes date from the Iron Age, and so too may this one. Another suggestion is that it could perhaps have been Roman, although unlike adjacent parishes, there are few remains from the Roman period. Immediately south of the Dyke, a large Middle Iron Age settlement was excavated in 1996. There were ca 300 pits here, containing animal bones and much pottery, hearths, and enclosures.

Fen Ditton is “Dittone”, meaning the village by the (Fleam) Ditch, first so named in a will made ca 950. By the late C13th, “Fen” had been added to differentiate it from Woodditton.

The irregular and peculiar boundary with Horningsea is due to division of the two parishes by the Bishop of Ely in 1412. Previously, although Fen Ditton was a settlement from at least the C10th, it does not seem to have been considered a separate parish, and is not mentioned in the Domesday Book or in the C13th Hundred Rolls. Some of the southern boundary with Cambridge has been adjusted in the C20th . Much of the parish was enclosed in a piecemeal fashion linked to fenland drainage in the C17th and C18th, and the remaining fields were enclosed by the official Award made in 1807.

Recorded Settlement & Development
In the C10th, Ditton was the property of Aelfgar, who left it to his daughter Aethelflaed on condition that it became church property on her death. She left it in her will to the church at Ely, in the late C10th. In the C12th, the land passed to the bishop, rather than to the abbey, and remained in this ownership until 1600, when taken over by the Crown. The Bishops’ C14th house is now known as Biggin Abbey

The original village settlement was mainly a strip running parallel to the river, with the church at the south end. Wharves were built between the Cam and the village, and from these several Fen Ditton merchants were involved in national and international trade. The north end was known as Green End, containing the village green, and was the likely site of the market granted to the Bishop in the late C13th. In the late Middle Ages occupation spread from the riverside to an E – W orientation along the line of the filled-in Fleam Dyke, to make use of higher ground and some of the substantial C17th houses along what is now High Street and High Ditch Road still stand on the flattened bank. No6 High Street “The Walled Cottage” provides a model for local materials using alternate courses of squared clunch and pink gault brick. Musgrave Farmhouse in the High Street is a jettied house of the late C16th, and Honeysuckle Cottage is a fine C17th property on High Ditch Road.

Among the buildings still lining the river, the Hall, south of the church, is a fine example of old red brickwork with shaped gables of ca 1635 – it was constructed on a grand scale round a late medieval timbered house.

The church, with walls of jumbled rubble and clunch has early C14th tracery of the tall chancel, a lofty C15th porch, and tower of 1881 by Pearson. Some authorities consider the chancel’s fine conception (originally 1316-37) has been ruthlessly restored by the Victorians. The rowing-eight weather-vane on the tower celebrates the village’s rowing associations. The Rectory presents a lovely red-brick front to the churchyard, 1711-32. There are two large Black Poplar trees in a paddock below the church, rare examples of Populus nigra v. betulifolia, of which only about 100 are known in the County.

Opposite the church is the short row of Almshouses, built in 1665-6 by a member of the Willys family; rebuilt by Thomas Bailey in 1877, and remodelled in 1968-9 with funds from the Chase Charity.

In isolation outside the village is The Biggin (or Biggin Abbey) which was built originally by Hugh de Northwold, Bishop of Ely in the mid C13th, in a palatial style, and used as a residence & a hunting lodge. It was a place for official business, and for entertaining royalty including Henry III, Edward I, and Edward II. By the mid C14th, the extensive property was in poor condition, and the building that survives was built mainly at that time, when its use had declined to a manor house. It was remodelled in the C17th, with walls of clunch & stone, now covered with concrete! In C17th, it was sold to the Willys family of Eye Hall in Horningsea, and in the mid C18th, it came into ownership of Thomas Panton.

Other important buildings include The Barn, a massive C16th structure now used for public events, but once used for trading and as the village Guildhall. One of the medieval wharves can still be seen between this building and the river, and there was another near The Plough off Green End Road, which was used by coal barges into the C20th.

On the outskirts of the parish is not only the abandoned and partly flattened section of the Fleam Dyke, but also the dismantled railway line, the former LNER (London and North Eastern Railway) that linked Cambridge to a terminus at Mildenhall, with a halt at Fen Ditton. This part of the line was laid in 1884 by the Great Eastern Railway Company, when Mildenhall was still a successful port on the River Lark. The line closed in 1964.

The population in the early C14th comprised 330 adults. In the C16th and C17th there were fewer than 60 families, probably due to loss of trading activities. In 1801 there were still only 337 people recorded in the census. Numbers grew in the C19th, reaching 680 in 1881, possibly augmented by the coprolite diggers active at Green End. The old village street was infilled with new housing in the 1950s, some replacing gaps of houses destroyed in WWII bombing. The population by 1996 had reached 730.

Walking around Fen Ditton
Map – OS Explorer209
The following walks take in many of the features described in the above paragraphs, which are marked by an asterisk. Numbered paths refer to paths in Fen Ditton parish, unless otherwise stated.

Around Fen Ditton’s Historic Sites The walk starts at the Newmarket Road Park-and-Ride carpark, which may be reached from The Grafton Centre in Cambridge using a frequent service. Within the P & R site, follow cycleway arrows to the rear hedge, where an attractive “Bicycle” arch leads out into fields. Turn left and follow the cycleway 50m to the corner. (This point can also be reached from Newmarket Rd, by a signed path starting beside the garage). Fp9 goes across the arable field to a gap in the opposite hedge. Descend steps to the former railway*, and take more steps up the other side. Go through a kissing gate into pasture, and follow waymarks through 3 more kissing gates, emerging into a residential road, and turn right onto High Ditch Road*.

Here, at the junction with High Street and Horningsea Road is the village sign, illustrating the church, an old plough, and a rowing eight. (The sign was being repaired when I visited – look for the new endpiece to the village name, showing a rose, carved in oak by Neil Horne). Down High Street, pass the Ancient Shepherds pub, and note The Walled Cottage, house no.6*, opposite. The Kings Head pub is on the corner of High Street & Church Street, and centrally placed is the village war memorial. Visitors to the church* seem likely to find it locked, but one can readily view The Alms Houses*, The Old Rectory* and the black poplars* from the road. Continue down Church St and Green End, and enter the recreation ground. Fp3 leaves the back of the rec, and runs as a field edge path behind gardens. Fp4 turns off left part-way along between fences. However, continue to the end of fp 3, where it joins Byway 5, then turn left, to Green End termination. (The other end of Byway 5 meets Horningsea Road).

Take Fp6 signed starting in a fenced defile across the field near a restored cottage, then across a meadow, to go under the A14 beside the Cam. Immediately, turn right below the A14, on Fp8 initially between hedges, later, signed across two arable fields The path passes quite close to Biggin Abbey*, which is, however, better seen from Fp6. The path joins Horningsea Fp 1 which leads via Fp7 to Baits Bite Lock. Do not cross the lock (unless seeking to rest on seats in front of the building on the far side), but turn left in front of a tall wooden fence, on Fp6, with a ditch to left. After a section through bushes, one walks beside the Cam. Continue under the A14 viaduct, retracing to Green End*.

Continue ahead to the church, then turn down Fp2, towards the river, passing the Old Manor House*, which unfortunately is not clearly seen from the path. Fp2 enters a kissing gate, and goes through riverside meadows, crossing a bridge over a ditch, and joining a tarmac cycleway. Continue on the cycleway under the railway bridge over the river (beware cyclists!) and thence into Cambridge, along the riverside as far as Saxon Street. Turn left here, and right into Beche Road. Pass the medieval Cellerer’s Chequer, and the old (haunted?) Abbey House opposite. Use the subway to cross Newmarket Road, and return to the Grafton Centre. (7 miles)

In wet weather, (and for much of the Winter) Fp2 through the meadows can be flooded. In this case, start down Fp1, signed down a cycleway opposite the church. Either continue on the (dry) cycleway, which goes under the railway bridge, or branch off to cross the railway on high steps at TL 473 599 , to join the route along Cambridge riverside.

The walk can be extended to about 11 miles, by crossing the Cam at Baits Bite, using the towpath to Clayhythe, where cross the river, and return using the Fen Rivers Way route through Horningsea.

If, in addition, one continues further round the Cambridge riverfront past Jesus Green, The Backs and Coe Fen, a distance of 14 miles might be attained, if not overtaken by the darkness of a winter’s afternoon!

Fen Ditton’s other paths
Fen Ditton has 14 numbered paths on the Definitive Map, but several of these are short sections of longer paths between Teversham and Horningsea or Stow cum Quy, and have been described elsewhere. However, one other circuit is possible using Byway 14 in Fen Ditton.

Low Fen Drove Circuit
Start from Fen Ditton Church*, where there is limited parking. Follow the route described towards Baits Bite Lock, but turn East on the path towards Horningsea. On reaching the road, turn right (South, away from Horningsea) as far as a bus shelter, where cross the road, and follow Low Fen Drove Way (Byway 14) to Snout Corner, passing the site of an old windmill. Veer right to cross the line of the old railway*, continue to Honey Hill, and pass over the A14 to reach High Ditch Road. Turn right to return to Fen Ditton. (Note: Low Fen Droveway can be wet and muddy in Winter). (6 miles)

The Fen Rivers Way This long distance path between Cambridge and the Wash, has a dual route (i.e. on both sides of the river) between Cambridge and Ely. The route on the east bank uses Fps 2, 3, 6 and 7 as it passes through Fen Ditton, and is waymarked accordingly.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab appears approximately 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 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


Cantab 70 Price 20 pence where sold © Janet Moreton, 2012.

CANTAB69 September 2012

CANTAB69 September 2012 published on

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


The Summer of the Nettles
Sometimes, they have been 9 feet high, tangled together with bindweed, brambles, or various arable weeds at the edge of a cereal field, making paths impassable.

Last year Cambridgeshire County Council made three cuts on selected field-edge paths, in May, July and again in the Autumn. This year, when weeks of Summer downpours after drought caused the vegetation to reach for the sky, there were only two such cuts, the second starting in September. Through the Summer, Cambridge RA Group advised walkers to wear long trousers, and if necessary to walk in the crop, such as down a spray line. The Highways Act, 1980, in case of an obstructed path, allows one to take the nearest reasonable alternative. The Group has been concerned about accidents: people falling over in the tangled weeds, or taking to the nearest, possibly hazardous road.

The Highways Act also gives the County Council the obligation to maintain public rights of way. This year, Cambs CC claimed there was no money available for more path maintenance. We note that the County cuts 25% of the network, although some of the other paths are maintained by local parishes, landowners, and other agencies. We also note that, after reorganisation, the County Council’s Countryside Services Team is now part of the Highways Department. There still seems to be plenty of money to cut the roadside verges every six weeks!

Some field edge paths are now being cut in September, although several paths which we have reported as being presently impassable, have been refused treatment, on the grounds that they are not on the list for cutting, and there is no money to include them this year.

Whilst everyone knows that local government spending is restricted, we think footpaths and bridleways should receive more priority. Walking is a very inexpensive form of recreation, open to most people, and the cost of maintenance is relatively small.

Now the harvest is in, and the problem is less acute, do not forget your sufferings in July and August. It is no use writing to the rights of way staff at the County Council, who are using all the resources available to them. Please address your concerns to your County Councillor. Do it soon, so that next year, footpaths may have a fairer share of the funding.

Janet Moreton

The Future of England’s Forests
The report of an independent panel on the future of forestry, was issued in July. The panel was set up following the furore over the government’s planned sell off of public forests last year.

Recommendations include
— An adequately funded and staffed public forestry body, free from political intervention.
— Developing and investing in the services which are currently supplied
— Expanding our National Forest Estate
— Retaining GB –wide functions
— Recognising the continuing need for a forest research body.

In response, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman assured “Our Forests will stay in public hands”.

We hope so.

(Synopsis of an item in “Prospect” Aug 2012).

The Woodland Trust – 40 this year
The Woodland Trust Charity is celebrating its 40th year, since its founding in 1971 by retired agricultural machinery producer Kenneth Watkins. By 1981, the Trust owned 80 woods. After 30 years, it was caring for 1135 woods, and had planted 5 million trees. After 40 years, the Trust cares for 1276 woods, covering 23 580 ha (58 267 acres), and has planted 16 million trees. All the Trust’s woodlands are open freely to walkers and other quiet recreational users on foot.


Parish of the Month –
Thompson, Norfolk
Explorer 229

Walkers of the Peddars Way will have passed through this quiet parish, but may not have left the ancient trail to visit the village. Neither will users of the Pingo Trail, encouraged to use a small carpark off the A1075, have gained any impression of the wider landscape.

Pause a while to learn the history of Thompson, and vary your walks in this quiet area.

The Peddars Way ancient trackway runs NNW from Thompson Water, right across the parish. An old track, perhaps a few thousand years old, formed a basis for the Roman Road, built immediately after the Boudican revolt of AD 61. Although primarily of military importance in Roman times, communities sprung up beside the road. Large quantities of Roman material were found at Brettenham, and there may have been an Iceni/Roman town at Salham Toney.

Thompson is believed to have a Danish origin, at Tumi’s Tun, the homestead of Tumi. Thompson’s most important historical period could be dated 1350 – 1541, at the time of its Collegiate church. St Martin’s Church is claimed to be one of the finest examples of the decorated style in East Anglia, and is usually open for inspection. In 1350, the building was endowed as a Collegiate Church by brothers Thomas and John de Shardelowe. They established a community of 6 monks in a chantry building, the remains of which are still evident in College Farmhouse. After The Dissolution, the college became a manor house and farmhouse. The church was restored by the Lord of the Manor, Robert Futter in 1648, and again facing ruin in 1913, it was restored again by the Rev Kent at Merton, and his friend Duleep Singh.

The College Farmhouse and its very attractive grounds, can be seen from the roadside in the village. The Chequers Inn, an old thatched building, dates from the early C17th. Other points of interest include The Village Sign, unveiled in 1977 to mark the Queen’s Jubilee. Figures of a Roman Soldier, a monk & a goose-girl represent elements of Thompson’s history.

Forestry and Military Danger Areas
The parish is low-lying, with a sandy soil overlying chalk. Agriculture, forestry and military exercises account for the greatest land use.

Thetford Forest dates from 1922, and a substantial proportion of Thompson parish is under conifers. The military took over the Stanford Battle Area before WWII, after trees had been planted, and a proportion of the parish is still a “no-go” area, clearly marked with Ministry of Defence “Danger Area” notices. A glance at the map shows adjacent parishes such as Tottington, with its abandoned St Andrews Church, and Sturston, seemingly entirely within the military fence. Several villages were evacuated at the time, some 1000 persons being displaced. When you visit Thompson, spare a thought for these poor people, almost like latter-day victims of the Highland clearances.

Natural History
Thompson Common is owned by Norfolk Naturalists Trust, and the artificial lake, Thompson Water is part of the reserve. The Common is known particularly for its pingos. Pingos derive from the freeze / thaw cycles of the glaciations during the Devonian period. Each circular pool was originally formed by freezing water on top of a groundwater spring. The repeated addition of ice caused a dome of surface gravels. When the ice melted, the middle of the pingo collapsed to form a hollow. Any sediment which flowed off formed an encircling rampart. Where a pingo is in open grass, it looks attractive with clear water and flowering vegetation. The pools of stagnant water under the trees are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so insect repellent is a must for Summer visitors.

In late Spring, the reserve is well-known for its interesting plants, including water violet and amphibious yellow-cress growing in the pingos, and Southern fen orchid, and pyramidal orchids flowering in the immediate locality. Some 70 to 80 species of bird are said to nest in the forest area, of which the rarest is the stone curlew, which chooses areas of open ground. Don’t get too hopeful about seeing one of these – they are said to be extremely shy.

Walking opportunities.
The Peddars Way runs from Knettishall Heath to Holme next the Sea, where the path turns east, becoming the Norfolk Coast Path. Thompson is thus about 10 miles north of the start at Knettishall Heath, and a detour east from less than a mile north of Thompson Water at TL 908 961 would take the rambler to Thompson village, which has B & B accommodation:
College Farm 01953 483318

Thatched House 01953 483577
Lands End 01953 488070

Otherwise sections of The Peddars Way can be taken into circular walks, as described below.

The Pingo Trail, 8 miles
Walkers are advised to start the Pingo Trail at a small carpark off the A1075, at TL 940 966. This point is a few hundred yards N beyond the turning to Stow Bedon. A display board for the route describes the track of the old railway which forms one limb of the walk, and the special wildlife of the locality.

Set off SSW down the line of the former track of The Great Eastern Railway in a wooded setting, with shallow pools at intervals on both sides of the track. Duck-boards are provided over the damper areas. Continue on a more open stretch past Crow’s Farm, and back into the woodland as far as Hockham Heath where, at TL 927 925, one meets a minor road, which is followed NW for 400yd, to a junction where The Peddars Way is joined, going NNW along a road that later becomes a byway. Follow this former Roman Road to Thompson Water. At TL 912 950, a waymarked track turns off right through the undergrowth. The path, well signed, winds through the wood, later following beside a watercourse, then emerging into meadows at TL 926 953. It continues NE across the rough grassland, passing a couple of pingos, and reaches a lane at TL 928 956. Follow the fenced lane, which widens, becomes tarmaced and passes Butter’s Lodge. Just before a road junction, a waymark at TL 934 967 indicates a right turn into woodland , which is well-waymarked on a winding route through the woods, scrub and grassland of the reserve, back to the carpark.

Thompson Village circuit. 4 miles.
Drive to Thompson church, where some parking is possible at the rear. Walk through the village, passing the very attractive College Farm. At TL 935 968, turn NW up Drove Lane, which follow to the minor road at TL 927 976. Turn left along Griston Road for 200yd, to return to the church on a public footpath. Perhaps take a rest in the churchyard!
For the next loop, go SW along the road to Pockthorpe Green (which is a wonderful large open common and recreation area) and take the path at TL 923 966, going S from a road junction by the school. At a junction of tracks, turn left on a bridleway, first along a field edge, then across a field to Butter’s Lodge. Turn left and follow the road back to the church.

Thompson to Thompson Water
5 miles
From Thompson Church, take the road SW to Pockthorpe Green, and go to the road junction at TL 919 961, then W on the dead-end road to join the Peddars Way. Turn left to go SSE to the turning to Thompson Water. Pick up the Pingo Trail, (as described above), and return to Butter’s Lodge, and thence by road to Thompson.

Thompson and Merton. 7.5 miles
From Thompson Church, follow quiet roads generally W to the Peddars Way at TL 908 961. Follow this long distance path N to near Merton at TL 901 991.
Here, turn right into Merton village. At TL 908 987, take the bridleway S then E to the B 1110 at TL 913 981. Turn left, then right at a crossroads, and follow the road generally E to a T-junction at TL 924 989.Turn right for nearly a mile, then right again and shortly left at TL 927 976 down Drove Lane. Cut through at TL 933 971, to return straight back to the church.
Note that this route is less scenic, but may be useful to those wishing to walk a section of the Peddars Way as part of a circuit.

Quotation of the Month

Come ye thankful people come,
Raise the song of harvest-home.
All is safely gathered in
Ere the Winter storms begin;

George J Elvey (1816 – 93)

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 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


Cantab 69 Price 20 pence where sold
© Janet Moreton, 2012.