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CANTAB16 December 2002

CANTAB16 December 2002 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Happy Christmas, and . . . .   Good Walking now & in 2003

More about Boots
Last issue’s sad story about cracked up boots must have struck a chord, and I have received several tales of boots that, for one reason or another, failed to make the grade.

The news-sheet of the Cambridge Rambling Club from time-to-time has sad little adverts “For Sale, …boots as new, only worn once“.  Has the seller been obliged to give up serious walking?  Did they prove too large or too small?  Or were they too ferocious to be broken in?

I have been taken aside at a meeting, and shown a pair of heavy-duty boots, worn only on four mountain holidays, with a large slit in the leather at one side, and effectively useless.

On the other hand, not all walkers regard the tendency of uppers to crack with the same horror, it seems.  In a letter from a distant friend, she statesAll my walking boots have cracks across the toes. It is part of the breaking-in process and I would rather have cracks than strata of blisters on the heels which seems to be the alternative.  They let in water, but that doesn’t bother me.  I have two very aged and one fairly aged pair of boots, so some buying and breaking in is going to happen soon...”

Well, let us hope that Santa, or at least the January Sales will come up with perfect footware for all our readers.

The West Anglian Way – off to a good start!
On the 3 November, 40 ramblers left Cambridge station, on the first leg of their route to Cheshunt. Walkers came from the Cambridge area, and from all over Hertfordshire, 4 from London, including one lady here for a few months from Australia. Kate Day, Cambs C.C.Countryside Access Team Leader, accompanied by her little son, Benjamin, had sent us on our way with welcome words of encouragement and support.

The route took us past allotment gardens, along the track of the old Cambridge to Bletchley railway line, and to the monument at Nine Wells, which commemorates the activities of Thomas Hobson and friends, who first brought a water supply to Cambridge. We passed briefly through Shelford, and paused for lunch at The Tree in Stapleford.  So far, the weather had been fine and mild.  But rain in the afternoon, at first a drizzle, gradually increased as we left the fields and Rowley Lane, and traversed Sawston’s recreation ground.  We hastened up Church Lane, and along the High Street, to take to field paths once more to cross the bypass, and make for Whittlesford.  This was not the afternoon to linger on the green for a teabreak, but instead, we hastened to the station for the trains to take us our several ways…

The early mist on Sat. 16 November did not delay the trains, so 42 ramblers were able to set off  promptly at 10 am from Whittlesford Station, under the expert guidance of Gwen and Lawrence Gerhardt.  Crossing the A505 was fortunately fairly easy, due to roadworks, and in future a central refuge here should ease the problem. We walked south through Duxford, passing the redundant church of St Johns, the charming village green, and the church of St. Peters. We continued down the road past the new housing and the chemical works, and over the level crossing and the footbridge over the ford.  The deep water here ensures that little traffic ventures, making this a quiet lane for pedestrians. In Hinxton, we turned off through the grounds of Hinxton Mill (owned by Cambridge Preservation  Society, the mill being open to the public on some Summer Sundays).

A worn grass path led by the swollen river Cam, and then alongside the railway, where Gwen & Lawrence had put in work to clear the path of branches brought down by the October storm debris. Field paths took us to Butchers Lane, Hinxton, and down a passage where  we had to scramble over the debris of a fallen flint wall.  Some of the party took coffee break on the ample seats of the recreation ground, while others repaired to the welcoming  Ickleton Lion.  We continued along Back Lane, and turned into the quiet Coploe Road, which climbs steeply uphill, crossing the M11, and passing a local nature reserve, bright with chalkland flowers in Summer, but bleak now.  As we climbed the hill, gleams of sunshine came through the clearing mist, giving atmospheric views of the high land ahead. The party had left Cambridgeshire for the last time on this walk, and from now on would, for many miles be in Essex’s Uttlesford District.

A picnic lunch was taken in the graveyard of the isolated St Mary’s Church, Strethall. We pressed on swiftly, field paths taking us past St Ann’s Wood, to emerge from a muddy bridleway into Littlebury Green.  Here we crossed the village street straight over onto further good paths leading us over the M11, and down into Wendens Ambo, where there was a brief pause to admire the old church of St Mary the Virgin, with its fine Norman doorway.  Over the recreation ground, we took the lane route to Norton End (avoiding the field path with regular Winter flooding), and took a concrete bridleway south over the hill towards Whiteditch Lane, Newport.  Conversation flagged as we made this steep climb late in the walk!  We made a final uphill across the recreation ground to St Mary’s Church, and at last along Newport High Street, admiring the many splendid old buildings, several of which were once coaching inns.  The station was reached by 3.30 pm, not bad going for a longish walk.  All the future sections are shorter!

The third section of the West Anglian Way will be led by your editor on Saturday 30 November, when walkers will leave Newport Station at 10 am, for a 10 mile walk to Bishops Stortford. Morning coffee break will be held at Rickling Green, and a lunchbreak will be taken at Stansted Mountfichet, where there are several pubs and eating places, and the opportunity for those wanting a shorter walk to leave us at Stansted station.  Note that this is the last of the walks in the series before Christmas.

The fourth section of the Way starts from Bishops Stortford Station on Sat.18 January 2003, starting at 9.40 am from the station forecourt.  Walkers from Cambridge note the earlier train leaving at 9.05.  This is the now traditional bun walk.  For the uninitiated, participants on one Cambridge Group walk every January are offered  a cake or bun as a festive season gesture and to help sustain them against the winter chill!  Do all come along for a 10 mile largely riverside walk to Harlow, and work off all that Christmas sloth.

We look forward to the Fifth Section of the walk, Harlow to Broxbourne, on Saturday 8 February, and the final section to Cheshunt Station, via Waltham Abbey,  on Saturday 22 February. Both of these walks will be expertly led by Mark Westley on his home territory.  There will be certificates for those who have completed all the walks.

Isle of Man Coastal Path
It came as a surprise, on a visit to the Isle of Man a few years ago, to discover that not only did a coastal path exist, but that it extended to 96 miles – an ideal length for a week’s walking.  I returned to the Island in May to tackle the Coastal Path Challenge, as the Raad ny Foillon (path of the seagull) was described by Legs of Man, the company who organised my trip.

Right from the start, variety was the watchword.  The bustling town of Douglas was soon left behind.  Marine Drive, a Victorian-built road now closed to traffic, provided an easy level walk for the first few miles, overlooking splendid rock scenery.  A mixture of road, field and coastal path led to Castletown, passing Ronaldsway Airport, scene of a battle between Scots and Irish in 1275.  The second day featured the Chasms, a rocky area with fissures dropping down 200ft to the sea below, and the Calf of Man, a tiny picturesque island used as a bird sanctuary, finishing at Port Erin after passing literally within inches of nesting seagulls.  The route to Peel involved about 4500 feet of climbing, with three dramatic moorland mountains to scale, but proved less strenuous than I expected.  By contrast, two days with some long stretches of level sandy beach walking were surprisingly tiring.  The final two stretches featured too much road walking, even if we did pass Norman Wisdom’s house, but fine views of a couple of ancient churches were a compensation.  On the last day, a ceremonial tape stretched across Douglas promenade completed the walk, and the Island’s Director of Tourism appeared in person to present us with our certificates over a glass of champagne!

David Harrison

Christmas Presents?
*Out of Date* For up-to-date info see link.
The Ramblers’ Association Cambridge Group offers a selection of reasonably priced walking guides, all available at £4.50 by post from Bernard Hawes, 52 Maids Causeway, Cambridge, CB5 8DD. Cheques should be made payable to “Cambridge Group of the Ramblers’ Association“.

All have sketch maps and drawings, route descriptions, and points of interest. And look at the number of walks you get for your money! Compare these with commercially published guidebooks, typically having only 10 or 12 walks.

Walks in South Cambridgeshire
23 walks from 4 to 20 miles, covering Cambridge, and many of the villages to the west, south and east.  This is the Group’s classic best seller, first published 1987, with regular revisions and new editions since.

Walks in East Cambridgeshire
30 walks from 1.5 to 17 miles, covering the fens near Littleport, Ely, Wicken and Soham, and the horse-stud belt around Newmarket.

Walks on The South Cambridgeshire Borders
28 walks, most with longer or shorter options, giving routes from 4 to 18 miles.  This is the book for readers wishing to venture outside the immediate Cambridge area, as the walks spread over the borders of Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Essex and Hertfordshire.

The Complete Fen Rivers Way – Cambridge to the Wash, and other walks
Formerly marketed by The Fen Rivers Way Association, this popular guide is now in its third edition, covering the Fen Rivers Way,  a linear walk from Cambridge to Kings Lynn and beyond, together with a dozen circular walks based on the Cam & Great Ouse.

The Bramble – Friend or Foe?
The season for blackberrying is past, and only the last, dark, moist remnants now hang at the ends of leafless trailing brambles, threatening to trip the unwary path user.

But who has not enjoyed the September hedgerow harvest straight from the plant in passing, or gathered into the post-prandial lunch box?  Or how many have not set out more purposefully to gather the fruit in pound or kilogramme amounts for blackberry-and-apple pie, crumble, jams, jellies, or for the freezer?

The fruit is very rich in vitamin C. It is possible to make good jam or pip-free jellies using blackberry alone, but a firm set is more easily obtained especially in jellies, by adding strained juices of apple or crab apple.

The bramble, Rubus fruticosus is botanically of the rose family, and is not a single species, but rather a group of up to 400 subspecies, or microspecies, as found in Britain and mainland Europe. Differences between the subspecies depend on factors such as habit (erect or creeping); type, size and colour of prickles; leaf form, colour and hairiness; flower (colour and size); and fruit (number of drupelets). Keeble-Martin, and O.Polunin whose volumes provided this information do not, unfortunately correlate the information with which main subspecies give the pleasantest fruit to eat! In my opinion, however, the average wild berry has a superiour flavour to the cultivated types, although it is generally only about a third of the size.

It is worth being aware that there is a separate species, the dewberry, Rubus caesius, which is similar to the blackberry in appearance, but is not good to eat (although not poisonous). The fruits of this plant have large, grey-bloomed drupelets, which tend to ripen earlier in the year than the blackberry.

Now to consider the Jekyl & Hyde character of the common bramble. The trouble arises when this fast-growing character lurks beside a footpath in a confined space. Walking beside a bramble hedge is unwise in one’s newest Goretex jacket, as the breathability is likely to be enhanced! From a tall hedge, trailers hang down to snag the hair or the woolly hat, or the creeping, low-growing variety send out long low shoots to trip the unwary.  From the plant’s viewpoint, this is a useful means of propagation, as the end of the shoot can root elsewhere in the ground, to form a new plant in the middle of the path.  In the space of a year or two, the path, if not kept trimmed, can become a solid mass of impenetrable bramble, often interspersed with its friend the common stinging nettle.

Following last year’s Foot & Mouth epidemic, and consequent path restrictions and neglect, we have become very aware of the power of the bramble.

From the B1061 at Slugs Green, near the water-tower, south of Dullingham, an attractive path runs west to Underwood Hall, Westley Waterless.  The earlier sections of this path run beside a ditch to right, and are closely fenced to left.  Until this was cleared, the brambles, growing exuberantly in the adjacent ditch completely choked the path.

Recently we walked in Castle Camps, and visited Great Bendysh Wood, emerging on the road near Olmstead Green.  A newly signed and waymarked footpath runs through the grounds of “Meadowside”. As the route exits over a splendid new County Council bridge to give access to the field beyond, we found our way over the bridge totally blocked by brambles, that had encroached from the side, and insinuated their way between the wooden boards.  Without secateurs (and a spare half-hour) we would not have won through!  This had occurred in a mere 18 months.

Brambles conceal waymark posts and  signposts, such as the one (now replaced) for the path beside Shepreth’s lakes, starting on the A10; they hide humps and hollows in the ground; and they cover ground in nature reserves choking out more tender plants…

The only advice I can offer is to carry secateurs as routine, and to report serious encroachments to the County Council – sometimes action is taken before the path is totally blocked!

But I still like blackberry jam!

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


Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, December 2002

CANTAB15 October 2002

CANTAB15 October 2002 published on

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


The West Anglian Way November 2002 – February 2003
Come and join Cambridge RA, Royston RA, and East Herts Footpath Society  along a new Long Distance path, The West Anglian Way, from Cambridge to Cheshunt.   It is accessible throughout by railway, and is named after West  Anglian Great Northern, and takes its symbol, the heron, from that of the railway. However, for copyright reasons, note that our heron looks different!

Train timetables are always liable to alteration:  please check nearer the date. There are pubs on the routes of all stages, but we advise people to bring some food. Leaders on walks 1 – 4 are Roger, Janet,  Gwen & Lawrence. The leader for walks 5, 6 is Mark.

1. Sat. 2 November 2002, Cambridge to Whittlesford (11 miles) or  half-day to Shelford (5 miles)
Start from Cambridge Station forecourt at 09.40.  Lunch at Stapleford.
Train from Bishops Stortford arrives Cambridge at 09.37; train from Stevenage at 09.25.  Return trains to Cambridge from Whittlesford at 21 & 57 mins., from Shelford at 01 minutes past each hour; to Bishops Stortford from Whittlesford at 12 & 43 mins., from Shelford at 39 mins. past each hour.

2. Sat. 16 November 2002, Whittlesford to Newport (12 miles) or Ickleton (4.5 miles)
Catch 09.34 train from Cambridge, arriving Whittlesford 09.43, or meet at Whittlesford station (West side) 10.00. Note – No pub at lunchtime (but possible at morning break!)
Train from Bishops Stortford arrives Whittlesford at 09.57. Return trains to Cambridge from Newport at 44 mins. past each hour; to Stortford at 56 mins. past each hour. Bus from Ickleton (School Turn) to Cambridge at 12 mins. past each hour (not passing Whittlesford station!), or self-led to Great Chesterford (for trains to Stortford) at 48 mins. past each hour

3. Sat. 30 November 2002, Newport to Bishops Stortford (11 miles) or half-day to Stansted (7 miles)Catch 09.34 train from Cambridge, arriving Newport 09.56, or meet at Newport station (village side) 10.00.  Lunch at Stansted.
Train from Bishops Stortford arrives Newport 09.44. Return trains to Cambridge from Stortford at 01 & 31 mins. past each hour, from Stansted at 35 mins. past each hour; to Stortford from Stansted at 7 & 35 mins. past each hour.

4. Sat 18 January 2003, Bishops Stortford station to Harlow Town station, 10 miles.
Catch 9.05 train from Cambridge, arrive Bishops Stortford 9.32 to start from station forecourt, 9.40. Lunch at Sawbridgeworth. The Bun Walk! (Short option to Sawbridgeworth)
Return trains to Cambridge from Harlow at 21 and 49 mins past each hour.

5. Sat.8 February 2003, Harlow Town station to Broxbourne station,  10/11 miles.
Catch 9.05 train from Cambridge. Start Harlow Town station forecourt. ( Short option, returning from Roydon at lunchtime). Pubs in Roydon.  Teatime refreshments at Dobbs Weir.  Leader Mark

6. Sat.22 February 2003, Broxbourne station to Cheshunt station, via Waltham Abbey, 10/11 miles (or short option, going direct to Cheshunt, missing out the loop to Waltham Abbey. Catch 9.05 train from Cambridge  Lunch stop at Hayes Hill Farm tearoom or Coach & Horses PH, and tea stop at Waltham Abbey).  Leader Mark

We hope to have certificates for finishers!

For further information, tel. 01223 356889

Kilnhill, Bassenthwaite,Cumbria 7 – 14 May 2003.
New readers of Cantab may not be aware that a small group from Cambridge have made an annual pilgrimage to the Lake District for the last 5 years or so. Once again, we plan to stay at Kilnhill with Ken and Heather Armstrong for a week, (Wed – Wed, leaving Thurs morning).

As previously, we shall aim to do about 9 – 12 miles a day, with a mountain climb if the weather makes this possible. We may  or may not know the particular route, but we do have a good range of maps & guidebooks, and we have visited the Lake District many times in the last 40 years.  We do not deliberately aim for screes, or places with high exposure, but bear in mind that the terrain is often rough & steep. The Lake District is just like that!  We will not do the same walks as previous years, but those who have come on all the holidays may find they are occasionally crossing the tracks of previous routes. We may drive a little further afield in 2003!

We will use OS Outdoor Leisure Series NE & NW Cumbria (yellow covers).  You might also like to have OS Landranger Sheet 98, West Cumbria., showing the guest house Grid Ref. 214 326 at the N end of Bassenthwaite Lake.  A metal walking pole (or two?) is highly recommended, and waterproof overtrousers are essential.

Kiln Hill Barn, Bassenthwaite is a good centre for the Northern Lakes.  In the house there are now 5 double or twin rooms, and 2 singles.  In the annex there is one double and 1 twin. Rates at 2001 were £235 per week bb/em. Parking is in a clean, cobbled yard.  The accommodation is good quality, with some rooms en-suite, all with central heating, and tea-making facilities.There is a hall pay-phone & TV lounge. The food is varied, generous in quantity, and very good. The Armstrongs have re-arranged the accommodation, and this year, all meals are in the house.

Transport – By car, using M6 to Penrith, then A66 Keswick bypass and A591 to Kiln Hill Barn.  It is possible to arrive by public transport.

Interested?  Then please make your own booking: Ken & Heather Armstrong, Kiln Hill Barn, Bassenthwaite, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4RG. Tel. 017687 76454…. Please let me know you have done so!

Cracked across at 14 months – or the sad tale of a pair of boots. . .
Readers will know (or at least guess) that your Editor does a lot of walking, something like 50 miles per week in her walking boots. For the sake of both feet and boots, I try to wear a couple of pairs alternate days, so a single pair of my boots might do 1250 miles in a year.  Normally, my boots last about 3 years under these conditions, and are treated with boot wax and the usual tender loving care.

Thus, I was not pleased when a pair of ladies’ Scarpa top-of-the-range size 39s cracked  above the toes after just 14 months, although the soles were in good order.  I returned them to “Open Air”, who were also concerned, and passed them back to the manufacturer.  I was distinctly annoyed when they came back with the comment that I had allowed the leather to dry out.  I have cared for boots for some 40 years, and if other types mostly make the 3000 mile plus mark under my treatment, then so should Scarpa.  My latest are a pair of substantial Meindl, costing a bit short of £100.  I’ll let you know if they are still going strong in 3 years’ time!

Essex 100 Walk,  August 2002
We recently had the pleasure of joining Essex Ramblers’ Association in their annual Essex 100 mile walk, 3 – 11 Aug.. The original idea was the brainchild of Fred Matthews, and we were delighted to see Essex’s grand old man of rambling riding in the support car most days. The route is different every year, and is a way of gathering groups from all over Essex, and of encouraging Essex County Council to put in new bridges, signs, etc, and to remove a few obstructions along the way.  Each walker is given a free prospectus of the route, complete with points of interest passed each day.

This year, the start was in Cambridgeshire, at Castle Camps.  The official opening was performed by Mrs Wendy Silby, Chairman of Cambs. C.C., and the day’s walk was accompanied by Karen Champion, the County Council Footpaths Officer covering South Cambridgeshire District.  Jack Rixon and Alan Hardy represented Castle Camps, and Roger Lemon and his wife came from Shudy Camps.

There were 55 people on the first day,  and we left Cambridgeshire in the late morning sun, to make it over the county border and via the Bumpsteads to Hempstead (12 miles), where we had left the cars in a large farmyard, and from whence a coach had taken us to the start of the day’s walk.

Sun 4 Aug started cloudy, and rain commenced steadily at lunchtime. The walk took 48 people a further 12 miles from Hempstead via Radwinter and Wimbish, and a devious route to Thaxted.  Here, as in subsequent places, the local councillor who opened the day’s walk spoke of the local opposition to the governments proposals to add a further three runways to Stansted airport.  This would swallow-up large sections of Uttlesford, as far south as the Eastons  We were encouraged to write to our MPs.

On Mon 5 Aug, the route took us from Thaxted to Wethersfield, via Great & Little Bardfield, and Finchingfield. (12 miles)  These are all “picture book” villages, but there were heavy downpours all day, and I mostly recall tramping along sodden green lanes under waterproof & umbrella, looking at the sea of umbrellas in front.  The best dressed Essex ramblers in summer rain wear boots with gaiters, shorts covered by Malden & District black dustbin bags, RA  or other T-shirt and large umbrella.  On the way home, it was a lovely afternoon, and Roger & I stopped at Finchingfield, just in time to have a splendid cream tea before the thatched tea-shop closed at 5.30.

Tues 6 Aug was a slightly shorter day, (11 miles), in delightful quiet countryside from Wethersfield to Stebbing, via Great Saling  and Bardfield Saling (with its unusual round-towered church).It was a fine day, but numbers had shrunk to 38, probably due to the conditions on the day before.

On Wed 7 Aug, the 12 mile route took us round some very attractive parts of Dunmow, and by the River Chelmer.  At one point, we all had to cross the A120.  Four people had yellow tabards.  We were lined up at the end of the path, and drilled. Two yellow tabards at the front (one an ex-policemen) advanced into the continuous stream of traffic and put up their hands.  And everything stopped (slight groaning of brakes from lorries down the queue), and we all went across, with some good-tempered waves from motorists.  In 1 km, we had to cross the  workings for the new A120, (where there is to be a pedestrian bridge).  The leader had obtained a permit, and a road-engineer was detailed to see us across the mud-with-puddles. (We don’t know if they feared we would slip or drown in the mud, or hijack a JCB!).  The pleasant engineer took a photo of the lot of us, and said we should do this every week to justify the cost of the footbridge.  We were all thinking “what a satisfactory day” when it started to rain, insidious light rain at first around 3 pm, becoming heavier…  The last sections were across arable fields, 2 recently cultivated, then through a potato field!

Thu 8 Aug, was an easy and delightful day of 11 miles. The route was less convoluted than some of the earlier days, and took us in almost a straight line from High Roding via Pleshey to Broomfield, all on pleasant paths or lanes.  The day was almost dry, with just 3 micro-showers.

Fri 9 Aug. From Broomfield, the walking route took us East of an old airfield, and past an enormous gravel pit – past woodlands and over the A12 on an accommodation bridge to Hatfield Peveril. By then, the 42 people were in their usual state of wetness. It continued raining through the grey afternoon to Wickham Bishops (11 miles).

On Sat 10 Aug, with permission we all parked at the jam factory at Tiptree.  The morning started dry but very humid, and soon there were rumbles of thunder.  By 11 am, 38 people advanced unsteadily across slippery flooded stubble in a thunderstorm, as the rain sluiced down. The day was black, and there was a low moaning between the thunder claps.  Later we learnt that we had been half a mile away from a mini-tornado!  The pub at Little Totham was very tolerant of all these wet people, eating their own sandwiches inside, and leaving mud and water where they made contact!  After lunch the sun came out, and we all steamed, and made it back to Tiptree in good spirits, in spite of an unforeseen detour, adding a mile to the route (13 miles).  We had an excellent tea at the factory, and set off back home, via Braintree as far as Sible Hedingham, only to find the car  was diverted back to Braintree by floods.

Sun 11 Aug. The last day was blessedly only 7 miles to Layer Breton, near the Blackwater Estuary, passing the lovely Layer Marney Towers. The event finished at lunchtime with a barbeque. Some  31 people got their certificates from the Mayor of Colchester, Nigel Chapman, and each walker was given a friendly send-off by the RA Essex Area Chairman, Colin Jacobs.

Congratulations to Essex RA Area on a very well-organised event, which was most enjoyable, in spite of the weather. We met several old friends and made some new ones. We would encourage other people to join another year.  2003’s event will be in May, from Long Melford to Chingford, near Epping Forest.

New Footpath at Stourbridge Common, Cambridge
To walk to Fen Ditton over Stourbridge Common, it has been necessary to go “inland” and cross the railway line by the footbridge with many steps – difficult for some, and impossible for bikes, prams and wheelchairs. This is a confusing and unattractive start to the Fen Rivers Way.  One often meets walkers puzzling over the sign board at the end of Riverside.  Recently a board walk has been constructed under the river railway bridge which makes a much pleasanter walk to Fen Ditton and a good cycle commuting route for those living in that area.

It is also possible to have  a short circular walk around Stourbridge Common using the new boardwalk and the old railway bridge.  Sadly, however, on a recent visit, it was noticed that access to the railway bridge is becoming difficult because of overgrowth through lack of use.  It is hoped that there are no plans to dismantle the bridge.

Bernard Hawes

E-Mail Transmission of Cantab Rambler
Cantab usually appears every two months. Those of you who receive Cantab by e-mail will generally receive it in a compressed “Winzip” form. If you would prefer to have it uncompressed, then please let us know. If you would like to receive an issue by post, a large SAE would be appreciated!

Any comments on content, and 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 the author of an individual item. Janet Moreton 01223 356889


Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, October 2002

CANTAB14 August 2002

CANTAB14 August 2002 published on

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


Home and Away
At this time of year, many of us will either be on holiday, or avoiding the school holidays, having already taken time away in the Spring,  or will be looking forward to an Autumn break.

Many of us seek a holiday in environments unlike what we have at home, so coasts and hills are naturally popular with east Anglians.  So this issue has reports of some “private enterprise” holidays away, as well as notes on opportunities and problems at home.

A week in Cumbria, May 2002
Up to a dozen friends once again filled the farm (not all present all the time)  at Kilnhill, Bassenthwaite, for a week’s walking, the fourth such visit.

Actually, this year, two of our number broke the mould, and astounded the pedestrians by covering 300 miles of the lanes on their tandem, and delighting us with their travellers’ tales at dinner each evening.

The rest of us managed to discover some new routes to climb, covering 8 to 11 miles per day, and up to 3000ft of ascent.. On the first day, we started from Braithwaite, and climbed the modest peak Outerside, before making a rising traverse up the flanks of Causey Pike, returning over Scar Crags, and descending  via Sail Pass and Rigg Beck.

The next morning  showed mist on the tops, but we were promised a clearance. This was the only walk direct from the farm, ascending through woods and fields to Orthwaite, and up a long bridleway to Great Calva. On the top, the mist swirled round, and we were only afforded the odd glimpse of Skiddaw opposite.  On the steep descent down beside Whitewater Dash, there were  many cries of “mind your knees!”.

Saturday, 11 May was breezy, so we settled for a lower top. From Thirlmere, we went up the Wythburn valley past Middle Howe onto Greenup Edge, and tripped across the bogs to Ullscarf, descending past Standing Crag, and into forestry near Dobgill.  This was a day when some of us got wet feet, particularly one who was led in a direct line across the bogs by his dog on the end of a long lead.

Sunday was a busy day to attempt Helvellyn, but the weather was perfect.  We ascended via Raise Beck to Grisedale Tarn, and up Dollywagon Pike, from the slopes of which we really could see Blackpool Tower.  On the summit of Helvellyn we chatted to a Dutch couple who had made the climb in trainers, then hastily moved away from the trig point to make way for further crowds.  We descended down the well-reconstructed path to Wythburn church.

On the wet Monday, we skulked around lower paths in Borrowdale, doing a figure-of-eight walk to ensure lunch under cover, and consoling ourselves with a visit to the Dales Barn Centre, and later, to a delightful teashop.

The last day was showery, and the party were happy to go to Borrowdale again, this time to visit Watendlath, Ashness Bridge, and Derwent Water at Lodore and Manesty, before returning  to Rosthwaite.

We were grateful for the kindness of our hosts Ken and Heather, who had held over our deposits from the Foot-and-Mouth blighted 2001, and who, once again, gave us such a comfortable and well-fed stay.

Walking in Dumfries and Galloway
Roger and I took a week in early May visiting Newton Stewart for the first time.  We were well cared-for and well-fed at The Stables GH, (01671 402157), and enjoyed reasonable weather.

We made two trips to the coast, visiting Mull of Galloway (the  most southerly point of Scotland), and the Isle of Whithorn. In both cases, we much enjoyed the cliffs, the Spring flowers, and the mild climate of the coastal strip, which might have been Cornwall in April. Disappointing though, was the inability to do more than a mile or two along the coast without encountering an obstruction. Tourist information (ring 01671 402431 for brochure etc) gives plenty of data on castles, museums, arts & crafts, and boasts of 200 miles of beautiful coast. But it does not say how little of this may be walked. However, there are several places where a 2 or 3 miles circuit or out-and-back is possible.

Inland, there was a short walk by the river at Newton Stewart, but no access to the lush farmland containing the famous “belted galloway” cattle.  The main local industry is forestry, so beware the huge logging lorries on the single track roads!  The forest authority has created several attractive picnic sites, and has waymarked many circular walks, but the average length seems to be 2 to 4 miles. There were also longer cycle trails – we saw no cyclists or indeed few other walkers in May, but presumably the forests are busier later.

However, we had with us the SMC guide to Corbetts and other hills, and climbed Merrick (a popular tourist mountain, easily accessible from the very beautiful Glen Trool); Cairnsmoor of Fleet, overlooking the Solway; Corserine; Shalloch on Minnoch; and, on the way home, Criffel, combining this with a visit to Sweetheart Abbey. Using the SMC guide was not without hazard – we went to climb Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, North of New Galloway, but found the suggested start, by a farm at Green Well of Scotland, obstructed, and with threatening notices.  When using the car park to climb Corserine, we were told by a forest worker or keeper to be back by 5 pm! (In the event, we sufferered an hour’s hail storm on top, and were only too pleased to descend by 3.30pm.).  On this occasion, we talked to a couple of very pleasant local walkers, who gave us useful advice  for our remaining 3 days holiday.

The other walking opportunity in the area is, of course, The Southern Uplands Way, which we saw in places where it crossed roads.  It appears to be reasonably well-waymarked. We think it would be difficult to do circuits based on the long distance path, other than using roads. We would welcome comments from anyone who has walked this route.

We enjoyed our holiday, and there was plenty to do from Newton Stewart in one week.  Having “done” the local Corbetts, we would only consider going to the area again to walk the Southern Uplands Way.  Other walking opportunities seem rather limited, or not widely advertised.

Janet & Roger Moreton

Essex Problems
We have recently used the narrow steep path ascending from the lane behind Newport station, going up beside the chalk pit.  The path has a concrete sign, “public bridleway”, but we have enquired, and it is, in fact, a byway, so beware!

On the first occasion, we were passed by three motorcyclists.  There is just room in the narrow hedged lane, between the high banks. More recently, on the Jubliee holiday, we had a narrow escape.  We descended the path, and had just emerged onto the wide concrete turning circle in front of the quarry entrance, when 2 landrovers passed up, going up. We would not have been able to pass them at all in the nettle & bush lined defile.

The other, temporary problem in the Newport area is a pipeline going across country. There are several paths in the Wicken Bonhunt, and Arkesden areas with 6 months closure notices, starting from 1 May 2000.

Essex 100 Walk,  August 2002
The Essex 100 Walk starts this year from Castle Camps in Cambridgeshire (!), on 3 August. Following days start from Hempstead, Thaxstead, Wethersfield, Stebbing, High Roding, Broomfield, Wickham Bishops and Tiptree. A coach, fare £2,  runs from the end of the day’s walk at 9.30 sharp.  There is also an Essex Mini week’s walk. running simultaneously.  The “100 miler” is 9 days at 11 – 12 miles per day, and the mini-walks are 3 – 4 miles.

The Complete Fen Rivers Way accomplished in less than 20 hours!
The following report was sent to the Fen Rivers Way Association  on 18 May by Andrew Knights.

“I have just returned from an expedition  by Fenland Mountain rescue (Thorney Division), a walking group of friends from Thorney.  Thirteen of us left “The Pike and Eel” at 2305h last night, and with the help of our support party, and some friends who joined for part of the way today.  Eleven of us (and a dog) completed the 50-and-a-half mile walk without a break.  The first of us arrived at 15.20h at Ongar Hill, after 16h 15 min, and the last some 90 minutes later.

The sections of the walk in Cambridgeshire were for the most part very overgrown and made passage very difficult (and our legs and feet very wet) except where cattle were grazing.  In particular, we had to walk along the A10 itself to Brandon Creek, where we had breakfast, as the grass on top of the bank was long with no discernable path. Fortunately, it was early in the morning, but the traffic was very fast and very scarey.

By contrast, most of the Norfolk Section was very well tended and a pleasure to walk on.  I was disappointed that beyond West Lynn ferry terminus there were no more Fen Rivers Way Signs, only West Coast Path ones, and no mention at all at Ongar Hill on the information board.  We had 8 checkpoints with our support team, and your guide book was invaluable.”

Andrew asks if the feat had ever been accomplished before – to which the Fen Rivers Way Group answers, “No, not to our knowledge”.  Many congratulations to the Thorney team – who says Fen Tigers don’t make good walkers?

State of the Fen Rivers Way in Cambridgeshire
As a follow-up to the above letter, Duncan Macay, Chairman of FRWA contacted Kate Day, Team Leader of the Rural group at Cambridgeshire County Council.  Kate reported that the annual cut of the grass was now underway, part being done by contractors, and part by representatives of the those parishes in the Parish Path Partnership Scheme.

It seems a shame that the path cannot be maintained throughout in good order, when it is clearly so popular. Duncan Mackay intends to press for better maintenance in the future.

The Fen Rivers Way Association – a good job now completed
At a recent Committee meeting of the Fen Rivers Way Association, members took stock of what had been accomplished in half a dozen years,

  • to publicise a through route along the rivers Cam and Ouse between Cambridge and Kings Lynn, and beyond
  • to obtain support from the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire County Councils, and from many parishes along the route
  • to see two major bridges, at Holt Fen Drove, and Cuckoo Bridge near Ely provided
  • to assist in the waymarking of the route as far as Kings Lynn
  • to extend the route, using the new West Lynn walkway
  • to provide a popular guidebook, now in its third edition
  • to lead walks along the route, including the popular series of the whole route in sections last year.

The Committee considered with satisfaction what had been achieved, and what remained to be done. Clearly, the guidebook needs to be kept updated, and in print, but the Ramblers’ Association Cambridge Group has agreed to take this over.  Otherwise, a watching brief needs to be maintained on the state of the path, as is shown clearly by the reported overgrowth in the preceeding article.  Repairs to the waymarking can be carried out by a few people only.

Members of the FRWA were consulted, regarding the continuation of the Association.  Many were prepared to remain members, but there were no additional volunteers to serve on the Committee.

Consequently, it was decided to terminate the Fen Rivers Way Association, but a Fen Rivers Way Working Group will continue to provide a watching brief on the route, update the guidebook, and seek to help the promotion of walking beside other East Anglian waterways.

Duncan Mackay, Roger Moreton, Dennis Stephens Janet Moreton

Advance news of The West Anglian Way November 2002 – February 2003
Here is something to look forward to in the coming Winter.  Walk a new long distance path with Cambridge, Royston & East Herts Ramblers next Winter.  Full details will be in the Ramblers’ Association programmes, out by October.  Distances are approx. 10 – 12 miles, with shorter options in some cases.

Meanwhile – Dates for your diary

  • Sat.2 Nov. 2002, Cambridge station to Whittlesford station. 11 miles (or to Gt. Shelford, 5 miles).
  • Sat.16 Nov. 2002, Whittlesford station to Newport station. 12 miles
  • Sat.30 Nov. 2002, Newport station to Bishops Stortford station. 11 miles (or to Stansted station 7 miles)
  • Sat.18 Jan. 2003, Bishops Stortford station to Harlow Town station, 10 miles.   Janet’s bun walk!
  • Sat.8 Feb. 2003, Harlow Town station to Broxbourne station , 11 miles (or short option).  Leader Mark Westley.
  • Sat.22 Feb. 2003, Broxbourne station to Cheshunt station. 11 miles (or short option). Leader Mark Westley

For further information, tel. 01223 356889. Start times will be fitted to the railway Winter timetable. We hope to have certificates for finishers!

This is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or the author of an individual item. Janet Moreton 01223 356889


Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, August 2002

CANTAB13 June 2002

CANTAB13 June 2002 published on

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


The County of Cambridgeshire as a whole is known for its flat fenlands.  Indeed, those of us living in South Cambridgeshire sometimes have difficulty in persuading strangers that most of the countryside in our District is not fen, and indeed, is not flat, but mostly gently undulating, with a modest amount of tree cover, and not very much different in aspect from our neighbouring counties of Essex and Hertfordshire, consisting geologically of chalk overlaid with boulderclay.  South Cambs does certainly have some real fenland, consisting of tongues of low land in The Wilbrahams and Stow cum Quy, and on the farmlands associated with the fen-edge villages of Cottenham, Rampton, Swavesey, Over, Waterbeach,  Landbeach, and Willingham.

However, the Districts of East Cambs, and especially Fenland have vast acres of fen soil, “black gold”.  Footpaths here are relatively few, and are mostly along the banks of the rivers and fen drains. So the fen droves as a means of access on foot, horseback or by bicycle assume a great importance.  In recent years, some have been added to the map as minor roads.  Others continue to have an ambiguous status.  The following excellent essay by John Andrews of Suffolk examines the position in fenland villages in neighbouring Suffolk. We are grateful to John for permission to reproduce his work here.

Fen Droves in Brandon, Lakenheath and Mildenhall
I think the origins and history of these routes are so different from the normal development processes of roads and paths that it makes sense to try to discover to what extent there are aspects common to all of them.  Quite a number have been gradually incorporated into the ordinary maintainable highway network and others were included on the Def. map – most commonly as RUPPS.  The majority, however, of which those in Mildenhall form the largest group, have no recorded public status.

The droves were laid out to provide access to agricultural land being created by the fen drainage schemes which peaked in, I think, the 17th century. They were the property of the Fen Commissioners, the bodies which managed the areas and later gave place  to their successors in title, the internal drainage boards. Although the land to which they provide access is in private ownership, the droves remain the property of the boards, who have maintained them except where that function has passed to the Highway Authority.

However, it is clear that for a very long time there has been a general view that the majority of the droves are used by the public as of right and most of them are still in use, in some cases very frequently, by the public without `let or hindrance’.  At Mildenhall, for example, the Parish Council is in no doubt that the droves are very largely public routes, but has declined to get involved in pressing the case for inclusion on the Definitive Map because it is thought that the considerable workload involved in that would be a waste of time because `everybody knows’ that they are public and nobody is ever prevented from using them.

That stance does not, of course, assist the process of discovering the full facts, but the problem of trying to produce user evidence for all of them – I have applications for a total of approx. 35 still outstanding – would be an enormous one.

However I believe that there is a useful body of evidence from which one can draw some conclusions about the whole group.

Some of the most weighty is to be found in inclosure awards. At Mildenhall there are a few droves where parts of them crossed land being allotted; those portions had, therefore, to be `set out’ by the commissioner in order to prevent their being stopped-up under the `default’ provision in s.11 of the 1801 general Act. They are set out as a `Private Carriage Road and public bridle way’ and the unaffected continuations of these are described as `droves’.  This is a firm indication that the commissioner was acting to preserve the status quo of private vehicular and public bridle rights.

Similarly, one of the public footpaths set out terminates on  a ” Drove Way leading to the Fen”. That drove way must therefore have carried public rights of at least FP.

There was an very similar situation in the Lakenheath, Undley Common, Inclosure, where parts of two of the droves crossed land being allotted. In this case, however, the portions set out were awarded as public carriage roads and are now part of the ordinary local highway network. Some of the other droves were awarded as private roads for the use of certain specified persons only; the latter were all culs-de-sac and provided access only to agricultural land.

In the other Lakenheath inclosure there is one public road set out which is a part of a drove  – the `new inclosure’ over which it passed again supplying the explanation. Only one or two droves are located in that area, but one of them was amongst the group of 8 roads awarded as `private’ – of which only two, however, were described as being for the use of specified persons.

This brings us, inevitably to the `big issue’  – that there is now an accummulation of evidence nationally that numbers of `private roads’ carried public rights of way.  There seems little doubt that the way in which the word was used during that period referred normally to the responsibility for repair and maintenance, raher than in relation to rights of user. This still leaves us with the need to have evidence of the existence of public user rights before the route can qualify for inclusion on the Def. Map – but it does mean that it is not justifiable to dismiss allegations of a public way solely on the grounds of a reference in documentation to a private road or way.

There is a classic example at Brandon, where the Inclosure Award set out a public bridle road connecting a private road with a drove. The `private’ road in question was shown to be a public road by reference to the almost contemporary Quarter Sessions diversion order in which it was described as the `highway leading to Wilton Ferry’.

As a generalisation, the evidence seems to point to the fact that those droves which were thoroughfares were or became public routes, whereas those which had no obvious public function – in terms of getting from A to B, but were culs-de-sac leading only to fields etc., have remained `private’ in both senses of the word.

There is other relevant documentary evidence which points to the same conclusion. I have already drawn attention, in the context of the investigation of Claims A and D at Lakenheath, to the early railway plan evidence of public footpaths which linked some of the droves in that locality. The information contained in the plans associated with the 1949 Great Ouse Flood Protection Act provides support for the public status of at least one other drove which has not yet received attention. Some aspects of the latter documents have conclusive force, since they constituted diversions sanctioned by act of Parliament.

Added to all this is the Statutory Declaration made by the Mildenhall Internal Drainage Board in 1968, which lists a substantial number of droves as carrying a public right of way and has been acknowledged in writing – by the solicitor who serves as Clerk of the Board – to be good evidence of a public right of way – at the very least, on foot.

John Andrews           24th January 2002

Anyone for golf?
In January, a Suffolk correspondent reported to a walkers’ Internet site that officials of a local golf club had angrily accosted members of the RA’s Bury St Edmunds Group – complaining of their unacceptable behaviour whilst walking along a public footpath across the golf course.  Of what antisocial practice was this unseemly rabble accused ?  Talking!!!   Seemingly, the response of the unseemly rabble was not meek compliance, but more like hysterical amusement…

This story provoked quite a prolonged correspondence.

A golfer-cum-rambler replied,…”it all depends on the circumstances.  If it was a large group and they were talking loudly and near a tee where players were preparing to take a stroke, then the Ramblers were just being discourteous….”

Another response, “I have to agree that the conduct on the day was absolutely deplorable.
How dare members of a golf club disrupt people walking on a public right of way.  To my mind the footpath was there a long time before the golfers built their course across it.”

The original correspondent replied, ” The footpaths – more than one of them – were certainly in existence in the 1880s – which probably means that they have been there for several centuries – and have already been diverted for the convenience of the golf club !”

The final commentator took a very strong line, “What the walkers should have done is called the police or made a complaint afterwards on the grounds of unlawful obstruction and verbal assault.”

Perhaps the Bury St Edmunds golfers should be grateful they have only walkers on their course.  We have seen golf courses in Scotland with sheep and even highland cattle wandering about.. But then they don’t talk!

Parishes in the Fens, signs and ways
Whether in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk or Lincolnshire, the fenland parishes tend to have features on common.  Often the  village is rather disperse, with a scattering of isolated farms over a wide area. Roads tend to run beside the drains, and what footpaths there are (and generally, they are in short supply), also follow drain banks, or droveways.

A very attractive feature that have appeared in the last 30 or 40 years is the illustrated village sign. The following information on fen villages was derived from a delightful little book, “Village Signs in Cambridgeshire”, published in 1986 by the Cambridge Federation of Women’s Institutes. Several of the signs have been repainted and smartened up as part of Millennium celebrations.  Consider visiting some of these atmospheric parishes, and maybe investigate which of the nearby fen droves can be walked.

Haddenham’s sign dates from April 1983. One side represents the Old West River, sweeping through the fen to the hill on which Haddenham stands. The church and prominent watertower are reprented, as is local agriculture by horse & plough. The reverse shows orchards, goats and cows.
This parish has pride of place in the list, with numerous fen droves all registered as public rights of way (mostly byways, some footpaths), and with a parish council interested in their maintenance.

Downham in the Isle’s village sign (erected 1977) stands on the rising ground of Church Green, not far from the Norman Church of St Leonard. The sign illustrates the coats of arms of the Isle of Ely, the Bishop of Ely being the Lord of the Manor. Also shown are reed-mace, designating the swampy fens, oak leaves representing the bog oaks, and the Bishops palace, which was situated at Towers farm.  On the reverse the open bible represents Bishop Lancelot Andrews, a co-translator of the Authorised version of the Bible, who lived in “Little” Downham 1608 -19.
The local path network is well-developed and waymarked, with the County Council’s promoted route “The Bishops Way”passing through the village, en route to Ely. (A leaflet is available from Cambridgeshire County Council, tel. 717445).

Waterbeach has a splendid wrought-iron village sign, showing a heron flying over the River Cam, erected by The Village Society in 1980, at one end of the village green.
This is another village that cares for its public rights of way, taking an active part in the County Council’s Parish Path Partnership Scheme, and being a prime mover in the development of The Fen Rivers Way. This has not prevented there being problems for walkers in the parish.  The riverside walk along the west bank of the Cam, passes as a right of way along The Washes, an area of wetland regularly flooded in Winter.  For many years, usage was also along the flood bank, especially in Winter.  Now the landowner has put up a barricade of barbed wire along the flood bank, and the parish council is claiming a right of way.  Part way along this bank, the grassy track, Angler Drove, gave access to the bank from Long Drove, a public roadway.  The issue has been with the County Council many months.

Welney in Norfolk has two skaters on its sign of 1976, in this commemorating the great Welney sportsmen of a former age, including “Turkey” Smart, a World Skating Champion.  The windmill is a symbol of the early fen drainage. The pub sign, “The Lamb & Flag” is equally interesting.  The Hereward Way Long Distance Path passes through the village on the road.  Indeed, there are few paths, except on the banks of The Hundred Foot river.
Many will be familiar with the hide and shop of the Wildfowl Trust, and we ourselves have enjoyed a magic evening, with the waters floodlit, and the wild Bewick & Hooper swans coming to feed.  It is a pity that the hide itself obstructs a right of way, with no provision  made for walkers to divert, for example, around the back,  away from the road busy with birdwatchers cars.

Thorney.  The village sign illustrates the seventh century abbey, with a monk standing either side.  The abbey church is well worth a visit, and a leaflet may be obtained therein describing a short local walk. The nineteenth century Duke of Bedford planned an estate village, much of which remains on this isolated fen island. Like many of these fen villages, one is unlikely to be able to visit, without a car or an energetic bicycle, in the almost total absence of public transport.
Some of the fen droves were registered on the Definitive Map for Cambridgeshire in the late 1980s,and several have become minor roads, but this remains a challenging place to take a prolonged recreational walk.

Isleham, tailpiece
In Cambridgeshire, several fen droves were registered as rights of way in the late 1980s, but equally many remain ambiguous on the map, and with an equally unresolved legal status.  Isleham, in Cambridgeshire, looking across the River Lark towards Mildenhall parish, exhibits areas of map equally devoid as Mildenhall of red or green dots. The new Explorer 226, Ely and Newmarket, shows only a track of unknown status for West Fen Drove, and by Twelve Foot Drain, although public footpaths lead to them, and an interesting circuit could be made.  Is there someone in Isleham who will delve in dusty documents to find their status? Every parish needs such an enthusiast – Suffolk is supremely blest with the skills & persistance of John Andrews who devotes many hours to such pursuits with great success, but we have no such scholar in Cambridge.

Roger & I have looked up Inclosure Awards for a few South Cambs. parishes with contentious paths, but with on-site path problems to pursue in 100 parishes there is no time to delve further.  Does anyone have, or wish to develop, a flair for this?

This is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or the author of an individual item. Janet Moreton 01223 356889


Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, June 2002

CANTAB12 April 2002

CANTAB12 April 2002 published on

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


In the last edition (Feb. 2002), the Countryside Agency’s Rights of Way Condition survey 2000, and its findings nationally were discussed. We have since received several comments along the lines, “if the paths are so good, why do we find so many ploughed up?!”.  One of the answers is, of course, that the survey was carried out during the Summer, rather than in Winter, when problems of lack of reinstatement are always more severe.

The document seems to have provoked advense comments generally, and we scanned a ramblers’ database on the Internet for informed opinions of why the Countryside Agency came up with the optimistic results it achieved. The  following article, which is reproduced here by kind permission of the author,  expresses the personal views Tony Drake, the veteran footpath worker from Gloucestershire.

Countryside Agency’s Rights of Way Condition Survey – an opinion
“I am surprised that no one … has hit the roof about the completely fallacious conclusions drawn by the Countryside Agency to the findings of its condition survey. The report seeks to show the extent to which highway authorities have achieved the national target of having the path network “legally defined, PROPERLY MAINTAINED, and well publicised”.

“For the indicator, – “easy to follow” the surveyors had to grade the paths into three categories. The all-England total was 62% easy to follow without a map, 34% needed a 25,000 map and 4% were impossible or difficult even with a map. The target of 95% achievement of “properly maintained” was considered to have been reached if the easy to follow PLUS those that were followable only with a map added up to 95%. Thus an authority with 5% impossible paths and none satisfactory would qualify. Surely only those that are satisfactory qualify for the target.

“Similarly the indicator of ease of negotiating crossings such as stiles and gates called for three grades – “satisfactory”, “needs attention” and “unusable”. The breakdown was not given and only the “usable” figure is given for each region (95% for England), which is merely those that are not unusable. Whilst the unusable figure is a matter of concern the more important area for resources is the middle class of those needing attention, but we are not told what proportion that is. The figures must be available.

“The obstructions per 10km is a useful figure though it covers a variety of hazards including growth, mud & cropping problems but not furniture (e.g. stiles, gates etc) difficulties.  The English average is 5.2 per 10km, but when combined with furniture problems there is no direct comparison because only breakdown figures of 4.7 for walkers and 7.7 for other users are given so one cannot gauge the number of furniture obstructions per km. 

“There are many useful statistics in the report though clearly there must be limitations on any such survey, much of which relies on the subjective judgement of the professional and volunteer surveyors. The whole report however is damned by the overall conclusions as to the achievement of the government target. To regard paths which are unsatisfactory and in need of attention as having achieved the “properly maintained” definition is irresponsible. The achievement table, also shown on the free handout, suggests that 29 regions have achieved the “easy to follow” target & that 9 regions have achieved the “easy to use” target, whereas in fact none of them have achieved any target  All that can be concluded is that some of them have less than 5% impossible paths.

The Agency press release, while saying that a quarter of paths are not easy to use, quotes the deputy chair of the Agency as saying that only 15%  (5 shire counties, including my county of Gloucestershire) achieved two of the targets wheras none did. Just coming up to county budget decision time we in Gloucestershire. could have done without local paper saying “Gloucestershire was praised for having “easy to follow” and “easy to use” paths”.

“(Ramblers’ Association) Head Office is reluctant to criticise the report as there is so much good material in it, but I think it is undermining our call for more resources for getting the network in order and which gets no subsidies. I would welcome support from those who have read the whole report (£20 from the Agency Publications, Wetherby) or on the Web. I think the report should be withdrawn and reissued with proper reference to the targets.

From Tony Drake, Glos. Area Footpath Secretary, 23 January 2002

Path updates

-Cambridge City Underpass improvement
The cattle creep under Fen Causeway, linking two sections of Coe Fen has been deepened, and concrete & drains put in, to facilitate clean-footed crossing safely beneath the road. Note purple toothwort started to flower on nearby Robinson Crusoe Island at least six weeks earlier than usual!

We learnt of  a Temporary Prohibition of Use Order 2002  until September 2002 for the Crow Dene bridleway, to allow for construction works on the A428.

Bridleway  20 (Rivey Lane, which runs downhill from the water-tower) has a temporary closure order for resurfacing & drainage until July 2002.  We hope this will be more successful than previous attempts at improving this wet lane.

-Hemingford Abbots
Cambridgeshire County Council have put a temporary closure on Black Bridge at Hemingford Abbots until 07.05.02 for service diversion & a new bridge.

Black Fen & Brown Fen Trails
In the last issue, the Black Fen Waterways Trail (62 mile circuit from Ely) and The Brown Fen Waterway Trail (62 mile circuit from Boston) were featured, when it was noted that there was difficulty in obtaining the free A3 leaflet which gives descriptions of both these routes.

However, our Stretham correspondent, Bill Wakefield, now alerts us to the fact that the free leaflets are now available at Tourist information centres in the region (e.g.Ely, Spalding, Boston etc).
Bill emphasizes that it is essential to have the relevant up-to-date large-scale maps of the area, as the leaflet, of itself, provides inadequate detail to accomplish the walks.

West Anglian Way. November 2002 – February 2003
Walk a new long distance path with Cambridge & East Herts ramblers next Winter!

Dates for your diary
1. Sat.2 Nov. 2002. Cambridge station to Whittlesford station
2. Sat.16 Nov. 2002. Whittlesford station to Newport station
3. Sat.30 Nov. 2002.  Newport station to Bishops Stortford station
4. Sat.18 Jan. 2003.  Bishops Stortford station to Harlow Town station
5. Sat.8 Feb. 2003.  Harlow Town station to Broxbourne station (provisional)
6. Sat.22 Feb. 2003.  Broxbourne station to Waltham Abbey (Waltham Cross station) (provisional)
(for further information, tel. 01223 356889).

Parish of the Month – Shepreth
Shepreth’s well-kept paths were waymarked this Winter by members of the Cambridge Group of the Ramblers’ Association, led by David Harrison. There are 13 numbered rights of way on the  County Council’s Definitive Map, and at least 2 further well-used permissive paths. Shepreth is accessible by rail via the station, with its 1851 buildings.

Prehistory of the parish is described in Rowland Parker’s classic on the neighbouring parish of Foxton “The Common Stream” (in paperback, Paladin 1976), where lines of two prehistoric trackways crossing the parish from North to South are noted.  These were recorded on the Inclosure map of 1823, and might be worth following up in any search for paths to be added to the  Definitive Map. The remains of a Roman villa and an early village were found, and ancient grain storage pits were found in 1885 and a burial ground excavated in 1895.

Of today’s well-signed paths, Footpath 1 starts along Moor End lane, soon passing the parish church, with its clunch tower, C13th Decorated nave and chancel, incongruous yellow brick south aisle, and well-kept churchyard, with a large carpark behind. The path leads to Shepreth L-moor, 18 acres of grazed marshy pasture in the care of the Naturalists Trust. Over a century ago, much of the moor was dug for coprolytes.  Its chalky streams are now home to arrowhead and four species of water crowfoot, and the rough pasture is a good place to see cowslips.  Footpaths 1 & 2 cross the moor, using an underpass below the railway which bisects the reserve.  Another approach is by the well-used Footpath 3, which starts from a small lay-by at a bend in Frog End road, and by the less-well used Footpath 13, which skirts the W edge of the Moor from Frog End, before passing under the railway. Two exits from the Moor lead onto Meldreth road.  Here, turning right (E) leads one back to the village, passing the former crossing-keeper’s house, with its exquisite garden, which may be visited.

Back in the village, across the road from the church is a piece of rough woodland that has grown over an old moated site.  This is thought* to be where one of the early manor houses stood.  Docwra’s Manor is the name of a very fine house with a shell doorway, on Meldreth Road by Huttles Green, near the thatched village shop.   Here is a diffuse  multiway junction at the centre of the village.

The short Footpath 5 cuts off the road corner here between Frog End Road and Fowlmere Road. The footpath runs in a meadow behind a former water-mill. One of the miller’s sidelines was brewing, and the associated cottage was a beerhouse!

Cross the old roadbridge over the stream near Huttles Green, and turn NE along Angle Lane.  This leads to Willers Mill Wildlife Park.  Continue N along the lane beside  a clear chalk stream, noting the wolves in their cages to the left.  Passing over the railway crossing, Footpath 6 continues on a grassy field-edge track, before turning half-right on a well-trampled path across an arable field, to join the network of paths in the low-lying fields approaching Barrington. A direct return may be made from Barrington Green via Barrington Road, leading to Shepreth station, but a better, though longer option to to return via Five Fools Meadow, a County Council maintained public open space, once part of extensive lands in these parts owned by the nuns of Chatteris. A pleasant but damp permissive path runs a long way through the meadows and woodland to Malton Road, Meldreth.

If however, one turns East off Angle Lane by the green metal sign for Footpath 7, it leads along a gravel track, through kissing gates, between gardens and later behind attractive old pits in a belt of woodland to emerge on the A10 opposite the road turning to Foxton. Note that this path was diverted in 1982, so old maps might not show the present route.  Footpath 8 is a backs-of-houses feeder route, starting on Fowlmere Road.

From Huttles Green, alongside the Fowlmere Road is a strip of woodland, where a very attractive permissive path has been signed, taking the walker up to the A10.  Here turn right (S) on the footway.  Shortly, across the road, a sign points into a belt of woodland, whence Footpath 10 leads across an arable field to Field Farm, and thence to Fowlmere.  Alternatively, continue along the footway of the A10, past the Motel, to return toward the church on the attractive Footpath 9, beside the clear R.Shep. Turn left (S) here, to use the charming, well signed path across pastures towards Frog End (note three rather high stiles to climb!).  From Frog End, return S to the A10.  Cross carefully, and continue ahead through a cut-off residential road, towards the Green Man pub. with its pleasant garden.  Opposite this starts Footpath 11 on a grassy farm track, soon becoming a narrow embanked path between trees above the stream, to emerge on the quiet lane in Fowlmere near the RSPB reserve.  Daffodils spill from neighbouring gardens, and we have seen kingfisher. Quiet perfection here.

*For more information on Shepreth, and the neighbouring parishes of Barrington, Fowlmere, Foxton, etc.,see  also “Valley in the Chalk” one of a set of leaflets published by the Cambridge Green Belt Team, 1995.

Shepreth, South Cambridgeshire is on Landranger 154, and Explorer 209.

Don’t just pass through Somerset
Three of us passed a most enjoyable walking holiday in South Somerset in March, staying near Bruton. Access to this area is via the A303, used by the many en route to Devon.

We used two enjoyable, well waymarked “long distance paths”, each only 28 miles long, which with scenic detours made six days’ enjoyable walking of about 10 miles per day.  The Leland Trail (commemorating the C17th tour of the historian) runs from King Alfred’s Tower, near Stourhead Gardens, through Bruton, Castle Cary, North Cadbury, Queen Camel, Ilchester, Montacute, and ending at Ham Hill Country Park. The countryside is pastoral, with occasional sharp hills and attractive small towns and villages.  We did not however enjoy the 2 mile section near Yeovilton, where the Fleet Air Arm’s Harrier Jump Jets practised “circuits & bumps” over our heads!

The Liberty Trail continues from Ham Hill to Lyme Regis, passing through West Chinnock, Misterton, Wayford, Thorncombe and Wooton Fitzpaine. This is a most attractive, hillier section, whose only snag is the need to cross the formidable A30. This route is based on the stories of the men who joined the Monmouth Rebellion from villages in Somerset & Dorset, assembling at Lyme in 1685.

Both guides can be obtained from Tourism & Marketing Unit, South Somerset District Council, Brympton Way, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 1YR, tel 01935 75272. There are also two series of “Walks in South Somerset”.

Organisation: We mostly used two cars to do these linear walks, but for convenience used a taxi from Lyme back to Thorncombe (cost £15). We needed Explorer series 142, 129 & 116. We stayed at “Steps Farmhouse” in Wyke Champflower near Bruton, where we enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere and delicious and ample vegetarian BB/EM for £28 pp/day, against a background of sheep, goats, rabbits, doves and horses, set in tiny hamlet in a bowl of grassy hills. Phone Eileen Lemon & Noreen Daniel on 01749 812788 for details.

Cantab Rambler is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or the author of an individual item.  Janet Moreton 01223 356889


Price 10 pence where sold. 12th edition

© Janet Moreton, April 2002

CANTAB11 February 2002

CANTAB11 February 2002 published on

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


The publication of the Countryside Agency’s Rights of Way Condition Survey 2000 has confirmed what all walkers knew already. It concluded that 25% of England’s paths are not easy to use. The Countryside Agency invested £30 million in the path network over 10 years,  and the report rather suggests that the public has not received value for money via the County Councils.  Walkers can expect to encounter a problem on average every 2km  on England’s 188 000km of rights of way.. £69 million is needed to bring paths up to the national target. Maintaining the network in optimum condition would cost £18 million annually.

The survey gives a table of statistics, county by county. Cambridgeshire claims to have 66% of the network “easy to find”, 77% “easy to follow” ; 21% “possible to follow”; 3% impossible; 85% “satisfactory”; 5.2 obstructions per 10 km; 4.8 problems for walkers per 10 km.  Remember the site surveys were done in Summer.

Cambridgeshire looks about average compared with other counties. Suffolk has now overtaken Cambs. in terms of recorded path quality.  It is perhaps no surprise that Lincolnshire is the worst.

Counties which claim to have 95%+ satisfactory paths are: Berks; Cumbria; Derbyshire; E. & W. Sussex; Gt. Manchester; Hants; IoW; Staffs; Suffolk; Surrey; Warks; W.Midlands; W & S.Yorks; Wilts; Worcs (who claim 99% satisfactory). Perhaps one should use this list when selecting a holiday destination!

Meanwhile,it might just be worthwhile to write to one’s County Councillor, pointing out that the County has just received an extra package of money from the government, and that a very deserving and worthwhile Section to receive some extra funds would be the Rural Group.  Point out the value of rights of way on the health of the population, and the importance for tourism…

Countryside Focus
This is the name of a “newspaper” style magazine, produced by The Countryside Agency, the organisation which replaced The Countryside Commission.

We have seen the Dec/Jan issue.  In 8 pages, the magazine covers a wide variety of issues, not many being directly related to the path network.  The lead article is “New hope for rural services“, and the centre spread is devoted to “Bringing vitality back to the villages“. The final page is “Farmers shown road to recovery“.  There is also “new thinking on second homes” and “whatever you do, don’t forget riders“.

However, there are useful snippets of information on the path network.  There is a brief summary of the conclusions of the national Rights of Way Condition Survey, published by The Countryside Agency in December. Nationally, users encountered as many problems as they did at the last national survey in 1984.  The Countryside Agency feels that a new approach is needed.  The magazine is available free from Countryside Agency Publications, PO Box 125, Wetherby LS23 7EP.  e-mail

Black & Brown Waterway Trails
The Black Fen Waterway Trail and The Brown Fen Waterway trail are two new routes centred on Ely and Boston respectively, and promoted by Fens Tourism.  As the name suggests, both routes stay close to the fenland watercourses.

The Black Fen Trail is a 62 mile (100 km) circuit, from Ely, via Littleport, Downham Market, Nordelph, Outwell, March, Chattris, Sutton, Wilburton, Stretham Old Engine, Little Thetford, and back to Ely.  The route is already waymarked in the Ely and Stretham localities (and maybe elsewhere) with attractive discs, marked “Black Fen Waterways Trail”.

This route is served by some public transport on Mondays to Saturdays, but careful planning would be advisable, as some of the bus services only run three times per day.

The circular Brown Fen Trail runs from Boston, south towards Spalding and Crowland, before returning north to Boston via Donington.  The route also 62 miles long.

Your editor tried in vain to obtain details of both these routes from the Tourist office in Ely. From another souce, eventually she learnt that waymarking has indeed been underway, and a leaflet has been produced, which describes both routes, one on each side of an A3 sheet.  Then a right of way dispute arose on a small part of the Brown Fen Waterways Trail, and until this was settled, the authorities were loath to make the leaflet available.  However, we have received a copy of the leaflet recently, so hope it will be generally available soon.  It would have been pleasant to sample The Brown Fen Trail, for example near Spalding in the Spring bulb season.

The Fens Waterways Guide
This is a free colour guidebook which is obtainable from the Ely Tourist Office in Oliver Cromwells House. It has attractive illustrations, and splendid maps of the fenland waterways systems.  However, it is aimed mostly at fishermen and the boating fraternity, and has no information about footpaths. It does have details of where to stay, and of eating places, and is useful in providing opening times for attractions and places of interest.

The Fens (Tourist guide)
Also available from Ely Tourist Office (and elsewhere – try Cambridge Tourist Office) this does have a section on fenland walking opportunities, mentioning The Fen Rivers Way,The Nene Way, The Hereward Way, and even The Macmillan Way. (The latter runs all the way from Boston in Lincs to Abbotsbury in Dorset).  There are excellent articles on fenland towns, and wildlife and environment of the fens.

On page 9 is the statement that a leaflet on the Black & Brown fens Waterways trails “will be available in March 2001“.

Wagn-ers Walk
When your train is late, and you are hanging about Cambridge station, pick up a small purple/orange leaflet showing an improbably clean couple going for a country walk.  This is, of course, an advert for places to visit, and places to enjoy country walks using WAGN trains.

Suggestions include visiting Hatfield House, Knebworth Park and Ware Priory.  Canal walks in London are promoted, as is the New River Walk at Hertford. Rather more details are given for the Cole Green Way walk of 3.5 miles, near Hertford.

One feels that WAGN could be a little more ambitious with their suggestions.

Vive “Passion Rando”
The French equivalent of the Ramblers’ Association is the Fédération Français de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP). Their magazine is “Passion Rando”, published by FFRP, 14 rue Riquet, 75019 Paris. Thanks to kind friends resident in France, recently I had an opportunity to look at a copy.  For anyone who reads French reasonably fluently (which I certainly do not), it would make an interesting comparison with the Ramblers’ Association Journal.  The Autumn 2001 issue  includes articles on rambling for children; health hazards of eating unwashed/uncooked low growing fruits in the countryside; the value of the GR (long distance path) waymarking; and calendar of national events.  The major article focuses on a celebratory mass gathering of walkers in Alsace.

We also found a précis of statistics on the French walking scene, in a news-snippet on the Internet written by Alan Mattingley, who lives in France.  From this we learn that some three-quarters of the French take outdoor recreation, of which walking is the most popular, with 66% of the population (or 30 million people) participating. (Similarly, the Environment Agency records that country walking is the most popular outdoor recreation in the UK)

In France, it was found that 22% of walkers only use routes close to home, but another 19% only go walking when on holiday. The French authorities have discovered (as did the UK Tourist offices when struck by the Foot & Mouth crisis) that the growing popularity of walking medium & long distance paths, leads to a demand for accommodation en route, baggage transfer services, food etc.

Every year some 750,000 walks guidebooks are sold annually, many via the FFRP.

In France, some 20,000,000 pairs of walking boots are thought to be currently “in circulation” with some 5,000,000 pairs sold annually. So when you next have that French walking holiday, think of all the other pairs of boots tramping the GRs!

Even the new Explorer Maps are not up-to-date!
Most readers will have bought some of the new range of Explorer maps.  However, changes to the County Council’s Definitive Map occur all the time, by means of path diversions, creations, modifications, or extinguishments, so even new maps are never completely up-to-date.  The following items note some of the more useful changes which have occurred recently in South Cambs.

New paths near Thriplow
Thriplow has long been known for having numbers of permissive paths along local farm tracks.  Notices at the ends invite walkers to use them, keeping dogs on leads etc.

A new permissive path towards Whittlesford under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme has also become available recently.  This leaves “The Drift” public right of way at TL 455 471 by a notice & map inviting its use.  It runs NNW towards the spring known as Little Nine Wells, going through a waymarked gap in the hedge, and then towards the M11.  It continues in the field alongside the  M11, to climb a flight of new steps at TL 457 486, and crosses the M11 on the bridge for the minor road into Whittlesford.  Thus it is possible to continue on “The  Moor” footpath in Whittlesford, extending the walk further if desired, and return to Thriplow on The Drift footpath from TL 466 477.

In addition, there is also a fairly new right of way, which leaves The Drift at TL 453 469  turning off S towards the fishing pits.  It is waymarked through a small wood, follows field boundaries, and emerges into the recreation ground at Heathfields Estate, near Duxford.  From here, it is possible to return to Thriplow by walking SW past the garage on the A505, and using the signed Footpath 5 passing the big barns.

New bridge at Bourn
Cambs C.C. have recently put in a new footbridge at Caxton End, at TL 318 573. This bridge enables Footpath 9, running in a pleasant grassy field from a signed stile at TL 319 572 to be used, thus avoiding the narrow road.

New waymarking of Kingston footpath avoiding Cranes Lane
Next time you walk in Kingston, be aware that an alternative exists to the muddy and water-logged Cranes Lane.  If you look carefully on the OS map, you will see that a separate footpath (Kingston no.14) exists parallel over part of the length.  It has take several years to persuade Cambs.C.C. that this path had a useful function, and to bring it back into commission. It has recently been waymarked by joint parish/RA action.

Start up the village end of Cranes Lane, and enter the play area by a green metal sign at TL 345 549.  Continue through the grassy playground by the hedge, and exit into the arable field, to walk ca. S parallel to Cranes Lane, but on the other side of a tall hedge. This is Footpath 14. The hedge on your right ends at the junction with Footpath 15, waymarked turning off E. From here, Cranes Lane & Footpath 14 merge for a while into one wide grassy track, unhedged on the east side.  Fortunately this section is usually drier. At TL 338 537, Footpath 14 crosses a ditch on a new bridge, and once more has a separate identity, continuing with a hedge & ditch separating it from Cranes Lane, as far as TL 338 529, where it re-joins the lane. The last section is at present less satisfactory, being sticky and overhung by the hedge, but further improvements are planned.

New Willingham to Earith path
On 3 Jan.2002, Cambs.C.C. gave notice of the creation of a new bridleway in Willingham parish, as part of the planning agreement for the Over gravel extraction.  The bridleway runs from the N end of West Fen Road, TL 397 731 in a NE direction towards the B1050 road near Bridge Farm, then NW parallel to, but one field away from the road to TL 391 745, where it meets the unclassified road running N to Earith Lock.

This makes possible a long circuit from Over, going to Overcote, and along the bank of the R.Great Ouse to Earith Lock, returning by the new bridleway, and also recently created paths to Over Gravel.

Secretary of State Confirms new Footpath in Over Parish
On 18 December 2001, and following a local public inquiry, an Inspector confirmed the Order adding a new public footpath along the E bank of Swavesey Drain, from Station Road, Over at TL 367 698, to TL 366 702, where it joins an existing footpath from Station Road, and continuing alongside Swavesey Drain, to reach the bank of the River Great Ouse..
This is a good birdwatching area in Winter.

If you go down in the woods today.
At Brandon Country Park, Suffolk, where so many of us enjoyed walking earlier in the year, when many other paths were closed by the Foot & Mouth crisis, you will now find that several sections of the wider loops of forest paths & cycleways are presently closed by tree felling operations. And at High Lodge, on the other side of the B 1106, there are major building operations, and the shop and cafe are closed until June.

Parish Paths Partnership, “P3”
This is Cambs.C.C.’s ongoing scheme whereby some parish councils are given a grant to carry out path maintenance. Reports in the Autumn 2001 Bulletin include details of a 16 page booklet on walks in Brampton, Hunts. Copies can be purched for £2.99 from Pat Doody, c/o 5 Green Lane, Brampton, Huntingdon, Cambs. PE28 4RE.  tel: 01480 392706  e-mail:
Any profits will be donated to the Wildlife Trust.

Cantab Rambler is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or the author of an individual item.  Janet Moreton 01223 356889


Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, February 2002