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CANTAB33 November 2005

CANTAB33 November 2005 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Editorial: Make Your Views Known
At this time of year, Highway Authorities are setting their budgets, and this is the time to express your views to your County Councillor, regarding the inadequate funds set for maintaining the path network.  A list of Cambs County Councillors can be obtained from the County’s website:

Write to your councillor at Shire Hall, Castle Hill, Cambridge, CB3 OAP.

When writing, you may wish to point out that, according to the Countryside Services Team’s own survey this year, only 60% of public paths in the county were found “easy to use”.

Many of the problems are due to lack of waymarking along the length of a path.  Cambridgeshire compares badly in this respect with almost any of the adjoining counties, yet when we point out the need for waymarking, we are told there are no funds.  Even roadside signposts, if damaged or lost take ages to replace, sometimes a couple of years.  What an incentive this is to a landowner, who does not want a path advertised!  Other general maintenance is also inadequate, due to lack of funds.  Roadside verges are cut every 6 weeks in Summer, yet field edge paths are lucky if the grass is cut twice or thrice in a season. Indeed, many field-edge paths are not cut at all.  Other tasks held up by lack of funds are more rapid processing of changes to the definitive map, and investigations of “lost ways”.

When writing to your councillor, point out that country walking is a natural, healthy exercise, that needs almost no special equipment (only boots and a waterproof); it can be undertaken by almost everyone; it is cheap both for the path user and the County Council (compare the cost of maintaining a footpath with a similar length of road); and it is presently being promoted by central government.

What is the use of handing out all these pedometers (step counters) to potential new walkers, if they soon discover that their local paths are not in usable condition!

If you live outside Cambs, the same general principles apply.  Don’t delay – confirm the name of your councillor, and write today.

Janet Moreton

Parish of the Month- Sawtry
Landranger 142; Explorer 227
Sawtry village lies just off the  Roman Ermine Street, that we know as the A1, and is about an hour’s drive from Cambridge.  The old abbey of St Mary’s, a Cistercian foundation, lay in an isolated position in the fen, on the other side of the A1, and is now only visible as banks and ditches.  The principal attractive features of Sawtry, for the walker, however, lie in the close proximity of the ancient Aversley Wood (61 ha), and Archers Wood (18ha).  These are both in the care of the Woodland Trust, and freely accessible. Archers Wood is said to be so-called, as it was within arrow-shot of Ermine Street!  Not far away, over the A1 is Monk’s Wood Nature Reserve near Woodwalton.  This wood was in the “gift”  of Sawtry Abbey in the C15th.

The nearby “Bullock Road” ancient trackway was in the news recently, as the surface, reduced to a morass in places by 4-wheel drive vehicles, has been restored, and at last a seasonal traffic regulation order (TRO) has been applied. The parish council, to celebrate this, and with funds from the County Council via the Parish Paths Partnership (P3) Scheme, has produced a folder of walks leaflets for the interest of local people.  I am not aware that they are on sale generally, so  without infringing copyright, here outline the walks suggested. Some of the routes could be combined for a full day’s walking.

Walk 1 – Fenland Walk (3.3miles)
This is the only walk which starts on the E side of the A1, from parking at Greenfield playing field (accessed from the village by a bridge over the A1). The route runs E along Straight Drove, then turns right (SE) following a wide drain.  A detour across a wide bridge, and under the railway entends the walk to Woodwalton. Otherwise,  follow the waymarked route SW along the top of the bank, with a drain to left, passing earthworks which are all that remain of Sawtry Abbey.  At Abbey Farm, the route crosses the drain and curves right, following the right of way W towards the A1, passing a sewage works, and joining a concrete track to reach the  minor roadway below the A1. The route returns N to Greenfield along this minor road.

Walk 2 Medieval walk  (3 miles)
This route leaves St Judith’s Lane car park, SW into St Judith’s field, taking a kissing gate onto the footpath leading outside the E edge of Aversley Wood.  Where the wood reaches the Bullock Road, turn right (NW) along it, and, at the far edge of the wood, enter a pleasant shady ride.  There is a network of paths – aim generally for the NE corner of the wood,  emerge, and find the outward path.

Walk 3 Wildlife Views   (2 walks, 2.8 miles)
Both (rather frustrating) walks start from the village green, and are both “out-and-back”. The first goes NE along the road towards the industrial estate. Beyond “Brookside” continue on a signed path across a field to the Sawtry Brook.  Cross a footbridge, and with the brook to left, go as far as the A1, and return.

The second route also starts from the village green, to use a passageway beside Chequers Cottage leading to Belgrave Square. Go N along the edge of the Workingmen’s Club carpark under trees, on a fenced path. It leads to the junction of Jubilee Walk & Whitehouse Road, where one continues ahead, and across Deer Park Road to the end of houses, to cross a bridge. Now, at last in a rural landscape, follow the right of way generally NNW to Conington Roundhill Wood.  Ahead are interesting moats and earthworks, but the guide says firmly, there is no right of way, so one must retrace.

Walk 4 The Jubilee Walk (2.3 miles)
The inner-village walk starts on the village green, and passes a “distinguished” C18th house on the High Street and attractive houses and elm trees in Tinkers Lane. Church Causeway leads to the Victorian All Saints Church and the Sawtry War Memorial.  Old St Andrews graveyard is on the site of the former church, demolished in 1870.  Returning to the green, note the old firestation and old lock-up in the High Street.

Walk 5  Farm Labourers walk  (4.5 miles)
This interesting walk leaves St Judith’s Lane car park, and takes Green End Road to The Green. It turns W down Gidding Road, passing Grebe Farm & Lodge Farm, and uses a section of The Bullock Road.  It returns on the path through Woodfield Farm, reaching the village at St Judith’s Lane.

Walk 6 Ancient Woods Walk  (6.5 miles)
This walk starts again from St Judiths Lane,  goes through Aversley Wood, to emerge on The Bullock Road.  Here, it turns SE to Hill Top Farm, and goes N along the road, to visit Archers Wood.  After this delightful detour, one returns N on the track to St Judith’s Lane.

The Great Fen Project
Holme Fen, and Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserves
Every outdoor or nature magazine we open recently seems to refer to The Great Fen Project. This is a scheme to buy up farmland in the flat lands south of Peterborough, to create a vast wetland.  A recent purchase is Darlow’s Farm adjacent to Woodwalton Fen, with the aim to return it to wet grassland.

What is worth saying is that there is a pleasant day’s walking in this area.  Spend the morning round the wooded Holme Fen, parking at TL 203 894, in a layby opposite the interesting Holme Post.  This was set in the ground in 1851, and the shrinkage of the peat now means it stands 4m above the surrounding ground!  A display board shows a network of paths and waymarked trails.  Then drive to Woodwalton Fen for lunch, approaching from Ramsey Heights, and parking at ca. TL 235 849.  This is a complete contrast, with acres of wet grassland, and marsh.  Again, there are excellent display boards, and miles of waymarked paths.

A curious house on stilts was built by Charles Rothschild, who bought the land and turned it into one of Britain’s first nature reserves.  He went on to create the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves in 1912, which became the Wildlife Trusts Movement.  The Rothschild building was his base for study at the fen.

Do visit Holme Fen & Woodwalton Fen, and take your binoculars. In Winter, willies might be a good idea.

Janet Moreton

Whats New?
Armchair walking is probably more prevalent in Winter, so here is something to look for when poring over a map, in front of a warm fire, as the rain spatters on the window.

Like the products in a supermarket, which are often “new, improved…”, plenty of place names are “new”.  But when were they new? And does “new” mean new (lately made, recently discovered, modern) ?

A quick scan of some East Anglian maps gave me several good walking venues: Newton; Newsells; Newnham; Newport; New Wimpole; Newmarket…Pause to look up The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names (4th Ed. Eilert Ekwall, Clarendon Press, 1960), and a few other cross references, especially Alison Taylor (in Archaeology of South West & South East Cambridgehire, Publ. 1997, Cambs. CC).

Newton is thought to be probably the most common English place name, meaning “new homestead or village”, and represents Old English  “nëowa tûn”.  It is identical in origin with Newnton, Newington and Naunton.  The site of Newton in the Cam Valley was occupied in the Iron Age, but it is not mentioned as a separate parish in Domesday Book.  Alison Taylor says the name means “new farm” and agrees it was a late creation. However, the moated site known as Newton Bury, adjacent to the church, was recorded before 1300.  Walkers who know Newton, will know it as a place to get wet feet in Winter, where a footpath is regularly flooded by the Hoffer Brook!

Newsells is an attractive little hamlet near Barkway, Herts. It was Nevsela in Domesday, Newsel 1212 , Neuseles 1251.  Sele is the old English “hall, dwelling, or house”.  So this settlement isn’t new – its been around, and called something similar, since at least 1080.

Newnham, a parish just within Cambridge City boundaries, is where one starts the famous walk to Grantchester.  It was Newham in 1195, and Newenham in 1202, so it’s been “new” for a long time!

Newport, Essex, has a good network of paths, and is the cross-over place for the Harcamlow Way figure-of-eight long distance path. The name simply means, “new town”.

New Wimpole has much more available information.   The hall at Wimpole was first built by Sir Thomas Chicheley, ca. 1641. The hall quickly passed to a succession of nobles, and finally to the Earl of Hardwicke. The latter replaced the medieval church east of the house with the current yellow-brick chapel, thickly furnished with monuments.  He landscaped the grounds, removing the banks and hollows not only of former gardens, but from the little hamlet of Wimpole that Sir Thomas Chicheley had removed to build his first house.  In the 1840s, a row of Jacobean style cottages were built for estate workers at New Wimpole. So, sadly, New Wimpole stands along the main road as a symbol of former ruthlessness – even if not on the scale of Scottish “clearances”. (Don’t let this depress you when you walk round the park).

Newmarket, Suffolk.  The town lies on the Icknield Way ancient route, and has been horse country for a long time.  The market which gave the town its name was set up ca. 1200 beside the old road, where it flanked the ancient manor and half-hundred of Exning. Its name was recorded first in latin (Nova Forum, 1200, and Novum Mercatum 1219), and la Newmarket 1418.

I haven’t touched on the places that are “new” within living memory – Harlow New Town, new in the C20th,  is a typical East Anglian example.  The habit of affixing “new” to an adjacent place name, and putting up a settlement seems to have lapsed. Complete new villages, Cambourne, Northstowe are springing up all round us, without the “new” epithet to remind us that ten years ago the barley waved here.
Janet Moreton

Cambridge Group Walk in Cumbria
Sixteen members of Cambridge RA Group enjoyed a week’s walking in the Lake District in August. Despite Cumbria’s wet reputation, we were blessed with fine weather throughout.  We climbed a couple of peaks per day on 5 days out of the six, and had a really good time.

We stayed, very comfortably, at Newton Rigg Campus, near Penrith.  Unfortunately, enquiries suggest that next Summer, the college will be renovating its accommodation, which will not therefore be available. To those who have enquired – sorry.

Pubs Reopening and Closing…
Mr Chris Crane will be re-opening “The Elmdon Dial” (formerly The Kings Head at Elmdon, Essex) at the end of 2005. The restaurant and bar, serving a range of meals and snacks will welcome walkers.

But, sadly, the White Horse at West Wickham Cambs, has closed, and the building is for sale.

Path changes in West Wratting parish
After 4 years of consultation, a suite of alterations to the path network was confirmed by Cambs. C.C. on 1 September.  Changes affect paths to the S & E of  West Wratting village, and a few going to Weston Colville, and generally re-route footpaths along field-edges.  Several are minor re-alignments, often onto lines that have been in use already, but others are quite radical, and two new paths have been created to make useful links.

Fp 7 from the churchyard has been re-aligned along the field edge, then round old farm buildings and along a grass baulk to “The Grove”;  fp 8 that used to start opposite the pub has been replaced by a path going north up the farm track, so the criss-cross of paths in the big field between Common Road and The Grove is replaced by two field-edge paths.  The path going N from The Grove towards Weston Colville is still the same as far as the belt of pine trees at TL 614 525, but the diagonal cross-field path that used to go from here towards Weston Colville windmill has been moved onto the field-edge further north – where people have walked for some years.  There is also a completely new path going along the northern side of the tree-belt, and following a track to Chapel Road, near the ruins of Mines Farm.

Further E, the network of paths in another large field north of The Common has been replaced by two parallel paths:  fp 13 leaves the road at TL 620 513 and follows a field-edge all the way to Weston Green (instead of starting through the cottage gardens);  and fp 12 leaves the road at TL 622 512 and goes across the field, then alongside a wood, to join another field-edge path to Weston Green.  A third, new footpath connects fps 12 and 13, along the parish boundary.

Opposite fp 12, on the south side of the road, fp 14 has been re-aligned along the field-edge to the corner at TL 620 511, then across the next field to Rands Wood;  and an extra fp has been created from the same field-corner, going west past a small pond, and through into the next field, where it branches round two sides of the field.  Going effectively straight ahead, one can join fp 10 that leads right back to the Park Farm granary on Mill Road at TL 608 514;  going left, the field-edge path leads south to another corner, then through the thick hedge and into West Wickham parish, thus providing a completely field-edge route from Wratting Common to West Wickham.

Opening of the new paths was celebrated by a village walk on 15 October, when a memorial oak tree was planted.  The condition of some of the field-edge paths still leaves something to be desired, as existing headlands have been rotovated, hopefully prior to grass-seeding, so that by next Summer, walkers will feel the benefit of the changes.
Roger Moreton

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post:  Issue 33.
Cantab usually appears every 2 months. A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 10p is appreciated towards printing costs.  If you would like to receive an issue by post, please send a large SAE, and a 10p 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


Issue 33; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2005.

CANTAB32 September 2005

CANTAB32 September 2005 published on

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


This month we have an article  by John Andrews, contrasting walking in Eastern Germany with that in his native Suffolk. It first appeared in Suffolk Ramblers’ Area News, and is reproduced by kind permission.  Suffolk is not alone in suffering from perpetual inadequacies in its path maintenance budget – most East Anglian Highway Authorities suffer the same stringencies. If every rambler wrote to their County Councillor complaining of inadequate funds for path upkeep, perhaps we would make an impact!

Looking back to the Summer, there is a report on a “package” holiday in Austria, and we discuss the Ramblers’ Association policy of excluding advertising by companies other than Ramblers Holidays.

Following the popularity of the “Paston Way” article, I have further church walks for you this month, this time in Bedfordshire.  Note, however, that these churches will not be open on Sundays in the Winter, so go and visit them soon!

Finally, there is an update on recent path changes in South Cambridgeshire.

Just a dream ?
“I had this amazing experience. I was walking in beautiful countryside where there were footpaths to take me anywhere I wanted to go – to every town or village around or in whatever direction I chose.  All along the paths – at every junction – were signs telling me where each path leads to and how far or how long it takes to get there.   It was all so comfortable too; never any doubts about whether I was trespassing or obstacles in the way and not a single nettle to make my journey unpleasant or impossible.

So easy to get about from one area to another one too.  Buses, trains and even, where the river was big enough, boats were in regular and frequent supply  – with bus stops at the ends of lots of the footpaths. For the happy walker a car was quite superfluous.  When I was hungry or thirsty a pub or cafe seemed to appear almost magically, even out in the countryside miles away from habitations – halfway up a mountain it was no surprise to find a place of refreshment.

No wonder that I was not alone in this paradise ! The paths were alive with people of every age and variety – families, groups of teenagers and pensioners. It was all so safe and welcoming too, so it seemed quite natural to find – more than once – a young mother with a toddler in a pushchair – miles from anywhere.  Did I find `Private’ notices all over the place ? Scarcely ever, but, if so, then accompanied by helpful advice explaining that the path only led to a house or was in some way or other of no use to the general public.  `Keep Out’ signs? Not a one did I behold.

At this point in the story – usually – comes the punch line “ and then I woke up !” But this was not a dream and every word of it was true – true of the part of eastern Germany, close to the Czech border, where I have just been on holiday. I know the Germans have always been passionate about walking – the German word is ‘wandering’, which seems so much more descriptive of the habit, but should there be such a vast gulf between what one finds there and our normal experiences of walking in Suffolk ? In my part of the County and in the height of summer, if I am lucky enough to find a path to take me where I want to go, then – 10 to 1 that it will be a nightmare journey and that I will return home scratched, stung and exhausted by the unequal battle against head-high vegetation and a selection of the nastiest species to be found. If a bus back would help – or a cooling drink would ease the pain – what chance of that ?

Must this be so ? Clearly it need not be. Are we setting our sights high enough ?  Can the Suffolk County ‘Rights of Way Improvement Plan’ start to bring about the huge cultural change that it would require ? Is it pure, misguided fantasy to hope that our decision makers, the guardians of the public purse, might actually have the vision to believe that – as the experts all now say – a good recreational network is a major factor in sustaining the rural economy ?

At present we are suffering the consequences of the very opposite – a slashing of the County Council’s rights of way maintenance budget that is leaving walkers in frustration all over Suffolk as our paths succumb to the natural growth which, in the worst case, compels people to turn back and/or much more disturbingly, to escape from the impenetrable jungle of the footpath by taking to the nearest road.

Perhaps we should invite some of our Councillors to come along with us – first into the Suffolk countryside in June – and then to Germany ?”
John Andrews

Austria with “Waymark”
In July, four members of RA Cambridge Group spent a most enjoyable week at Trins, in the Austrian Tirol, organised by the walking company “Waymark”.  There were 2 leaders, daily providing alternative walks options for 23 people, so that on average there were about a dozen people in each party. Their “grade 2” walks could be accomplished by all our readers. The “grade 3” (perhaps equivalent to Ramblers Holidays “grade C”) would be suitable for those of you who not only walk 10 (East Anglian) miles each Saturday, but are also capable of a morning’s sustained, and sometimes steep, uphill effort!

Blessed with good weather, we had two walks direct from the village, situated at 1214m, ascending Blaser (2241m) on the first day, and Padaster (2301m) on a later occasion. One day, a chairlift took us up to 2000m, allowing a ridge walk on 3 delightful green peaks to the south of the village. Otherwise, a short bus ride gave us access to walking above the Obernberg Valley, and onto the high frontier ridge  with Italy, (reaching 2166m),  during which our guide regaled us with tales of guerilla warfare in the last century. Other walks took us from Obertal to the Tribulaun Hut under the cliffs of Gschnitzer (where some of us learnt to kick steps across slanting old glassy snow).  Once, we hired a minibus to Obern in the Stubai Alps, for views of more inspiring, snow-covered peaks.

This was a holiday for really spectacular  views of snow-covered alps and glaciers, wonderful wildflowers, plenty of mountain huts for a comfortable refreshment break, and, above all, a really well-organised set-up, with knowledgeable, considerate leaders.  The friendly hotel has been patronised by Waymark for 25 years, and provided a perfect background, from its ample breakfasts to free afternoon tea & cakes, and 4-course evening meals. On arrival, one found a little paper heart on the pillow “Herzlich Willkommen”.

It is not my normal policy to report on commercial package holidays (and no, I haven’t been paid) but I felt regret at our leader’s comment that “Waymark” was not allowed to advertise  in Ramblers’ Association publications.  Whilst I am aware of the RA’s close ties with “Ramblers Holidays”, and am a regular customer of the latter, I feel personally that it is in the interest of walkers that they should be aware of the options, and, ultimately in the interests of each walking company that they should thrive on competition.  Waymark Holidays are slightly more expensive than Ramblers, but offer smaller parties, and a walk every day.

For more details of Waymark Holidays, their Brochure Line is 01753 534126, or e-mail
The week at Trins cost £485, including Lufthansa flights from Heathrow, and most local travel. We can also recommend a slightly easier holiday at Wildschönau in the Kitzbühler Alps, which we enjoyed two years ago.
Janet Moreton

Legal changes to the path network November 2003 – May 2005
The following changes have been confirmed by the County or District Councils in South Cambs., during the last 18 months:

Part of Barrington fp 11 along the top of the Barrington chalk pit, has been moved northwards by a few metres, to take the path a safe distance away from the crumbling edge of the quarry (confirmed February 2005).  A new path has been cut out through the trees, and nicely surfaced with wood-chips.

Bartlow fp 6 (from Ashdon Road at TL 585 451 to Bartlow church) was finally confirmed as a public footpath in February 2004, and a minor diversion, avoiding a building that had been put up after the RA’s original claim, was confirmed in January 2005.

Part of Bourn fp 2, from the Caxton Road going north through Cambourne, has been diverted round the edge of a newly-dug balancing lake (confirmed November 2003).  A diversion taking another part of the path a little further away from the existing property Oak Dene (which is becoming surrounded by the new Cambourne development) has been agreed by the RA, but not yet enacted.  Yet another diversion will be needed, round another balancing lake, but we are still waiting for details of this;  meanwhile a temporary diversion is in operation, while the lake is being dug.

Bourn fp 21, from Alms Hill at TL 325 568, going east towards Caldecote was opened up by Cambs. CC during 2003, and a minor diversion was confirmed in November 2003 to take the path round an existing building.  (A parallel footpath runs across the meadow on the south side of Bourn Brook.)

Caxton br 5 (part of the Crow Dene bridleway) now goes through a tunnel under the new Caxton Bypass road, and a diversion order was made to alter the line slightly, and to reduce the width of the section under the tunnel, from the original 30 ft.

On Comberton fp 5 (from Barton Road at TL 385 563, to Swaynes Lane at TL 385 561) a minor diversion round an extended garden plot was confirmed in May 2004.

Gamlingay fp 7 (f rom Potton Road at TL 217 512 to Everton Road at TL 211 512) was diverted a few metres to the south at the Everton Road end, to take the path out of a private garden (confirmed May 2005).

In Girton, in February 2004 a new fp 15 was created, running SE along a track from the end of Wellbrook Way, TL 426 613, to end in rough ground at TL 430 610.

Graveley fp 7 was diverted between TL 263 631 and TL 264 632, taking the path north along a farm-track, then east along a field-edge instead of diagonally across a field.  At the same time, Yelling fp 5 between TL 263 626 and TL 263 631 was moved from the east side of the hedge, onto a farm track on the west side, and Yelling fp 6 was moved from a diagonal, cross-field route, to run directly down the field from fp 5 at TL 263 628 (confirmed August 2004).

Horningsea fp 6, from Clayhithe Road at TL 497 629 going E towards Quy Fen, was diverted to follow a field-edge track between TL 498 629 and TL 502 628 (the continuing path being already on the field-edge – confirmed November 2003).

Over fp 6, running S from High Street west of The Admiral Vernon PH at TL 375 706, was diverted to run along the east side of the pub (confirmed March 2004).
Roger Moreton

South Bedfordshire’s Church Trails
South Bedfordshire District Council produces a couple of free leaflets: “Dunstable and the Southern Parishes” and “Toddington and the Northern Parishes”, promoting some of the attractive churches in the District.

The leaflets, free from tourist offices, give details of several churches which will be open between 2 and 5 pm on the first Sunday of each month, between April and September, during which time tea & coffee will be available for visitors. Service of Sunday lunch at a local hostelry (with useful ‘phone numbers) is noted in each case, as are local attractions. The churches are fairly well spaced, and it seems likely that the information is intended primarily for touring motorists, but each church, or perhaps two churches could form a focus for a Sunday walk.

The Dunstable leaflet mentions not only the impressive Priory Church of St Peter, Dunstable (open all week), but also the Roman Catholic Dunstable St Mary’s, Our Lady Immaculate. Designed between 1961 & 1964 by Desmond Williams & Associates, it is a circular building with brick walls & an aluminium roof, with much internal carved wood & stained glass.

Eaton Bray St Mary the Virgin is an early C13th village church, enlarged in the C15th.

Totternhoe St Giles is an embattled C14th church on C12th foundations, boasting its original carved roof.

The second leaflet takes its title from Toddington, with the dedication to St George of England.  This C13th church is built of Totternhoe stone, with a 90ft central tower.  The wooden roof has carved angels, and there are beautiful exterior sculptures of animals.

Hartington St Mary the Virgin is a grade 1 listed early C14th church with a fine arcade.  There is an unusual John Bunyan altar and Pilgrims Progress stained glass.

Chalgrave all Saints is a C13th building within a ring of chestnut trees in very pleasant surroundings.  It is renowned for its C13th wall paintings.

Sundon St Mary’s is another C13th grade 1 listed building, with a C15th rood screen, and 3 rows of ancient pews.

Barton Le Clay St Nicholas rests at the foot of Barton Hills, offering splendid walking opportunities (preferably before a large Sunday lunch!).  Parts of the building date from 1180, and the font may be earlier. The exterior has very fine knapped flint work..  Within are interesting carvings in wood and stone at roof level and in the sanctuary a rare example of Easter Sepulchre. (Here and at Dunstable, we are advised that baptisms may occur around 3pm on some Sundays).

OS Landranger Sheets 166, 165 and 153 will be helpful for walking in this locality. Rights of way are generally well-signposted, and in fair condition. If travelling by car from Cambridge to this area, avoid Baldock, while the bypass is under construction!

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post:  Issue 32.
Cantab usually appears every two months. A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 10p 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 10p 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


Issue 32; Price 10 pence where sold
© Janet Moreton, 2005.


CANTAB31 July 2005

CANTAB31 July 2005 published on

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


This issue has no “Parish of the Month”, but instead, I hope you will find interesting a description of our recent walk based on The Paston Way in Norfolk.

Walking the Paston Way

The Heritage of Norfolk Churches
Norfolk contains the greatest density of medieval churches in the World.  Of some 1000 originally built, 659 remain.  They contain painted screens, frescos, intricately carved stone and woodwork, carved roofs, decorated fonts, and stained glass. In April, their churchyards are awash with primroses, celandines, daffodils, blackthorn. Their towers dominate the gently undulating Norfolk landscape.  Most important of all, these churches remain a spiritual and social focus of otherwise rather isolated villages.  To celebrate the value of some of these churches, and bring them to the attention of the walker, Norfolk County Council produced a booklet called The Paston Way.  Its route, with digressions and alternatives, takes the traveller on a journey to up to 16 churches.

The Paston Family
The route is named after the Paston family, who took their name from a small village near Bacton, on the NE Norfolk coast.  The Pastons became a dominant landowning and merchant family during the medieval and Tudor periods. They are well-known for “The Paston Letters”, consisting of correspondence between family members between 1422 and 1509. This archive provides an unparalled record of the social conditions of a colourful and hazardous age, as seen through the eyes of rural gentry and wool tradesmen, who as a class were, by and large, responsible for the construction of the fine churches.

Notes on the Walk
In April, Roger and I took a two day walk, loosely based on the Paston Way, and covering about 26 miles. We did not visit all the churches, nor did we start at the location recommended by the guide, but the route is one which can readily be amended to suit personal requirements.  The well-waymarked walk took us down footpaths, bridleways, and “quiet lanes”.  The latter have been designated by Norfolk County Council, and are signed as such at each end, with a little schematic drawing of walkers. In these lanes, walkers, horse-riders and cyclists have priority, and in general they were very pleasant, leafy, and without much traffic.  However, one should always be attuned to the possibility of a local tradesman in a hurry!

Day One
On the first day, we started at Trunch, where the C14 – C15th St Boltolph succeeds an older Saxon building. Inside there is a magnificent oak font canopy, and a hammer-beam roof adorned with angels.  Already very impressed, we set out along the route to Gimingham, and were pleased to find the paths in good order, and well-waymarked, although we soon had wet socks from the morning dew. All Saints, Gimingham is impressively plain and simple and bright, with elegant Tudor windows framing clear glass. Here we decided we had to eschew a detour to Trimingham, and its church of St John the Baptist’s Head.  Down we went to the cliffs at Mundesley, and our first glimpse of the sea for six months from the churchyard of All Saints.  This is a Victorian church, containing a font and other features rescued from the ruins of its C14th predecessor.  We followed the route along the sandy beach to Bacton Green, under crumbling cliffs, stopping part way for a snack while perched on a section of breakwater.  April is too cold for a paddle in the North Sea! (We have been warned that this route is not available at high-tide). Far above us, and largely invisible is the North Sea Gas terminal. We enjoyed a pot of tea in a café at Bacton, before taking a path, at first immaculately mown, later cultivated,  inland to the church of St Andrew, with its fine tower, built 1471.  This and the towers of several other churches, serve also as landmarks for sailors.

The guide-book recommends a visit to Edingthorpe, with a detour to Paston only for keen walkers. It seemed strange to us not to visit the church after which the route is named, so we turned down the lane to Paston. But, of course, this is the lane passing the front of the gas-terminal. Although relatively traffic-free, the view here was industrial rather than rural. After 500yd, we were back to the primroses and birdsong, and turned the corner onto the B1159, hugging the verge for a short way, until reaching the safety of the churchyard of St Margaret.  This poor church looks sadly in need of repair, with the plaster of the walls crumbling away around the marble tombs of Katherine and Sir Edmund Paston. However, the roof was rethatched in 2000.  Outside the gates, The Great Barn (built by Sir William Paston, in 1581) is in magnificent repair, newly thatched, and a nature reserve, being the home of 6 different types of bat.

The next church was that of St Peter & Paul at Knapton, famed for 160 angels poised in the carved oak double hammer-beam roof, dated 1504.  By now we were wilting somewhat, and happy to return to Trunch, partly along a path using a disused railway line, which is now a nature reserve.

Day Two
After a very comfortable night in a bed-and-breakfast, we decided to complete the rest of our walk as a linear route, by parking in North Walsham, and taking the train to Cromer. First we made a rapid visit to St Nicholas, North Walsham, leaving ourselves inadequate time to appreciate this huge & lovely church, with its sad tumbled tower, which partly collapsed in 1724.  After a train ride to Cromer, we were able to see only the outside of the centrally placed St Peter & St Paul.  Like most of the churches we visited, the exterior flintwork is superb, and the 160 ft high tower designed to be seen from far out to sea.  So then we had another beach walk, on a falling tide to Overstrand, under tumbling mud cliffs. Sustained by a light lunch, we tracked down the little church of St Martin, built 1911, and clearly maintained with much tender care.  Now it was already well past noon, and we had a fair way to go, so sadly we bypassed the famous church of St Michael & All Angels at Sidestrand, which was moved inland, stone by stone in 1880, when threatened by the sea. We shall return to visit this some day.

A sandy, somewhat hilly path took us inland to Northrepps. The village is growing, with new houses amongst the old, and a large area set aside for further building. The big church of St Mary the Virgin has a notable  rood-screen and C16th bench ends.  We sat for a while in the churchyard  of St James at Southrepps, resting our feet. This huge church, with its 114ft tower must have been vast before the aisles were demolished in 1791.  Between here and the isolated church of St Giles at Bradfield was quite a long walk, which unfortunately contained the only awkward path along the route. One field had been recently ploughed right up to the hedge, obliterating the path, and making for very difficult progress!  However, we were soon back on a “quiet lane”, then enjoying this church with another great tower, sitting alone on a hill, next to only the Old Rectory for company.  Its welcoming atmosphere reminded us of the “Ramblers’ Church” at Walesby, Lincolnshire. From Bradfield, it only remained to find our way back to the car at North Walsham, and bask in the retrospective enjoyment of two wonderful days.

Comments:  Paths, Churches, and more information
All the churches were open – splendid! Nearly all were immaculately maintained inside, with a range of descriptive literature, postcards etc, and better still, signs of active use. Many had an impressive set of embroidered kneelers, notice boards thick with messages, and often signs of childrens’ church.  In Southrepps, while we were there, a toddlers’ group was active in a side-aisle. More soberly, we could not visit the inside of Cromer, as a funeral was in progress.  We came away from our mid-week break quite inspired by these working monuments to a tradition of piety, set in very attractive and quiet countryside. There is no need to walk 26 miles as the route could easily be broken into short sections. The guidebook route starts & finishes at North Walsham, and zig-zags around the countryside, giving a quoted minimum distance of 16 miles and a maximum of 25 miles, visiting more churches. Although this countryside is not rich in public rights of way, Norfolk CC’s route, we felt, did not use all the available paths, seemingly using more lanes than was necessary. One could visit some of the churches by car – if so, please respect the philosophy of the “Quiet Lanes”, which we so much enjoyed.

More information on the Paston Way may be obtained from Norfolk County Council’s website:
Norfolk County Council’s general enquiry telephone number is  0844 800 8020
Norfolk County Council’s information Centre is at The Millennium Library, The Forum, Millennium Plain, Norwich, NR2 1AW (open Mon – Fri 9 – 5)
Ordnance Survey Explorer Sheet 252 (Norfolk Coast East) is needed. Accommodation – We would recommend Butterfly Cottage,The Green, Aldborough, NR11 7AA, tel. 01263 768198, from the RA Guide for B & B: the tourist board lists many more.
Janet & Roger Moreton

Moffat –
“The Heart of Southern Scotland”
Many of you will know that Roger & I have a great affection for The Highlands, undaunted by their well-deserved reputation for wet weather.

However, we have also spent time (once a whole week, but generally a few days on the way North) exploring both Dumfries & Galloway, and the Upper Clyde Valley, staying in Moffat (just over the county border in South Lanarkshire).

We find Moffat charming, and a good centre for hillwalking. OS Landranger Sheets 72, 78 and 79 are a good start. Then contact Dumfries & Galloway Tourist Board (tel 01387 253862), who can supply not only accommodation advice, but also a number of free walking booklets, covering short walks based on a number of attractive small towns in the locality.  We have those for Moffat itself, also Locherbie & Lochmaben, Langholm, and Thornhill. Each booklet contains maps, illustrations and adequate route descriptions for some 5 or 6 walks, generally of a modest 2 to 6 miles.  We found that, by putting two or three walks together, one such guide provided a good introduction to the landscape in and around an individual town.

Our particular interest in this area is in the hills around Moffat, which are mostly steep sided with rounded grass tops.There are no Munros, but a number of Corbetts. We had some good days in one Spring climbing Hart Fell (OS Sheet 78, 808m), White Coomb (Sheet 79, 822m), Broad Law (Sheet 72, 840m), and The Lowther Hills. Tinto (707m) and Culter Fell (748m) don’t reach Corbett status (762m, 2500ft) but make a pleasant short day’s expedition, combined with a visit to the nearest small town.

White Coomb was probably the steepest and boggiest climb. It lies near the centre of the east side of the highly dissected upland area between Moffat and Peebles. The route onto the hill starts from the National Trust for Scotland’s carpark below the Grey Mares’ Tail Waterfall on the A708. After visiting the information centre, we climbed hundreds of rocky steps past the waterfall, admired the peregrin falcons nesting, and with relief found the slope ahead moderated. We followed the guidebook instructions to ford the stream, and aim across the peat for the shoulder of White Coomb itself, the last section ascending in a series of sharp rises, surprising in such soft ground!  The summit was flat, dry and mossy, and being visited by two charming very elderly Scottish ladies and their equally aged male escort. They descended slowly behind us, we noted surreptitiously, by slithering down gently in the 5 point position, in voluminous overtrousers!

After walking the path to the summit of the easy peak, Tinto, we drove to nearby Biggar, which has not only some pleasant waymarked walks by the river and golf course, but no fewer than 6 museums.

Similarly, the Lowther Hills, stretch SE from the old lead mining village of Wanlockhead, which at 468m, claims to be the highest village in Scotland.  Having climbed the hills, admired the views (no, it wasn’t raining!), we came down and visited the mining museum, took tea and Selkirk bannock in the cafe, and admired the conversions of the old mining cottages into increasingly smart dwellings.

We note the improved availability of signposted and waymarked trails, following Scotland’s recent access legislation. Yet to be mentioned is the Long Distance Trail, The Southern Upland Way, (SUW) which starts in Stranraer, finishes in Cockburnspath, and has its approximate mid-point in Moffat.  We have not done this trail, only sampled bits of it. Indeed, I would suggest that anyone contemplating the whole route, would at first do well to try a few local circuits e.g. from Wanlockhead, where it is easy to do a 10 mile walk based on the main SUW, a local alternative, and taking in one of the Lowther summits. Try also some of the SUW route to the west, perhaps based on Newton Stewart, before making a commitment to 212 miles of heather hill, bog, forest, streams, and, of course wide open spaces, scenery, and Scottish hospitality. (The Southern Upland Way official guide by Roger Smith was published in paperback, June 2005 by  Mercat Press).
Janet Moreton

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post:  Issue 31.
Cantab usually appears every two months. A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 10p 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 10p 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


Issue 31; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2005.

CANTAB30 May 2005

CANTAB30 May 2005 published on

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


Following the November 2004 issue of “Cantab“, which was given over almost entirely to Balsham, as parish of the month, I received a modest amount of feedback.  Some folk said that, while they had enjoyed reading of the history of Balsham, and suggestions for less obvious walks, they would have liked the usual additional “snippets” of local walking information.

One other comment was to the effect that a comprehensive discourse on a parish was appreciated, but enlarging the magazine would allow for other topics to be covered!  For reasons of time and economy of paper, there are no plans to increase the size of “Cantab” at present, so I resolved to keep the popular “Parish of the Month” series within bounds. However, in this issue, there seemed much to say about Gamlingay, so the resolve has, once again, been stretched.  So I hope you will find something of interest in the discussion of South Camb’s most outlying parish!

Janet Moreton

Parish of the Month – Gamlingay
(OS Landranger Sheet 153, Explorer 208)
Normally, I would chose the month’s parish for its paths – either a dense network allowing a wide variety of walks, or at least a set or well-maintained or interesting paths which allow circuits.  Gamlingay has neither of these things!  It has 13 rights of way, but these constitute a rather fragmentary network. Note, however, that waymarks on local paths were recently renewed by Ramblers’ Association volunteers from Cambridge Group.  The parish does have mostly a dry sandy soil, giving good walking in damp weather; it lies at the ends of two long distance paths; and it has three nature reserves, of which one, Gamlingay Wood, allows particularly pleasant walking.

Buildings and history (1, 2)
Gamlingay is an interesting place, with the atmosphere of a little town.  Although just within South Cambs. District, its red-brick buildings in the old quarter have more the atmosphere of Bedfordshire and the Midlands.

Gamlingay, “the land of Gamlea’s people”, grew up on the N side of the valley of the Millbridge Brook. Domesday records give the name as Gamelinge or Gamelingei. From medieval times, it was always the largest settlement in the locality, and retained its traders and craftsmen after the loss of its market, following a devastating fire in 1600. The parish church of St Mary the Virgin is in the Decorated & Perpendicular style, the interior containing some C15th woodwork.  The almshouses in Church Street were built 65 years after the fire.

Merton Manor Farm had connections with Merton College, Oxford, from 1268, when Walter de Merton bought the estate, and passed it to his house of scholars. Parts of the present farm date from the C15th.

A manor house belonging to the Avenel family is recorded from the C12th to the C14th at Dutter End.  The house is gone but the hedged bank of its deer park is still visible in places. In 1712, Sir George Downing bought the old deer park, and used material from his manor house in East Hatley to build a mansion in formal gardens.  Sadly, this house was demolished only 50 years after its building, following family feuds, after Sir George Downing’s fortune went to the founding of Downing College, Cambridge in 1800.

Natural History
Gamlingay is a very large parish, at a height of 25 – 75 m,  mostly on the greensand, but with patches of clay in the far north & south of the parish, and also to the east of the village itself. Very poor drainage in some places has created acidic bogs.

The Wildlife Trust guide (3) describes 3 nature reserves within the parish.

Gamlingay Meadow, TL 222 510, is approached from the road to Gamlingay Great Heath & Sandy.  After 1.5 miles a track leads to the reserve accessible through a kissing-gate, and one is advised to park on the verge.  The meadow is a residual fragment of the heath on acidic greensand which once covered this area. It is adjacent to an attractive wood of birch and beech (inaccessible).  The meadow comprises an area where the sand is thin, and the underlying gault clay produces boggy grassland. Plants noted in season are marsh willowherb, and marsh birds-foot trefoil.

The other end of the meadow lies on Footpath 4,an earlier turning off the same road, and which is part of a through route to Potton, and can be incorporated into a wider walk.

Gamlingay Cinques, TL 226 529, is a small area of gorse, rough grass and trees.  It was once quarried for sand, creating hollows which expose the underlying neutral gault clay, thus creating unique botanical habitats. At suitable seasons expect heather, heath bedstraw, ladies smocks and slender St John’s wort.
Adjacent to the reserve is a most useful car park, regularly frequenterd by walkers on the Clopton Way (4), and the Bedfordshire Greensand Ridge walks (5).

Gamlingay Wood an SSSI, has car-parking at TL 241 537, off the B1040 to Waresley.  It consists of 120 acres of ancient mixed wood-land, parts of which belonged to Merton College, Oxford from 1268 to 1959, and is one of the best documented woods in the UK. The ancient wood grows on a mixture of soils, and is especially good for wildflowers in April and May, with oxlip, dog’s mercury, bluebell, yellow archangel, violets and wood anemone. A circuit of the woodland, making about 2 miles, is highly recommended. There are clear paths, punctuated with benches, and  several rides cross the wood.

More recently has been added a substantial area (Sugley “Wood”) to the east, which is being allowed to revert to scrub and natural woodland, encouraged by deliberate seeding from the adjacent old trees.

Do not attempt to walk to the wood along the B1040 from either Gamlingay or Waresley – there is no footway and the road is busy.  Instead, take Footpath 1 from Dutter End at TL 246 525.  Where the right of way turns left on a track at TL 244 527, instead turn right on a permitted path, courtesy of Merton College, Oxford.  At ca. TL 245 530, turn left on a newly planted avenue, and walk up to the rear of the wood, where a kissing-gate gives access at TL 243 533.

Walking opportunities
The Clopton Way(4)  is an 11 mile linear walk to Wimpole, starting from Gamlingay Cinques carpark. It traverses Potton Wood, and visits the interesting church at Cockayne Hatley, Beds.  Passing back into Cambs. at Hatley Gate, the path runs along the ridge above the B1042, going through the site of Clopton medieval village. The route continues through Croydon (perhaps with a refreshment break at The Queen Adelaide?), before using paths into Arrington, and finishes in style down the driveway to Wimpole Hall.

The Clopton Way is covered by OS Landranger Sheets 153, 154.  A leaflet is available from Cambridgeshire County Council (tel.01223 717450).  Note that waymarks along the route are presently rather faded or decayed, but there should be no route-finding problems.

The Bedfordshire Greensand Ridge Walk(5) is a 40 mile linear route, which starts over the Cambs. border at Gamlingay Cinques carpark. It follows a prominent line of hills across Bedfordshire, in attractive scenery, and on mostly dry soils of the lower greensand geological deposit.  From Gamlingay, the well-waymarked route runs SW very pleasantly through parkland, passing Woodbury Hall, to Everton, where there is a pub. The line continues on a bridleway through the RSPB reserve at Sandy Warren, and descends to lower ground through Beeston, and Northill.  Trending S, then W, the route passes through Haynes, then makes for Clophill. The path passes Houghton House (John Bunyan’s “Palace Beautiful”), and reaches its half-way mark in Ampthill. The walk goes through Eversholt and Woburn, and finishes in Leighton Buzzard.

A leaflet is available from Bedfordshire Leisure Services Tourist Info Office, Bedford, 10 St Pauls Square, MK40 1SL, 01234 215226,  Landranger Sheets 153 and 165 cover the route.

Local walks round Gamlingay
The shortage of paths in the wider locality (and especially in the adjacent Waresley parish) makes it difficult to arrange longer circular routes based on Gamlingay, but the following short circuit of 3.5miles within the village gives an impression of the area.  If combined with a visit to Gamlingay Cinques reserve and there-and-back visits to Gamlingay Wood from Dutter End, and Gamlingay meadow from Dennis Green, the route could be extended to up to 9 miles.

From the church, walk E up Church End to Dutter End.  At TL 246 526, turn NW on Footpath 1 on a track between fields. At TL 244 528, optionally  turn right for Gamlingay Wood, but to continue the circuit, turn left here, trending W to exit on Arenells Way.  Turn left, and walk to Church Street. (Note the almshouses on the left). Turn right to the cross-roads in the village. Continue ahead to Green End, to find a “Public Footpath ” sign in front of the Wale Group Building.  Footpath 10 wends its way, mostly in a fenced defile, between industry and housing onto Gamlingay Cinques Road.  Turn left to walk down the road to Gamlingay Cinques carpark. (Visit the reserve, if desired, via a kissing gate at rear of car-park). To continue the circuit turn left in front of the carpark, across rough grass, and onto a grassy access track between houses.  The track (Footpath 9) passes between properties, and continues between fenced paddocks.  At TL 226 526, turn left onto Footpath 8.  This goes SE as a grass/earth track between fences and hedges, emerging on a gravel access drive onto Heath Road at TL 231 520. (Optionally, turn right on the road for an out-and-back visit Gamlingay Meadow, turning left at the sign, TL 227 517). Otherwise, turn left along the road, then turn right (S) down Dennis Green, which veers E, and leads you back towards the village.Emerging from West Road, turn left on Mill Street.

Next to house 19A, cycle barriers control access to Footpath 3,  a passage running E between garden boundaries onto Stocks Lane.  Continue in the same direction along what becomes Station Road, passing the Village College on the right, and Merton Manor House and its dovecote on the left.. Footpath 2 turns off NE at TL 244 521, signed up a tarmac drive, at the end of which the RoW turns left, to continue as a well-used path in grass.  A bridge crosses a stream and the path continues WNW across a small grass field to exit into St Mary’s Road, near the church.

Other Paths
Of the other rights of way in the parish, Footpath 4 to Potton via Potton Bridleway 11.  Presently two of its stiles are in poor condition – take care!
Footpath 5 runs from Potton Road to Potton Wood, continuing as a permissive path in Potton Wood.
Footpath 7 is a somewhat obscure path between Potton Road (where it starts through the gate of Alicattery of Everton) and emerging through the garden of ‘Bladen’, house no. 25, Everton Road.
Footpath 13 is a short cut in the village between Stocks Lane and Mill Street.
Bridleway 11, off Long Lane, (TL 267 531 – 270 523) is well-used, being part of a route between Hatley St George & Little Gransden.  Bridleway 6 needs good nerves, and careful observation of approaching aircraft, as it crosses the Fullers Hill airfield.
Bridleway 12 is an extension of this path, at TL 263 540 joining Bridleway 6 in Little Gransden.

Janet Moreton

Further Reading

1. South Cambridgeshire Official Guide, Publ. South Cambridgeshire District Council.

2. Archaeology of Cambridgeshire, Vol. 1, South West Cambridgeshire, by Alison Taylor
Publ. Cambridgeshire County Council, 1997. ISBN 1 870724 84 4. pp. 51 – 52.

3. Your Guide to Nature Reserves in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
Ed. Sarah Wroot, Publ. The Wildlife Trust, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, 1993. ISBN 0 9520788 0 5. pp. 80 – 85.

4. Clopton Way – Gamlingay to Wimpole.
Folded, illustrated leaflet, with sketch map. Publ. Cambridgeshire County Council, Rural Management Division, undated.  40p.

5. The Greensand Ridge Walk.
A3 folded, illustrated leaflet, with sketch map. Publ. Beds. Leisure Services Dept. (see page 2).

Quotation of the Month
“Landscape is silent until you unlock the codes.  The English landscape with its fields and hedges is just an agreeable and apparently arbitrary patchwork of shape and colour until you know something of its private language.  But when these undulations become ridge and furrow, when that die-straight hedgerow is an enclosure boundary, when those lumps and bumps are a deserted medieval village, then the whole place speaks…”

Penelope Lively, “A house unlocked”. Penguin 2002

Preserving our interests – Some Outdoor Charities
The Open Spaces Society
This Society, formally The Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, was founded in 1865, and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body. It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and the public’s right to enjoy them. It advises local authorities and the public, and manages and preserves open spaces acquired by gift or purchase. A registered charity (214753), it relies on voluntary support from subscriptions, donations and legacies. Local problems are handled via voluntary “local correspondents”. There is a small paid staff at its office:
25A Bell Street, Henley on Thames, Oxon, RG9 2BA. Tel 01491 573535
e-mail   web:

Whilst nearly everyone will have heard of the RSPB, which of you knows of the charity specifically to save our wildflowers?

Plantlife was set up as a registered charity  (No.1959557) in 1989 to protect and save wild plants in their natural habitats. Plantlife now owns 22 nature reserves covering 5000 acres. By purchasing some of the most endangered habitats to create protected reserves, a proportion of the most vulnerable species have been saved. Founded by botanists, a key aspect has been assembling and analysing data on plants at risk.  Reports & recommendations are published regularly. Members (who are invited to name their own subscription) may become local Flora Guardians, support the management of reserves, or help with conservation work in important habitats. Others take part in the Annual Common Plants Survey, or campaign for change through writing letters to policy-makers and the Government.

For more details, contact: Plantlife, The Wild Plant Conservation Charity, 21, Elizabeth Street, London SW1W 9RP.

Information on temporary path works in Cambridgeshire
From time to time, Cambridgeshire County felling, or repairs to a bridge.  Details are published in the local paper (both the Cambridge Evening News, and the Cambridge Weekly News), but it is easy to miss these announcements. You can also find this information on the web at:
(Traffic Delays and Streetworks Information – Current Temporary Road Closures and other Orders).

For example between 21 April and 23 May this year, Godmanchester Footpath No.3 will be closed for weir repairs, affecting access to Portholme.  It is not the intention to report such closures in “Cantab” as they are usually of fairly short duration, and the date could be past before an issue comes into circulation!

Roger Moreton

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, 10p 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 10p 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


Issue 30; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2005.

CANTAB29 March 2005

CANTAB29 March 2005 published on

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


Stepping lightly?
Who has not groaned on a path through a succession of fields which involves climbing a number of difficult stiles? In Cambridgeshire, there are mostly the traditional wooden sort, having one or two steps.  These can be wobbly, missing steps, festooned with barbed wire, or buried in a micro-thicket of brambles and/or nettles. Design has improved over recent years, and there is a British Standard 5709, “Gaps, Gates and Stiles” (revised 2001), that states that stiles should only be used as a last resort, and their steps should not exceed 300mm (1foot) in height. BS5709 gives recommended options on design, although there is no compulsion to abide by the standard.  In recent years, Cambs.CC has supplied stile kits, to be put in by volunteers as part of the Parish Path Partnership scheme. The kits, admirable in themselves, have in general greatly improved fence-crossings.  However, even these new stiles are not one hundred percent successful, as inexperienced workers do not always ensure a construction with long-term stability, and a frequent problem is that the step is too high, as the holes dug are too shallow to bury sufficient of the structure in the ground.

However, further improvements are nigh!  Most recently, Cambs CC has started replacing stiles with either gaps in the fence (the British Standard says these should be a minimum width of 900mm, but they are often much narrower) or with wooden or metal kissing gates, and this trend is likely to accelerate. We have to thank the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) which became law on 1 October 2004.  Speaking generally about public facilities, it states that it is now illegal to discriminate against disabled people by failing to make reasonable adjustments to overcome physical barriers to access.  So some splendid kissing gates are appearing – but in the change-over period a path may have one new kissing-gate, followed by 3 old stiles, which is not much use to anyone unable to climb a stile, but otherwise able to take a long walk.

The 2001 version of the standard stile includes a dog-gate. An example is a vertical lift-up door attached to the stile post. This is invaluable to the dog-walker, but we have seen bad versions where the dog-gate has been fitted into the width of the stile, making the portion available for the human climber too narrow to swing a foot over conveniently.

I would be sad, though, to see all the old stiles vanish, irritating as they can be on a group walk, where 20 people queue up to go over.  Think of the charming old-world descriptions of Jane Austin’s characters in long dresses, being discreetly handed over stiles by escorts, the latter averting their eyes from the sight of a well-turned ankle?  Or, more daringly in “Persuasion” (1818)  “In all their walks he had had to jump her from the stiles; the sensation was delightful to her“.

Venturing further afield, one encounters ladder-stiles in high fences enclosing or excluding deer – we have met some very dubious versions of these in Scotland, requiring a high degree of agility.  And what of the stone-wall country, with the traditional stone steps up the wall, and a little gate on top?  Except on a few popular paths, I doubt if these will disappear, and indeed, would we not mourn their loss?

Janet Moreton

Parish of the Month – Fulbourn
Those who live in Cambridge may have an impulse to turn the page here, as the village sits on the City boundary, and the paths are so well known.  But first, give me the opportunity to tell you something which may be new!

The setting…
The parish rises to ca 50m above sea-level along the Colchester to Cambridge Roman Road, but descends to 10m in the area of damp pasture known as Fulbourn Fen.  In 1086, the parish was “Fuulburne”, a stream frequented by birdlife.  The former Britsh Rail named the now-extinct station “Fulbourne” (closed 1966) but as any local person knows, local “bourn” names have no “e”. (Planners at Cambourne should also have noted this!).

On Foot through History…
In the Middle Ages, Fulbourn consisted of two parishes, each with a church which shared the same churchyard. Now only St Vigor’s remains, the church of All Saints having been allowed to decay in 1766, after local people had been given permission to recycle building materials.  The two churches belonged to the two principal manors, later known as Zouches and Manners.  Another estate owned by the Dockra family in the C16th was Dunmowes, whose manor house is thought to have occupied a moated site known as Zouches Castle, now isolated on a little island in Fulbourn’s nature reserve, by a display board.

The Anglo Saxon earthwork, Fleam Dyke, (1) gives an excellent route out of the village, beyond Stonebridge Lane, and Footpath 4.  It runs SE over a wooded cutting (the remains of the old Newmarket to Great Chesterford railway) and then crosses the footbridge (opened 1994) over the A11, to lead ultimately to Fox Road, and thence to Balsham or West Wratting.

Paths in Fulbourn are well-maintained and well used. A 1986 village guidebook by Don Crane (2) describes several very short circuits round the village itself, giving the history of the buildings and open spaces passed en route. From the lych-gate of St Vigor’s (heavily restored 1869), turning left one passes the Manor House, based on Tudor & Jacobean origins. There is a new display board of the village here. Continue by the very old manor wall, built of a great variety of materials, and by tradition, containing some of the building materials from the old All Saints Church. The War Memorial at Pound Hill, occupies the site of the former “pound” for strayed animals.  Further on, The Old House has C15th origins, but was extensively rebuilt in the C17th. The United Reform Church was built in 1810, but subsequently enlarged.  Hope Hall, now a private house, was built in 1909 on the site of a former pub called “The Royal Oak”, and was originally used for Band of Hope gatherings.  Another pub, “The Crown and Thistle” noted by Don Crane in 1986, no longer stands.  The parish burial ground, opened 1935, lies in Saunders Lane, called Fenstrete in the Middle Ages. Dogget Lane is named after Robert and Henry Dogget, who had land here in 1279.

Down the centre of the village runs the lane called Haggis Gap, connected with Richard Haggis, a C17th landowner.  Until after WWII it was an unsurfaced cart track, and the village recreation ground used to be on the west side, a site now occupied by the Health Centre. Don Crane considered Highfield Farm, to the north of the village, to be the oldest and most interesting building, dating from late C14th.

Finally, on the Cambridge Road, the prominent smock mill was built in 1808 by John Chaplin.  Guided tours are available on some Summer Sundays.

Walking from the village…
(a) Horseheath to Fulbourn, 12 miles.
The book  “Walks in South Cambridgeshire” (Publ. RA Cambridge Group, 3), describes a 12 mile route from Horseheath to Fulbourn. The walk starts from the bus-stop by the green in Horseheath, then goes via Streetly End to West Wickham. It takes tracks past Rands Wood to West Wratting, and the footpath from Padlock Lane, through a wood, and across fields to Balsham, which also has a bus service. The second half of the walk may be commenced here. From the rear of Balsham’s recreation ground beside the churchyard, take a field-edge path to join the lane called Fox Road.  Turn right, and quite soon, take the path left which leads to, then along Fleam Dyke, and back to Fulbourn.

(b)Fulbourn to Balsham circular, 12 miles
Another popular route (3) which needs no detailed description, is to park at Stonebridge Lane Nature Reserve, and leave Fulbourn along Fleam Dyke, turning off the Dyke at “The Ambush”, and taking the right of way across several fields, to reach Fox Road at Balsham Village. Walk through the village, and go S down Woodhall Lane, which degenerates into a muddy track.  On reaching the Via Devana (Wool Street Roman Road), turn right (NW), and follow the byway 3 miles, crossing the A11 on a fine bridge near Worsted Lodge. Before Copley Hill, turn off right on a waymarked path by a seat, and follow this N back to Fulbourn. Cross the Balsham Road, to go down Hindloaders Lane, and return to parking outside the Stonebridge Lane nature reserve.

(c)Routes to The Wilbraham and Teversham
From the church, go N on the Wilbraham Road, over the railway level crossing, and immediately right on a slightly disagreeable fenced path behind the grain store. The continuing route goes across a field to the road, hence avoiding a dangerous corner. Go right along the road, and left at the signpost by New Cut.  This route is part of the Harcamlow Way. Continue across fields, towards a stile at the corner of Gt Wilbraham Common.

From here, either go over the stile, SE on the rough pasture through the Common, to emerge on a lane to return to the road just short of Gt Wilbraham. Turn left into the village, and take the path from Frog End, crossing the railway to return to Fulbourn via Stonebridge Lane.
(4 miles).

Or, from the stile at the corner of the common, do not enter the common, but continue along the farm track towards Hawk (water) Mill.  Walk down the farm drive, past the converted wind mill, and into Lt. Wilbraham.  Take the tarmac footway to Gt Wilbraham Frog End, deviating across the rec. and inner village paths and again take the path from Frog End to Fulbourn. (6 miles)

Or, having reached Hawk Mill, turn left on the waymarked path by Little Wilbraham River.  After a mile, turn off left (SW) take the recently improved path by Cawdle Ditch. Turn left along the road back to Fulbourn. (6 miles)
Note: avoid this route in wet weather.

(d) Nature reserve…
Many very pleasant short walks may be enjoyed around the Wildlife Trust reserve, accessed from the small car-park in Stonebridge Lane.

Alternatively, from the same point, take the bridleway through gates, and go along the gravelled track bordering the reserve, emerging near attractive alms houses on Church Lane.  Pass through the churchyard, and circle back to Stonebridge Lane, past the old wall described previously. Finally, also from the car-park, continue down the muddy continuation of Stonebridge lane, and into Hindloaders Lane (otherwise “Beggars’ Lane”, derived from the Old English hine meaning community and loddere, meaning beggar).  Turn right on the Balsham Road, into a loop road towards a new estate, and take the fenced path into the rec.  Emerge from the right corner of the rec into Stonebridge Lane, and back to the car. These two short circuits together make about 3 miles.

(e) Roman Road and return
From Hindloaders Lane, cross the road, and take the long footpath to the Roman Road, after two fields passing through a narrow avenue of young trees, planted ca. 15 years ago.  On the Roman Road, turn right.  It is possible to continue to Wandlebury, and make a circuit, but for the present, turn right at a major junction after half a mile, to return down first a byway, which becomes Babraham Road.  (4 miles)

Further reading

1. Archaeology of Cambridgeshire, Vol.2.
South East Cambridgeshire and the Fen Edge.
Alison Taylor. Publ. Cambs.C.C. 1998.
ISBN 1870724 84 4. pp.33-36.

2. Walks Round Fulbourn, by Don Crane.
printed 1986.

3. Walks in South Cambridgeshire.
Publ. Cambridge Group of the Ramblers’ Association, 2nd Edition, 1993.
ISBN 0 95225 18 17 Walks 4 & 6.

Conflict “down under”!
A correspondent in New Zealand recently sent me a newscutting from The New Zealand Herald of Wednesday 5 January 2005.

It seems the New Zealand Government has plans to allow walkers on land bordering “any “significant waterway”. Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton announced last year plans to open access to lakes, creeks and rivers. Under the proposals,  access is being negotiated with farmers to allow walkers onto their land to reach a 5 metre  wide pathway beside water, from a public road. It seems that farmers will retain property rights over the strip, but there will be no compensation for public use of the waterside strip, but farmers may be paid compensation for access to the strip.  The  narrow strips of access land would be developed through a government agency over several years.  The use of dogs, guns, bicycles, or vehicles will be prohibited on the new paths.

New Zealand Federated Farmers’ organisation  opposes any proposal which removes landowners’ rights to control who walks on their property.  “One of the fundamental tenets of New Zealand society is secure title, and people respect that whether you’re an urban or rural person”.

The New Zealand Herald carried out a survey of opinions of 1000 adults.  The survey found 87.5% were against walkers crossing private rural land. Some 22.5% thought farmers should be allowed to shoot trespassers. A figure of 65.5% of those polled agreed that mountain bikers should not be allowed on tracks in the National Parks.

My friend scribbled on the paper – “Show this to your friends – but don’t let it stop you visiting New Zealand!”

Stansted Airport Campaign Walks
We recently received a press release from the “Stop Stansted Expansion” campaign, describing proposed sponsored walks planned for 26 June 2005.

The campaign is against proposals to increase the capacity of the airport over three-fold from a maximum of 25 to 83 million passengers per annum, by building a second runway, thus making Stansted Airport the largest in the world.

The local community is staging a comprehensive campaign to halt this expansion, of which the mass “Ramble and Summer Fete” on 26 June is but one event.

Five sponsored circular walks (2, 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles) will depart from “The Stag” public house in Little Easton (near Great Dunmow, Essex). There will be checkpoints and refreshments along the way. All walkers from anywhere will be welcome to attend, to see for themselves the beautiful rolling countryside and the special walks which would be lost for ever if the second runway were to be built. The organisers say that sponsorship is by no means essential, but to help the campaign it is very desirable..

More information on the Runway Rambler Plus can be found on the Stop Stansted Expansion website:
or from Stuart Walker, tel 01279 850862.
The campaign office’s no. is 01279 870558,

Quotation of the Month…
“Most of the flora of our parish is not rare and is easily accessible for all to view.  There is colour, scent and beauty that merit more than a passing glimpse from a car or bicycle…”

Flowers and Wildlife of Mildenhall Parish, by Yvonne J Leonard,
Publ. 2001 by Mildenhall Parish Council

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, 10p 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 10p 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


Issue 29; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2005.

CANTAB28 January 2005

CANTAB28 January 2005 published on

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


Editorial: New Year  New Paths
Have you walked any “new” paths lately – that is, paths that are “new for you”?

It is all too easy to develop a set of favourite walks, and do these to the exclusion of other routes, which may be equally pleasant, were you to get to know them.  For some, the value of the led walks programme put on by the local Ramblers’ Association and rambling clubs is the opportunity to learn some new walking areas, thus extending our own repertoire.

But we can, of course, learn new paths alone, using guidebooks and OS maps. I remember an article in a walkers’ magazine entitled “Don’t be a guide-book junkie“. But I would say that walking guides have their place, especially for walkers seeking to extend their areas of knowledge, especially where the path network is known to be less than perfect.  One can plan a 10 mile walk using an Explorer map, and set out along the route, only to find a missing bridge, a missing stile, or a footpath across a morass.  The map might show an area of bog, but neither of the other problems.  But the guidebook route should at least have been checked, probably 3 or 4 times, before going into print, and the publicity given to the route may well have ensured its continuing viability.  And even the new OS Explorer sheets can’t include many points of interest.

One of the aims of Cantab is to suggest new walking options, partly by means of the “Parish of the Month” slot, which is also intended to suggest what to be aware of along the route. While this newsletter is too small to give comprehensive route descriptions, the aim is to outline possibilities. The other purpose is to give news of “What’s on” in the local rambling scene, which includes reporting path improvements, and, indeed, really “new” paths. As a free agent in my editorial role,  naturally I include what interests me.  If you would like to see any other material here, write and tell me.

Janet Moreton

Cambridgeshire County Council’s
Countryside Services Team –
Annual Report to March 2004
The report describes the resources and activities of a team of 21 staff. Extracts from the report are summarised. (My comments are in italics).

The team has information on CCC’s website,, and its own e-mail address, Details are given of publicity, events, and leaflets.  The team responded to 177 planning applications in the period, and made comments on biodiversity & landscape in respect of the proposed Northstowe development and the Guided Bus scheme.

The Countryside Project Unit describes its biodiversity grant schemes, and work on green spaces, county wildlife sites and protected road verges.

The Countryside Access Unit outlines its work with the Parish Paths Partnership (P3) Scheme, which currently involves 88 parishes in the County. Work in the other 149 parishes  was organised directly through the team.

Surface vegetation was given 2 maintenance cuts in May and July, involving 516 km of paths cut under contract, and 194 km cut by P3. (Note that, unlike footpaths, roadside verges are cut 6-weekly; the grass grows after July; and this falls far short of all the paths that could be improved by cutting). Some 33 new bridges were installed, and 17 were repaired. (CCC are good on bridges – essential in our watery county). A round of signposting was made in early 2004. (If a signpost is reported destroyed, it can take at least a year before it is replaced – an encouragement to malefactors).  A path condition survey was made on 5% of the network, in May and November.  (The worst records are for ploughing and cropping, with 20.8% of the network ploughed or cropped over in May, and 51.4% in November.)  Overall, only 58% of paths were found easy to use.  Some 815 complaints were received re Footpaths, of which 395 were reported resolved. Of 116 bridleway reports, 73 were resolved, and of 152 byway reports, 64 were resolved. (Of the reports submitted by the RA Footpath Secretaries for South Cambs District, a smaller proportion than the above figures were sorted out).

The Definitive Map and Records Unit keeps the Definitive Map and Statement under continuous review.  The Unit is currently working on a project to check the status of every recorded public right of way, and record them electronically by digitising them onto a GIS (geographical information System).  In the year, the unit investigated 20 applications for Definitive Map Modification Orders (DMMOs), 41 public path order proposals (23 were carried forward from last year).  They made 5 DMMOs, 15 diversions, 5 creations, and 8 extinguishments. A “Lost Highways Project” has been initiated.

This report is publicly available, should you wish to read the whole.

Parish of the Month-The Wilbrahams
A justification for putting Great and Little Wilbraham together, is that they were a single parish until the C13th.

The parishes contain low-lying areas of fen & alluvium, although most of the land is on chalk.  Around the village of Little Wilbraham, and at Wilbraham Temple, the chalk is overlain by glacial gravels.  A tributary rises near Wilbraham Temple, then forms the boundary between Gt & Lt Wilbraham. The open fields of both parishes were enclosed following awards ca. 1801, and the Commissioners were given power to straighten  the courses of the rivers and construct public drains,  although extensive areas of common survive near the streams.

There are 16 public rights of way in Little Wilbraham, 9 in Great Wilbraham, and several permissive paths, so there is a wealth of walking opportunities, both on low-lying ground, and on the relatively high chalk ground along Street Way.

A modest amount of walking literature exists, but some may be out of print.

Willows and Wildfowl – a 7 km walk through Wilbraham Fen, a leaflet publ. by Cambs.CC in 1995.  The walk starts at Frog End, Lt Wilbraham, and takes the cross-field path towards Hawk Mill Farm buildings, along the drive to the farm, then along the footpath beside Little Wilbraham River.  Approaching the A1303 near Quy Roundabout, it does not leave the fen, but turns right over a bridge on a permissive path, to another bridge giving access to the byway, Long Drove Way, which leads back to Frog End. Parking is easier in the layby on the A1303 than in Lt Wilbraham.

A lake once occupied Lt Wilbraham Fen, water escaping N over a gravel-tipped ridge at Quy water bridges, and into the Cam.  As the water level fell, peat formed, but a marshy pool remained until the early C19th. Peat level was higher before successful  artificial drainage in the C18th & C19th.

Of interest are Hawk Windmill, TL 535 583 used until 1936, but now residential, with just a squat, tarred tower with a cap and Hawk Mill Farm, dating from 1279, and whose watermill provided the wheel for the Cambridge Museum of Technology.

I would not recommend this route in Winter, as the paths are liable to flood.

Another leaflet in a similar format, Local Walks – Fulbourn, Teversham & The Wilbrahams, publ. by the Cambridge Green Belt Project ca. 1995, simply provides a sketch map of paths in the locality.

A leaflet, The Fleam Dyke Footpath, publ. by The Cambridge Green Belt team, ca. 1995, gives an excellent description of the pre-history and natural history of the Dyke, but only suggests a linear walk along its length from Balsham to Fulbourn.

This Anglo-Saxon defensive barrier forms part of Gt Wilbraham’s parish boundary, and I would recommend the following walk, suitable for Winter.  See also the  magazine of the Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke for points of interest along the Dyke.

Park considerately near Temple End, Gt Wilbraham. (Wilbraham Temple was in the hands of the Knights Templar in the C13th.  The oldest parts of the house surviving are C17th, built for Robert Huddlestone.  What a pity we cannot see this interesting place from any path!).   Walk through the village, passing the Axe & Compass PH, to Frog End, Gt.Wilbraham. (Note both Gt & Lt W have Frog Ends – confusing!).  Take the footpath, crossing the railway towards the start of Fleam Dyke. Go along the Dyke, passing Mutlow Hill tumulus, and cross the bridge over the A11.  On the other side, take the path beside the road, passing the continuation of Fleam Dyke. Continue on this path, behind a hedge, to come to a cut-off road, now a bridleway. Pass West Wratting Valley Farm, and on reaching the active chalk pit, turn left along the road. Cross the road-bridge over the A11, and continue down the road-verge to Gt Wilbraham Chalk Pit Reserve.  This area of trees & grass has a seat looking out over fields at the rear. Continue down the quiet road towards Gt Wilbraham. (8 miles)

A new path in Bottisham parish makes possible a circular walk from the Wilbrahams.  Park considerately near Church End, Gt Wilbraham. Walk to Little Wilbraham Church on the roadside footway.  Walk up the drive of the C14th church. Outside the porch may be seen the base of an old cross. The church contains a brass dated 1521, and the font is 500y old. Pass beside the church and into a wooded pit.  A narrow path goes forward, and climbs steps onto a grassy area with trees and a seat.  Exit over a stile. Turn left on Little Wilbraham Road, and left again into Primrose Farm Road. Go along a footpath fenced at first behind the “Hole in the Wall” PH .  This passes behind the rec., and continues across arable to Frog End. Take the signed path NNW behind the barn, cross Little Wilbraham Rd., continue across a field to TL543596, where turn right along a field boundary. Gain the road just before the bridge over the A14. Go forward to the A1303, cross, and turn left on the footway.  After 300m take the footpath to Bottisham, emerging near the church. Go through the churchyard, and take a path and estate roads to Beechwood Ave., then a signed path across fields to the Swaffham Bulbeck Rd, near Stone Bridge. Walk to Park End, and take the footpath ESE from the farmyard.  Continue to TL567613, where turn right on a new bridleway by a hedge. Follow this back to the A1303. Turn right, to cross the road, and pass the scrap yard to join the byway called Heath Road.  This crosses the A14 on the bridge – regrettably, there is usually rubbish dumped here.  (Do report this, if present, to the District Council).  Continue to a cross-roads of tracks at TL573587, and turn right along Street Way.  Cross the Six Mile Bottom Road, and continue along Street Way back to Temple End, and Church End, Gt Wilbraham.(9 miles)

Probably the “classic” walk in the area is that between Fulbourn & The Wilbrahams. The start is usually in Stonebridge Lane, Fulbourn, but for present purposes, begin at Church End, Gt. Wilbraham. Walk up the road footway to Lt Wilbraham, and take the footpath down the driveway past Hawk Windmill, and continue past Hawk Mill Farm on a earth farm track, soon between arable fields. At TL531580, old  signs, “Footpath” point both ways along the path, by a hedge.  At TL531576, a stile accesses Gt Wilbraham Common (worth a visit), but continue across the field to Coles Bridge. Turn right on the Wilbraham Road (care) , and take a signed route across an arable field to the rear of some grain silos.  A path runs between fences to emerge near the Fulbourn railway crossing. Walk towards the village, either turning off on a permissive path towards the nature reserve (well-waymarked), or continue to the village almshouses, to take the bridleway (left) leading to the reserve.  Either way, reach Stonebridge Lane, Fulbourn.  Follow the lane round, past the end of Fleam Dyke, then take the path across fields to join the Drove Way, which crosses the railway, and comes to London Road.  Turn left into Gt Wilbraham. (6 miles)

Little Wilbraham may be a small village, but the parish extends a long way, including part of Six Mile Bottom. The hamlet here did not exist until the coming of the railway in 1848. when some cottages were built. Lord Byron wrote “The Corsair” here.  There is an interesting path alongside the railway, which may be connected with the Street Way complex.  Other paths extend E towards Weston Colville.

Do investigate the inner-village paths of Great Wilbraham.  Toft Lane, from Frog End, is a site of early settlement.  There is a vast prehistoric, Roman, Saxon and medieval history in the Wilbrahams, too detailed to relate here.

And what’s a Wapentake?
In November’s Cantab Rambler, we traced the history of Balsham, and related the devastating effect of the Danish invasion. This issue considers briefly the derivation of terms used in old land measurements, old names on a map, and features in the landscape.

In 1086, the Domesday Survey, essentially a means of tax assessment, was taking place in Balsham and all over England. We are fortunate as The Domesday Book for Cambridgeshire is supplemented by two additional records, the Inquisito Comitatus Cantabrigiensis & the Inquisito Eliensis.Thus knowledge of the land distribution (hideage) of Cambridgeshire in the C11th is more precise & detailed than for any other county.

Two centuries had passed since the Danes occupied Cambridge in 877, and slaughtered the inhabitants of Balsham.  Over the years, the Danes settled, and introduced a taxation unit called the ploughland (that which could be ploughed in a season by a team of 8 oxen). There were nominally 120 acres to each ploughland. An intermediate unit of local government was created, a subdivision of the Danish army settlement area called the Wapentake. This was a territory with fixed boundaries, overseen by regular open-air assemblies of army settlers.  Danish Cambridgeshire comprised 1600 to 2000 ploughlands, administered by 16 Wapentakes. Forty years after the Danish invasion, Cambridgeshire came under the domination of the English King Edward the Elder. The old Anglo-Saxon term hide (first used in the C7th) was reintroduced. The Wapentakes were retained, but, in their simplest form, assessed at 100 hides (a Hundred).  From the mid- C10th to after the Norman Conquest there were about 1200 hides in Cambridgeshire. In Balsham, in the Radfield Hundred, tenants Ely Abbey and Count Alan between them held 10 hides. Within each Hundred, individual named parishes originally derived from ecclesiastical units, based on ancient churches with their own graveyards. Tenth century tithes (religious taxes) speeded the definition of hard demarkation between church territories. With the passing of centuries, church parishes and civil parishes often ceased to share the same bounds.  But traces of former boundaries often persist based on ancient usage.

In Balsham, the Northern parish boundary is along Fleam Dyke, the Dark Ages defensive earthwork, which, further along its length, also forms part of the parish boundary of Great Wilbraham with Fulbourn. The tumulus, Mutlow Hill, (on the Dyke, just west of the crossing with the A11) is the meeting place of 4 parishes (Fulbourn, Great Wilbraham, West Wratting, and Balsham) and, in Saxon & medieval times, 3 Hundreds (Staine, Radfield and Flendish).  To the South, Balsham’s parish boundary runs along the centre of the Roman Via Devana (Wool Street). Parish boundaries often follow physical features e.g. a stream or ditch or perhaps a double hedge.

Before the mapping of the six-inch OS sheets, parish boundaries were passed down by word of mouth, and by ritual “beating the bounds” carried out at Rogationtide,  (between the 5th Sunday after Easter and Ascension Day). A procession of local officials and the populace paraded the parish limits, typically “beating” the young lads at particular points, presumably as an aid to recollection.

Nowadays the fields are ploughed with diesel, not bullocks; our council tax is extracted fairly painlessly by direct debit on the basis of property holdings; and Explorer Sheet 209 is all that is necessary to tell us the boundaries of a parish.  But a good walk in the countryside will present us with many clues to previous land use and occupation.

Suggested Further reading
The Hidation of Cambridgeshire by Cyril Hart, Publ. Leicester University Press, 1974.
ISBN 0 7185 2030 0
Discovering Parish Boundaries by Angus Winchester, Shire Publications Ltd., 1990,
ISBN 0 7478 0060 X

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, 10p 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 10p 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


Issue 28; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2005