** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **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.
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.
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.
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.
Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post: Issue 33.
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© Janet Moreton, 2005.