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CANTAB39 December 2006

CANTAB39 December 2006 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


A feature in the December issue of  “Country Walking”magazine, illustrates two  mature gentlemen with walking poles ascending the slopes of a frosty hill.  So, yes, even though most of the walking gear adverts are posed by folk in their early twenties, the walking press are aware that there are numbers of seasoned (and even old) ramblers still treading the turf, so two handsome, silvery haired gentlemen may be selected as role models… We retired persons are the walkers with time to get out in the countryside more than once or twice per week, and are on the lookout for up-to-date information on new walks and equipment, travel and refreshment, and environmental issues.  Country Walking and other national magazines try to fulfill this function for the whole of the UK – in a more humble way Cantab attempts to update you on the local scene.

Part of this issue specifically addresses those of us who are over the magic “60”. This means, in Cambridgeshire at least, we have, since October, just acquired a free bus pass, allowing us to travel gratis throughout the county, and over the borders to Saffron Walden, Newmarket,  Biggleswade, Royston, Market Deeping, Downham Market, Kings Lynn, and even Stamford.  On weekdays, we may not use the pass before 9.30am, so the more distant locations are perhaps not very practical if a long walk is planned.  So here is an opportunity to save money, leave the car in the garage, be environmentally “green”, and try some linear walks not accessible by car. Here is how we got on…

General Comments – “free” buses
Living in Cambridge some 15 minutes on foot from Drummer Street bus station, Roger & I are probably as well-placed as any to try the free bus options for country walks.  The first step was to gather a bunch of timetables from the bus station.  We studied these at home, and decided in the first instance, that services of interest were those of frequency at least once per hour, and preferable half-hourly or better.

Stagecoach Citi7 runs every 10 minutes during the day from Cottenham to Sawston, some buses continuing further to Whittlesford, Duxford, etc and, once per hour, to Saffron Walden.  We tried this first.  Like many services, the bus took a very long time from Emmanuel Street to the Railway Station, and we resolved in future to walk to just beyond the station to catch it – almost faster on foot!  Later, we found that the buses “clumped” in busy periods, but seldom had to wait for this service more than 20 minutes. However, on one cold morning in October, aiming to catch the Citi7 to Saffron Walden in Sawston, we waited half-an-hour in vain – it never came, to the distress of 8 potential passengers at the war-memorial.

We had no problem with Citi10 running every half-hour out to Bottisham, Lode, The Swaffhams & Burwell en route to Newmarket. We have used it successfully several times, including to visit Anglesey Abbey. An excellent service provided by Huntingdon & District “Huntsbus”, leaves Drummer Street about 3 times/ hour for Fenstanton, St Ives, Hartford & Huntingdon.  We used this even before it was free!

Citi 13 runs to Haverhill via Addenbrookes, Babraham, Abington, Linton & Horseheath, again with a half-hour service.  One dark November afternoon, emerging from the café at Abington, we just caught a Citi13, passing either 15 minutes late, or 15 minutes early!

The dark cold days of November & December are perhaps not the best season to wait in chill winds for a bus, but shelters exist in the larger villages.  Sometimes there is only a bus-stop on the side towards Cambridge, so going in the other direction, one has to wait opposite, without a shelter.  One final point to remember is the additional walking you may need to do, to reach the bus-stop before you start (and finish) your walk proper. This may amount to an “overburden” of say, 2 miles, and should be allowed for in the energy equation!

Having sounded cautionary, we enjoyed several free trips, and good walks, two of which are outlined below.  We will continue our investigations in the Spring, and should there be a demand, will extend the linear walks suggestions.

Example Linear “bus walks”

Saffron Walden – Sawston 11miles
Explorer 194, 209.
Citi 7 from Addenbrookes 9.32 or Sawston Memorial 9.52
Alight Saffron Walden centre. Visit parish church, make for Catons Lane (football ground). Footpath N uphill crossing Westley Lane, turn W near Four Acre Grove to Springwell. Cross B184, path opposite to Lt Chesterford, footpath to Gt. Chesterford. From railway crossing, detour S on bridleway over M11 bridge up Coploe Hill, turn W on field-edge bridleway to Coploe Rd, descend past Nature reserve to Ickleton. Pass through rec, use Butchers Lane, & take paths to & beside railway & across meadows to Hinxton Mill. Take road over level crossing & ford to Duxford (short cut across rec & note nature reserve & 2 churches). Take road (with footway) towards Whittlesford station. Either straight ahead on footway of Duxford Rd, right alongside the rec, & footpath over meadows, railway & bypass to Sawston, bus-stop opposite bakers near Memorial.
Or Detour via Chuck-a Bush Farm, to visit Whittlesford & church.

Horseheath to Linton, 9 or 7 miles
Explorer 209, 210.
Citi 13 from Drummer Street 9.35
Alight Horseheath village green. Take path or road to Cardinals Green. From Allington Cottages, a cross-field path joins a bridleway going E, then SSE. After a mile, through a copse, a branch path W leads to Mill Green, Shudy Camps. Amble past the watertower, down into the village. A path from the village sign (and seat) leads back towards Cardinals Farm, and Cardinals Green. Take the bridleway (Harcamlow Way) towards Bartlow, where visit Roman burial mounds & church.  From church, use the new footpath along private road through housing & barn conversions, then road towards Hadstock.  Turn off on Chalky Road (track) to Malting Cottages.  Cross A1307 & walk to Mill, church & High Street. Join bus at the shelter near village sign. Omit detour round Shudy Camps for shorter walk.

Latest on Cambridgeshire Byways
Readers will recall the ongoing campaign to improve the state of byways for walkers.

Regarding the Roman Road, the “Via Devana”, or Wool Street between Balsham and Horseheath, some progress has been made in that a short section, ca. 150m, by the junction with Woodhall Lane has been made up with tarmac planings, improving what was probably the worst section.  However, the continuing stretch to the B1052 remains rutted and almost impassable in deep mud.

To the North of Balsham, the byway, Fox Road, is in an even worse state, from about half a mile out of the village, up to its junction with Six Mile Bottom Road.  We tried to use this path on the shortest day of the year.  Deep mud & ruts surfaced the path in places, while in others, huge puddles filled the byway: thick fog added to the air of intense gloom…. Near Green End Farm, the surface seems to be contaminated with deep, especially sticky clay.  We escaped into the adjacent cultivated field, in order to make progress at all.  Discussions, we understand, are being had between the County & Parish Council and local farmers.  Meanwhile, walkers of the Icknield Way LDP are getting a pretty shabby deal, on what is Cambridgeshire’s only Regional Route.

Elsewhere, progress is a little better.

In Rampton, we have a report that the historic section of the Aldreth Causeway is closed to vehicles for surface repair work, but remains open to walkers and horseriders.  We are still awaiting legislation for regular Winter closure to traffic of this and other byways. We also learnt that work is in hand on grading & reprofiling Reynolds Drift (by way 4) & byway 5 to Cuckoo Drift . The paths are closed to vehicles but still open to walkers & riders.  The contractors are also going to provide a better surface for Pauley’s Drove, Byway 2.  In Longstanton, a Council officer reported on 15 December on work  grading & reprofiling byway 7, using funds made available to integrate the Northstowe new town’s paths into the network. Meanwhile the byways will be closed to drivers, but open to walkers and horseriders.

We used Porters Way near Kingston in early December.  Surface improvements were made a couple of years ago.  The end leaving Old North Road opposite the Red House pub is now in very good order.  The other end, approaching the B1046, is deteriorating, in spite of clearance & French Drains. It is already rutted and rather muddy, but still easily passable in walking boots.  In Knapwell, Thorofare Lane had clearance and surface improvements last year, and is currently pleasant and easy underfoot.

We recently attempted a comprehensive survey of the byways of Melbourn.  These were mostly in good condition, being on well-drained chalk.  Sadly, most are dead-ends. Unfortunately, we were unable to use Melbourn Byway 19,  off New Road, as it was at that time totally blocked by caravans.  A Council officer informed that he was in progress of getting these removed.

Congratulations to Duncan!
Cambs RA member, Duncan Mackay has recently won second prize in the Kendal Film Festival on his short film, entitled “Is it Right to Roam”. He writes, ” I took a group of young film makers from The British Schools Exploring Society round several farmers in the Lake District, and asked them how the right to roam legislation was working now that it is two years old.  I’m sure you can imagine the sort of reactions we got.  It made a very good film and we had great fun doing it.  In fact, I was surprised how reasonable some of the farmers were.  There was much less opposition than one might suppose.  You can see the film on the Kendal film festival website, under the film school section”.

Parish of the Month – Ickleton
As the name suggests, the parish lies on the historic line of the Icknield Way.  However,  the walkers’ LDP does not pass through the village, but instead descends Strethall Field, and takes the available bridge crossing of the M11, into Great Chesterford, continuing to Linton and, untimately, Knettishall Heath in Thetford Forest. Ickleton has almost no public footpaths outside the village envelope, the cottages and village paths are attractive, and worthy of investigation.

Neolithic flint tools were found in the Coploe Hill area and below the A11, and a Neolithic axe was found during excavations of a Roman Villa. The chalk ridge along the S border of the parish was formerly the site of barrows, which once marked much of the Icknield Way route. A Roman villa, sited S of the village was excavated in the 1880s.  It sounds rather luxurious, having at least 17 rooms, some of which were decorated with painted plaster, with fleur-de-lys, wild rose and dancing girls.

There was a small nunnery in the village intil 1536, when it was dissolved.  The present Abbey farmhouse, dating from the C17th, has a medieval doorway, and a barn with C14th woodwork.  The parish church was built about 1100, using some Roman materials. Following arson in 1979, restoration revealed C12th wall paintings of Christs’s passion, and martyrs,  and a C14th Doomsday over the chancel arch.

The medieval village consisted of only the main street, Abbey Street, on the line of one of the tracks of the Icknield Way. A quarter-mile N was another settlement, Brookhampton, now lost.  This too was on one of the Icknield Way tracks, that forded the Cam before reaching Hinxton. Weekly markets & an annual fair were held between the C13th & C19th. Today the village has many thatched  and half-timbered cottages.

The open field system ended with Inclosure in 1814.  Presently, there are 12 public rights of way in the parish, and the Nature Reserve, Coploe Hill Pit, permitting public access.  The latter is reached from Coploe Road at TL 493 426.  The gate gives into a shallow disused chalk pit, largely grassed over, with attractive flora in Summer.

Ickleton Suggested Walks…
Start at the rec., where there is some parking.

To go N from the village, start on Fp5, on Butchers Hill at TL 494 440.  Find the start through a metal gate in a high brick wall.  The signpost is inside! This attractive path runs NW in a narrow lane between banks, then through horse-paddocks., crossing a bridge, and through kissing gates, to join Bp 2, at a crossing of paths, TL 491 444.  Bp2 continues NNW,  first as a lane, then a grassy baulk between open fields.  At the parish boundary with Duxford, the bridleway continues as a footpath – is this where one slings the horse over the rider’s shoulder?  A route continues into Duxford village, alongside the chemical works, on a path behind Duxford Road hedge. Visit the interesting inner-village paths between flint walls and old houses in Duxford,  the little village green, and 2 churches.  Return SSE on a quiet lane past the other side of the chemical works.  Just before the level crossing at TL 488 454, a path in Duxford will lead you back to Ickleton Bp 2 and your outward route. Do not seek the path shown crossing the railway at TL 491 451 – this has been obstructed by the railway fences for years, in spite of our continued objections.  Instead cross the footbridge by the deep ford, and continue towards Hinxton Mill. (The mill is owned by the Cambridge Preservation Society, and open on some Summer Sundays).  A path leads past the buildings, and drops down into the watermeadows, which cross diagonally.. (Note that the meadow paths are sometimes flooded in Winter, but permissive field-edge alternatives are available).  Both routes reach the railway at TL 493 448, and Ickleton Fp3 starts here  along-side the fence, in an attractive defile between bushes. On reaching the road, cross the level-crossing, and immediately take the signed Fp 4 diagonally across a pasture. Emerge on Brookhampton Road, to find Fp11’s kissing gate almost opposite, to lead you back to the bridge for Fp2 at TL 493 442, and your outward route.

Back in Butchers Hill, cross to find the signed Fp6, between “Dove Barn” glimpsed through an ancient wooden archway, and “Lane End”. Pass through a passage between high flint walls, to emerge  on Church Road, with the church to the left. Turn right for the village shop & the rec. (4 miles).

Fp8 is a signed footpath crossing the rec. from Frogge Street, into Back Lane. This is a good way to get to Coploe Road, and visit the nature reserve, or a route to join the Icknield Way LDP.  Note there is also an unofficial way out of the rec. in the S corner, to join Fp9 , which circles back to Frogge St  to emerge at TL 496 435. The official start of Fp9 is in Southfield Close.  (If you continue down Frogge Street footway towards Gt Chesterford, you will past a Trout Fishery, which sells fish, and has a café). Further down the road,  just a few metres of the start of the Icknield Way path at the edge of Gt Chesterford, by the railway crossing is actually Byway 10 in Ickleton.

Another possible circuit to Hinxton may be made using Byway 7, which leaves the end of Mill Lane at TL 497 440, and crosses the railway  by a level crossing. Beyond, the most noticeable feature is a nature reserve notice, with a made-up path going off left, with the remark that it is available to persons coming from Ickleton or Hinxton.  This attractive & useful (non-definitive) path leads behind the Genome Centre, and inside a hedge beside the Ickleton Rd, and constitutes the most attractive route to Hinxton.  However, the right of way continutes ahead on short grass, soon crossing a footbridge over the R.Cam or Granta. Beyond, the path continues as Hinxton Byway 3, using the sewage works concrete road, and emerging just beyond Stump Cross roundabout.  By passing on the verge in front of the entrance to the Genome Centre, one can turn left down New Road into Hinxton, near The Red Lion.  This time, return over the level crossing at TL 494 445. Walk down the road, and from the corner by the old cemetery, take Fp1  SW along the lane and down a hedge-line onto the footway of the B1379 Duxford Rd.  Return S, passing the site of Abbey Priory on the W, near the crossroads. (3.5 miles)

Best Wishes for Christmas, and for excellent walking in 2007.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab usually appears every two months. A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 20p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink. If you would like to receive an issue by post, please send a large SAE, and a spare 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


Price 20 pence where sold

Issue 39 © Janet Moreton, 2006.

CANTAB38 September 2006

CANTAB38 September 2006 published on

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


This month, the situation so far with the South Cambridgeshire “Byways” petition is detailed. Progress is slow, but we are hopeful of an eventual positive outcome. Experience has suggested that nothing in which local government is involved moves swiftly!

Long-term readers of “Cantab” will recall our East Anglian Rivers theme in past years. The Fen Rivers Way project took us in sections along the Rivers Cam and Great Ouse from Cambridge to Kings Lynn, and the West Anglian Way followed the Stort Navigation for much of its length. In this issue, we thank  David Elsom, Chairman of the RA Cambridge Group, for an introduction to walking The New River Path, following the water-course from Hertford to Islington, as enjoyed by some members of Cambridge Group earlier this year.

Janet Moreton

The Progress of the Byways Petition
What it was
During walks last Autumn, RA Cambridge Group circulated a petition amongst its members, and to other groups walking in the Cambridgeshire Area. The petition read:
“A number of important Public Byways in Cambridgeshire are impassable to walkers and riders during the Winter, having been turned to morass by irresponsible use of recreational motor vehicles.  We, the under-signed call upon Cambridgeshire County Council, as Highway Authority, to apply seasonal traffic restriction orders to more of such byways, especially the Aldreth Causeway (Willingham Byway 9); Fox Road (West Wratting Byway 1 and Weston Colville Byway 4) and the Roman Road near Balsham (Linton Byway 23 and Balsham Byway 4).”

The Aldreth Causeway going towards the Isle of Ely, was Hereward the Wake’s Road, and like Fox Road, and the Via Devana (more properly Wool Street) have historical and archaeological significance and well as walking routes.

Thanks to those who signed it
Cambridge Group were indebted to the 350 walkers who signed the petition. It was clear that 100% of those approached supported the issue, and we could have gone on obtaining signatures indefinitely, had we but been able to contact more members. However, it was decided to finalise the petition in January 2006, and to present it to Cambridgeshire County Council.

When presented
Having located the correct person within the County Council to receive our petition, it was 20 March 2006 before a date could be arranged to present the petition to Cllr Mac McGuire, Cabinet Lead Member for Highways & Delivery, on the steps of Shire Hall. We were pleased that a representative number of walkers turned up, and to two cyclists, emphasising the different types of user affected by the issue.  Subsequently, Cambridge RA Group S.Cambs Footpath Officers discussed the petition with Kate Day, the County’s Countryside Access Team Leader on 30 March. On 18 April, Roger Moreton, for RA Cambridge Group, was invited to speak on the petition for 3 minutes to The County Council’s Cabinet meeting, and to answer questions.

The reply
The formal reply came from  Cllr Mcguire,
on 10 July 2006, and is quoted in full:

Dear  Sirs,

I was pleased to accept your petition on the 20th March which was considered by the County Council’s Cabinet on the 18th April. I am pleased to be able to offer you the Councils considered response and would welcome further dialogue on the matter.

The County Council is responsible for ensuring byways are accessible and properly maintained for all legitimate users but primarily for use by pedestrians and horse riders. There are 400km of byway in the county out of a total length of 3200Km of ROW. This is a higher proportion than many neighbouring counties.

Byways often represent a considerable asset for biodiversity if appropriately managed. The total area of Cambridgeshire byways is equivalent to a large Country Park and therefore has value beyond countryside access. Some of these green lanes are designated in their own right for their wildlife value e.g. a significant part of the Roman Road SSSI running from Cambridge towards Haverhill. We have been working with the Wildlife Trust (Cambridge Green Belt Project) and English Nature on the Roman Road near Cambridge and on the Ashwell Stret near Royston, and are nearing completion of restoration work (reclamation of the full width, drainage, re-seeding and hedgerow replanting and management)l on the Bullock Road in Hunts.

In these cases traffic on the routes has been limited by Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) and I note your desire to see this type of traffic management extended to other routes where appropriate. This is a matter the Local Access Forum (LAF) have also considered and something the Countryside Access Team report on to each LAF meeting .

The County Council’s Procedure for using TROs was approved in January 2005 based upon Government Guidance and Best Practise. In essence, the County Councils approach can be summarised as follows:-

  • Ensure that adequate management has been carried out
  • Try voluntary restraint through liaison with user groups
  • Test the effectiveness of temporary orders
  • Test limiting (width, height, weight) traffic regulation orders
  • Only then resort to a full prohibition of traffic order

When considering applying for a TRO, consideration is given to previous history of use and complaints, use of private rights, soil conditions, heritage and biodiversity issues, maintenance issues, source of damage (2 or 4 wheeled users, farm machinery).

Seasonal TROs are applied and have been effective. Our ability to undertake this type of regulation is limited by resources. A typical TRO costs up to £3000 to make and enforce. Cases are currently dealt with according to the escalation process above. The volume of cases is expected to escalate as restricted byways come into force (under the Natural England and Rural Communities Act, 2006) in neighbouring counties. Priority will be given to those routes where environmental damage is most significant and potential benefit for users is the greatest. We will be consulting on the application of a further 4 seasonal TROs in West Hunts (Eynesbury Hardwicke, Waresely, Old Weston, Upton & Coppingford) shortly.

We are investigating the cases highlighted in your petition (Willingham 9, West Wratting 1, Weston Colville 4, and the Roman Road) to ensure proper consideration has been given to all the issues and all proper avenues pursued in line with our Enforcement Procedure.

One further point to note is a new requirement on Highway Authorities to produce a Highways Asset Management Plan. The County Council aims to have a plan in place by April 2007. Officers are currently evaluating the condition and extent of information we hold about all our highways, including rights of way, and the resources required to maintain those assets. A better under-standing of the condition or our Highway network and the costs of maintaining it will enable the County Council to bid for and target resources most effectively. This will not necessarily bring additional funding to rights of way, and byways in particular, but the process will identify the costs issues that arise in maintaining these routes.

We would welcome information on those routes where significant improvements could be made for path users through the Councils adopted Byways Management procedure & the application of a seasonal TROs. This is a difficult issue and we welcome the very positive way in which all parties have worked with us to address it.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Mac Mcguire
Cabinet Lead Member for Highways & Delivery.”

RA Response
Following RA Cambridge Group Committee discussion, a reply was sent on 31 July. We welcomed Cllr McGuire’s summary of the issues at stake, but remain concerned that many byway sites in Cambridgeshire remain under threat. The purpose of the petition was to indicate the strength of feeling on this issue amongst walkers, and to give a sense of the urgent need for action against accelerating damage.  The three byways selected to illustrate the problem are some with long histories of public complaints, and where attempts at management have been frustrated by repeated overusage by motor vehicles during the Winter months.The effect on these byways is to make them impassable (and therefore obstructed by virtue of their surface condition) to a great majority of users during the Winter & early Spring.. Appended to the letter are three long lists of reports of problems on the byways in question, extending over several years, together with responses (or lack) from the County Council. The Group would be happy to discuss the matter further.

We have yet to receive a formal reply to this letter.  However, an e-mail dated 4 August from Kate Day suggested that one of her officers had been detailed to have discussions with landowners in Willingham adjacent to the Aldreth Causeway.

What else can we do
At present, we can only wait a little longer.  We had hoped to see the application of TROs before the coming Winter, but that is now looking unlikely.

Meanwhile, you can help.  Write to Cllr McGuire, at Cambridgeshire County Council, Shire Hall, Castle Hill, Cambridge CB3 0AP,* emphasising your desire to see seasonal traffic regulation orders on these byways. Describe your own experiences of routes obstructed by mud, of having to turn back, of being sprayed by dirt from passing vehicles, or of deciding just not to use these routes in Winter, and hence spoiling an otherwise attractive circuit.

Thank you.

After about ten years work, this path was opened by Thames Water in 2003. It follows the New River, built in 1613 by a group of  “adventurers” led by Sir Hugh Myddleton, to carry fresh water for about 30 miles from the springs and rivers in the Hertford/Ware area into the City of London. Even today 10% of London’s water supply is delivered by this route.

The Path starts from Hertford, and is essentially rural until reaching Enfield, but even then often forms a green finger through the North London suburbs. On reaching Canonbury and Islington the line of the New River is preserved through a series of narrow public parks, until reaching New River Head, off Myddleton  Square and close to Saddlers Wells.

A group of Cambridge RA Saturday walkers recently completed the walk in three stages, using the two distinct railway lines serving Hertford:

  1. Hertford East railway station to Cheshunt station, which is about 12/13 miles, lunching at Broxbourne, in the park set up by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority
  2. Cheshunt railway station to Bowes Park station [near Alexandra Palace]. For this stage we parked at Hertford North station, walked to Hertford East to catch train to Cheshunt, and then caught train back to Hertford North. Lunch was enjoyed at Forty Hall, a magnificent house at the centre of a London Borough of Enfield country park. Plenty of pubs in Enfield Town, as we discovered. Old Enfield was a revelation to us all.
    Another 12/13 miles
  3. Bowes Park railway station into the City of London, returning from Kings Cross to Hertford North, where we had parked to travel down to Bowes Park. Lunch was taken in Clissold Park, where there are good facilities and pleasant gardens.
    Only 8/9 miles

It is not very complicated to do this walk, and by doing it on a Saturday or Sunday, parking at the Hertford stations is plentiful and cheap [£1 all day]

Thames Water produce a good booklet “The New River Path” ***, which is essential [though the street map of Cheshunt area is wrong—ring David 01223 842074 for illumination]; OS Explorer 174 Epping Forest and Lee Valley covers all but the last two miles of the walk; and in general the signage is good.

For a surprising and different walk, do give it a go.
David Elsom
*** ring Thames Water 0845 9200 800 to obtain your copy of the free booklet

Did you know that…
— The bridge over the Cam on Coe Fen, which has been under conversion for joint use by cyclists and walkers, is at last open for use, but clearly unfinished. The bridge itself looks rather a mess at present, quite apart from the adjacent disturbed ground.

—A new footbridge is being constructed by Cambs.C.C. over Braham Dock on the Fen Rivers Way between Little Thetford and Ely. Walkers currently divert along the North bank of the dock (where there is no recorded right of way) and close to the railway across uneven ground.  The new Footbridge will be at TL 5400 7738, on Ely Footpath 23.  It will span the dock in a N-S direction at the E end of the dock.  The steel structure will have a wooden footway and handrails, and will be 24m long, 1.5m wide, and give 3m clearance above water level. Work is likely to start during the second half of September, and last for ca. 6 weeks, and the footpath will be closed while works are underway. An alternative route will be signed.
Information from John Sargeant, Cambs.C.C.  01223 718 408

—Sections of Devil’s Dyke between Newmarket and Stetchworth have recently re-opened, following tree work.  Cambs. C.C. announced this in August.  We were not aware that the path had been closed, in spite of using it at intervals through the Summer! You will see a few large trees have been removed from the wooded section, and some overhanging branches cut back, but fortunately, there is nothing like the wholesale clearance of trees  and bushes made previously on the Reach section of the Dyke.

—The AGM of the Icknield Way Association will be held in West Wratting on Sat.7 Oct., preceeded by a walk on the recently diverted path network in West Wratting. For a 6 mile walk, meet at The Causeway (leading to the church), Explorer 210  TL 605 524 at 10 am. The AGM and tea will be held in the village hall in the afternoon.
Icknield Way contact – Chris James  01462 742684

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post:  Issue 38.
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 20p 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 38; Price 20 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2006.


CANTAB37 July 2006

CANTAB37 July 2006 published on

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


July, the seventh month, was dedicated by Mark Anthony to Julius Caesar (100 – 44 bc). Caesar’s reform of the calendar two years before his assassination arguably might be considered his most important edifice, over and above his military campaigns & political manoeuvring. Caesar overhauled the ancient Roman agricultural calendar, which started in March, and aligned the months to the sun’s yearly cycle. He inserted leap years to correct most of the remaining anomalies.

Since the middle of the twentieth century, successive governments have made several efforts to overhaul the law relating to rights of passage through the countryside, but still anomalies remain.

This month’s principal article has been adapted from one invited for their newsletter by “The Friends of the Roman Road, and Fleam Dyke“. To those who read both newsheets – my apologies!  The text serves to  illustrate the effect of changes in the law, availability of funds, and general pressure from user groups on the state of the Roman Road byway SE of Cambridge.  Changes and improvements along this route over 40 years mirror evolution in the state of Cambridgeshire paths to a certain extent over the same period, although this track has always been in better order than many byways in the county.

Changes along the Roman Road
It was in the Autumn of 1961 that I first walked the Roman Road.   A new student in Cambridge, it was a great relief to leave the City for a half-day, and walk from the ‘bus at Red Cross, up Worts Causeway onto the old track.  Here I continued between the bronze beeches, with a dry chalky path beneath my feet, and the last vestiges of Summer flowers, knapweed, residual scabious, and old man’s beard in the hedges.  At a high point along the Way, I looked down uneasily over the flat fens, and at the restless wide skies – then such an unfamiliar landscape – now, after more than 40 years, happily my adopted place.

Later I learned more about this historic route. This section of Roman Road running from Red Cross on the outskirts of Cambridge to beyond Horseheath is properly Wool Street, but is also known as the Via Devana (seemingly a later invented name). I learnt that the grassy agger fringed with wild flowers was once 36 feet wide, and 1 – 2 feet high, running in a partly enclosed green lane. Nearing Horseheath, it passes north of Borley Wood, and south of Streetly Hall, to become a track approaching Hare Wood.  Beyond this (in the 1960s) it became obliterated in arable land, crossing a lane south of Withersfield.  Over the county boundary in Suffolk, the agger continues in a tree belt (not recorded as a path on Suffolk’s Definitive Map) to the outskirts of Haverhill.

It was the 1970s before I had penetrated this entire length of the road.  By that time, I was in employment at Abington, and, with Roger, a regular walker, and member of both the RA Cambridge Group and of Cambridge Rambling Club.  By the latter half of the 1970s, we were on the Cambridge RA Group Committee;  we had learnt that public rights of way were recorded on a map at Shire Hall;  that the whole length of the Roman Road at that time was recorded as a “RUPP” (road used as public path); and that parts of it were numbered according to the civil parishes in which it lay.

The boundaries of these parishes often lie along the road itself, being of ancient derivation, so one length of the road may have two numbers, and technically opposite sides fall within the responsibilites of different parishes.  I remember reporting a wrecked car on one section, and phoning a parish clerk. “Which side of the road is the car?” he asked.

In the early days, the Way was very well used by all classes of user – indeed, because of the poor maintenance then of many footpaths, and a shortage of information on local rambling opportunities,  the Roman Road, as an obvious walking route, was perhaps even more popular than today.  At the same time, motor cycles and cars used the route, especially in dry seasons.  On more than one occasion, we observed a lazy car driver trundling along at 5 mph, with a dog lead out the window, and a dog exercising alongside.  Both the alarm caused by such vehicles coming up behind, and the ruts made in the surface indicated something needed to be done.

The 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act was by then due to make its impact on the Roman Road.  Under this Act, the sections of the route between Worts Causeway and Marks Grave were reclassified as byway by Cambridgeshire County Council on various dates between December 1986 and April 1987.  The section from Marks Grave to Horseheath was classified as a bridleway in March 1989 (following an objection which was referred to the Secretary of State), and the final section from Horseheath to the county boundary became a footpath in December 1986.  Thus, recreational vehicles were prohibited from using that part of the Way east of Marks Grave.  Then a Prohibition of Driving Order was made in January 1992, which banned motor vehicles from using the Roman Road from the Hildersham-Babraham Road, to a point 150 metres south of its junction with Worts Causeway. Provision of bollards and barriers followed fairly shortly, to enforce this Order.

As the years went by, guide books on walking in the locality began to appear, many of which included a route along the Roman Road.  In 1970, Cambridge and the Isle of Ely County Council published a set of leaflets, with rather faint maps, “Walks and Rides around Cambridge“. An early parish effort was “The Footpaths of Linton District” (1974) published by the Linton District Amenity Society.  Cambridge City Council, joint with   RA Cambridge Group, produced “Country Walks around Cambridge” in 1980.

Then in the late ‘80s / early ‘90s came a wealth of useful publications in response to the surge of interest in country walking and natural history. Cambridgeshire County Council produced the (free) booklets “Enjoying the Cambridgeshire Countryside” (1988, 1989, 1992), and “Footloose and Carfree“, Vol. 1 (1994), Vol.2 (1996).  Specific to the Roman Road were two of the series of leaflets (30p) on individual circular walks: “Roman Road (Wandlebury)”, and “Roman Road (Linton)” both  printed 1989.

RA Cambridge Group produced books describing collections of walks. That for South Cambs. (first published 1987, reprinted, and with new editions several times to the present) of course includes the Roman Road.

There have always been problems along the Way from time to time. In 1984, Council workmen erected a signpost incorrectly on the Roman Road for the turn-off of Fulbourn Footpath 11, just before the annual Oxfam Walk.  Hundreds of walkers went the wrong way across a cultivated field!   Exclusion of vehicles from the western section largely eliminated wrecked vehicles here, but the physically unrestricted byway section east of the Hildersham Road still suffers from burnt-out cars, and fly tipping (both of which should be reported to South Cambs. District Council) and waterlogged ruts on the Balsham section make the route sometimes impassable here to walkers in wet Winters.

A long-standing problem is the arable section of the right of way between Hare Wood & the Withersfield Road (Horseheath Footpath 1).  The line of the agger has been long been obliterated by ploughing, but the law requires reinstatement of the right of way after cultivation.  For many years, this was not forthcoming, and in the 1960s-1980s the route was difficult to trace.  In August 1985, a stalwart footpath campaigner, resident in Suffolk, took Cambridgeshire County Council to the office of the Local Government Ombudsman over failure of the County Council, as Highway Authority, to provide a bridge over a stream, and to oblige the landowner to reinstate the right of way.  And the latest clearance of the section of the Roman Road between Worsted Lodge, and the Hildersham turn has produced anguished comments not only at the April 2006 AGM of the “Friends”, but also amongst the rambling fraternity who, whilst seeing the need for some clearance, are disturbed by the adoption of so extensive a “scorched earth” policy.

The vast majority of us ramblers are not dedicated athletes intent on using the countryside as an extended exercise track. As far back as 1969, The Cambridge Rambling Club planted trees alongside the Roman Road to commemorate a well-loved member. Most walkers are amateur naturalists,  members of their local Wildlife Trust, and organisations like the RSPB, National Trust, Cambridge Preservation Society, Woodland Trust etc.  They appreciate the work of the “Friends” and other conservation groups. Over the years, voluntary work  has been shown to be the way to make rapid improvement in countryside issues.  For older walkers & conservationists, the attraction of improvement schemes which come to fruition in a year or two, over those promised for a few decades in the future is obvious. I would suggest that pressure from ramblers in the past has led to measures that now protect the Roman Road and other ancient monuments and  SSSIs like Fleam Dyke. For the latter, the Ramblers’ Association led the campaign in 1990 for a bridge over the A11, but that’s another story.

Janet Moreton

Milk bottles make walkways
Country Landowner Magazine of Jan.2006 has a “green” image  with an article on the advantages of recycled plastic products for footpath furniture.

Recycled products made from e.g. plastic milk bottles can be used to make plastic walkways, with a lifespan of up to 40 years. Comparing well with timber, they do not rot, splinter, or need no preservative treatments. Plastic “sleepers” can be made with a lightweight hollow profile, and with a textured non-slip surface. Some 1500 plastic bottles would be required to make a 1.5m length of recycled walkway!  So should it be back to the old slogan, “Drink a pint of milk a day”?

What the article does not mention, is that many local authorities use similar recycled plastic for signposts, e.g. Essex C.C. These seem to last quite well, but like timber posts, are not resistant to fire, and are fairly easily knocked over. The “Waste & Resources Action Programme” would like to see more use of recycled products in the landscape.

Parish of the Month – Foxton
Alison Taylor, in her invaluable work, Archaeology of Cambridgeshire (Publ. Cambs.C.C., 1997) sets the scene for the First Act of prehistoric man entering this low-lying parish, 15-25m above sea-level, except where Chalk Hill and West Hill rise to 30m.  The parish boundaries comprise the River Rhee, Shepreth Brook, the Hoffer Brook, and the old road to Fowlmere.  Paleolithic and Neolithic flint axes were found, and ring ditches are visible from the air. Foxton is notable for Iron Age sites (there being one west of the station), several of which developed into Roman settlements.  Nearby was an Anglo-Saxon cemetery of the C3rd – C4th, containing 23 skeletons, many with grave goods. North of the cemetery was a  C1st Roman building with central heating, military style ditches, and an industrial site. Being situated so close to the A10 (known as the “Portway” medieval route) suggests that the route was also important in Roman times.

Rowland Parker, in his charming book on the history of Foxton, “The Common Stream” (Collins, 1975) takes his title from the Shepreth Brook. He leads us through the development of the village in the Medieval & Middle Ages, when the principal manor house was Foxton Bury, still standing opposite the church.  The Bury, once held by the nuns of Chatteris, was dilapidated by the C16th, and largely rebuilt.  Rowland Parker describes the “great rebuilding” which occurred all over England at the time of Elizabeth I.  He goes on to describe all the old houses in the village presently standing, and their history.

Thus, the “Cottage on the Green” built for one Thomas Campion in 1583 survives largely intact.  In Station Road, No 18 dates from 1582, and No.22 from 1570.  Nos 44 & 46 High Street were build for Edward Rayner ca. 1590, then enlarged in 1637, whilst Nos 73 & 75 were built ca. 1620.  On Fowlmere Road, Nos 8 & 10 were constructed in 1574; No.20 ca. 1600 (and partly rebuilt 1780).  Nos 1 & 3 Mortimers Lane date from 1575, and No5 from 1548.

The first church in the village was established in 1140 by the Bancs family, but the present church dates from 1300.  Behind the church is the recreation ground with a car park.

When you can tear yourself away from the interesting old houses in the village, investigate the modest path network that the parish offers, armed with OS Explorer Sheet 209.

Footpath 1 leads from the end of West Road, across the busy A10, passing attractive fishing pits, en route to Shepreth.

Footpath 2, starting on the N side of High Street opposite the church  leads across fields to the station, from where the public right of way emerges onto the A10 along the platform.

Footpath 3 starts at the junction of High Street and Caxton Lane, TL 409 481, where a metal fingerpost indicates “Public Footpath Fowlmere 1½”.  This useful path leads up between Chalk Hill and West Hill, and across fields to Fowlmere. Permissive access to young woods on the summits of these modest hills makes this a place to linger.

Footpath 4 is the path to Newton which starts on Fowlmere Road at TL 416 481 near the phone box. It uses a farm track, and reaches a bridge over the Hoffer Brook.  Beyond the bridge is a low-lying area, often flooded in Winter, when Wellington Boots would be an asset. Alternatively, use a permissive path, signed turning off left behind houses on the start of Footpath 4. This gives a dry route round two sides of the fields towards Newton in all seasons.

Footpath 5 starts from TL 401 492, where the Barrington Road makes a right-angle turn, and next to the gated entrance to Barrington Park Farm, at a sign  “Public Footpath Barrington ½”. This path runs across an arable field to cross a footbridge under willows and join a well-used path to Barrington Water Meadows and the village.

A number of circuits are possible, but all require use of joining sections of road.   These routes can be extended round the path network of adjacent villages.

(a) Foxton – footpath to  Fowlmere – permissive track to Manor Farm –  RSPB Reserve – Green Man pub –  Shepreth – Shepreth Church – Shepreth Pits – Foxton. (7 to 8 miles)

(b) Foxton – footpath to Fowlmere – road (with footway) to Thriplow Old Forge – permissive track to B1368 at TL 433 480 – road (wide verge) to Newton  – Newton Hall – footpath to Hoffer Brook and Foxton. (6 miles)

(c) Foxton – footpath to Station – road & footpath to Barrington  (optional detour up Chapel Hill) – footpath to Shepreth (optional detour round Shepreth L-Moor Reserve) – footpath through pits  and over A10 to Foxton. (4 to 8 miles)

Quotation of the Month
Seen on a display board in the dunes near Holkham, Norfolk:
A land that is thirstier than ruin;
A sea that is hungrier than death;
Heaped hills that a tree never grew in;
Wide sands where the waves draw breath

From, “The Salt Marshes” by
Algernon Swinburn.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post:  Issue 37.
Cantab usually appears every two months. A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 20p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink.  If you would like to receive an issue by post, please send a large SAE, and a 20p 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 37; Price 20 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2006.

CANTAB36 May 2006

CANTAB36 May 2006 published on

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


This month’s offering is rather more urban-based than usual, with articles mentioning both Cambridge and Saffron Walden.  However devoted is a walker to the delights of the countryside, there are few of us who do not, from time to time, venture into towns.  Saffron Walden is best seen on foot, and although many of our readers will know the town already, I hope the enclosed includes some snippets of previously unknown information.

St Radegund – Around Cambridge and elsewhere…
On King Street, opposite Wesley Church, notice the unusual name of the hostelry.
St Radegund (also rendered Rhadegund, Radegonde or Rhadagund) was the wife of Clotaire, King of the Franks (558 – 561).  Disgusted with the crimes of the Royal family, she founded the monastery of St Croix at Poitiers.  But why is she remembered in Cambridge, both in a pub name, and as a street off Coleridge Road?

We encountered St Rhadegund elsewhere recently, on the Isle of Wight, featured on a display board along a newly promoted 5 mile walking route, The Pilgrims Path.  The route is based on that used by pilgrims in the Middle Ages.  They arrived by ship at Binnel Bay, near St Lawrence (no longer possible, due to centuries of coastal erosion).  They climbed the steep winding ways in the luxuriant vegetation of the undercliff on what is still known as The Cripple Path.  Then they turned inland to offer prayers at the spring of White Well, reputed to have healing properties.  The well, opposite the church, is now freshly painted, and has one of a number of descriptive boards along the route.  Over the Downs went the pilgrims, past the now deserted Nettlecombe Medieval village, to return to the coast via St Rhadegund’s Path, passing the further holy wells of St Rhadegund itself, and that in the village of St Lawrence.

The latter has a tiny C12th church, still much in use, where the old pews and dark woodwork evoke thoughts of Celtic saints, and pilgrims of a past age.

Parish of the Month –
Saffron Walden
Map – Explorer 195
The name “Walden” means “valley of the Britons”, and “Saffron”, refers to the cultivation of the saffron crocus in the Middle Ages, when it was used in dyeing, medicine, and later for culinary purposes. The older town is sited on a low chalk spur between two small tributaries of the R.Cam, (the Madgate Slade & the Slade Brook), which join west of the town, before flowing into the Cam itself at Audley End.

The town’s most magnificent feature, The parish church of St Mary The Virgin, was built between 1470 and 1540, but the spire, at a height of 193ft,  and dominating the town, was added by the architect Thomas Rickman in 1832. Interesting lanes and passages lead from the church to the Market Square.  Here are the Tourist Information Centre  (where obtain a simple street plan), Town Hall (1762), the Corn Exchange (1848), connected with the town library, and in amongst the market stalls, The Fountain (built 1863, restored 1975, and commemorating the marriage of the then Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra).  In the streets around the market, are a wealth of fine old buildings, several now housing little independent retailers, which make Walden a good place for coffee and cakes, or a browse in one of several old bookshops.

Bridge Street has cottages of the late C15th, where close-spaced, heavy timbers were used while oak was abundant. Gold Street has C17th weavers’ cottages with a communal rear courtyard, but the flint weavers’ cottages in East Street  have early C19 brick facings. En route to the museum, and the flint-wall remains of the C12th castle, note C15th cottages following the line of the castle bailey into Museum Street.

High Street’s frontage of fine buildings range from a timber-framed C16th house, “The Gables”, through a number of lovely Regency properties, to lofty Victorian Gothic. Youth Hostellers will know that the finest medieval building in the town is the YHA building in Myddylton Place, built early C16th, and at one time used as a maltings.

Saffron Walden is particularly known for its pargetting, or decorative exterior plaster-work. That on The Sun Inn at Market Hill illustrates the East Anglian legend of a battle between Tom Hickathrift and the Wisbech Giant.

On the E boundary of the Common, note the fine turf maze, and do visit Bridge End Gardens, created 1840 (entrances from Bridge Street or Castle Street).

Leaflets in the church, museum, and information centre can provide much more data on architecture & history. When sated with sightseeing, shopping or coffee, it is time to consider walking options out of the town.

(a) To Great Chesterford  (4 miles)
For a linear walk, go N out of the town, along Catons Lane, past the football stadium. Follow the good path N, crossing a track E of Wheatley Farm, and over Rowley Hill.  Descend to Springwell, cross the road, and take the fp to Little Chesterford. Here, turn left on the lane, and soon a further path leads N to Great Chesterford.
(Return by ‘bus, or to Cambridge by train.)

(b) Audley Park   (2.5 miles)
Set off down Abbey Lane, noting the  United Reformed Church of 1811, with its 4-column portico*, and King Edward VI’s almshouses of 1834. Go through wrought iron gates into Audley Park. Take the path half-right (romantically towards the sewage works), and continue through the park to Weir Tea Bridge.   Follow a passage by a wall, and a driveway to London Road (B1383).  Turn left along the footway, admiring the excellent views of Audley End house & grounds. Turn left at the junction, and follow Audley End Road back towards Walden, turning left at TL 530 379, to re-enter the park through iron gates, and return to Abbey Lane.
* teas here on Sunday afternoons!

(c) Newport &Wendens Ambo (8 miles)
From Abbey Lane, go into the park, turning half-left on a path, to reach Audley End Road through iron gates at TL 530 379. Turn right along the footway, and left into the little road through the attractive Audley End village. Carry on ahead through Abbey Farm.  Cross Wenden Road, and along Beechy Ride.  This track crosses the B1052, and continues past Brakey Ley Wood.  You are on part of the “Harcamlow Way”, and follow this S all the way to Bromley Lane, crossing a stile and descending a grass field to Debden Water.  Here turn right over an awkward stile, and follow the path through a strip of wood, and past a sewage works & Essex CC Maintenance Depot to Newport.

Visit the fine church, then go NW through the churchyard, crossing a grass field, and emerging down a road by the brook in front of large new houses.  Cross the Bury Water “ford” at TL 517 343, and turn right up Whiteditch Lane, passing greenhouses and Tudehope Farm. At the end of the lane, a track leads over the hill to Rookery Lane at Norton End. Follow the lane left to Wendens Ambo Church, then cross the B1039 carefully near a sharp bend, TL 512 365. From here, a path leads ahead (N) to Cornwallis Wood, then right (E) to London Road. From here, the safest route back to Saffron Walden is N along the footway of London Road, turning right (E) onto Audley End Road, and following the instructions for Walk (b). A quicker route is to return along Wendens Road to TL 525 373, then taking the path to Audley End village, but  Wendens Road lacks a continuous footway.

(d) The Roos & Cole End  (7 miles)
Follow the description in walk (c) above as far as Brakey Ley Wood.  Here turn left (E) along the clear track parallel to Fulfen Slade.  On reaching Debden Road, continue to “The Roos”, and take the byway E to Thaxted Road.  Cross the road, turn left, and shortly right on a minor road passing Six Acre Wood and Cole End.  Where the road forks take the left fork on Cole End Lane.  Just past Bears Hall, turn left (W) on a sunken byway, which follow to the junction with a bridleway.  Take this to emerge on the Thaxted Road (B184) at TL 546 380, and return to your starting point.
(Note that between Six Acre Wood & Cole End, it is possible to branch off onto field paths, which are quite findable, but sticky in Winter or after rain).

(f) Circuit to Debden (11 miles)
One limb uses the Harcamlow Way , then continue S over Debden Road, passing the 105m trig point, and on to Waldegraves. Take the byway to Cabbage Wood, where use the path to the isolated church, and the road to the village & the White Hart pub. Return to the church and the bridge over the lake, and turn  right (N) passing Debden Hall Farm. Cross the road, and take the bridleway N through Howe Wood* to Debden Road.  Follow the road N towards Walden (care), turing off at The Roos for the path to Herberts. Cross the rec. to rejoin Debden Road, but turn off left on Seven Dials Lane. Return to Walden on the B1052 (or use your street plan for urban short cuts!)
* The path through Howe Wood is wet in Winter

(g)  Littlebury Green & Strethall (10 miles)
It is also possible to make circuits from Walden to Littlebury Green and Strethall, using the footpath crossing the railway by Cornwallis Hill.  The return is less interesting, being made via Littlebury Green Road, a fp S to Chestnut Avenue & London Road.

(h) Wimbish, Radwinter  (12 miles)
When ground conditions are good, it is possible to make more ambitious circuits to Wimbish & Radwinter, with a suggested outward route via Cole End, and a return along the Roman Road between Stocking Green and the turning to Redgates Lane.  Such routes are recommended with some reservations, however, because of poor crossfield paths, and the necessity of walking back into Walden for a mile on either the busy Ashdon Road or the Radwinter Road.

Plants of  Suffolk Roadside verges
In January, I was privileged to hear a lecture at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens by Yvonne Leonard, talking about wild flowers which can be seen on roadside verges in Suffolk.

In Suffolk, as elsewhere in East Anglia, much habitat & many wild plant species have been lost due to wartime ploughing, military airfields, commercial conifer planting, and modern agricultural methods.  In 1968, Hilary Heyward (connected with Cambridge University, and the then Ministry of Agriculture) noted some 600 species in the verges. (Some further species loss has been recorded since.)  But since 1968, Suffolk CC and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust have cooperated in a scheme to protect verges, erecting “NR” (Nature Reserve) posts.

The criteria for selection of a verge are to  protect a species rare nationally or only occurring locally in Suffolk, and to protect good examples of habitat communities.  The scheme has also sought to  protect displays of common species, to promote & encourage public interest.  Wardens control the management plan for cutting NR verges, normally cut once per year.  Where a verge is adjacent to a conservation headland, the effectiveness is enhanced.

Examples were given of the more unusual plants we might see are appropriate seasons.
Spanish Catchfly grows in verges at Chippenham and sand catchfly at Mildenhall.
“Creeping bellflower” grows in the verges at Mildenhall.
Maiden Pink grows at Ramparts Field.

Spring speedwell may be found on verges at Cavenham.
Chicory can be spotted by the old factory at Lakenheath, and Lesser Calamint at Moulton.  And the verges support many orchids including the common early purple, spotted and pyramidal orchids, bee orchids, and seven sites boast the rare man orchids.

Not all the plants on verges are altogether welcome. Common scurvy grass, a low-growing tough little plant with white flowers,  once found mostly at the seaside, is increasing along verges, due to salting of busy roads. Alexanders (a tough umbellifer, typically 70cm high, with yellowish green flowers) is  also on the increase, shading out roadside primroses, violets etc.

So when your walk takes you off the public paths, and onto the verges of the highway, walk with care, avoiding not only the traffic, but also the delicate plants underfoot.  Look & enjoy, but please don’t pick!

See “Flowers and Wildlife of Mildenhall Parish“, by Yvonne J Leonard, Publ. Mildenhall Parish Council, 2001 (available locally)

Footnote – Cambridgeshire County Council has recently started its own roadside verges nature reserves scheme, so look for “NR” posts.

Vehicles on Byways – a Petition
Cambridgeshire has a lot of Public Byways (also known as “Byways open to all traffic”, or BOATS) – there are some 250 miles throughout the county.  Often byways form vital links between other paths, and many of them are “green lanes”, sometimes between hedges, which can be havens for wildlife among the cultivated fields.

Those joining group walks during the Winter may well have been asked to sign a Petition, calling on the Cambs.C.C. to do more to protect our byways from damage by 4×4 vehicles and motor-cycles, especially during Winter months.  In fact over 350 people signed, mostly from RA Groups and the Cambridge Rambling Club, and we want to say a big “thank you” to all who did.

The Petition was received on 20 March on behalf of the Council by Cllr. Mac McGuire, in front of a small number of supporters assembled outside Shire Hall.  Anyone listening to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire at 7.45 that morning could have heard me being interviewed on the subject in the Breakfast Programme.  In presenting the Petition, we emphasised that green lanes are valuable for healthy recreation, as well as acting as linear nature reserves.  We  recognise the rights people have to drive along public byways, but we want to stop the horrendous damage being done by a few irresponsible individuals, and costing the County a lot of money in repairing the surface each spring.  To be fair to all byway users, we asked for motor vehicles to be banned only in the Winter, when most damage is caused.  Such restrictions have worked very well in a few cases, and we want the scheme extended.

The Petition has gone to the Council’s ruling “Cabinet”, and because of the number of signatures on it, I was given the chance to introduce it on 18 April. One can’t say much in the 3 minutes permitted, but I repeated our arguments, emphasising the financial advantages. There is clearly quite a lot of sympathy among the Councillors, and we know that Rights of Way staff are on our side, so we’ll see what happens.
Roger Moreton.

More on Unrecorded Public Paths
A recent note by Chas Townley on “Ramblers-Net” noted the following.  The Institute of Rights of Way Management has published a code of practice on its website* about the creation of new rights of way.  It notes that the first step is to look for unrecorded rights and suggests that as much of 10% of the rights of way network is currently unrecorded.

And good luck to Little Shelford Parish Council who are currently appealing to the Secretary of State, against Cambs.C.C’s refusal to register two new rights of way in the parish, based on evidence of past use.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post:  Issue 36.
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 35; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2006.

CANTAB35 March 2006

CANTAB35 March 2006 published on

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


With Spring advancing, we will all be more  willing to revisit walks on the heavy clay lands. Parish of the Month – Croydon cum Clopton, has some excellent walking, but also some heavy cross-field paths which are only recommended when the surface has dried.  Most of the paths are in good order, but two or three have a reputation for tardy cross-field reinstatement, so should you find these out of order, please report your findings (with date of observation) to Kate Day, Head of Countryside Access Team, Cambridgeshire County Council, or just send an e-mail to me.

Janet Moreton

Croydon cum Clopton
Landranger Sheet 153 (Bedford & Hunts.) Pathfinder Sheets 1026 (Royston), 1003. Explorer Sheet 208 (Bedford & St Neots)

There were originally 2 medieval parishes, which were united in 1561.  Enclosure of the open field system was complete by 1600. Evidence exists of prehistoric settlement, and more abundant traces of Roman occupation. Valley Farm excavations found Roman seal-ring, broach, and pottery. Signs of a small riverside Roman villa  amounted to not only bricks & roof tiles but also a sandstone pillar, painted wall-plaster, and mosaic fragments.

The sad story of Clopton
Excavations of the deserted village at Clopton also found traces of Roman occupation, followed by early and late Anglo-Saxon settlements. Pocot, the Norman Sherrif, cultivated his garden here in 1086. The village expanded in the C12th, and by the C13th growth was such that the hill above the site was terraced to allow for expansion. The road to Croydon was improved with side-drainage, and the High Street cobbled and re-aligned round the church.

One Manor House, Clopton Bury, owned by Robert Hoo in late C13th, is now only visible as an approximately circular moat in the NE of the site. From the late C14th, Bury Manor passed to owners outside the village.    The other manor, Rowses, (located S of Rowses Wood) was held by the Bishop of Winchester until the mid-C12th, when it passed to the Crown. Both manors were held by the Haselden family in the C14th, and passed to the Cloptons in the C15th.

Clopton reached its peak of importance in the C14th.  There was a Friday market from the C13th, and a new church dated from 1352.  About 1490, the land was bought by the Fisher family, who converted the ridge and furrow agriculture to sheep-pasture.  By use of lawsuits of dubious legality, they forced their neighbours, including the rector, from their land.  In 1525, only 5 labourers remained in Clopton, and in 1561, when only 2 houses remained and the church lay in ruins, the village was declared extinct, and the parish combined with Croydon.

Tailboys Manor, well documented before C16th, may have stood S of the village, between moats which were destroyed in 1968.  Frances Manor was sold in C16th to Anthony Cage of Longstowe.  His son built Croydon Wilds (named on some old maps), but this house with a brick tower was demolished in the 1950s.  In all there are 5 deserted moated sites. Croydon shrank in the C15th, and earthworks of house-platforms can be seen SW of the church. The church itself, of the decorated period,  stands up the lane leading to Manor Farm. The interior arcades & walls all lean outwards. The Norman font and Jacobean pulpit remain.  Red-brick rebuilding of the chancel and part of the south transept are attributal to Sir George Downing (buried here in 1684). By this period, Croydon had become part of the estate of the Downing family, so interesting maps and records survive in Downing College, Cambridge.

In 1996, the population of the combined parish was about 200 people.

Walking the paths
Walking is on clay 25m above sea level by the R.Cam or Rhee, but going up to 75 m on the steep chalk slope above the village. The parish has 23 rights of way, a majority in good order.

The Clopton Way, named after the deserted village, runs for 11 miles between Gamlingay and Wimpole.  It enters the parish from the E along fp 7 from Arrington, turns briefly S down the lane from Manor Farm, and follows Croydon High Street, past the “Queen Adelaide” public house.  Crossing Larkins Road, the route continues along bp 13, to visit the medieval site of Clopton (which has an information panel at the entrance to the site).  The path continues W, with good views of the Rhee Valley, and of the high land in Hertfordshire to the S.  The path crosses a drive (to Top Farm and the B1042), soon leaving Croydon parish, before continuing to New England Farm, Cockayne Hatley, Potton Wood, and Gamlingay.

Recommended circuits from Croydon.
There is a small carpark at the junction of High Street with Larkins Road, otherwise  suggested parking  (not Sundays) is on the verge near the church.  Very limited space exists along the narrow street in the village.  For some circuits, parking at Wimpole or Hatley may be preferred.

(1) Old moats.  1.5 miles
From Croydon, go SSE on fp 21 from the village noticeboard on High Street, at TL 313493 to the B1042, where turn right (W), and return on fp 20 to the High Street.
Fp 21, starts down a field edge, but soon launches out across a large arable field, continuing through 2 more  little fields to the road. (This route is best in dry conditions!) The return fp 20 follows field edges, giving good views of old moats, and returns to the village up an old wooded lane, emerging beside a garden.  Time to visit the pub!

(2) Croydon, Wendy, Wimpole, Arrington  ca. 7 miles
From Croydon High Street, take the signed fp 20 down the wooded lane, then following field edges to the B1042. Turn left along the road verge to find the signed fp 18 going SSE along a grass baulk towards the R Rhee. It continues across a short stretch of field to the river bank, where the path turns right, crossing a footbridge over a side-stream, and then a second bridge over the river.  It enters a paddock behind the Church Farm complex, Wendy. Follow waymarks past the farmyard & out down the drive. You have now left Croydon behind, since the river forms the parish boundary, but walk left (E) along the road. Beyond the church, find a signpost for a path on the right crossing a short piece of arable, before zig-zagging round grass headlands to the edge of Road Farm, on the Old North Road. Turn N up the verge, and cross with care to use the bridleway E along the North Road farm-drive.  Beyond the farm, turn left (N) up the Avenue, skirting an overgrown lake, and continuing to cross the A603 near the transport café. Continue over a stile opposite, and through kissing-gates to the Wimpole drive. Turn left (W) along the drive. Cross Old North Road, and walk through Arrington to the Church.  Turn right up Church Lane, and follow the Clopton Way markers up steps into & through a pasture, joining a route running along by a belt of trees. This skirts a modern (fortified?) farmhouse, and becomes fp 7 in Croydon. At TL 313499, the path does a sharp turn SE by a tall hedge, and leads down past the church back to Croydon.

(3) Hill climbing!
Three paths fps 8, 10, and 12 lead from High street onto the ridge, and give access to some fine walking towards Hatley.

Fp 8 starts up the drive beside the Queen Adelaide pub, and goes up steeply through paddocks, crossing 2 stiles. It skirts the garden of a house on the hill and continues N in a narrow hedged way, to join bp 6 from Manor Farm, at the corner of farm buildings.

Fp 10 starts up the side of a house, signed on High Street, crosses a stile, and goes a little less steeply up a grassy field. Fp 12 goes over a stile beyond the last house in the village, again up the field.  All join the ridge-route, fp 9,  at the top, leading to Croydon Hill Road. (Note fp 11, nominally joining fps 8 & 10 is blocked by an electricity sub-station, at ca. TL 312 494).

(4) Three options N from Croydon –  an easy circuit; or towards Hatley; or Old North Road: 3.5 miles; 10 miles plus; or 8 miles.

From High Street, take one of the routes described in Section (3) up the hill, and emerge on Croydon Hill Road at TL 305494. Turn right on the road, and soon right again to join Croydon fp 5, which follows a field-edge by a decayed belt of trees to TL 299508.* Here turn right following the track by the hedge, and right again at TL 303510.**  Follow bp 6 back through Manor farmyard, past the church to the village.  This bridleway is lined with daffodils in March.

For a longer circuit, from *, turn left through a gate, and follow the bp back to the road.

Turn right, and soon you pass into Hatley parish. Visit East Hatley Church, whose structure has recently been wonderfully restored. Take  good bridleways to the N of the Hatleys over to Hayley Wood, returning to **,  thence back to Croydon via Manor Farm.

A third option, turns left at **, and takes bridleways along firm farmtracks (bps 3, 2) to the site of Croydon Wilds at TL 304515. Continue to TL 300 522, to turn right, NE along the attractive, wooded Croydon Old Lane (br 1). This continues in the parish of Longstowe, to meet the Old North Road. Walk S down the verge, turning back towards Croydon on a path starting just beyond the woodland at TL 322522. This path becomes Croydon bp 3, and joins bp 6, leading back to Manor Farm.  (Of the little stub of path, Croydon fp 23, at TL 307 515, there is no trace on the ground.  At one time, this joined the dead-end path in Arrington, but the centre portion was extinguished, thus depriving walkers of a valuable circuit).

(5) A circuit W and S of Croydon. 6 miles.
Warning! This route is not for the faint-hearted! The routes of the rights of way in Shingay are not easy to find, and may be in long vegetation.

Walk W along High Street, to find fp 19, at TL 311 492, with its sign pointing S across an arable field, the path often not reinstated. Go diagonally across the field to a footbridge, and then an easy field edge, and lane lead to Larkins Road. Go S and cross the B1042, to find fp 17 signed over a stile. Cross a grass field, looking for a bridge over a ditch hidden in the hedge opposite. Cross the next field, to a high bridge over the Rhee.  A path continues in Shingay, sometimes nettly, beside the moats of the site of the medieval Knights Templar hospice. Emerge onto the minor road; turn right (W) and re-enter the field adjacent to the Manor Farm drive.  The route of the bridleway crosses the river on a wide bridge , becoming bp 16 in Croydon.  This continues pleasantly in the river meadows, emerging through a gate  onto the B1042 by a large house (formerly the Downing Arms pub, then known as the “scratching cat”). Walk W along the road verge, cross, and go up the drive towards Top Farm, turning right at the path junction to return to Croydon on the Clopton Way, bp 13.

Further reading
Archaeology of Cambridgeshire – Vol 1.
SW Cambridgeshire by Alison Taylor
Cambs. C.C. 1997.  pp. 36 – 37.
ISBN 1 870724 84 4
Cambridgeshire, a Shell Guide by Norman Scarfe   Faber & Faber, 1983. p.118
ISBN 0 571 09817 7
Clopton Way – leaflet publ. by Cambs.CC (undated) 40p.

A bit of Culture?
Until 1 July this year, the University Library has a (free) exhibition, entitled, “Visible Language” It celebrates ways in which the poet Dante (1265 – 1321) has been interpreted in text & image over seven centuries.

On a damp day, we took a walk along The Backs, and looked for snowdrops in Burrell’s Walk, before  seeking shelter in the exhibition. Here was an unexpected feast for the eyes..

I noted a suitable quotation, too:
“In the midway of this our mortal life, I found me in a gloomy wood, astray. Gone from the path direct…”
Inferno, 1 -3, trans. H.F.Cary

More about Bassingbourn Barracks – Letter to the Editor…
“As you know I walked thru BB with the RR (Royston Ramblers) on Sunday 15th Jan.

Just to let you know outcome.  I called into G Room on Sat to remind them we were coming. A kindly guard gave me his mobile no. in case the ‘phones were down again.

There were 26 of us on Sunday…Gulp. I rang ahead, 10 mins notice but no-one was at the gate. After 5 mins I rang again-somebody on way. Another delay & a member of the gp noticed a soldier gesticulating from a gate further N. I waved back but told gp we were not to use incorrect gate & called GR again.  Apparently the wrong entrance had been listed in the ‘daily orders’ that  reminded  GR we were coming [!]

A very nice Sgt walked us through, gave us copies of 1945 aerial photo of site & talked about Memphis Belle. Said they always welcomed visitors ??[visitors????]

At one point path has been encroached on by a fence & is only 12 to 18 in wide. Probably why I was told on another occasion that path was built on & impassable as that soldier was rather portly. We squeezed through.

So we did it but it didn’t feel like an everyday ramble on a public R o W.
Regards Sue

From Sue Hedges

Unrecorded Public paths
The Summer 2004 issue of “Open Space” contained a thoughtful article by Chris Beney on how unrecorded rights of way in town and countryside may be lost. Noting the “slow-motion” action in registering some “Lost Ways” by Cambs.C.C., I am disposed to ponder the issue afresh.  The Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 imposed a cut-off date of January 2026, when all footpaths and bridleways that existed in England and Wales prior to 1949, but were not on the definitive map, would be extinguished, and have public rights removed. The Act went on to note exceptions, but, generally, we should assume that action needs to be taken now to collect evidence of such unrecorded paths, and to have them processed by Highway Authorities, and added to the County’s Definitive Map by means of a legal Order. The Act will not affect fresh dedications of paths based on evidence of a recent 20 year periods of unchallenged public usage.

The Countryside Agency and DEFRA are working with other organisations to record “Lost Ways”, and Cambs. C.C. has a “Lost Ways” project, looking at a few dozen candidates within the county. The legal searches seem to take a very long time for each path, and only a very few paths seem to be added to the Definitive Map annually.  We are concerned that many of those paths for which evidence has been collected will not have been processed by 2026, both in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere.  DEFRA has indicated the government’s intention to amend the law by Statutory Instrument to exempt paths for which claims had been registered, but not processed by 2026.  But we would be unwise to rely on this, as governments and their attitudes can change (several times!) in the intervening years.

Chris Beney lists categories of paths he considers most at risk: (a) alleyways & short links between other ways; (b) farmtracks, paths & lanes, perhaps unsurfaced, which may or may not be on the County’s “list of streets”; (c) short cuts across corners; and (d) the numerous errors on the definitive map, where the path stops just short of its destination. Chris Beney gives the example that a locked gate across a track on 2 Jan 2026 could destroy the through route!

Action?  Local knowledge is vital. E.G.
Residents of Little Shelford have recently claimed two “Lost Ways” for which Cambs.C.C. is considering the evidence (slowly). Can you help?  Think about it.

Janet Moreton

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post:  Issue 35.
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 35; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2006.

CANTAB34 January 2006

CANTAB34 January 2006 published on

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


I send best wishes for a year of pleasant and adventurous rambling to all readers!

This month the focus is on the Royston area, with two informative articles from members of Ramblers’ Association Royston Group, concerning Bassingbourn cum Kneesworth (in fact a Cambridgeshire parish), and the Baldock Bypass, and the way it will affect (and generally improve) walking opportunities in the corridor between Royston and Baldock.

“Parish of the Month” is Bassingbourn, with special emphasis on its history, and new woodlands.

In November, your editor attended the first day of a Public Inquiry into Hertfordshire County Council’s Order to extinguish Footpath 16 in Therfield. I wish I could have attended the Inquiry on further days, for this was a complicated case, and the issues involved more than the closure of the single path involved.  We await the judgement on this, but I take the opportunity to say that if you have the chance to go to a public inquiry on path issues, then do so, as it is a very revealing exercise, and the presence of ramblers supporting their Footpath Secretary, or staff member from the RA’s Head Office gives a good impression of a general interest by ramblers in the proceedings.

Janet Moreton

Quotations of the Month
“Earth is innocent. Only the use we make of it mars it”

Ellis Peters, The Cadfael Chronicles

Footpath 19 – Bassingbourn Barracks
In a more innocent time military homes were built alongside the public footpath which passes through the grounds of Bassingbourn Barracks. This was convenient for both military and civilian personnel wishing to travel quickly and easily to our village shops, post office and schools. However, during the heightened security which accompanied the resurgence of the IRA threat in the 1980s the gates at either end were locked and a notice was put into place which gave the telephone number of the Guard Room so that walkers could ask to be let through to walk on this right of way.

These notices have been missing for some time but the Commanding Officer has quickly complied with my request to replace them. The number on the gates is 01223 204331. This may be rung at any time. Walkers may telephone either on arrival at either gate or beforehand, giving the time they would like to be met.

For those who don’t know, or have forgotten about this path it is easy to find. Walk along footpath 6, otherwise known as the ‘Back Lane’ which runs from the Green to Guise Lane parallel with North End, passing along the stream behind the Church and gardens of the houses. At about 200 metres from the Guise Lane end, a ditch or ‘drain’ edged by a few trees runs off to the east, towards Kneesworth [Map reference 332448].  Walk along the north or Guise Lane side of this drain. Walkers are allowed about 2 metres of space* at a headland so are entitled to walk along the edge of the field. The path crosses a farm track and swings north-north east following the drain to the gate in the Barrack’s fence.

The path meets the Old North Road almost opposite the gap in the hedge which leads to all footpaths and permissionary paths to the east. These pass around Kneesworth, Whaddon, Meldreth, Orwell and the Wimpole Avenue, giving direct routes which avoid walking along the main roads.

The Cambridgeshire Countryside Access team have promised to put a small by-way sign at the point where  footpath 19 leads from the Back Lane. There is already a sign near the Barrack’s entrance on the Old North Road, however it is partially concealed by the hedge and is misaligned at the moment.

The Access Team are working hard at the moment to find a sensible diversion to Footpath 19 which will avoid the MOD land.

I should just like to add that we are very well-served with footpaths in Bassingbourn. However, there is no right-of-way into the barracks through the gate at the end of Guise Lane.

Please use the correct route!

Sue Hedges, 23 Oct. 2005

* Actually, 1.5m minimum or as specified on the definitive path description. However, South Cambs. D.C and Cambs. C.C. require a minimum of 2m width for all new field-edge footpaths.  Ed.

Baldock Bypass

Although the bypass is not scheduled to open until August 2006, all the rights of way bridges are now open so that one is now able to walk this very beautiful area again without having to make detours. The bypass goes in a tunnel through the Weston Hills to minimise the environmental impact.

At TL276359 where one crosses from Wallington by Bygrave Lodge Farm to Bygrave, there is now an underpass to take one safely across the A505.

At TL261342 a bridleway bridge, requested at the Public Inquiry, is now in situ enabling both walkers and riders to continue towards Clothall on the original right of way without the dangerous and unpleasant detour via a roundabout on the bypass, which had been originally proposed. A path has also been created from this bridge to the Clothall Estate at Baldock. Continuing on the right of way southwards one crosses Wallington Road, which is now a bridleway only, the road having been severed by the bypass.

The path out of Baldock at California TL248342 was not walkable for part of its route when I attempted to walk the path on 26 November but a diagonal path was requested and agreed at the Public Inquiry, which will take one to a new road bridge to reach Warren Lane. This should become available in due course.

A short distance out of Baldock, a bridleway bridge at TL255329 takes the Icknield Way towards Clothall.

In the Weston Hills there is a footbridge at TL252322, which was officially opened on 28 July at a ceremony attended by several members of Royston Group. A photograph of the event appears on the front of Royston RA Group’s current programme.

Near the Letchworth Gate (Junction 9 on the A1(M)) a bridleway from Weston by Lannock Manor Farm crosses the A6141 to a permissive bridleway on the other side of the road. At the Public Inquiry I asked for an underpass here as it falls steeply on the Baldock side. However the officials from the Ministry of Transport based in Newcastle saw no need for an underpass as riders and walkers would be able to cross safely via a grass strip in the middle of the road towards Junction 9. At the moment the area around the bridleway from Weston looks a total mess but a crossing on the level is, I understand, to be provided which should make it, hopefully, a little less hazardous to cross.

David Allard

STOP PRESS – Just before going to print, David Allard reports that Herts C.C. have extended the temporary closure of these bridges until May.

Parish of the Month –
Bassingbourn cum Kneesworth
OS Explorer Sheets 208, 209
This large parish of over 1500 ha lies mostly on chalk, and is thus well drained for Winter walking, and is popular with ramblers from both the Cambridge and Royston areas.

The Domesday Survey describes Kneesworth as part of Whaddon parish, but it was a separate hamlet by the C13th, and  not united with Bassingbourn until 1966.  Kneesworth’s open field system was enclosed in 1842, whereas the fields of Bassingbourn were enclosed by an Award of 1806.

The centre of Bassingbourn is nearly a mile from the cross-roads at Kneesworth, along The Causeway – a weary road to walk, although it has a footway, and a strategically placed seat near the burial ground.  The village sign is neatly sited on the Green, not far from The Hoops public house, and the chimney of the small village gashouse  (TL 336 440), dating from the C19th, and an adjacent former agricultural engineering works of 1873.  Tactful redevelopment of the site has recently been completed, with plaques giving a brief history.

The Church stands away from the High Street, up Church End. The main body of the building is C14th, with a tower some 100 years older, and a Perpendicular oak porch.  South from the church, the Village College, opened 1954, occupies a spread of buildings set in wide recreation grounds, and acting as a centre for village social and educational facilities, including the library.

There are 24 rights of way within the parish, and a number of permissive or customary paths, making a substantial network, mostly in excellent order. The only path with a persistent problem is Footpath 19, linking the two parts of the parish, and discussed in our leading article.  The crossing of the A1198 (otherwise Ermine Street, or The Old North Road) needs care, and is safest in the 20 mph zone at the junction of The Causeway & Ermine Street, although elsewhere, at least there is good visibility.

The parish is crossed by Ashwell Street, the remnant of the various tracks of The Icknield Way prehistoric trade route. Sections of this path in the parish are grassy or hard, and (thanks to traffic restriction orders) largely traffic-free, save for agricultural vehicles, as the way runs pleasantly between intermittent hedges. To the east, the track runs to Melbourn: to the west it continues past Litlington and The Mordens to Ashwell.

From Ashwell Street, turn north up Spring Lane or South End, to return to Bassingbourn centre, with its network of well-signed inner-village paths, between housing and attractive young woodland (1). Field paths off Ashwell Street at TL 346 432 short of the junction with the A1198 lead across fields to the health centre and the village.

Leaving Ashwell Street to the west of the village,  a kissing gate at TL 330 426 gives access to a permissive path, leading north through a narrow belt of new woodland (2) and along an older treeline towards the Springs, and thence back to the Village College.

A track starts south from Ashwell Street, at TL 341 430 (almost opposite the end of Spring Lane) going towards Royston, crossing the bypass, and continuing on a dingy path through the industrial estate to emerge over the railway onto Green Drift.  This is a relatively fast bolt-hole to Royston station, but parts of the track may be muddy in Winter.

Further west along Ashwell Street, at TL 327 425,  another route south on a field-edge bridleway leads across the railway line and the bypass to the Little Chef on the outskirts of Royston. This gives an excuse for a stop for tea, before ambling into the town along the heath…(An alternative “finish” may be made on a sticky cross-field path turning off by a waymark at TL 334 410, taking steps up and down the bypass, and stiles over the railway).

From either behind the village sign in Bassingbourn, TL 336 440 or, alternatively, beside the church wall, TL 330 441, fenced paths lead to a field edge route north to Guise Lane. Thence a circuit may be  made via North End and Fen Road. The “John o’Gaunt” Inn is closed long since, but there is a seat at the road junction!  (John o’ Gaunt’s Castle shown on old maps at North End, ca TL 325 452, see  the 1937 1:25000 series, was in fact  built by Warin de Bassingbourn in 1266.  The site was damaged by coprolite digging in the C19th, and nothing is visible from the road).  Return via one of two paths going south through Shadbury End, and Church End.

More energetic walkers may turn off west at TL 325 442 before reaching Church End, taking cross-field paths to Abington Pigotts. The route starts off well on a hard track, makes across a field to a bridge/hedge gap, and continues across 5 further fields, with occasional waymarking. This can be a fine tramp in Summer, but only recommended in Winter when the ground is frozen! A return may be made via Bibles Grove, Down Hall, and the paths of Litlington to Ashwell Street and Bassingbourn.

Long distance walkers doing the Harcamlow Way approach the parish along Ashwell Street, cross the A1198, and, beyond the nurseries, turn north up a field edge path, shirting a wood, and later, Kneesworth House Secure Hospital. The path emerges on Chestnut Lane past the farm shop, and turns towards the Kneesworth crossroad. Just before the junction with the A1198, the route goes north over a stile, and passes a new reservoir, before reaching the parish boundary with Whaddon, at Dyers Green.  The Explorer 209 OS sheet shows the Icknield Way Path along Ashwell Street, but recent guides give the preferred option for the Icknield Way Walkers route peeling off at Baldock, for an upland route to Royston via Wallington.

Note (1) & (2) refer to woods mentioned in the item below.

Woods of Bassingbourn
The following is updated from an article “The New Woods of the Cam Valley”, which first appeared in the Cantab Issue of October 2001.  These woods, mostly planted under the aegis of The Woodland Trust, were mostly still fairly small 4 years ago. However, within the last year, all have shown a growth spurt, possibly thanks to the pleasant warm Summer, and now contain respectable young trees, 10 – 20 feet high.

One of the woods within Bassingbourn can be found just off Ashwell Street. Halt beside a kissing-gate at the side of the byway.  A permissive path leads across an arable field to a dip in the chalk downland.  Here, the County Council has planted Clear Farm Wood, TL 330 427, (2) with trees now 10 foot high, well-fenced against rabbits.  Stiles lead in and out of fences, and the path leads on to the wooded springs behind the village college.

Continue into the village, to visit Keith Wood, TL 337 428 (named after a former parish clerk), and Ford Wood, TL 334 435. Both of these attractive woods (1) are now quite well-established, and blend well with the dog-walking network of paths behind the village recreation ground.

Finally, off Spring Lane at TL 336 435 is a newly planted strip of woodland, with a notice “welcome” and an invitation to walk this way. How nice!

Quotations of the Month
“The roads lead always two ways, hither as well as yonder”

Ellis Peters, The Cadfael Chronicles

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post:  Issue 34.
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


Issue34; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2006.