Skip to content

Document Header

Content Header

CANTAB54 December 2009

CANTAB54 December 2009 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


The time has come, The Walrus said
To talk of many things,
Of stile and gate and seat and bench,
And boots to which mud clings….

Apologies to Lewis Carroll (and in the next breath to John Keats) but this is no longer the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, but the time for unmitigated mud, permeating all parts of the countryside since the rain in the second week in November.

The rain came in time to germinate the Winter wheat, and dress the brown fields within days in an attractive green fuzz, but also to convert nearly all paths to a condition of maximum stickiness. If we confined our attentions to the sandy Brecklands, we  might be less conscious of the problem. A visiting walker accustomed to the peaty moors of Cleveland, described our boulder clay as “friendly”, in that she could not rid her boots of it.  Some of us might choose a different adjective!   However, by March, when one has become accustomed to the post-walk boot scraping session outside the back door in the cold and dark, with a bit of  luck, strong winds will start to dry the surface.

Meanwhile, out in the countryside, where does one rest awhile in Winter?  I am all in favour of the recent trend to replace stiles with kissing-gates.  After all, climbing a difficult stile is probably my most athletic feat (feet?) these days, unless it is hanging up the Christmas decorations, or retrieving a pen from under the sideboard. I digress.  My point is, one cannot sit on a kissing gate, but a stile forms a relatively comfortable seat for two, one each side.  Most villages have at least one seat, and the pub or church porch is a valuable resource, but if one seeks solitude at lunchbreak, a fallen tree may not be to hand (most of the victims of Dutch Elm disease, and of the 1989 storm having long been cleared away).

An article in the East Anglian Daily Times of 20 November 2007 suggested that the new Disability Law may oust kissing gates!  Certainly, some of the  more recent structures put in by Cambs.C.C. have a facility to open wide, given an appropriate key.

A dear departed uncle, had a solution to sitting down in inhospitable places. A sheet of yesterday’s daily paper from his bag, would be neatly folded, and he would perch on the top of a concrete hydrant.

With these frivolous thoughts, I wish you all a Happy Christmas, and trouble-free walking in the New Year.

Janet Moreton

National Trust AGM
This was held on 7 November, during which there was a debate, “The Public Footpath, not The Country House, is Britain’s greatest contribution to civilisation”.  Chris Somerville and Janet Street-Porter spoke for the motion, and Marcus Binney and Clive Aslet (previous and present editors of Country Life  magazine) spoke against.

Kate Ashbrook reported the outcome on Ramblers’ Net.  The footpaths won.  Of 371 people voting, 43% were in favour of the motion; 28% were against; and 31% abstained.  Most speakers from the floor backed footpaths.

Letter to the Editor
Thanks for another edition of Cantab Rambler, read with interest as always. We don’t get to walk in the Cambridge area too often these days, but we did do the inaugural Fleam Dyke – Roman Road walk and enjoyed it very much. What a splendid guide book – it sets new standards!   We hope to do the rest of  the  route soon using ‘bus 16 between Balsham and Withersfield to break the walk into two shorter stages.

I was interested to see your comment about the refreshment place between Clare & Cavendish on the Stour Valley ‘Way’. The route is, in fact the Stour Valley Path, which may not seem an important distinction, but anyone wanting info from the web will get the Dorset Stour if they google ‘Way’ and the Kentish Stour if they try ‘Walk’. I’ve seen the refreshment place’s adverts but have yet to sample – it’s too early or too late in the walk when I do sections of the SVP. Interestingly, John Andrews thought the road from Houghton Hall to the A1092 should be PRoW, but I don’t know whether he ever got as far as submitting a claim.

Your comments on Bartlow were also of interest. Despite the rather poor network of paths in the parish we began many walks from the station when the lines were open. The lines lasted well into the post-war BR era; that to Saffron Walden and Audley End closing in 1964; the line to Shelford and Cambridge on 6 March 1967. I recall the latter date because I led a Cambridge Rambling Club (then  CHA – HF) walk from Clare to Long Melford, making use of the trains on the last day of operation. We returned to Cambridge in the evening on the penultimate train. (1923 was the year of transfer of both Bartlow lines from GER ownership to the newly formed LNER and can’t have made much difference in such far-flung outposts of railway empires – everything must have carried on much a usual, just as happened when BR took over from the LNER in 1948).

Roger Wolfe  ( e-mail in response to Cantab 53)

A Mistletoe Walk
Combine your Christmas shopping with a mistletoe-spotting walk!  Park behind the Cambridge Botanic Gardens on Trumpington Road, and visit the gardens, which are open free on weekdays from November until the end of February.

See some mistletoe on trees in the garden, and yet more, high in the willows, on Coe Fen (providing the old trees have not been cut down as part of the Council’s recent tree-felling activities!).  Cross Fen Causeway using the underpass and walk along The Backs to Castle Hill.  In the gardens below Castle Mound is an apple tree with several bunches.  If it is near Christmas, you can buy yourself a bunch in the Market!

Mistletoe, Viscum album, is a strange parasite of tree branches, specialising particularly in apples, poplars, willows and limes, but can be found on other trees. Distribution in the wild in Britain is uneven, with largest amounts found in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, but is reasonably frequent in Cambridgeshire, especially in gardens.

To grow your own mistletoe, the following procedure is recommended. (I have not tried this, having no suitable trees!).  Take some fresh sprigs from your Christmas bunch, and keep them cool until a mild day. Each sticky berry has one seed.  Squeeze seeds from the berries and stick them with their natural glue onto the underside of a branch. A small proportion may germinate, but growth is slow for 3 y before any mistletoe is recognisable.

There are over 1000 mistletoe species around the World, but the European white-berried mistletoe is the source of many legends. Mistletoe is mentioned in Greek myths and Pliny and Caesar described the reverence of the ancient Druids for the plant.  Later, it featured in Norse sagas.  Like a number of heathen traditions, the custom has been taken into the Christian calendar, and used to symbolise peace and love.

Parish of the Month – West Wratting
Explorer 210
West Wratting is in Cambridgeshire, and is not to be confused with Little Wratting and Great Wratting, over the border in Suffolk.

In 1981/2, when RA Cambridge Group did a survey of paths in all 100 parishes of South Cambs., West Wratting distinguished itself by having some of the poorest, unfindable paths in the District.  Today, that is certainly not the case:  a majority of its 24 paths are in excellent order, and there is a good degree of waymarking, following a path re-organisation scheme in 2005.  An effect of this, however, is that your map may not show the changes, so follow waymarks carefully.

In the village, it is possible to use the recreation ground car park at TL 604524, or a few cars can park, considerately, down the dead-end lane, The Causeway, to the church at TL 606524.  This is a small village (10 years ago the population was 460) in a long, thin parish which stretches 6 miles.  It tapers from the clay woodlands near the village at the E end, to gentle chalk downs behind Fleam Dyke, which was recorded as a parish boundary in the C10th. A good deal of the parish was heath or woodland in the Middle Ages, and there were extensive sheepwalks at Inclosure in 1813. There are few prehistoric sites identified on the heavy clay soils, although on the W side there are soil marks of pits, enclosures and ring ditches which could be Iron Age or Roman.  There was a small Roman farmstead half-way between the church and the boundary with Weston Colville, where scatters of pottery of C1st-C3rd were found, along with burnt stones.

It seems possible that this was a late forest-edge settlement by Saxons moving from Great Wratting into a largely unoccupied area.  In 1086, the name was Waratinge, or the place where the cross-wort grows.  The village supported 33 residents in 1066, and by 1377 had 180 taxpayers (i.e. at least that number of households), but was decimated by the Black Death.

The church at the end of The Causeway was completely rebuilt in the C14th, then there were two C19th restorations.  Its predecessor is mentioned in Domesday. Immediately to the N of the church stands the C18th Old West Wratting Hall, on a site that may date back to Saxon times. The surrounding park contains a hollow-way, and other remains of the medieval village.  Not much of this can be seen from the churchyard.  Nearby at the top of The Causeway is the attractive well-shelter, recently restored. The Chestnut Tree pub on the High Street is still functioning, and when recently inspected, boasted of a tea-room, open 12-5 on weekdays.  Half-way between the well-shelter and the pub on the main street is a square brick enclosure, the former village pound. There is a village hall, but no shop.  Buses run through the village between Linton and Haverhill. The largest building, the red-brick West Wratting Park, dates from ca. 1730, and can be seen from fp10, running E from the large barns on Mill Road.  Further down Mill Road, at TL 605 510, the disused Leys Mill, dated 1726, a black-boarded smockmill with a white cap & sails, is a cheerful landmark.

On the E end of the village, the former WWII bomber airfield can be approached on the unfortunate path which crosses a huge arable field. Starting as West Wickham fp20, signed over a footbridge at TL 633501, it soon continues as West Wratting fp 16, before curving NW as Weston Colville 22.  This is surely the most demanding and unrewarding path in the locality, but the majority of others are generally in fair order.

Where can one walk from West Wratting?

To Balsham
From the well-shelter, TL 605523, turn SE along the High Street, to find fp 4 signed between houses on the right  Go up a passage between gardens, and turn right on the field-edge, using fp 3 behind gardens to the B1052.  Walk SW down the road, until reaching the broad Byway 17, which leads W to the track, Fox Road, and thence into Balsham.

Alternatively, on fp 4 behind gardens, turn left on the field-edge, which follow to Padlock Road. Here turn right, and soon notice fp 2 signed opposite. Waymarks point you across a field, and through woods , and out onto a good field path which leads to Plumian Farm, Balsham. Out on one route and back on another gives a 4 to 5 mile circuit, depending on routes through Balsham.

To West Wickham
From the well-shelter again take fp 4 towards Padlock Road, but before reaching the lane, there is an option of turning off across a field on fp 6 at TL 606 516, which brings one to the junction of Padlock Road and Mill Road. Go S along Mill Road to the large barns, and at the signpost turn left through the yard past the weighbridge on fp 10.  Follow this along a field edge, crossing to the other side of a ditch & continuing on a concrete road.  Fp10 turns N between trees to return to the village, but continue around a field-edge E on fp 15 (which formerly crossed the arable field). Go round 2 sides of the field to a waymarked gap in the hedge near Rands Wood.  Continuing, well-waymarked paths in West Wickham lead either to Burton End, or to Yen Hall, or to the church at the W end of the village.  (3 to 5 miles).  Note that the only pub in West Wickham has closed.

To Weston Colville
Go through the churchyard, and follow fp 7 through grassy fields to a farm road, where the path goes N for a few yards, before resuming its former direction towards The Grove. Turn N through The Grove, cross a bridge, and go on N across a field, and through a band of trees.  You are already in the parish of Weston Colville.  Continue in the same direction towards Weston Colville’s church.

Weston Green
This hamlet, in the same parish as Weston Colville, is best reached by following fp 10 round two sides of West Wratting park, to emerge on Wratting Common Road at TL 616 516.  Turn right along the road, and left down fp 13 beyond a few houses, where there was once a larger settlement.  The path follows the field-edge then leads over a ditch to continue as Weston Colville fp 11, to the chapel at Weston Green. There is a small shop in this settlement, that sells cold drinks and ice-cream.  Sadly, the only direct connection between Weston Green and Weston Colville is along the quiet road.  A circuit would make about 5 miles.

Other routes
A number of other paths allow circuits of the village. Most field-edge paths are in good order, but cross-field ones will at most have a tractor wheeling, and are very sticky in Winter.

Quotation of the Month
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the right paths,
for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23, 1 – 3 ;
New Revised Standard Version

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 2nd class stamp.  Letters or offers of brief articles will be gratefully received.

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


Cantab 54

Price 20 pence where sold
© Janet Moreton, 2009.

CANTAB53 October 2009

CANTAB53 October 2009 published on

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


Jack Lewry –
Cambridge Ramblers recently lost a dear friend, and a dedicated City Footpath Secretary.  Jack Lewry died of cancer on 22 September. His funeral on 5 October was in the packed church at Chesterton, where the well-represented ramblers were yet a small fraction of the hundreds of mourners.  The life’s work of Jack, a retired architect, was acclaimed by former friends and colleagues. We had only known him in retirement, when Jack & Phyl were popular regulars on the walks programme, and Jack as a much valued member of the Committee. He used his knowledge of City planning and regulations for the benefit of the inner-city path network. We are grateful for many instances where his negotiations brought a useful outcome for walkers.  One particular instance, is that of the right of way by the new Bradwell’s Court. Jack’s negotiations secured a wide passage on the original line adjacent to Christ’s College wall, instead of simply through the court between the shops, or worse still round the far side, where the developers wanted to put it.  Jack campaigned tirelessly for a footpath from the Leper Chapel across to Ditton Meadows – we still hope that this might come to be, perhaps as a memorial.

Our sympathies go to Phyl and the children.


Icknield Way Association – 25 Years Old!
The IW Association celebrated its Silver Jubilee AGM on 10 October at Royston.

There was the traditional morning walk on the Heath in the morning, a special visit to the historic Royston Cave, and a talk given by Cllr F John Smith, Leader of North Herts District Council, on “Royston and the Icknield Way” which preceded the AGM in the afternoon.

The IWA maintains a team of voluntary wardens along the path, produces a newsletter, and publishes a guidebook to the Icknield Way Long Distance Path, some 100 miles long, from Ivinghoe Beacon to Knettishall Heath, and passing through 6 counties. The IWA’s route is for pedestrians only, and should be distinguished from the 170 mile long Icknield Way Trail, a route for cyclists, horseriders and pedestrians, which involves quite long sections of roadwork.

IWA membership details may be obtained from Sue Prigg, at 1 Edgeborough Close, Kentford, Newmarket CB8 8QY
tel.01638 751289

Byron’s Pool
Have you visited the Byron’s Pool nature reserve at Trumpington recently?  There have been considerable “improvements” which, to my mind, are of dubious value.  This has always been an area of rough woodland, beside the River Cam, and having romantic associations with Byron and Rupert Brook.

From the entrance, the car-park has been improved, and the grass cut, and some rather derelict picnic tables replaced.  I have no quarrel with this.  But by the riverside, we now have trim fishing stances, all the weeds tidied away, and the woodland path replaced with an all-weather surface, with any older trees removed, so that it looks like a sanitised municipal park.  Perhaps this is what most people require.  But I am sad, since this was one of the last little spots of wilderness within the City boundary.


Round & About in S & E Cambs
Porters Way closed this Winter…
Porters Way, which runs from the B1046 near Kingston, to the Old North Road opposite the Red House, will be closed this Winter.

A seasonal traffic regulation order (TRO) was approved, along with several others for byways, and signs and gates are being installed.  In addition, part of this very muddy lane is to be hardened with road planings or similar material, and the drier parts will be grass seeded.  Kevin Green, Capital Projects Rights of Way Officer for Cambs CC, writes that it will be necessary to close the byway to the public, and once the work has been completed it may be necessary to keep the byway closed to allow the surface to establish.

Warning notices are posted in Bourn, Kingston, Caldecote etc.

Fen Rivers Way’s new seat at Clayhythe..
The Fen Rivers Way Association worked for some years to extend Cambs CC’s promoted riverside route between Cambridge and Ely, to go all the way to Kings Lynn. The FRWA was responsible for waymarking, and production of the Fen Rivers Way guidebook. When in 2002 their task was deemed complete, remaining funds were handed to Ramblers’ Cambridge Group, in order to reprint the guidebook as required, and to keep a watching brief on the long distance path. Your Editor and companions walked the route last Winter, and found it in good order throughout.

Over the years, a modest profit has added to the sum inherited by Cambridge Group for the Fen Rivers Way, and it became possible to purchase a seat, which has been sited on the Clayhythe riverside.  Thanks are due to Jill Tuffnell, Hon. Sec. of Cambridge Group, and to Pip Noone of the Cam Conservators for their organisation.

Afoot in Dullingham…
It is pleasing to note the creation of three new rights of way in Dullingham parish, following an application to Cambs CC, supported by Dullingham PC.  All are on or adjacent to the recently created Hope Hall Stud, which occupies land to the S of Dullingham Church, and E of Brinkley Road.

Fp27 leaves the existing Fp6 going S from Dullingham Church at TL 632 575, and goes E along a grass track between a tall hedge and paddock fence, to reach the rear of a cottage garden at Cross Green, where it turns right for 50m, then left, to emerge on the road to Dullingham Ley.

Fp26 turns off Fp27 about half-way along, at TL 634 575 and follows another grass track N, to come out on the road beside Dullingham sports ground at TL 634 579.

Fp28 will leave Fp6 further S, almost opposite existing Fp8, which also connects Fp6 with the Dullingham Ley road, and run W to join the Brinkley Road at TL 631 572.  However, there are problems at present because although there is an obvoius hard road from the new house by the path junction, the new right of way does not quite follow this.  There seems to be no objection to walking down this hard road, and exiting through a hand-gate onto the Brinkley road.  (Thanks to Phil Prigg for information).

These paths, though they cannot be said to lead into the wilder fastnesses of East Cambs, do provide some pleasant local circuits, which have already been in use for some time by local cognoscienti – which, of course, is why the rights of way claim was successful!

Is Juniper Worth Conserving?
As members of the charity Plantlife International*, we receive regular magazines and leaflets and, of course, the inevitable appeals for financial assistance.

One recent leaflet about Juniper struck a local chord, as the only wild population in Cambridgeshire is preserved on Fleam Dyke (on the section SE of the A10), and some of the precious remaining bushes were only rescued from obscurity or stifling during clearance of this section of the Dyke a few years back.

Juniper is one of the only three native conifers in the UK (the others being Scots Pine and Yew, according to Edward Step in “Wayside & Woodland Trees”).

Plantlife warns us that juniper is now in serious decline.  Many of the remaining bushes are over 100 years old, and are no longer very successful at reproduction.  Open bare ground is needed for seed germination.  On under-grazed land, the seeds do not germinate, and existing juniper bushes eventually succumb to enveloping scrub – which was what was happening to the bushes at the foot of Fleam Dyke!  And too much grazing, of couse, means the saplings are nibbled.This is why the bushes on the Dyke have a wire cage, to fend off rabbits.  Climate change projections suggest that in 80 years, Juniper will disappear from much of southern Europe.  If this happens the UK could become a last bastion of this much-loved plant, and perhaps the plants along Fleam Dyke among the most southerly on Earth!

Go gently past!

*Plantlife International – The Wild Plant Conservation Charity, 14 Rollestone St., Salisbury, Wilts, SP1 1DX

Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke – the new Long Distance Path
The new 25 mile Fleam Dyke & Roman road Walk was launched at Wandlebury on Sunday 13 September, attended by about 60 people, of whom 29 came on the 15 mile walk on the southern section, with 20 finishers.

By that time, the guidebook was published, representing excellent value at £2.50. This will be available by hand at Cambridge Group’s AGM on 20 November, Friends Meeting House, Hartington Grove, 6.30pm or by post at £3.25 from the Editor and prime mover, Roger Lemon, Brecklands, Main Street, Shudy Camps, Cambs, CB21 4RA.  Cheques should be payable to “Friends of the Roman Road & Fleam Dyke”.

Roger Lemon will be speaking on the development of the route at the AGM, and by that time, waymarking work around the route will have been completed by volunteers.  The waymarking is particularly valuable on those parts of the walk which join up the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke sections, taking in less well-known paths especially those  in West Wratting, and West Wickham.  The Friends are grateful for a grant from “Awards for All” (National Lottery) which has made the project possible, and to numerous volunteers.

Food for Thought –
More Pub & Café  News..
In Sawston, two adjacent pubs, The Black Bull, and The Queens Head have closed, and also The Woolpack, elsewhere in the village. However, Sawston is still served by a good number of restaurants, pubs, and four cafés (North’s Bakery take-away, Skivers, William’s café, and a café at the Free Church). I am indebted to John Capes for up-to-date information.

When visited in September, the Plough Inn at Radwinter was for sale.  In the locality, The Red Lion at Great Sampford has food, as does The Bluebell, Hempstead.

Has any reader sampled the food at Houghton Hall Farm, which is on the Stour Valley Way between Clare and Cavendish (Explorer 210, TL 785 466) ?  We have twice passed the display board, propped incongruously on the path itself, advertising coffee and cake in a sunny countyard, Thurs-Mon, 11am – 3pm.

Parish of the Month – Bartlow
OS Sheet 209

There were originally 7 Roman burial mounds (once called the Seven Hills of Bartlow) in two parallel lines close to Bartlow church, of which only 4 survive to dominate this small village.  The largest is 15m high, probably the tallest in Europe.  C19th archaeologists excavated cremated remains, dating from the C1st – 2nd,  and recorded an iron folding chair, an iron-bound wooden chest containing glass drinking vessels, and lamps, bronze wine flagons, sets of Samian tableware, and the remains of funereal wreaths, for the burial of the upper class.  Some of the mounds were destroyed in building a road in 1832, and during the construction of the railway later in the C19th.  A modest Roman villa occupied to 350AD was also excavated at Bartlow Park.

No less memorable than the “hills” is the nearby Norman church, with a rare C14th round tower containing 3 ancient bells.  Note the cross-eyed lions in the upper lights of the C14th chancel windows!

The parish of Bartlow was cut out from parts of Ashdon and Castle Camps, and was owned by the de Vere family after the Norman Conquest.  Only the existence of the church in ca 1100 confirms the early presence of the village, as it was not recorded by name until the C13th.  The original manor house, recorded 1279, may have been a precursor of the present Old Hall, near the river.  In 1279, there were some 160 residents; by 1377 there were only 32 people living in the village; but in the census of 1801, 83 people were recorded. In 1996 still only 90 people inhabited the parish.  The railway came in 1865, making Bartlow a junction between the track from Audley End and the Haverhill to Great Shelford line.  The Great Eastern line closed in 1923, and the Audley End branch line was closed by Beeching in 1965.  The tracks were removed and the land, sadly, sold back to Bartlow Estate – the route would have made a delightful footpath!

Public Paths in Bartlow
There are only five usable public paths in Bartlow parish.

Fp 1 leaves the churchyard, and leads by a massive bridge over the railway to the well-maintained area around Bartlow Hills, where there is a display board.  Fp 4 leaves this area going west, and emerges on the road to Ashdon, at TL 585 449.  It then continues parallel to this road, inside at belt of trees. At TL 585447, it joins Fp 5, which passes in front of residences, and joins the footpath in Essex going to Steventon End.

Bp 2 is the start of the route to Cardinals Green, leaving the Shudy Camps Road at TL 598  452.  Within 100m, it enters the parish of Shudy Camps, continuing as Bp1, and later as Horseheath Bp13.  Fp 3, on a track passing under the disused railway at TL 594 451 was shown on the 1972 Revised Draft Map, but was disputed, and never made it to the Definitive Map.  Similarly, Bartlow Broad Balk is a track well-known to local horseriders, and would be much valued by pedestrians, but has not been registered as a right of way.

Following a Public Inquiry, held in the village in 2003, Fp 6 was added to the Definitive Map by Cambs CC, as directed by a DEFRA inspector on 13 January 2004.  A minor diversion at the east end was confirmed by Cambs CC on 11 January 2005.  Allowing for the gathering of information, which was started by a village resident Mr Ogilvy, and continued after his death by The Ramblers, the whole exercise took nearly 5 years.  The path starts from the side of the churchyard, where there is a wooden signpost.  The route passes between a garage and the wall of a house, and continues on a very wide gravelled drive between new properties, built on the site of the former farmyard. The right of way emerges at the junction of the roads to Cambridge, Ashdon and Hadstock.  It avoids a very dangerous corner of the road, near the Three Hills public house, and is a useful shortcut.

Walking Routes
Only the shortest of circuits may be made in the parish. From the churchyard; go past the Three Hills on fps 1 and 4, north along the Ashdon Road, and back to the churchyard on Fp6.  It is possible to park by the churchyard.

However, the village lies on several attractive through-routes, such as Horseheath to Linton, via Cardinals Green and Hadstock (minimum of 7 miles).  A circuit may be made from Ashdon, via Steventon End returning via the bridleway to Ashdon Sewage Works (6 miles).

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab usually appears approx. 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 2nd class stamp. Offers of brief articles will be gratefully received.

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


Cantab 53 – Price 20 pence where sold
© Janet Moreton, 2009.

CANTAB52 August 2009

CANTAB52 August 2009 published on

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


Once again, my faithful readers are missing a Midsummer edition, because I have been away often in sunshine and showers over this period,  and when actually at home, rights of way work has become pressing!  So apologies, and I hope you will find this issue interesting.

I hope to use this space to bring you up-to-date with changes in the South Cambs path network.  Where walking is concerned, knowledge equates to enjoyment of a good walk. Even if you are the proud possessor of the latest OS sheet, it may not inform of the most recent path diversions and other changes.

Happy walking
Janet Moreton

Seasonal Traffic Regulation Orders, (TROs)
Cambridgeshire County Council has, within the last two years, confirmed a whole suite of TROs, affecting numbers of byways in South Cambs. District.

For several years, the RA had complained of the state of byways, churned up by  recreational vehicles, “4x4s”, so that enjoyment by other types of user: horseriders; cyclists; and walkers became impossible.  The County Council over some 10 years has spent quite a lot of money trying to improve these routes, so that they stood up to all-purpose Winter usage, but to no avail.  Consultations went on, mostly through the good offices of the Local Access Forum (LAF), and finally it was decided to apply TROs to a number of byways in the Winter months only.

The Orders have been made, and now confirmed – you may have seen the mud-spattered notices posted in the countryside. Signs have been put up, as have barriers and lockable gates, with a gap at the side to allow access by permitted Winter users.

However, local landowners have been given keys to the barriers, so that they may continue to take their tractors and other farm equipment along the byways all year, so in Winter, you may still find water-filled deep ruts in places. In some cases, the County Council  has not simply relied on the passage of time in a lane undisturbed by anything larger during Winter than a motorcycle (still allowed on a lot of byways in Winter, due to the persuasive arguments of the Trail Riders Fellowship), or the occasional heavy horse!  Money has been spent on improvements to path surfaces, placing of informative display boards, new bridges, and hedge trimming.  In the parishes adjacent to Longstanton, some funding has derived from central government “growth area funding” associated with the Northstowe development.

RA Cambridge Group would like to know how walkers think the new regime is working this Winter, so I would be glad to have details of your experiences.  In particular, can we have reports of any places where vehicles are side-stepping barriers, or breaking them down?

Where are these improvements?
Look for the parish on your map and  identify the byway symbol.  It seems overly complicated to bespatter the text with eight-digit grid references!

If you want to identify path numbers, see:

Balsham 4 – Linton 23 – West Wickham 1
(These are all parts of the Roman Road, known as Wool Street or the Via Devana)

Bourn 1 (The Porters Way was closed to allow remedial work)

Carlton Byways 7, 9 and 12  (i.e. all the byways in the parish), and Weston Colville 15, leading off Carlton 9 towards Weston Green.

Steeple Morden  1 – Guilden Morden  9
(These are both sides of Cobbs Lane, leading N to Tadlow Bridge.  Note that this route was also closed for many months to allow improvements to be made, and may not yet be open, even to pedestrians)

Rampton 5 – Westwick 3 (Cuckoo Lane)

Cottenham 12 (Rampton Drift)

Landbeach 3 – Milton 3 –
Impington 3 (Akeman Street)

Rampton 4 (Reynolds Drove)
Rampton 2  (Pauleys Drove)

Rampton 1 – Willingham 8
(Haven Drove)

Willingham 9 –  Haddenham 22
(Aldreth Causeway)

Also in East Cambs,
Haddenham 15, 29, 30 &
Wilburton 10  (Fen Side)

What byways are not closed to vehicles?
In spite of repeated requests by ramblers, Fox Road north of Balsham remains open to all traffic, all year.  In Winter, this means the chalky surface becomes rutted and muddy, and in places with deep holes filled with water. In spite of its status as part of the Icknield Way Regional Route for walkers and horseriders, no seasonal closures have been applied on this path.

Also part of the Roman Road between the B1052 and the Hildersham – Balsham road  remains open to vehicles.

Confirmed Diversions

OS Pathfinder 209, Bourn fp 14 (TL 325 564 – 325 559).
The path runs from behind Bourn church, across the grass in front of Bourn Hall, passed through the garden of a bungalow, then across an arable field to Fox Road The section through the garden now goes through an adjacent grass field, fenced away from horses.  It will be clearly waymarked.

OS Pathfinder 209 Croydon fp 19   TL 311 492 – 308 486,
The path runs from High St, diagonally SSW across an arable field to a bridge and stile in the opposite corner.  Previously it turned right along a field edge then left by a hedge, to emerge along a short grassy lane to Larkins Road.  The middle section of the path, beyond the arable field has been diverted to run between fences of newly extended gardens.  Note that following RA representations, a condition has been written into the Order that all hedges are to be planted at least 2m away from the footpath to ensure that future growth does not obstruct the path.

Swaffham Prior Fen’s Little Chapel
A place of worship was recorded in Swaffham Prior Fen in the 1830s, but the present building, in the far NW of the parish a mile from Upware, near the River Cam at TL 531687, was built in 1884.

The 1881 census shows that some 130 people lived in Swaffham Prior Fen agricultural community, benefitted by a post-office, shop, and “The Jolly Anglers” inn over the other side of the river.  The chapel was well-supported in the C19th, and well into the C20th, until 1958, when the Methodist Church decided to sell the property. It was bought by Edward Palmer Brand of Ramsey, but regular Sunday services continued until 22 November 1959. The building was conveyed to a group of trustees in 1969, who have cared for it henceforth, as a non-denominational chapel.

Services are held occasionally, but it is best known for the harvest festival  held  at 3 pm on the first Sunday in October. An appeal this year raised £8000 for reslating the roof.

The Saffron Trail
This is a walk of 72 miles, from Southend on Sea to Saffron Walden. Redbridge RA Group has recently revised a booklet by Dave Hitchman, originally published in 2004. It is attractively-produced, with clear sketches and route directions, and I look forward to following it on the ground..  A copy was obtained by post from Roger Young, 16 Windsor Road, Wanstead E11 3QU, cheques to Redbridge Ramblers, for £3.50. It was disappointing that Saffron Walden Tourist Office had not heard of the publication.

A Satisfactory Result
I was recently very pleased to receive a letter from Chris Pagan, a RA volunteer from Ware, Herts.

You may remember that in 2005 you sent me user evidence for part of the Stort towpath near Harlow, which wasn’t recorded on the Definitive Map, and for which I had applied for a modification order, and was appealing against the county council’s decision to refuse to publish one.  Although I hadn’t got enough user-evidence, I had a copy of the promotional leaflet published by British Waterways encouraging people to walk along the Lea & Stort towpaths, and the inspector ruled that the leaflet constituted intention to dedicate a public footpath.  So the modification order was published, and it’s just been confirmed unopposed.

The delay in publishing the order was due to the Definitive Map and OS maps, showing a short length of cul-de-sac footpath apparently along the towpath near Latton Lock.  This had to be investigated first…”

So all’s well that ends well, and congratulations to Chris.

The path, incidently, is part of the West Anglian Way LDP from Cambridge to Cheshunt, copies available for £2.50 from David Elsom, 91 Cambridge Road, Great Shelford, Cambridge, CB 22 5JJ.  Cheques payable to Ramblers’ Association, Cambridge Group, please.

A Reserve with a Bus-Stop
It is not “news” that the RSPB bought Fen Drayton Lakes in 2007, and is keen to attract local people to enjoy the Winter spectacle of thousands of wild birds. Now the Guided Busway is nearing completion, it is time to remind walkers that there will be a “stop” here, especially for the reserve, and, of course, for the extensive  network of paths around the reserve, and to the wider network, to Swavesey, Fen Drayton, Fenstanton, and the Great Ouse Riverside.  And the good news for us wrinklies is that we may use our bus-passes!

Little Chesterford – a new path
I am indebted to Jill Tuffnell for the information that a new, waymarked route through woodlands links Little Chesterford with Little Walden.  I have no information on the status of this route (seemingly on land owned by Chesterford Park), waymarked with yellow arrows and with no observed disclaiming notices.  The following grid references are approximate, as I had failed to carry my GPS when enjoying the bluebell woods last Spring.

Behind the bus stop on the B184 at Little Chesterford, a flight of steps leads up the bank to a gate in the fence, TL 519420.  The path skirts a small fenced enclosure, then goes ENE beside a hedge, parallel to the private road to Chesterford Park.

At TL 527422 it veers NE, passing a small wood, then continues in the same direction up a fenced defile. At TL 529426, it turns E on a farm track, then shortly enters a narrow band of woodland, continuing approx ENE to TL 535427, where the trodden track turns S, still in woodland. At TL 535 424, the route turns E, keeping close to the north edge of woods, to emerge at TL 539 424 on Petts Lane leading to “The Crown” at Little Walden.

We made a pleasant circuit passing Byrds Farm, then visiting Saffron Walden, returning via Catons Lane, and the footpath to Springwell and thus to Little Chesterford.

For notes on walks and points of interest around The Chesterfords, see Cantab Rambler of April 2004.

Stile-free parishes in South Cambs
During the last few years, Cambridgeshire County Council has had a policy to replace stiles with kissing gates, where possible, and funds permitting. The modern gates are generally of a metal type, with a wide “swing” so there is no need to remove rucksacs.

Kate Day, Countryside Access Team leader, is presently compiling a list of “stile-free” parishes in S.Cambs, including:.

Bar Hill;  Bartlow; Childerley;  Croxton;  Eltisley;  Harston;  Hauxton;  Histon;  Ickleton; Impington;  Milton;  Newton; Oakington; Pampisford;  Stapleford; and Teversham.

There are now good numbers of kissing gates in other parishes, but those unable to climb stiles should note there are several instances of a gate into a field, followed by a stile at the other end!  This may be a temporary situation, perhaps because one end of the route is in one parish, and the other end in another parish…

Go & See – Splendid Scarecrows – The Bassingbourn cyclist
Scarecrows are still quite often used in fields of peas, beans, or oilseed crops, as a pleasant relief to passers-by from noisy bird-scarers.  More frequently stuffed figures in old overalls and a flat cap supplement strings of rattling, shiny aluminium foil lids or discarded CDs in allotment gardens and vegetable patches.

The most magnificent scarecrow  we have seen (and apparently on permanent display) is in a private garden fronting the road at North End, Bassingbourn, ca. TL 330449.

A scarecrow in a top hat rides a penny-farthing bicycle!

See this and pleasant countryside on a walk from Bassingbourn, parking alongside the recreation ground off South End.  Walk up past the church, to join a footpath right, giving onto one running N, to turn onto the dead-end road, going W to pass the scarecrow, then to North End.  Continue to Shadbury End, then S and W to try a long, footpath across seven arable fields to Abington Pigotts.  This is a real map-reading challenge, but try it before the fields are too sticky.  In Abington Pigotts, notice the newly painted sign for the “Pig & Abbot” and try its refreshments!  Return past the wonderful gateway at Down Hall Farm and the footpath through the Mill Cottage garden, to reach the road to Littlington.  S along the road, find a path E to The Bury, and thence into Litlington Village.  Make sure you spot The Old Lockup, and find a seat on the village green, by a sign illustrating the former connections with WWII airfields. Walk SSW on a good path to Ashwell Street, and return to Bassingbourn via a permissive path past “The Springs”.  (7 miles)

The route can readily to extended to 10 miles, by continuing from Abington Pigotts along Bogs Gap Lane to Steeple Morden, and returning along Ashwell Street.

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 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


Cantab 52 – Price 10 pence where sold © Janet Moreton, 2009.

CANTAB51 April 2009

CANTAB51 April 2009 published on

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


As the mud dries out on the field paths, lingering only amongst the violets and dog’s mercury in the woods, we look out our sunhats, and seek new venues, or at least paths which have been impassable all Winter.  In this issue, find reports of three new bridges which allow some interesting circuits, and consider some “Watery Ways” in the parish of Wicken or along the Fen Rivers Way.
Janet Moreton

New Bridges

Path Creation at Rampton
See OS Explorer 225
A new bridge and a new bridlepath (Br8)  have been provided at Rampton. A substantial bridge now crosses Reynolds Ditch at  TL 415674, and the new path, with a fine rubble surface, runs approximately N to join an old hedged lane, which meets the main road between Rampton and Willingham, at TL 415685. Thus it becomes possible to make a short circuit from Rampton, eg down Cuckoo Drove, Reynolds Drove, N up the new bridleway, and back along the main road. This is not recommended, as the latter is busy, and has no footway. However, a longer circuit, N again via Haven Drove into Willingham parish, returning along Iram Drove, Rampton Bp 7 to Irams Farm on Great North Fen Drove, and back on New Cut bank from Great North Fen Bridge to Giants Hill, Rampton makes some 7 or 8 miles, depending on the route through Rampton.  This circuit makes a dryshod route in Winter, but lacks shade and detail for a Summer saunter.

Abington Pigotts / Litlington boundary culvert bridge replacement
See OS Explorer 209
At TL 306 435, a former crumbling culvert bridge near the parish boundary between Abington Pigotts Fp 5, and Litlington Fp 2 has been replaced with a safe footbridge. This is an important and attractive link for a number of possible walks linking Bassingbourn, Litlington, Steeple Morden and Abington Pigotts.  Note that the cross-field paths either side of the bridge have been more frequently reinstated in recent seasons. Please report any problems here.

New Bridge at Great Gransden opens path unavailable for 50 years.
See OS Explorer 208
With the construction of a substantial footbridge over a deep ditch on Great Gransden Fp 2, a section of path has been made available after many years of complaint.  The bridge, near the junction with Fp 1 at ca. TL 265 556,  is indicated by a yellow waymark on a stile in the lane section of Fp 1. Descend the steep bank, and cross the bridge over the ditch. Continue diagonally across a rough, uncultivated field, towards the bank of a stream, which is reached in a garden, well away from the house.  Continue by the stream-side, emerging between stream and a new tall fence on the road, not far from the Crown and Cushion Inn. This path can be used as part of a circuit involving Great Gransden, Dick & Dolls Lane, Waresley Wood Nature reserve, Vicarage Farm, Wareseley, tea at the garden centre, and the minor road towards Abbotsley, perhaps turning off E on byway & bridleway to return to Great Gransden on Fp 2.  This circuit, of ca. 7 miles, can be augmented by visiting Little Gransden Church and windmill.

Fen Rivers Way
Since the last issue of Cantab, three intrepid walkers have now completed the Fen Rivers Way up-river from Kings Lynn to Byron’s Pool, above Cambridge.  Readers will recall in the February issue, we had walked as far as Downham Market by 16 January.  Since then, we have made a further 4 walks, completing the route on 24 March 2009.  Our “new completer” Joan Hillier, now has a certificate commemorating her passage along the route.   I wonder how many others have walked the route (for the first time, or again) since the organised series of walks in 2001?

Features of the walks were the consistent dry weather, on days selected in advance using the Met Office’s East Anglian website, and backed up early morning by BBC Cambridge’s “half-hour weather forecast”.  We travelled by train, fast, reliable, but quite expensive, even with Senior rail-cards.

Looking back on the different days, we were very pleased to find more to attract walkers on the section from Downham Market to Littleport.  At Denver Sluice, there are display boards “Riding and Walking in the Norfolk Fens”, and a display promoting nearby Hilgay.  Further on, we were pleased to find a new seat at Ten Mile Bank, and another at Black Horse Drove.  We noted that the old pumping house at Ten Mile Bank has been made into a large, attractive residence.

Around Littleport, one of the paths of the route near the station, is oddly signed “Field Footpath”. The Black Horse pub beside the route is still in business. We were rather irritated in places to find the Fen Rivers Waymarks had been overmounted by the “Black Fen Waterways Trail” markers.

There is a now a charming seat beyond Littleport, above the caravan site, inscribed, “In Loving Memory of George Glee 1917 – 2006 – A gentleman walked this way“.

Approaching Ely on 27 February, the paths behind the former beet slurry area near Queen Adelaide were all-but flooded, so we were glad of wellington boots. There were no problems around Ely, where the tourist office reports considerable continuing interest in the route.

On 17 March, we walked on as far as Waterbeach, using the east bank as far as Bottisham Lock.  We would have preferred to use the west bank for the splendid new bridge over Braham Dock (completed last year, and already inspected), but reports suggested that the Washes north of Waterbeach were flooded.  So we walked the cycleway on top of the bank from Ely to the turning to Barway, new since the FRW route was first completed.  The scars on the sides of the bank adjacent to the tarmac are healing over.  There are seats (one rather strange) and a sculpture along the route.  We were glad when the bank top resumed as grass, to lead us dry-footed past the Kingfisher Bridge Reserve.  Since our last visit a couple of years ago, there are now bird hides accessible from the river bank path, and interpretive boards. For a future visit, there is a carpark reached from the road near Wicken. I quote from the handout:
“Since 1995, the Kingfisher Bridge Project has transformed 150 acres of arable farmland into a mosaic of wildlife habitats…The project, started by private initiative, has many special features… reedbed, fen, mere, ditches, ponds, have all been created.  Since 1995 over 300 plant taxa have been recorded, most of which have colonised naturally...”

After a very pleasant interlude, came the snag.  The drove  from the A1123 to Commissioners’ Pit was flooded, so we were obliged to walk down the road to Upware.  Here the “Five Miles from Anywhere, no Hurry” is still in good order, and we resumed the flood bank towards Bottisham Lock.  The Environment Agency had been consolidating the surface of the bank, so we were walking on bare earth for about a mile – fortunately dry underfoot on this occasion, although below, and to our right, the floods were still out across the Washes. We crossed Bottisham lock  and made for Waterbeach station just in time to miss a train. But it was a good day.

Finally, on 24 March,  we walked from Waterbeach station, through Cow Hollow Wood, where the willows are being pollarded, and down the tow-path to Baits Bite Lock. Across the lock, we continued on the other side of the river to Fen Ditton, where we were pleased to find the rare black poplars behind the churchyard just beginning to display red catkins. On through Cambridge, where our boots and rustic clothing seemed somewhat out of place, over Silver Street bridge, to find muddy ways again beside the river in Paradise, by Newnham Village. The riverside path to Grantchester was nicely dried out, and the tree works at Byron’s Pool, which have continued through the Winter, are now nearly complete.  We solemnly shook hands above the weir, at the end of the path, before seeking a Citi7 bus in Trumpington. Another pleasant day, and a very good route.

Note that the Fen Rivers Way Association disbanded itself in 2003, and care of the route was taken over by Ramblers’ Cambridge Group.

Obtain the guide from David Elsom,  Ramblers’  Cambridge Group, 91, Cambridge Road, Gt Shelford, Cambridge, CB22 5JJ.  £3.50 inc.p/p

Wicken Parish and Wicken Fen
See OS Explorer 226
Wicken parish has some 35 public rights of way, consisting of a good density of paths in and around the immediate vicinity of the village; going over towards the river Cam and to Burwell and Soham parishes.  “Cantab” of Dec 2000 touched on the paths of Soham, but in a limited space could only give a flavour of its well-over 100 paths.  Similarly, the aim is to give an impression of the Wicken network, and the range of walking available. The highest point in the parish I can find on the map is 8 m, so paths are all flat (unless you count those which climb a couple of metres onto the dykes), and follow droveways, watercourses, or routes between housing in the village.  A few cross fields.

Wicken Fp1 along the River Cam E bank enters the parish from the N, to continue past Kingfisher Reserve to High Fen Farm.  Here it joins Bp 2, one end of which goes S passing the chalk pit, to Dimmocks Cote Road (A1123) and the other end runs E to join Shaws Drove (Bp 3) , and the track called High Fen Road (Bp 4).  Bp 4 runs S to A1123 at Red Barn Farm, from whence Docking Lane (Bp5) branches off NE to Grey Farm.  Here is an interesting network, muddy in Winter,  connecting farms, and only joined to Wicken village by the minor road, Lower Drove.

Wicken Fp7 continues S from the A1123 on the W floodbank of the R.Cam, generally a 2m wide path of short grass, and continuing into the parish of Waterbeach, having descended to the riverside.  Below on the floodplain, Explorer 226 shows the official W river-edge route of the Fen Rivers Way (Fp8), which, as the preceeding article relates, should be avoided during periods of flood. Fp9 is an obscure route marked on the map opposite Upware, probably recalling a former loop of the river.

Meanwhile, there is no riverside route close to the E bank of the Cam from the A1123 to Upware. Instead, the rutted Fodder Fen Drove (By 10) is followed to Commissioners’ Pit. The latter is an interesting Educational Reserve, where Jurassic fossils may be found in the Corallian limestone sides of the pit.

Beyond the pit, the route continues S as Fp11, leading to Upware, and the “Five Miles from Anywhere, No Hurry” pub. From the pub, the short Fp32 leads to the sluice at Upware. 

Just before Commissioners’ Pit, it is possible to turn E on Fp12 (generally reinstated across a field) to reach Upware Road, and continue opposite E along Spinney Drove (Fp14) which skirts Wicken Fen Reserve to the N.  From Upware Sluice, Fp13 takes the N bank of Reach Lode as a gravel track beside moorings, continuing in the parish of Swaffham Prior.

Between Spinney Drove and Wicken Lode is the “core” part of the National Trust’s holdings, which have recently expanded to include much of the farmland hereabouts.

An entry fee is levied to visit the core section of Wicken Fen, but what is not advertised, is that there are two public rights of way entering this part of the Fen.   From the entrance in front of the Visitor Centre at the bottom of Lode Lane, Fp19 (small yellow arrow!) enters the NT property over a bridge, and runs alongside the watercourse as far as the junction with Monk’s Lode.  Alternatively, from the carpark, go NW along Breed Fen Drove (By 16), and turn off into Wicken Fen on Sedge Fen Drove (Bp 15).  The RoW ends at a T-junction with an NT path at TL 553705, in front of a dyke. Of course, on both of these routes, one must reverse to return, unless an NT member. By 16 also leads to Fp14, and thence to Commissioners’ Pit, or N on By 17 to the A1123 at Afterway Houses.

Within the village envelope, N of the A1123 (here called Wicken Road) are no fewer than 9 interconnecting paths.  Cross-field Fp27 and the track, Drove Lane (By 23, 34) both lead to Bracks Drove in Soham Parish.

From Lode Lane around village, 2 miles
A promoted circuit from the NT carpark uses Fp20 on the E side of Wicken Lode, crossing a bridge to follow the S side of Monks Lode (in Burwell parish) to TL 571702, to the junction with New River. Cross a footbridge, and either turn right (E) along the N bank of New River (Fp31) to Burwell, or go N on the surfaced Fp30 to the village. At the rear of houses, turn left (W) along a back path (Fp29, then Fp35), which leads to Lode Lane, and thence to the car-park..

Walks to the S of Wicken Fen
A new National Trust leaflet, “Viridor Credits Walk around Hurdle Hall and Burwell Fen”, in fact offers 6 and 7 mile walks from Wicken Visitor Centre, but these are largely in Burwell parish. Most of the paths used are established rights of way shown on Explorer 226 except for a short length, Moore’s Drove on Baker’s Fen (where there are bird hides) and along Hurdlehall Drove.  An “envelope ” route, using both of the shorter circuits makes about 10 miles, taking in Monks Lode; Priory Farm; Cock-up Bridge; Burwell Farm; Hightown Drove; Hurdle Hall; Reach Lode; Pout Hall; Burwell Lode; Cock-up Bridge; Harrisons Drove; and Moore’s Drove.  Burwell Fen is very low-lying, and seasonal use of wellington boots may be essential.

The village
Cross Green in the centre of the village was the site of a market, granted 1331 for the fair of St Lawrence, whose church is sited at the far E end of the village, beside the A1123.  Fen shrinkage has necessitated heavy buttressing of the N aisle, and replacement of the original perpendicular-style roof. The old smock grain mill, seen from Fp35, running behind the main street, was  renovated recently. The reed-thatched Maids Head pub provides lunches. The village sign illustrates the swallow-tail butterfly. James Wentworth Day, author of the classic “History of the Fens” dwelt in 43 Chapel Lane.  There is some free parking near the village hall.

The National Trust Properties
The National Trust has recently bought up several of the surrounding farms, and is presently consolidating its holdings. There is a charge of £2 for parking off Lode Lane (NT members free).  The WCs are free. The free Visitor Centre emphasises the reserve’s importance for wildlife. The “core” reserve  is open 10 – 5 most of the year, on payment of an entry charge. The reserve’s very small mill ca. 1910, the last survivor of thousands of drainage pumps, was re-assembled here from Adventurers’ Fen in 1956. The exterior of the C19th “Fen Cottage” can be seen well from Lode Lane.  The interior is open Sun 2 – 5, May – Oct.  Presumably it was somewhat less damp when permanently occupied ! An excellent café is adjacent to the Visitor Centre.

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

Offers of brief articles will be gratefully received.

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


Price 20 pence where sold

Cantab 51 © Janet Moreton, 2009

Note Fp- footpath; Bp Bridleway; By – byway.

CANTAB50 February 2009

CANTAB50 February 2009 published on

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


Thank you for all the Christmas messages from Cantab readers, and welcome to the 50th edition.  The first one appeared in November 1999. Since then, the format has swollen, and shrunk again to a regular 4 sides of A4. Contents have varied, but the most popular item by far seems to be “Parish of the Month”  Most of these have been in South Cambs,  which I know best, but a few have been as far away as Paston in Norfolk, Elmdon in Essex, and West Stow in Suffolk.

I aim to bring you information on walking in East Anglia, and especially data on any changes in the path network that come to my knowledge.  No one is more surprised than myself to find that Cantab is still going strong after 10 years.  I have much enjoyed producing it, although there have been some occasions, when there has been a 3 month gap between editions, rather than the usual two, mostly due to pressure of other things. Sometimes “copy” runs rather low, and I can’t emphasise  enough how much I appreciate feedback and short articles from readers.

Thank you for your continuing loyalty – it’s been fun researching the facts, and arranging them on the page, and I have enjoyed making many new friends along the way.

Janet Moreton

Parish of the Month – Whittlesford

As with most Cambridgeshire parishes, evidence exists of prehistoric, Roman, and Saxon occupation, but generally leaving little on the ground to note in passing during a walk.

In the case of Whittlesford, once there were spectacular evidences of Roman occupation.

Slight ring-ditches close to Great and Little Nine Wells Springs include remains of the Chronicle Hills, which were 3 prominent

Roman Burial mounds, deliberately levelled in 1818 for convenience of cultivation. (Some four skeletons were found; the largest mound was 8 ft high and 27 ft dia.) The barrows were part of an important Roman site, including a large villa & associated buildings.

At Domesday, Whittlesford (with 33 residents) gave its name to the Hundred which encompassed the lands of Whittlesford, Sawston, Hinxton, Ickleton and Duxford. At that time, Ickleton and Duxford were the richest places, and Sawston a poor relation! In Domesday Book, Whittlesford is Witelsforda or Witel’s Ford.

The original village lay at a crossing place of the Cam near the point where two separate routes running E from Thriplow converged before reaching the ford. The village consisted then of Church Lane, with the Manor House and church at the east end. Gradual expansion of the village through the C13th & C14th led to first an extension into High Street, and then west to West End, with sites of various village greens being progressively built over.  In 1306, the Lord of The Manor obtained permission to hold a market, and laid out a new green at West End.

The parish boundary with Little Shelford was not fixed until Enclosure in 1815.  The southern parish boundary is now the A505, a line of the Icknield Way that crosses the Cam at Whittlesford bridge.

Whittlesford today has over 1500 residents, most of whom work outside the parish.  In the C19th (with a population of 891 in 1891) there was some industry, such as Maynards Agricultural Machinery Factory, vinegar brewing, and artificial manure works.

The parish has nine public paths, leading round the village, and over the Cam to Sawston, and towards Thriplow and Duxford.  It is hoped that the following notes on points of interest round the village will enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the path network.

Sites of Interest
The parish church of St Andrew has a C14th tower and nave, some Norman windows, an ancient font, Jacobean panelling, medieval chest, and paintings on oak panels of the church as it was in C11th & C12th.

The stonework round the Norman S tower is carved with primitive half-human figures, perhaps Saxon.  The  attractive rustic timbered porch, was given by Henry Cyprian c. 1350. The S chapel was dedicated to St John the Baptist, whose C14th guild raised money for the church, and for the jettied, early tudor Guildhall at the village cross-roads.

Whittlesford Guildhall at the junction of North Road and West End, was built cooperatively by villagers, to provide charitable, religious and social services.  In later years, it served as poor house and school room.  Its roof is supported by a crown post from a tree felled in 1489.

The village sign, on North Road, made by Harry Carter of Swaffham, was erected to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977. The centre panel depicts travellers from early times using the ford.  Archaeological finds confirmed the Icknield Way crossing was used by stone-age man, and the crossing near Moat House yielded Roman artefacts.  The medieval bridge emphasises Whittlesford’s important position on the R.Cam.  The left hand figure on the sign depicts Nicholas Swallow, a local benefactor, and the right hand figure shows a charity schoolgirl, reminding of the gift of William Wesley, a Cambridge grocer, whose land provided funds for schooling Whittlesford children.  The shield forms part of the armorial bearing of the Lord of the Manor. The motto is “Stick to the trothe”

Rayners Farm, at the junction of Middlemoor and North Road,  was built  in 1472, from the evidence of tree rings in the floor joists.

Duxford Chapel (reached over the footbridge from Whittlesford railway station) used to lie in the parish, but is now in Duxford. Originally a hospital of St John, founded before 1230, it was run by a prior and monks, to give medical assistance to the poor, and provide hospitality to travellers on the Icknield Way.  In C14th it was rebuilt as a chapel, in use until after the Dissolution.   Later used as a barn, it was restored in 1947.

Since then, the functions of hospitality have been maintained by the half-timbered Red Lion Inn (which keeps a key to the chapel).  One room has richly carved beams, early Tudor.

Features of the land
The parish lies on chalk, excepting alluvium along the river valley of the Cam. The parish is low-lying, being generally 20-30m above sea-level. The most low-lying areas of poor soil in the parish were kept as common grazing, and known as The Moor (now skirted by Footpath 6, and part used as a landing strip).  Old moats exist N of the church, and on the W side of North Rd, and traces of a third lie in West End.

Stanmoor Hall Farm, now cut off from most of the parish by the M11, has a Countryside  Stewardship permissive footpath waymarked alongside the M11 fence, then veering towards Little and Great Nine Wells.  A Display board at the road bridge  proclaims the enhanced wildlife habitat, including a beetle bank, and some attractive young tree planting.  Thriplow Peat Holes, an SSSI on Hoffer Brook shown on the Display Board, as being not far from Great Nine Wells, is in fact inaccessible from the permissive path.

The Path Network: see Explorer 209
Whittlesford has 9 public rights of way. The following three routes using these paths simply take the reader around and out of the parish – clearly, they may be used as parts of longer walks. In all cases, it is suggested that parking is available near the recreation ground, eg in laybys off Mill Lane.

Circuit 1.  To Sawston and back, 3 miles
Cross the rec diagonally towards the road junction, where admire The Guildhall. Go  down Church Lane, and turn off left down a passage (Fp 9) between high walls. This leads into the church drive (Fp1).  After visiting the Church, follow Fp 1 between fences, going N, then NE at a spinney. Beyond an avenue, the hard path goes over cultivated land, and crosses the Cam on a high bridge. Here it joins Sawston Fp 15, which follow across a railway crossing, and the Sawston Bypass. The shortest route into Sawston is down a long passage between fences, starting at the junction of New Road & Mill Lane. Having visited the various amenities of Sawston, continue S through the village, passing Church Lane, and finding a narrow passage beside Kingfisher Close.  Sawston Fp 9 leads back to the bypass, and over the railway, and river.  Here it joins Whittlesford Fp 2, over a bridge.  The hard path continues over a second bridge over a tributory, and leads back to Mill Lane. Note the attractive building housing the Hamilton-Kerr Institute, an out-station of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Circuit 2  Towards Thriplow: 5 miles
Cross the rec, towards the pavilion, and veer right along “The Lawn”, passing bungalows.  At a gap, go forward, NW, to join a path into the churchyard. Beyond the church, at a junction of signposts, take the church drive (Fp1) going W onto North Road. Turn right, and pass The Village Sign. A little further is the Bees in the Wall pub, where bees issue from a hole at first-floor level. Continue to the road-junction with Middlemoor, to admire Rayners Farm.  Turn back a few metres, to take the stile into the field for Fp 4.  This enters a pleasant open-access area, with young trees.  Continue forward (SW) to join Fp 3 into a hedged defile, emerging past quaint cottages onto Whippletree Road.(Another branch of Fp3 leads to Vicarage Lane).  Turn left (S) cautiously along the road. In early Spring, there are plants of spurge laurel and the stinking hellebore in flower. At a signpost, climb a stile into Fp 6, The Moor. This pleasant path winds through woodlands, past arable, then fenced alongside an airstrip, then near the M11, emerging by a seat not far from the bridge carrying Newton Rd over the M11. Cross the bridge, and see immediately a display board for the permissive path on land of Stanmoor Hall Farm.  Descend steps, and follow this waymarked path, first by the M11 fence, past young woodland, then turning W to reach older woodland near Little Nine Wells. Go through a waymarked gap in the hedge, and follow the path to join Whittlesford Bp7. (It is easy to turn right here, and walk into Thriplow for a longer ramble.)  To continue, turn left, and follow Bp 7 (a potholed trackway) back over the M11 to  Hill Farm Rd.  Turn left, and walk through to High Street, where the post office has a couple of tea tables. Beyond the Guildhall, make across the rec to the start.

Circuit 3. Towards Duxford.  5 miles.
Set off from the rec, and visit the Church, Village Sign, and use Fp 4 and part of Fp3 to Whippletree Rd, as in Circuit 2.  This time, turn right on Whippletree Rd, cross over, and take Fp5 left, over a bridge, and through allotment gardens. Emerging onto Newton Rd, walk left towards a seat and signpost.  Here take Fp6 to The Moor (going the opposite way round to Circuit 2).  Emerge on the road near West End, which follow back towards the village cross roads. Continue as far as Stud Farm, where a sign indicates Fp8 turning off right up a drive and through a garden.  Follow this excellent grassy path towards the A505. On reaching the major road, an old road branches off, running parallel E towards the station.  Go down Station Road West, cross the railway by steps, and visit the  Red Lion and Old Duxford Chapel.  Retrace one’s steps up Station Road West, and turn right (N) to follow the footway back to the rec.

This route may be extended to Duxford and Hinxton, by crossing the A505, which, while needing care,  is not too difficult.

Fred Matthews – an obituary
It is with sadness we record the death  on 1 January 2009 of the octogenarian Freddie Matthews, a long-time volunteer path worker for the Essex Ramblers’ Association. He was for many years Secretary to the West Essex Group of the RA, and later served in several other capacities.  At the time of his death, he was Essex Area President.

We knew Freddie first as author (either alone or with Harry Bitten) of several walks guides for his patch including: Walks with the West Essex (ca. 1973); The Three Forests Way (1977); The St Peters Way (1978). We were first in touch with him personally in the preparation of The Harcamlow Way (1980), when we were able to advise on the Cambridgeshire section of the route. These routes are now part of the “classic” walks in our region, and marked on Ordnance Survey maps.  From 1985, Freddie was the initiator and co-ordinator of the county-wide Essex 100 Mile Walks, as an annual event, which served not only to introduce more people to walking, and to draw members of the various groups together, but also, through route selection, persuaded Essex County Council to make improvements on the route of the year.

When lameness stopped Freddie walking, his work for the RA continued through postal and e-mail campaigning. “39 Steps to the Future” was a paper he produced in 2001 seeking a standard of safe road crossings for paths nation-wide.  In the period 1999-2001, he was tireless in obtaining safe crossings over the newly built A120. His last e-mail reached us in Dec.2003, and some time later we learnt he had moved to a rest home.

Physically Freddie was not a big chap, but he was a giant in the Essex path scene. We remember Freddie with affection and great respect for his tireless pursuit of improvements to walking opportunities in East Anglia, which will stand as his lasting memorial.

Freddie and his wife Kathleen dreamed of having some land for a nature reserve. His niece, Daphne Mair, 6 Harewood Gardens, Peterborough, PE3 9NF, would welcome contributions to “Essex Wildlife Trust” on Freddie’s behalf.

Fen Rivers Way revisited…
We are revisiting the whole length of the Fen Rivers Way, walking it “backwards”, from Kings Lynn to Cambridge.  In the last issue, we described changes between Kings Lynn and Watlington. On 16 January, (before the present Arctic conditions) we walked from Watlington Station to Downham Market.

Leaving the station, we did a detour along a footpath, and minor road, cutting off some of the surprisingly busy road directly towards the bridge over the Great Ouse. We set off along the east bank, finding cleanly mown turf on the bank all the way to Stowbridge. New features along the route are owl boxes, on long poles, but we saw no occupants. At Stowbridge, the pub is still open, and a display board for the FRW is in good order. A short section of wall served as a place to perch for a snack.

We continued south, finding the path in good order. Downham Market has grown considerably since 2002, with an estate of new houses visible from the flood bank. Good news is that the station has opened a delightful, characterful café, with an open fire, and railway memorabilia, highly recommended!

In the morning, while waiting on Platform 4 of Cambridge station, we had enjoyed the mural “A Fen Journey” seen across the line, on the wall behind Platform 6. This evocative panorama from Cambridge to Kings Lynn, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Cambridge to Ely line in July 1995, and was executed by Guy Davies and fellow students at Hills Road Sixth Form College.

Quotation of the Month
In May 1900, the arrival of a car in Huntingdon, en route from London to Peterborough, was of sufficient note to warrant a substantial paragraph in the Hunts Post.  Within a very few years, the novelty had become commonplace, and the seemingly inexorable rise of road transport had begun.
(from An Atlas of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire History. Editors, Tony Kirby & Susan Oosthuizen).

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 27p 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

© Janet Moreton, 2009