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CANTAB79 December 2014

CANTAB79 December 2014 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Manifesto for Open Spaces
The Open Spaces Society (OSS), in its Summer 2014 magazine defines its policies in advance of the next General Election in Spring 2015. It is suggested that committed walkers and lovers of green spaces have ready a number of questions to put to their MPs and Candidates, and to be prepared to press them to promote the Open Space’s Action Plan.

The Plan seems full of good ideas (or ideals!) some of which are noted below.

Public Paths
The OSS considers that routes in regular use should be exempt from the 2026 deadline for claiming new public paths, with a commitment to lift this deadline should the new procedures in the Deregulation Bill not prove effective in accelerating and simplifying claims.  Highway Authorities must have sufficient funding to carry out their statutory duties with respect to public paths. Grants to landowners should be conditional on all public rights of way on their land being unobstructed.

Space close to homes
Every citizen should have access to good quality open space within 5 minutes walk of home. To this end, there should be clearly defined criteria designating open spaces, e.g. in local plans. There should be a requirement to provide suitable alternative land before a public open space is taken for another purpose. There should be incentives for developers to provide areas of public open space through the planning system, and support for communities to acquire land for public open space.

Village Greens
Where an application has been submitted for a town green or village green, the land should be protected from development until the application has been determined.

Common Land
County & Unitary Authorities should have a duty to take action against unlawful works on Common Land. And the whole of Part 1 of The Commons Act, 2006 should be implemented in England, so that registers are finally correct after 50years. The OSS would like to see a 20mph speed limit on unfenced roads passing commons.

New Public Footpath at Coton
See Explorer Sheet 208

A public path creation agreement has been signed between Cambridge Past, Present and Future ( PPF formerly the Cambridge Preservation Society), and Cambridgeshire County Council.  The Order has been made under the Highways Act 1980 section 25 creating Public Footpath No.10 in Coton, Cambs.

The path has been made possible by the construction of a new footbridge over The Bin Brook, using £36 000 raised by PPF. with generous assistance from various grant-giving bodies. The footbridge was opened with acclaim last June, by Mrs Beryl Smart, rambler, long-time Coton resident, and a dedicated volunteer in the County Council’s Parish Paths Partnership scheme.

Some notes on locating the path might be helpful. From Coton Church, turn along Whitwell Way, passing the school on the right, and a couple of cul de sacs on the left. Turn left down St Peter’s Road, to reach Brookfield Road at a T-junction. Here, turn left, and Fp10 starts in the corner of the cul de sac, at TL 4087 5852. The route goes through a kissing gate, and crosses the Bin Brook on a new foot-bridge, then goes through a second gate into a large meadow. The right of way leaves the field in the diagonally opposite corner, at TL 4106 5831.

However, looking across the field from near the Bin Brook, it is not possible to see the exit on the far side, but on approaching, an obvious route continues east on a grassy lane between hedges, passing the sewage works. At TL 4111 5831, the right of way exits through a gate onto a tarmac lane, a shared access with the sewage works, and meets Grantchester Road at TL 4125 5832.

Opposite, a permissive path leads into Coton Countryside Reserve, and a network of other paths.

From the new bridge over the Bin Brook, it is also possible to turn right in the meadow, following the hedge on the right to the corner at TL 4095 5830. A hand-gate leads to permissive paths circum-navigating a large arable field, part of Rectory Farm, and privately owned, and leading to other permissive paths in The Countryside Reserve.

Parish of the Month – Abingtons
OS Explorer 208
Great and Little Abington face each other across the usually narrow stream of the R Granta. The impression is of a single village, with many very pretty old cottages, interspersed with a couple of small C20th housing estates, and retirement bungalows, and, set apart, the former Land Settlement housing amidst what was once market gardens.

Great Abington has 9 public paths, and Little Abington has 6. Taken together, these paths make only for gentle strolls, were one to stay rigorously within the parishes, but linked with the wider network into Babraham, Hildersham, Linton or into Essex at Great Chesterford, some fine walks are available.

Like much of Cambridgeshire, the Abingtons have evidence of prehistoric occupation, with groups of round barrows built along the main route of the ancient Icknield Way. But there is nothing to see – they were ploughed out in the C20th. Pieces of Bronze Age pottery were found, ploughed into ditches, and occasional sherds of Iron Age pottery connected with an Iron Age cemetery in nearby Pampisford. Roman pottery was found, in two separate sites in Great Abington especially near the church and river.

Part of the Anglo-Saxon Brent Ditch, with very little trace of bank surviving, alas, runs NW from the tongue of chalky boulder clay , stretching W to Abington Park Farm, up to the A11, then across to the wooded park of Pampisford Hall, ending in the springs in Dickman’s Grove.

Walkers love maps, and we are fortunate to have in the Cambridgeshire archives some historic maps of The Abingtons, acquired in 2003. They are an important record of changes in the landscape, land use, and buildings in the village. They may be seen, by appointment, at the County Records Office (R 103/52). I discovered this source from a charming calendar produced in 2004 by the Abington History Group.

Five maps acquired 2003 are:
Plan of the Manor of Little Abington (Norden, 1603); An exact map of the Manor Farm of Abington Hall, (Fallowes, 1716); Plan of the farms at Great Abington belonging to the Executors of John Mortlock (Watford, 1818); Plan of the Parish of Great Abington c. 1800; Plan of the Parish of Little Abington 1803.

Other available maps are: Plan of the River Sluices and New Cut in Little Abington 1719; Plan of a Watercourse and parts adjacent in the Parish of Little Abington, 1837; Map of Clare College Land in Little Abington, 1790.

Taken together, these maps show the growth and redistributions of buildings in the villages, the presence of roads no longer in use, the names of holders of strips in the common fields, up to the time of Inclosure (1803, 1807), the park around Abington Hall, and the changes in watercourses, and major roads.

After 1066
The whole of the Manor of Great Abington was given to the de Veres. Their manor house was on the site of Abington Hall, 1060 – 1570. The hall was rebuilt in the C15th, sold in the late C17th, and rebuilt 1712 and the park landscaped by Humphrey Repton. A few fine parkland trees survive, in the (now inaccessible) grounds of The Welding Institute, occupant since the mid 1940s.

The N boundary of Little Abington parish is formed by the Cambridge to Colchester Roman Road, known as Worsted Way or The Via Devana. The W boundary of the parish follows one of the strands of the ancient Icknield Way. The original villages were sited on routes which took advantage of river crossings. Two such tracks also crossed old river-edge routes between Cambridge and Linton, on opposite sides of the river. Later shifts of settlement patterns led to building further from the churches, slight earthworks of the two medieval villages being visible near both churches. The park around Abington Hall blocked growth in that direction.

Little Abington village developed along a street at right angles to the river. Over the years, this E – W trading route was replaced by a N – S route, causing C20th traffic problems before a village bypass.

But it is the churches that lead us into recorded history, for Little Abington’s church, at the edge of the park, has 2 doors and a N window of the Anglo Saxon type, although probably dating post-conquest. The building was restored in 1885, but the narrow original Norman S doorway survives. The font has been in use for 700years. The Kempe window, 1901, depicts the adoration of the Magi.

Great Abington’s church has a Norman font with a Jacobean cover, a C13th South arcade and lancet windows. A life-sized knight in Caroline marble, Sir William Halton, lawyer, 1639, leans on his elbow.

Both villages possess clusters of thatched timber framed cottages. Later buildings in Cambridgeshire Cottage Improvement Society’s characteristic “Cottage Gothic” are preserved. On the bend in the High Street, Jeremiah’s Cottage recalls Jeremiah Lagden, a legendary highwayman of the Newmarket Road who lived at Old House, Little Abington.

In 1936, The Land Settlement Association was formed to give unemployed men a chance to begin farming, as here on the edge of Great Abington, which two generations later was sold to the occupiers. Subsequently, the estate roads were dedicated as public footpaths in 1988, following a public inquiry.

More housing had been built in both villages after 1950. From a combined population of 34 in 1086, by 1996, some 1340 people lived in The Abingtons.

The Paths – Little Abington
Byway 1 is a section of the old “Via Devana” Roman Road, from TL 5479 5057 to Worsted Lodge.

Fp2 runs from the Cambridge Road, A1307, at TL 5300 4960, leading N up the field boundary.
It reaches “The Pits” (wooded old chalk diggings to left) to continue as a slight worn track on a grass field-edge then goes across a field to end at Grange Farm Cottage. It is a pity it does not go through to the Roman Road.

Fp3 starts at TL 5210 4970 on the old A11, signed going WNW on a strip across arable, to cross the huge metal bridge over the new A11. It joins Babraham fp 4, making a useful & pleasant through route.

Fp4 starts at a sign at TL 5300 4958 on the A1307. It runs S between garden fences of houses 29 & 31. The path crosses a stile into pasture, and leaves by a squeeze stile the other side, emerging into Church Lane between houses 36 & 36A, not far from the church. Together with Fp6 (below) it makes a pleasant short circuit.

Fp5 starts at TL 5312 4925, on Church Lane on a fenced gravel path behind gardens, with the former scouts camping ground to left. It crosses the R Granta on an attractive bridge (supplied by The Welding Institute), and continues across the recreation ground, with views of Abington Hall across fields to the right. A kissing gate leads to the drive to Great Abington Church, and thence to High Street, having become Great Abington Fp1 at some point on the recreation ground.

Fp6 leaves the A1307 at TL 5293 4959, going S between houses no 31A & 33 to right, as a gravel path between fences. It reaches Bourn Bridge Road at TL 5292 4947, between Weavers Cottage and Meadowside.

The Paths – Great Abington
Fp1 joins Little Abington Fp5 on the rec, forming a pleasant route between Church Lane & High Street.

Fp2 starts from High Street, adjacent to a ‘bus shelter at TL 5315 4852, entering a rough grass field. Handgates lead in and out of a large garden, continuing beyond SW across a grass emerge on Pampisford Road at TL 5291 4819.

From Pampisford Road, opposite the S end of High Street at TL 5313 4813, Footpath 3 runs S through the former land settlement, at first along a narrow hard path, then along a concrete road. “Chalky Road” between houses and greenhouses. Fp6 & Fp7 turn off right in the private estate. Beyond the housing, the track continues uphill on a hard path, later between arable fields, to meet Fp4 at a T-junction, TL 5276 4610 on the hill crest. This path and fp 4 are the key to routes into Great Chesterford and Linton.

Fp4 starts at the junction with Great Chesterford Fp 1 (Essex) at TL 5236 4579, crosses the county boundary ditch by a culvert The path runs NNE with ditch & hedge to left, reaching a corner by the buildings of Abington Park Farm, TL 5246 4613. Here the path turns right (ESE) on a 3m wide concrete farm road. It soon passes Park Farm Cottages on left, and continues to the junction with Fp 3 turning off left at TL 5276 4610. Fp 4 continues ca. ESE on a grass track, later, passing a young wood on right. The path reaches a crossing ditch & culvert by Hildersham Wood at TL 5329 4587 to continue as Hildersham Fp 11.  A continuation gives access to paths to Linton & Great Chesterford.

Fps 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 were added to the Definitive Map in 1988, and are all paths in the former land settlement estate, very suitable for a dry-shod Winter walk.

Fp5 is Cutting Rd, leaving Pampisford Rd by the phone box, TL 5267 4821. Fp6 is North Rd, leaving the old A11 at TL 5174 4835, & Fp7 is South Rd, leaving the old A11 at TL 5157 4777.

Fp8 is a narrow footpath between trees, going S between Cutting Rd and South Rd , and Fp9 is a narrow path alongside garden fences from North Rd, TL 5194 4825 going S to South Rd at TL 5184 4759.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now usually appears every three months. A large number of you receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 20p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink.  Also available on website:

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
Cantab79 ©
Janet Moreton, 2014

CANTAB78 September 2014

CANTAB78 September 2014 published on

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


What’s in a Name?
The Bumpsteads
Steeple Bumpstead and neighbouring Helions Bumpstead, just over the Essex border from Cambs, take their name from reed production (Old English, “bune” and “stede”). The two settlements were distinguished by the Normans, as the village church with a steeple, and the manor belonging to Tihel de Helion. There are few reeds growing today – the parishes are largely arable.

Whilst this magazine has a Cambridge focus, I have started this issue with an item from “over the border” to encourage reports and comments of general interest more widely from elsewhere in East Anglia.

Janet Moreton

New Path in Shudy Camps
Shudy Camps, one of South Cambridgeshire’s more distant parishes, shares a border with the Essex Bumpsteads. We are pleased to receive path news from a local member.

With the kind agreement of the landowner, John Latham, there is now a new, waymarked, permissive path in Shudy Camps. Some 400m long, it starts from the junction of footpaths 4, 5 & 6 at TL 617 452, which is close to the kissing gate and sleeper bridge behind the meadows in Main Street. The new path runs alongside a drainage ditch to New Road at TL 621 451, opposite Footpath 8, which crosses Shudy Camps Park.

Roger Lemon

Wimpole struck by hail!
Yes, but not recently! We received a delightful book last Christmas called “The wrong kind of snow” by Anthony Woodward and Robert Penn (Hodder). It describes what the weather was doing somewhere in Britain for every day of the year, over the course of many centuries. So, for 9 August 1843, we have a report from the then rector of Wimpole, “ The lightning and hail were terrific, the former like sheets of fire filled the air and ran along the ground, the latter as large as pigeons eggs”. He goes on to describe the broken windows of the hall, standing corn threshed out by the hail, limbs torn off trees, sheep struck by lightning , and men washed off their feet.

Perhaps we didn’t have so bad a Summer this year after all!

New Sunday bus from Cambridge to Wimpole and Gamlingay
The National Trust and South Cambs District Council are jointly funding a bus service running 4 times a day on Sundays and Bank Holidays from Cambridge Station. It will operate for a year, and started on 27 July. For example, the 9 am bus from Station Road Cambridge arrives at Wimpole Hall at 9.35, and the 16.07 from Wimpole returns to Cambridge at 16.42. There is also a trailer to carry bicycles. [Ed: This service no longer operates.]

Fulbourn Fen
On 6 August, I took a walk in Fulbourn, and found the meadow in the Nature Reserve closed, and the gate padlocked. A notice said the closure had been implemented following irresponsible behaviour (unspecified). It is possible to reach other parts of the reserve by a round-about route.

Bourn bench
If you go down to the woods today in Bourn, you will find a substantial new bench on Footpath 28, in the angle of Bourn Wood, TL 316 557. This was donated to the parish by Ramblers’ Association Cambridge Group, using funds derived from guidebook sales.

Toft Seat
I have just learnt that the new seat funded by RA Cambridge Group is in position – it looks very good from the picture on e-mail. But where is it! There’s a challenge for readers!

And in Foxton
The Parish Council have accepted Cambridge RA Group’s offer of a bench, to be sited on the path from Caxton Lane to Fowlmere. The bench is to be located over the top of the hill near the gates to the plantations on the Fowlmere side.

Comberton’s new permissive path
I have only just visited Comberton’s useful permissive Diamond Jubilee path. It runs from the churchyard extension, over towards Byway 7 at TL 389 556. To locate the start, go to Comberton Church, and leave the rear of the churchyard, going through a gate onto Church Path. Very shortly, turn right through a new gate, into the burial ground extension. Walk to the back of the hedged enclosure, where there is a display board. There are actually 2 paths. The more direct route to the byway was found mown in August, but the second path, continuing around the edge of the field to reach the byway at TL 389 559, was rather overgrown.

Parish of the Month – Lakenheath
Explorer 228
Lakenheath was originally a hythe or landing place, overlooking the fens. The parish covers 11 000acres (4450ha)

About a third of the parish is occupied by the USAF base. This was originally Lakenheath Warren on Lord Iveagh’s Estate. During WWI it was a training area, and in WWII it was a decoy airfield for RAF Feltwell. It has been occupied by the USAF since 1948. Airfield viewing points for cars are signed off the A11. One of the nature reserves, Maidscross Common, looks down on the USAF airfield, which can be considered either interesting, or a noisy intrusion and eyesore depending on your viewpoint.

In medieval times, Lakenheath was a market town on the line of an ancient droving route skirting the fen edge. Barges sailed from its quays to the River Little Ouse and thence to The Wash. There were pits for chalk, clay, sand, flints and gravel, many of the old workings having been left to grow over, forming attractive nature sites.

The church, St Mary’s, is accounted one of the most beautiful in Suffolk. The headstones and the base of the tower are limestone, and the fabric of the church includes chalk, early Tudor redbrick, and flint. There is a Norman chancel arch, a very fine C13th font, and some striking C14th wall paintings. Some bench-ends are c1483, with carved figures and a wonderful carved roof. Some of the buildings on High Street date from the C17th.

The Present Day
The huge airbase and the residential quarters naturally dominate the parish. On the High Street, the requirements of the visiting American population influence the snackbars etc. Once out of the village, the countryside is dissected by waterways on the lower ground. The massive Cut-off Channel, running parallel to the High Street, was built to control flooding of the River Lark. It joins the River Lark at Barton Mills and allows flood water to flow into the River Ouse at Denver, some 3 miles short of Kings Lynn.

Walking in Lakenheath
Generally the footing is excellent on dry sandy soil. However several of the smaller rights of way shown on the map seem liable to serious overgrowth, and some do not make good connections. I have concentrated on available walking based on nature reserves and points of interest. Wings Road car park gives a good starting point/meeting point, and there are several cafes/food outlets in the village. Insect repellent is recommended on some of these walks in high Summer.

Maidscross Hill Local Nature Reserve and SSSI
This is a valuable and important remnant of Brecks heathland, covering ca 50ha. The Brecks were created by Mesolithic farmers who cut down the forests for agriculture 10, 000 years ago. They farmed areas until the soil was exhausted, and the heathland we see today developed on the residual poor soil, giving a unique variety of wild flowers and insects. In late Summer, look for vipers bugloss, centuary, harebells, wood sage, and great stands of rosebay willowherb. Earlier in the Summer, rarities such as Spanish catchfly are reported.

The common consists of grassland interspersed with scrub and bracken, and interesting old shallow gravel pits, all threaded with paths of short turf. Gravel extraction was practiced for over a century up to WWII, the reserve being opened in 2004.

There is a small carpark off Wings Road, at TL 727 828, and it is possible to include the Common in some circular walks. One can start from the larger, signed carpark in Lakenheath, TL 713 829 (WC), walking over a mile up the residential road to the upper carpark, where there are picnic tables just inside the common, then return to Lakenheath down a public path behind gardens. This route is boring and is not recommended. It is better to park at Maidcross, and take Sandy Drove (track almost opposite the carpark) to explore Pashford Poors Fen, as well as Maidcross Common. Pashford Poors is another Suffolk Wildlife Trust Reserve, a remnant of the vast wetland formerly on the Suffolk-Cambs border.

Lakenheath Fen, RSPB reserve
This is a large wetland reserve, consisting mainly of reedbeds, as well as grazing marsh and poplar woods. The carpark (fee) is not far from Lakenheath station, TL 723 865, off the B1112. (Sadly, few trains stop at this station.) The reserve boasts reed warblers, sedge warblers, reed buntings nesting in quantity; bitterns, storks, hobbies in season, marsh harriers, and waders. There is a visitor centre with WCs and a walk of ca 2 miles around the reserve. Alternatively it is possible to walk from Lakenheath along Stallode Bank, crossing the railway, and then circling the reserve on the bank of the Little Ouse River. Note it is possible to start the walk in Lakenheath, along a path reaching Highbridge Gravel Drove (road) at TL 702 837, crossing the road onto a raised grassy bank, to veer away from the road, NW along Stallode Bank. (7 miles one way). To extend the walk, it is possible to walk along a good bridleway east from Lakenheath station to Brandon. From Brandon, buses towards Mildenhall depart nearly hourly from opposite 18 Manor Road to Lakenheath Post Office, or, of course, the reverse. (Coach services bus 201, see ), or phone 01842 821509.

The walking route from Lakenheath via the RSPB reserve and Lakenheath Station, then into Brandon along the bridleway is about 11 miles.

Lakenheath Poors Fen & circular walk
Once the poor could cut peat for fuel and reeds for thatching and floor coverings. The last peat was cut in the 1920s, and the site (entrance at TL 702 827) is now an SSSI. The fenced reserve is marshy and tussocky and not easy to walk, but the surrounding droves are rich in wild flowers.

The following walk is recommended. Park at the carpark in Wings Road near the church, TL 713 828. Go through the churchyard, and visit the church if open.

On High Street, 100m past the church, cross the road opposite a Chinese restaurant, and take a signed path between fences, crossing Undley Bridge over the flood relief channel. Continue ahead over a junction of 4 tracks, and under a bank hiding a waste-paper works. Turn right on Furthest Drove (a stony track). Pass Lakenheath Poors Fen (information board, and derelict stile). Follow the attractive tracks of Broadcorner Drove and Millmarsh Drove (both permissive routes) to the road, Highbridge Gravel Drove. All along this route are very good flowers, especially by the drains, and at their best in High Summer, but continuing into September. Where a footpath leaves Highbridge Gravel Drove, TL 702 837, follow it, and turning up to the road in Lakenheath, to return to the church or carpark. Alternatively, follow the track back to Undley Bridge. (4 miles).

Shakers Road
This is an attractive old track, which finishes abruptly on the A11. The name of the track indicates it was once a sheep run, “Shakland” denoting a sheep pasture in East Anglia.

The Shakers’ Road from Mayday Farm , (TL 795 834, on the B1106 south of Brandon) is crossed by a broad track. If one continues south, one emerges on the A11, to the west of the tall memorial dominating Weather Heath, and commemorating the men of the Elvedon Estate who perished in WW1. A part of Shakers Road lies within Lakenheath parish. The path to the west at TL 776 799 goes across heathland to emerge on Brandon Road in Eriswell parish south of Lakenheath airfield.

“Alert 5” Alarm system
Many walkers now carry a mobile phone, and/or a GPS, both of which can be helpful in emergency. A friend was sent details of some new equipment, “Alert 5”, which can ask up to 5 people for assistance, giving details of one’s exact location. It is said to be simple to set up and use, by simply tapping the help button on the opening screen.   I have not seen or used this equipment, but further details may be obtained by visiting [ed. this link no longer works, 23 Mar 2015]

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now appears every three months. A large number of you 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. 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
Cantab78 ©
Janet Moreton, 2014

CANTAB77 June 2014

CANTAB77 June 2014 published on

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


All Creatures Great and Small
Compiled by Laurie Friday and Basil Harley, the “Checklist of The Flora and Fauna of Wicken Fen” was published by Harley Books in 2000. I have just bought it at the knockdown price of 50 pence in Wicken Fen Information Centre.

My interest lies with flowering plants, ferns etc, covered in 8 pages, and in fungi (2 pages), and bird and mammal life (6 pages). The rest of the 103 page volume covers bacteria, algae and protists; lichens, liverworts and mosses; spiders, harvestmen, mites and ticks and the like; copepods, ostracods, fishlice, crayfish, etc; mayflies, dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, earwigs, lice; bugs and leafhoppers; moths (lots and lots) and butterflies; and innumerable lists of different types of flies.

One thing my bargain buy has confirmed is that there are huge numbers and types of these lesser creatures (many of which I had never heard of). And they are not just in Wicken Fen, but of course various species are distributed all over the countryside.

On the whole, we co-exist with them reasonably well, putting up a fight against the odd mosquito, or being aware when we pass a farmer spraying his crop against the concerted attack of some maverick organism.

Janet Moreton

Could it happen now?
Last issue’s article on the 1993 protest walk in Lincolnshire received some interesting feedback.

From Kate Day, Cambs CC’s Project Manager for Local Infrastructure and Street Management came the comment:
” Brett Collier was married to my geography teacher so I knew him, although not well, so nice to see him mentioned in print again. After 27 years with Cambs CC, it is interesting to see how the circle turns – I still have the Ombudsman and committee report from 1988!”

Peter Dene is our correspondent from the Little Shelford Footpaths Group.
“Thank you for the latest inspiring look back. I’ve forwarded it to fellow members of the LS Footpaths Group (LSPC). Now in process of making final submission before imminent Public Inquiry on our Bradmere Lane/Garden Fields ROW saga in Little Shelford. It’s into its 11th year…

I was delighted to hear from Stan Knaffler, formerly of RA Lincs, now living in Cumbria.
Lovely to read your piece about the campaigns that were organised to open up the PROW system to walkers in the 80s & 90s and Metheringham in particular. Metheringham was unusual in that it had an over-abundance of PROW and consequently landowners simply ignored their obligations. However, the major landowner (of 16 000 acres) met us and we agreed a rationalisation programme which provided an excellent network of paths, including links to other parishes. He then ensured that this was legally actioned.

In the eighties, I invited my MP, one Edward Leigh, to accompany us through some local parishes where I lived (south of Market Rasen) to see the extent of the problem of obstructed PROW. He was about to introduce a Private Members’ Bill to provide freedom to roam based on the Swedish model. However, he was told that such a “freedom” would fail to obtain enough votes in the house and was persuaded to introduce what became the 1990 Act which dealt with legal widths of paths and procedures for diversions etc. This strengthened our ability to challenge both landowners and County Councils who were not doing sufficient to keep paths clear.

There are still a number of PROW problems today, but it was only by campaigning (the slogan was “Feet on Paths”) that Rural Councils (many of which had landowner-councillors) took notice and pressurised landowners to comply with the law.

“Parish” of the Month – Newnham in Cambridge
Note: a street-plan is recommended, as well as OS Explorer Sheet 209.

The neighbourhood of Cambridge W of the river has been known since the Middle Ages as Newnham. This is not a separate village, being enclosed within Cambridge City boundaries – but it still has something of the atmosphere of a village, and is the starting point for some good walks.

There are indications of settlement in early times. From Newnham Croft finds included bangles, bosses and rings, and a fine bronze broach. By Roman times, Cambridge was ringed by nearby settlements, including one at Newnham.

There was an order of Carmelite friars established near the mill for about 40 y in the latter half of the C13th. Medieval Newnham must have been a hamlet without a church, as the first church, a wooden structure, was not built until about 150y ago, to be replaced by the present St Marks, Barton Road, in 1900. Travelling from Newnham to Cambridge in early times might sometimes have been difficult, with the River Cam’s several channels crossing the trackway where Silver St is now.

Until the Parliamentary Inclosure of the western fields in 1802 – 4, there were only a few buildings, mostly around Newnham Mill and pond. The mill race is reputed to predate Domesday book. The outward appearance of the mill remained much the same when rebuilt after a fire in 1853, although now modified as a restaurant.

In the early C19th, there were a few cottages along Malting Lane. More development followed in the late C19th. The then 100y old Malting House on the corner of Malting Rd was rebuilt before WWI.

Following inclosure of the west fields, college gardens were made on the Queen’s Road – Grange Road area, and a few substantial houses were built.

Newnham developed into a residential suburb in the second half of the C19th. Newnham Croft was begun in 1850s and 1860s with the building of terraced houses in Derby Street, Hardwick Street and the W side of Grantchester Street. The roads remained unpaved until the early years of the C20th. Gradually houses were added in Merton Street through the 1880s. In 1882, University statutes first allowed fellows of colleges to be married, when Newnham became a desirable residential suburb. Building activity increased in the years up to WW1.

Open land disappeared as houses were built in Owlstone Road (1900 – 04) replacing private gardens known as Paradise. There had been a path across the field leading from Gravel Pit Lane (Grantchester Street) across to the bathing place and houses at the end of Grantchester Meadows. By 1903 Rev Symmonds was complaining that cyclists were making the path very muddy. Paradise House, built on a small island in the Cam near the end C18th, remains well hidden by trees and undergrowth- gates close the bridged access.

About 1820, a house was built on land now occupied by Owlstone Croft. In the 1920s-30s this was a girls’ school; later commandeered by the army in WWII; sold to Addenbrookes in 1946; and now being redeveloped again.

The alley that connects the closed end of Marlowe Road with the bend in Millington Road was made in this form in 1911 – 2, though there had been a narrow lane on the site of Marlow Rd. At one time a gate was locked once a year, but this had gone by 1939. Elsewhere, a break in the paled fence gives pedestrian and cycle access from the lane extension of Kings Rd into Millington Road.

Until the late C19th there were no buildings at the country end of Barton Road on the S side The land was developed around 1900. The OS map of 1886 shows 2 houses W of Grantchester Rd, Grays Fm & a cottage (now 78, 86 Barton Rd). The land opposite was marshy & needed a wind-pump to reduce the water level. Beyond was an orchard and open farmland, through which ran the Bin Brook. Development started in 1911 just beyond Grantchester Road., with the building of a house called Tollbar.

The Perse Almshouses, Newnham Road, originally donated 1625, were re-erected by William Sindall 1886. The adjacent filling station was once the Tally Ho pub. The Causewayside Flats, 1930s, occupy part of the previous Motts Dairy site.

A curious feature is a 2 acre wooded lake called Bolton’s Pit, lying SW of the Barton Rd – Grantchester Rd corner but totally invisible to the public gaze

Colleges and University Buildings:
On Sidgwick Ave, one may visit the Museum of Classical Archaeology displaying plaster casts of antique figures – mostly white – although it is a shock to discover the original statues were painted in bright colours!

Beyond stretch the University Arts Faculty buildings, housing the English Faculty library, the History Faculty, Oriental studies and Criminology and others, all post-1960s. Wander through here towards West Road and the University Library…

Newnham College, fronting Sidgwick Ave., opened 1875 was designed by Basil Champneys The Bronze entrance gates to Old Hall were presented in memory of Miss Clough, the 1st Principal The E part (the Pfeiffer building) was built in 1893, and connects by nearly 0.5km of corridors to Old Hall and Sedgwick. Kennedy Buildings were built 1905, Peile Hall 1910 Off Sidgwick Ave, note the modern Library extension (1961) and particularly the more recent Archives building, built to resemble an old chest.

Ridley Hall (1881) on Sidgwick Avenue houses graduates from any university, who intend to take Church of England Orders. Round the corner on Grange Rd is the Anglican Selwyn College, founded 1882. Red-brick Robinson College, a recent foundation, presents an almost military face to Grange Road.

By Silver St Bridge is Darwin College, its name commemorating the author of The Origin of Species. This small college of graduates, founded 1964, incorporates the riverside house, Newnham Grange, bought in 1885 by Charles son, George Darwin. George’s daughter, Gwen Raverat, wrote the Cambridge Classic, “Period Piece”, published in 1952.

Walk Newnham
1. Most readers will be familiar with the free parking available at Lammas Land at TL 447574. Be aware that it opens at 10 am. This carpark is ideally placed for leading visitors on walks north along the Backs, using the Fen Causeway crossing near the Ley’s School. In Spring, note purple toothwort parasitic on hazel growing on Crusoe Island.

2. The hard path from Grantchester Meadows Road leads, of course, to The Red Lion, The Green Man, and The Orchard, and other Grantchester attractions. Use the muddy riverside path to return, for preference. Did you know the riverside alternative only became a legal right of way by dedication in November 2001? (4 miles)

3. Discover the recently improved surface of the riverside path through Paradise, noting the alternative boardwalk through the willow thickets by Owlstone Croft.  In Spring, the nature reserve is known for its snowdrops, and later a good display of scented butterbur. (1 mile)

4. Use the Lammas Land parking, to walk your visitors to the Millpond, up Malting Lane, past Ridley and Newnham colleges, through the Sidgwick Site to West Road, in front of the University Library, along Burrell’s Walk, back along Grange Road, passing Selwyn College. Turn left at Barton Rd, Millington Rd, Marlowe Rd, Grantchester Meadows, and back through Paradise. (3 miles)

5. For a longer circuit, from (3) turn right on Barton Rd and use the newly signed (TL 427 574) permissive path on Barton Rd opposite Laundry Farm to connect with the end of Fulbrooke Road. Return to Lammas Land via Selwyn Road, Millington Road etc as above. (5 miles)

6. From the Grantchester Footpath, a permissive path at TL 439 569 leads past Pembroke College Sports Ground onto Grantchester Rd. Opposite, a further permissive path leads round the edges of arable fields to the outskirts of Grantchester at TL 427 560.

Newnham – John A Gray
Hanwell 1977, ISBN 0 9505992 0 4

A history of Cambridge – Bruce Galloway, Phillimore,1983,
ISBN 0 85033 450 0

Cambridgeshire – Norman Scarfe
Shell, 1983, ISBN 0 571 13250 2

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now appears every three 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.


Cantab 77 © Janet Moreton, 2014.

CANTAB76 March 2014

CANTAB76 March 2014 published on

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


Could this happen now?

On 12 July 1993, the Lowland Counties Action Day was held at Metheringham, Lincs. Brett Collier, the then RA Lincolnshire Area President, spoke of the parish having arguably the worst paths in the worst county for public rights of way. Standing in the station yard, Stan Knaffler, the Ramblers’ Area Footpath Secretary, was able to point out a problem just over the fence!

The invited speaker, Cath MacKay of Sheffield Group spoke compellingly of the continuing problems of lack of reinstatement and crop obstruction on field paths. She stressed the need for local authorities to use the 1990 Rights of Way Act effectively; for landowners and farmers to recognise their responsibilities under the law; and for ramblers to continue to use difficult paths and to report every problem encountered to the local authority.

We had a press photographer standing by to rush the pictures to the local paper for a major article, and it was difficult to decide whether the unobtrusive police presence was to sort out traffic problems, prevent a riot, or to protect us from incensed landowners. In fact, none of these things seemed likely, as we crossed a couple of unbridged ditches, climbed some obstructing barbed wire fences, and walked in single field across unreinstated paths in fields either ploughed, or under sugarbeet or cereal. We were a sober lot, standing in the sun listening to the history of each sad case of obstruction, before walking carefully and quietly through the garden of a property illegally built across the line of a path, under the anguished eye of the householder, and the detatched gaze of a couple of policemen.

Roger and I were present on behalf of RA Cambridge Group, and I base the above on a report we made for our committee. We had not enjoyed going 100 miles to climb barbed wire fences, and walk through a private garden, but we felt this needed to be done, in the public eye, as a statement of the serious intent of East Anglian ramblers to see our rights upheld. In general, I have always agreed that the pen is mightier than the sword. The same year, there were a couple of walks on the local Cambridge programme, specifically designed to show members problem paths. These walks were not well attended – our members clearly did not want a route that was deliberately difficult, although they were ready enough to report problems to be passed to the County Council.

I suspect that an unwillingness to demonstrate would still be the case today, and, more important, it would be increasingly difficult (though not impossible) to find pockets of bad, obstructed or neglected paths. But especially in a climate of County Council cutbacks, we need to be vigilant, and, even if we don’t line up with placards and demonstrate, we need to keep the reports rolling in.

Your comments are invited.
Janet Moreton

The effect on the local landscape of Roman and Medieval Roads
In the April 2013 issue, we looked at the history of Wimpole parish, mostly in terms of site occupation from medieval times to the present day. Since then, the Ramblers’ Association has been consulted by the National Trust regarding a fairly large scale path rationalisation scheme, involving paths across Trust–owned pasture and arable land surrounding the core parkland.

RA Cambridge Group has commented on the proposals, and we await a further consultation. This has prompted me to look at the early history of roads and paths around Wimpole, and elsewhere, and to consider what factors from long ago have caused a road or path to develop or remain in the position we find it today.  An inspection of parish boundaries on the OS Explorer 209 will show that Ermine Street forms a boundary of several parishes. So, going N from Royston, to the W of Ermine Street, we have Bassingbourn, Shingay cum Wendy, Arrington & Longstowe, all with a boundary on the road. Similarly, to the E are in turn, Whaddon, Wimpole & Bourn.

With the exception of Wimpole, whose settlement pattern was destroyed by incoming landowners, the layout of most of the parishes and villages hereabouts were determined by at least the medieval period, and often much earlier. The continuing influence of Roman roads through the medieval period and later is manifest.  By medieval times, there remained in England at least 10 000 miles of Roman roads, built mostly by 150AD, but which had not been well maintained over the intervening 600 years. Many of these roads continued in use, providing a basic network. But elsewhere, many of the new medieval towns e.g. Oxford, were not on Roman Roads and new roads were needed to serve these and many new villages.

These new medieval roads were not a thin strip of land with definite boundaries, but rather a right of way, an “easement” with both legal and customary status. If the route was heavily used it became a physical track, but with provisos. If the road became obstructed, or founderous in wet weather, then the traveller had the right to diverge from it, even if this involved trampling crops. This was enshrined in the Statute of Winchester in 1285. Where the road climbed a steep hill or bank, multiple tracks would develop, the traveller taking the most convenient strand available at the time of use. Users of the modern footpath and bridleway network are often restrained from achieving such manoeuvres by restricting boundaries!

Most surviving sections of medieval road come into this “multiple track” category, where roads left cultivated land and tracks have not been ploughed out or otherwise destroyed.

A few new roads were built in the medieval period. Several royal statutes made requirements regarding road widths, or clearance to be made on both sides, for fear of highwaymen. The three causeways to Ely across fenland may constitute the largest medieval road-building works. The four great highways: Watling Street; Ermine Street; Fosse Way; and The Icknield Way were always regarded as being under the king’s special protection, which supports the idea that Roman roads remained in comprehensive use in the medieval period.

Janet Moreton

See also :Medieval Roads and Tracks by Paul Hindle (Shire, 2002).

On the Web…
If you have not looked recently, please try the Cambridge Ramblers website at

I re-organised it last Autumn and am hoping it will be useful for ramblers to look up forthcoming Walks
and items of local news, events and other information.

Back copies of CANTAB Rambler are now on the website, together with an index to all issues, including
“Parish of the Month” – see

Paul Cutmore

Arrington calling…
This parish is sorely missing the path worker who cared for their paths for many years, and who has now retired. No one else has come forward to fill the voluntary position, and I have been asked to advertise the vacancy.

It would be hoped that the successful applicant would be able to do some “hands on” work (e.g. cutting back overgrowth around stiles) as well as liaising over more serious problems with the County Council.

If interested, please contact

The Drainage of Fens in The Wilbrahams, Fulbourn and Teversham
The very wet winter, and flooding of low lying land and footpaths in the Cambridge area, has prompted me to read again a very scholarly study by T D Hawkins, published by the author in1990, ISBN 0-9516533-DX.

Dr Hawkins carried out a field survey of local watercourses following two years of heavy rainfall, in the winter of 1987/8. With all ditches full of water the direction of flow was clear. Subsequent studies of the history of the drainage of the area, gave an insight into the very complex drainage system in these parishes. In other fen-edge parishes in Cambridgeshire, such as Rampton, Cottenham, Willingham, the watercourses have similar complex histories, which repay study, especially when (or before) problems threaten. This subject is of more than academic interest to the walker. Many of our rights of way run along the banks of ditches and drains. In low-lying areas, those paths that are not elevated may well be regularly unusable for a few weeks every winter, and in a wet winter, like the one just past, may be out of bounds for months.

The ancient lines of watercourses in the Fulbourn fens before drainage are marked by peat-filled channels in the gravels. Land levels overlying the peat before artificial drainage were higher than at present, and especially before the extensive works of the C18th and C19th. Improved drainage leads to shrinkage of the peat from dehydration, oxidation, and wind erosion.

Early changes to watercourses were promoted by watermills, some of which are mentioned in the Domesday survey. Streams were diverted to serve the mills which significantly altered the local drainage, creating 3 different water levels.

From medieval times until the middle of the C17th, there were growing pressures to reclaim fen for farmland. Manipulation of water levels by dams, sluices and drainage, and piecemeal reclamation of fen edges already occurred. In absence of co-ordinated effort, drainage in one place led to problems elsewhere, leading to conflict and the need for arbitration. In 1367, for example, “It was found by jurors that the Prior of Ely did obstruct the course of the water at Wilburgeham Magna …such as the Commons belonging in the town of Fulbourne were overflowed to the damage of the whole country”.

There is some documentation of changes to the courses of the Great Wilbraham River, the Little Wilbraham River and Black Ditch. Parliamentary Inclosure occurred in these parishes between 1797 and 1810, at which time capital investment in drainage was found to be financially rewarding, and a drainage system was devised by the Parliamentary Commissioners.

For example, in Little Wilbraham, 4 public drains were constructed along the newly created Short and Long Droves. A tunnel (made of a hollowed tree) was made under the bed of the embanked Wilbraham River, to take water from a drainage ditch to a new drain running to the west of Quy Water south of the Turnpike. New Cut was dug, and a new public drain was made to by-pass Hawk Millrace.

Fulbourn parish had 13 miles (1070 chains) of new public drains, following Inclosure in 1808, and Teversham had 6 miles of new public drains. Great Wilbraham had 3 miles of new public drains, also tunnels and bridges.

Further improvements in the drainage were made piecemeal until the 1920s, and may be traced by observation on large scale Ordnance Survey maps, especially those published after 1896. Cambridge Water Co. built a pumping station in 1891 to extract water from a bore adjacent to Poor’s Well, Fulbourn. (A display board on Cow Lane Fulbourn, gives the history of the site, and the adjacent pumping station is now called Telford House, the premises of consulting engineers). The pumping station was progressively upgraded and finally closed in 1988, but meanwhile in 1921, a new pumping station had opened adjacent to Fleam Dyke, in the same water catchment area. The lowering of the water-table due to extraction greatly reduced the flow of water from the springs feeding Great and Little Wilbraham rivers.

From the end of the C19th onwards, the drainage system had begun to deteriorate, due to inadequate maintenance, and the long-term effects of WWI. In 1931, the Drainage Committee of the Rural District Council responded to complaints of all-year flooding due to the poor state of repair of the river banks, over the lower courses of the Great & Little Wilbraham rivers. In spite of the setting up of an Internal Drainage Board, and site works, no very effective improvements were made until 1960s, when a more co-ordinated programme was gradually introduced.

Folded into my copy of Dr Hawkin’s book is a pamphlet, “Managing Water Resources” produced by the Anglian Region of the National Rivers Authority (NRA), following the Water Act of 1989.  The NRA has since been superseded by the Environment Agency (EA) whose continuing efforts, hopefully, will be fuelled by the Government’s recent pledge for further funds to defeat flooding.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now is scheduled approximately every three 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


Cantab 76 © Janet Moreton, 2014.