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** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **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

CANTAB59 November 2010

CANTAB59 November 2010 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Have you ever booked a holiday, well in advance, with a walking company, only to learn, a few days before you were due to make the final payment, that the trip had been cancelled?  Doubtless the company offered alternative venues, but no “second choice” ever seems so desirable. Looking through the brochures, it is my view that too many departure dates (sometimes 8 or 10, but frequently more than 4) are offered for each location.  It is almost as though the company does not expect to fill all these dates, and expects to shuffle customers around. But by that time, the hapless traveller has booked dental appointments and house painting around the calendar.

One solution is to arrange one’s own walking holidays, which we do invariably  in the UK. Only once in 40 years has a hotel or guest house let us down (and that due to illness, when an alternative was promptly arranged).  We have also been to France, Austria, Germany, etc under our own steam, but only because one of us has school French and a moderate amount of German, and it is known that excellent walking Germanic maps are obtainable. Elsewhere, I would be more cautious.

Spanish walking maps (particularly the military series) seem unreliable, and one would hesitate to wander in the hills without a word of the language. Away from the “Grands Randonnées” the French countryside’s signposting and waymarking seems distinctly ideosyncratic in places.

Have others been more venturesome, setting out into the wilds without a word of the language, and with maps which hardly measure up to our immaculate Ordnance Survey?

Janet Moreton

Therfield Heath in Royston
If you have visited Royston recently, you will have observed that the tennis courts on The Heath are being considerably enlarged. It seems the Conservators of Therfield Heath, on behalf of Royston Tennis Club, sought consent for the changes under The Commons Act 2006, section 38.

The Open Spaces Society objected because the proposals included floodlighting, and would “suburbanise the area and destroy the peace and tranquility of the common”, and conflicted with the spirit and letter of the award of 1912 by which the common is regulated.  This award allowed for the playing of games, but presumably less formal than the enclosures needed for tennis.  There is a right for public access over the whole of The Heath, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

The inspector agreed that the works interfered with public access, but noted that the new courts replaced some that had been there 40 years.  She considered “there will be some effect on the public interest in relation to visual intrusion” but concluded that consent should be given.

(Reported in “Open Space”,
Autumn 2010, Vol.29, No.9 pp13-14)

Essex RA Area Secretary speaks on The Olympics in Greater London
Len Banister, the Ramblers Essex Area Hon. Sec., author of guides on walking routes, and member of The Ramblers Greater London Forum, gave a BBC interview last month, in a contribution to BBC London’s “2012 Lives” project.  Len was one of a number of people relating how their lives are being affected by the Olympic developments.

Len lives in Waltham Forest, and walks regularly around areas being redeveloped for the 2012 games.  At first he was very concerned when paths around the site began to be shut, but he does appreciate that safety is important while works are carried out.   The Olympic park will add some 15km of walking routes, including paths beside 5km of restored rivers that have been hidden for many years. Some 250 benches and 3300 seats will ensure that users will never be more than 50m from a seat in the park.  Len hoped that the result will not look too “clinical”. “We could lose some of the character of the footpaths we’ve had in the past, so I would ask planners to be very careful not to over-sanitize our walking areas in the future”.

Pub News

The Old Ferry Boat Inn, Holywell
Some readers may have seen the report in the Cambridge Evening News of 14 Oct. that Greene King, owners of The Old Ferry Boat Inn, Holywell were ordered to pay £10 000 in fines & costs by Huntingdon magistrates.  A council inspector had found dirty conditions in the kitchens and rubbish in the yard, after a customer complaint. Since the conviction, the manager had been disciplined, and £30 000 was spent on improving the kitchen.

The Red Cow, Chrishall
This Essex pub, on the route of The Icknield Way Path, is serving coffee & Danish pastries every Friday morning from 9 am – just the job for a morning break!

Parish of the Month – Arrington
OS Explorer Sheets 208, 209

Historical Notes
Arrington parish covers 550 ha, its clay soils at 25m above sea level in the south, rising to a chalk escarpment at 80m in the north, bounded by the R Rhee to the south and Ermine St (“The Old North Road”, A1198) to the east.

The land has been occupied for a long time. Some prehistoric worked flints were found near the church. In the north of the parish, a Roman burial was unearthed when a trench was dug for a water-pipe near Ermine Street. A baby with hydrocephalus was exhumed, wrapped in the remains of a pink & blue woollen shawl in a lead-lined coffin, containing replica toys and animals. One’s sympathies for the mother go back nearly 2000y.  Just south in Wimpole there was a Roman posting station for travellers, and it is thought that this elaborate burial was non-indigenous.

The village grew along the spring line by the church at the base of the escarpment, with hollow-ways and irregular earthworks indicating the original site. In Domesday the parish  is called Aerningtun, meaning  “the farm of Earninga’s people” (c.f. Ermine Street).  The village shifted later closer Ermine Street, when the Roman Rd once again became important after 1200.  The parish church dates from the C13 – 14th.

The parish was enclosed in the C13th and again ca. 1680 when the Crichleys enclosed the village into the Wimpole Estate in which it remained until the latter was broken up between 1891 and 1934.

Arrington bridge is the crossing place of Ermine Street and the R Rhee, well south of the village at TL 334 485. While the modern bridge was under construction, a gravel ford was revealed, in which were found Roman pottery, a knife, a spear, ox-goad and Roman horse-shoes.  The ford was the moot or meeting place of the Armingford Hundred in Saxon & Medieval times, although the first mention of a bridge is ca. 1285.  In 1663, the road from Ware to Huntingdon was the first in Britain to be made a turnpike and a new bridge was built at Arrington.  The C18th milestones record distances to London, Royston & Caxton.

The Domesday population was only 17, but there were 41 households by 1279.  There were only 20 families in the late c17th, and only 190 in the census of 1801. By 1996 the parish housed 370 people.

This has always been an agricultural parish, with passing trade along Ermine Street.  In the C18th, the Hardwicke Arms had a reputation as one of the best inns on Ermine Street!  Go and test its reputation after a good walk!

The path network
There are only 7 public paths. Footpaths 1, 4 and 6 all cross the same pasture field between Ermine Street & Church Lane, a continuation of Fp4 carrying the Clopton Way Path to join Croydon Fp7.  Fp3 is part of the Wimpole drive and, like Fp 2, carries part of the Harcamlow Way.  Fp2 leaves Ermine Street to the E just S of Wimpole Park. Bp5 leaves Ermine Street to the W to join up with a good network of paths in Croydon and Hatley.  And the unfortunate Footpath 7 is a dead-end, which your map will show ends two fields short of Croydon 23.

In more detail…
The paths in the pasture field

Fp1 leaves the Old North Road, A1198 between Wrags Farm and house no 57 (TL 327506), following a short track to a kissing gate, then SSW on a worn track in rough pasture to Church End, where it emerges along a fenced concrete footway between houses 12 & 14 (TL 326505), opposite the start of Fp4..

Fp4 signed “Clopton Way” leaves the closed end of Church End, at TL 326505 up 4 steps to a kissing-gate that leads W across open pasture to a kissing-gate in the hedge at TL 324505.  Beyond, the well-used path continues as a field-edge  with a tall hedge to right, passing the signed turn-off of Fp7 on the right at TL 322504. Behind the hedge are the buildings of a farm complex curiously like a fortress!  The path continues on a good track beside a ditch, ignoring turnings to the farm entrance, and a track at TL 316501 marked “private – no right of way”. The path crosses a wooden bridge to continue along the Clopton Way as Croydon fp 7.

Fp6 leaves Fp4 at TL 324505 to run NNE  down the pasture field to a stream, then through a metal kissing gate at TL 325506, and over a wet hollow on duck-boarding The route continues ENE as a narrow worn track through rough pasture, with hedge, fence & ditch to left, to join Fp 1 at TL 327506, by a wooden kissing-gate, near the rear of houses on the A1198.

Part of The Harcamlow Way
This LDP comes along the Wimpole Drive from the Hall as Wimpole Fp 5, along the tarmac driveway, becoming Arrington Fp 3, and emerging through the narrowest of the ornate gates onto Ermine Street.

Here, Harcamlow Way walkers turn left along the footway, passing the Hardwicke Arms (or not!), and where the hedge ends, joining Fp 2.
Fp2 goes through a signed gap in the roadside hedge at TL 329500, It goes ESE across an arable field. At TL 330499, the path reaches a hedge by a waymark post, passes through a gap and over a ditch on a culvert bridge to turn right and continue as Wimpole Fp 6

The only bridleway
Bp5 leaves the A1198 at TL 322522, signed “Public Bridleway Hatley 2½”.The path goes  W on 2m wide grass track with woodland edge to right .  When the wood ends the track continues with a ditch to left, eventually rounding a field corner to TL 309517, to a wooden bridge and the continuing Croydon Bp3. However, the true line of the RoW cuts the corner, sometimes indicated by waymarks and cross-field reinstatement.

The unfortunate dead-end
Fp7 leaves Fp 4 at TL 322504, a wooden sign,”Public Footpath Dead End ¾”.  This well-waymarked interesting path starts through a damp copse on duck boarding.  It emerges into a mown grass paddock, passes a new pond on left and continues NW along the field margin, with tall hedge to right then along a field edge up a hilly field for 700m, with open arable to left, & ditch & hedge to right.  In the top corner, TL 317510, a waymark post signals a left turn, to follow the field-edge SW for 205m, with a belt of trees to right.  The field-edge ahead at TL 315508 is signed “Private keep out” and a waymark post indicates that the path now turns right over a hidden culvert  to run for 25m through the strip of woodland, then over a ditch by a waymarked, timber plank bridge  The RoW then proceeds NW along a field edge with hedge to right, for 35m to another waymark on the first of a line of trees.  After 65m the line of trees ends and the path runs along the division between two fields, as a grass baulk.  After 205m, a 1.5m high notice signals “End of footpath – no public right of way“.  Ahead is a ploughed field, and two unbridged ditches interrupt  the obvious continuation towards the dead-end Croydon Fp 23;  to right a good grass track runs NE towards the buildings of Low Barn Farm & Mill Lane.

Efforts continue to seek a solution to this longstanding problem

Some Possible Walks from Arrington
Firstly, it is not easy to park in Arrington itself, and the carpark at Wimpole is suggested. Any walks therefore start off down the Wimpole driveway, emerging through the gates onto Ermine Street.

(a) A short circuit through the pastures.
From Wimpole gates, cross the road, and go up the minor road opposite. Just behind the ‘bus shelter, is a charming public garden, with a few seats.Continue along the road to visit the church, & village sign, which stand on a mound at the entrance to Church Lane. Go up Church Lane, and turn left up some steps onto fp 4 in the pasture. Continue ahead to leave the pasture by a kissing gate, and go SSW along the Clopton Way, still part of Fp4. Turn off on the dead-end Fp7.  The end of the path has a small grassy flat area where one could picnic. Return on Fp7, and back to the pasture, which cross on Fp6, emerging on Ermine Street. Pass some attractive almshouses in returning to Wimpole gates.   (4 miles inc.Wimpole Drive both ways)

(b)Kingston Pastures Farm, and Manor Farm, Croydon
Park in Wimpole, leave the drive ENE up the minor road, turning left to pass Kingston Pastures Farm, (or use The Belts path to reach the same point).  Follow the minor road W to Ermine Street at Round House. Turn S on the verge of Ermine Street & cross to join Arrington Bp 5. Follow its continuation (Croydon Bp3) then turn SSE at TL 303513 to join the concrete track, Croydon Bp6 to Manor Farm.  Beyond the farm buildings follow well-waymarked Croydon Fp7, then Arrington Fp 4 back to the pasture field. Emerge in Church Lane, then immediately turn left into the passage, back into the pasture to use Fp1 back to Ermine Street & Wimpole Gates. (8 miles)

(c) A Short circuit S of Wimpole Park.
Leave Wimpole gates, and turn left down Ermine Street. Beyond the last house on the left, turn off on Fp 2 (which soon becomes Wimpole Fp 6).  This is initially a cross-field path, and some people, finding it well-nigh impassable in Winter, use the field edge is a non-legal escape route. After 2 fields, cross into Wimpole Avenue, and join the estate paths, one of which leads straight back (due N) to the House. (2.5miles)

Alternatively go S on the Avenue to cross the A603 near the “Lazy Dayz” transport café. Continue S then SE on paths to Whaddon, from whence a substantial circuit can be made back to Wimpole via Orwell. (ca. 10 miles)

(d)The Clopton Way
The Wimpole Drive and Arrington Fp4 form the start of the 12 mile long Clopton Way, which passes through Croydon, the deserted village of Clopton, Tadlow, and ends at a carpark at Gamlingay Cinques.  (Marked on OS sheets, leaflet ex Cambs CC)

(e)The Harcamlow Way
Arrington Fps 3 & 2 form a tiny part of the Harcamlow Way, which is a 140 mile long figure-of-eight footpath, centred on Newport, and with extreme points at Cambridge and Harlow. The route was devised 20 years ago. (Marked on OS sheets, and the guidebook may still be available via Essex CC)

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab appears approximately 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 an A5 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


Price 20 pence where sold Cantab 59 © Janet Moreton, 2010