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CANTAB47 August 2008

CANTAB47 August 2008 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


No, Cantab is not dead, only having a rather prolonged Summer break!  Meanwhile, material has been building up in the input folder, and there has been the occasional enquiry…So, here is the usual mix of information and comment hopefully of interest to ramblers in Cambridge and around East Anglia.
Janet Moreton

Have you a network of local paths?
As local Footpath Secretaries within the Ramblers’ Association for parishes in South Cambridgeshire, various complaints and enquiries are received.  One type comes from  walkers living in a village, who have problems with their local network. Most often, the problem relates to the condition of the paths – perhaps overgrown, muddy, or even obstructed.  But there are some villages in Cambridgeshire where it is quite difficult to make a local circuit using off-road routes, as the path network is too fragmented, or just plainly inadequate.

Until a few years ago, Landbeach was one such parish, with only the byway, a Roman Road, Akeman Street (Mere Way) running into Milton, and a few fragments of paths elsewhere. Then Cambridgeshire County Council planted a largish area of County Farms Estate with new forestry, and followed this up with a permissive path route off the Roman Road. The result is a very attractive 5 mile circuit, used by both local walkers, and by other ramblers who have spotted the discreet waymarks (TL 466639, TL 472652).

However, Little Shelford, a parish with a much larger population, has been considerably less fortunate.  Someone seeking a circular ramble would either have to walk quite a lot of road, or drive somewhere else. Below is a history of the situation, succinctly summarised by a local resident.

Countryside walks in Little Shelford
by Peter Dean
Do you like to take walks in the countryside?  Do you think it is important that there should be paths in and around villages where you might be able to do this?   The government thinks so:  its Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW 2000) was intended in substantial part to promote this.  It called on County Councils and other local authorities to identify the paths within their areas and register those not already on their Definitive Map.   Parish Councils, as they had been in the past in response to such calls in the ‘50s and ‘70s, had the duty of carrying out the work of identifying and registering (making claims for addition to the Definitive Map) of any such paths in their local area not thus included.

Little Shelford has no countryside (i.e. circular) walks.  In this respect it is the poorest village in South Cambridgeshire.  The average number in South Cambs villages is 13.   In the experience of many people who walked them, Little Shelford, up to about 11 years ago now, used to have at least two:

Path 1:  Garden Fields to Bradmere Lane (Claypits Lane) along the Parish Ditch
Path 2:  Cow Walk to Wale Recreation Ground to join  the Riverside Walk.
These were closed off with barbed wire in 1997.

Little Shelford Footpaths Group, a sub-committee of the Parish Council which had been alerted by the 2000 Act and by queries from parishioners, began collecting data from witnesses able & willing to testify that they had walked the footpaths in question over a period of years. These paths had not been registered following the previous calls.

When collected, this evidence was submitted to Cambs.C.C. The County Definitive Map Officer  recommended approval of the Path 1 application, but approval of only a part (Cow Walk itself) of the Path 2.  The Assistant Director Environment did not accept these recommendations and ordered a newly-appointed Map Officer to undertake a new review of the evidence and provide a report on each of the paths, not a single report covering both paths.  Little Shelford Parish Council (LSPC) meanwhile collected and submitted further signed user-witness statements.

The new Map Officer’s recommendation in his two reports, for which not many witnesses were interviewed, was that neither path application should be approved.  Insufficient evidence was given as reason.  No explanation was offered about the reversal of the previous officer’s recommendations, despite the submission of additional user-witness statements.  His recommendations were accepted by his senior officer and the applications refused.

As the only step left at this point to LSPC, an appeal was made directly to the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs.  This was examined by an inspector who did not visit the village nor consult LSPC.  His report concurred with the County Council finding that an order could not be made on grounds of insufficiency of evidence.  DEFRA accepted his findings and notified LSPC to that effect in December 2006.

Despite these rebuffs LSPC has decided to continue to work for the recognition of these paths.  Advice has been sought from and given by the Ramblers Association and the Open Spaces Society, two organisations specialising in responsible access to the countryside, the latter of which LSPC is now a subscribing member and which has expressed strong support for the application after reviewing all relevant documents.

(Extracted with permission from Little Shelford Parish newsletter)

On 23 September, Little Shelford Parish Council meets to discuss this situation. We wish them success.

A welcome notice
In May, I had been walking along the towpath of the Grand Union Canal in Northants.  I turned off to walk back to Welford along the Jurassic Way, when I came across this notice posted at each end of a cross-field path (OS Explorer 223, SP 633 795 – for those who like references): “POLITE NOTICE.  Apologies for any inconvenience caused during our repairing of the footpath, we hope to have it rolled and seeded soonest, weather permitting. Thank you.” (sic)
Bernard Hawes

Bernard wonders whether any readers have come across similar notices ever.  This is the first he has seen in many years of walking, and it makes a welcome change from barbed wire stiles and 6 inch wide token restorations.

Parish of the Month – Boxworth
See: Explorer 225.
The parish of Boxworth occupies more than 1000 ha (2600 acres) of mostly heavy clay land, located between Conington to the north, Elsworth to the west, Lolworth to the east, and Knapwell and Childerley to the south.  All these parishes except Elsworth have small populations, and remain very rural, in spite of their being sandwiched between the A14 and the A428, and of their close proximity to Bar Hill and Cambourne, and provide a good tract of pleasant walking on generally reasonable paths.

Historical Notes
I am indebted to a leaflet on Boxworth, by Christopher Parish, 1990, available from the parish church. Both he, and Alison Taylor in “Archaeology of Cambridgeshire”, Vol.1 (Publ. Cambs CC, 1997), agree that there is little trace of early settlement, apart from the discovery of a Roman gold coin, featuring Vespasian of the first century AD.

Landowners of Boxworth (including Ramsey Abbey) are ennumerated in the Doomsday Book. Overhall Grove was the site of an important medieval manor, held until the C14th by the “de Bokesworth” family.  The site was decayed by the C17th, but badgers still dig out medieval pottery in the nature reserve.

Huntingfields Manor  was owned by the Knevitt family until 1516, when it was sold to Thomas Hutton, and the moat existed until 1960 near the south end of Footpath 3, when it was filled in. In the C17th the manor house was moved to its present site (adjacent to bridleway 2), the property subsequently undergoing C18th remodelling.

The third Boxworth Manor was Segrave, held by the monks of Tilty Abbey, and located off Battlegate Road, opposite the start of Footpath 5. The Explorer sheet 225 shows “medieval earthworks” in Grange Wood, and the OS First Series 1:25 000 indicates a moat, but, Christopher Parish assures us that “badgers and several setts are the only occupants nowadays”.

The church of St Peter has a C12th nave;  the south aisle is C14th; and the vestry & chancel C17th .  Extensive restoration was carried out in 1868.  The old school, on High Street, was opened in 1839.

The population at Doomsday was 33. By 1801, the village held 220 souls; 350 in 1871; and back to 200 in 1951. Today, the village remains small.

Enclosure of the open fields under an Act of 1837 was completed by 1843. Some 129 acres went to the rector, and the remainder to the Thornhill Family, all common rights having been extinguished.  Dating from before enclosure, School Lane and Manor Lane, part of High Street to the north of Manor Lane, and the old road to Lolworth through Alice Grove are old hollow ways.  Old foundations of houses can been seen in fields either side of Manor Lane. The NW half of Farm Close shows ridge & furrow marks, which may also be seen at the NE end of the old cricket field.

New Barn Drift is “recent”, not being present on the 1650 map, nor the 1836 OS sheet. An older access to the church ran parallel to Church Lane, and N through the site of the sewage pumping station and wood.

In 1650, High Street opposite Church Farm did not exist., nor did the road to the A14. The road to Elsworth is “recent” (i.e. not on the 1650 map), cutting through the boundary hedge of Lapp Close.  The old route to Elsworth is thought to have gone S along the present Footpath 5 to Overhall.  An alternative way to Elsworth from Main Street went from near West Close to the Short Hedges Road.  A road existed on the SW side of Grape Vine Cottages leading round Farm Close , and NW of rectory land  to Short Hedges.  Part of this road behind Grape Vine is still visible.  Wander down the village, and see if you can spot some of these remnants.

An anomaly may be seen on the Explorer map. Lolworth Footpath 3 fails to pass beyond the parish boundary, having mysteriously vanished in Boxworth, although having apparently survived Enclosure.  The continuing route in Boxworth on old maps meets High Street, at or near a point where there is a large, handsome brick-built barn, perhaps some.100 years old, and  almost certainly present in 1952, when the  Definitive Map for Cambridgeshire was drawn up.

The present path network
Boxworth still has a good network of some 14 paths, all generally in fair order, with signposts indicating the start of paths, and gates or reasonable stiles.

Bridleway 1 leaves High Street at TL 349646, starts NW up a hard roadway, and continues as an earth track between arable fields, joining Conington bp 4, and continuing to the outskirts of Conington village.

Bridleway 2 has a sign at TL 349646 pointing across High Street to Manor Lane, again starting as a hard “no through road”.  It  passes the Manor House, crosses an attractive fenced causeway between lakes and trees, and continues as a field-edge path. Beyond a culvert bridge, it continues into Lolworth parish on Lolworth bp 1.

Footpath 3 is a pleasant inner-village path, turning off Manor Lane at TL 352645, crossing a pasture field, and passing through a small wood, before emerging  on High Street at TL 349643.  Dog owners should note the pasture occasionally contains cows.

Similarly, Footpath 4 runs across a field, sometimes with cattle, leaving High Street at TL 346642, and reaching School Lane at a kissing gate, TL 348644, opposite the rear entrance to the churchyard.

Footpath 5 is the through route to Knapwell, leaving Battlegate Road (not far from the smart “Golden Ball” Inn) at TL 345639, running generally SW to emerge on Knapwell fp 1, near the Overhall Grove nature reserve.  Footpath 6 is the start of the path actually in the nature reserve, continuing as a permissive route (part of Boxworth parish, although close to Knapwell village).

Footpath 7 is a gravel / grass track  starting E at TL348 627 along Battle Gate Road to join the network of paths in Childerley hamlet.

Byway 8, Thorofare Lane, joins Battlegate Road at TL 345623 with the road to the South of Knapwell. From the same point, the track running east towards Childerley is designated Footpath 10.

Footpath 9 is a short path branching off Thorofare Lane at TL 335624, going N towards Overhall Grove reserve, while Footpath 11 turns south along grassy field edges, then SE towards Birds Pastures Farm. Note a slightly awkward stile at TL 343 613, between 2 fields.

Bridleways 12, 13, 14 form a triangle south of Battle Gate near Birds Pastures Farm, giving access to the network of Childerley paths to the east.  Bridleway 12 joins Knapwell byway 7 running SW to the old A428. The presence of a road-bridge here over the new dual carriageway A428, gives useful access to Cambourne. Bridleway 13 follows the hard farm road.  Bridleway 14 goes across an arable field between TL 344 616, opposite a ruined house, to a gate at a field corner, TL 347 614, and in recent years has usually been reinstated.

Walking Routes
From the above notes on the path network, it is clear that it is possible to make a variety of circuits, involving Boxworth, Conington, Elsworth, Knapwell, Childerley, Lolworth, and Cambourne. Roughly speaking, a 3-parish circuit gives a route of 6 – 7 miles, and a 4-parish circuit some 10 – 12 miles, perhaps more if including Cambourne.
N.B. Two parishes in this locality have been featured before in “Cantab Rambler”.
See Cantab 17, Jan 2003 for Elsworth.
And Cantab 41, April 2007 for Conington

Overhall Grove, TL 337 633
Some 17 ha of land, an SSSI,  are owned by the Wildlife Trust. Nearest access from a road is best made from the path beside Knapwell Church. The Grove consists of a poorly drained woodland, mostly small-leaved elm, which has suffered Dutch Elm disease. Spring flowers include bluebells, oxlips and wood anemones. Autumn visitors will appreciate a good display of fungi, as well as seasonal foliage colours. Note the display boards. The “Red Well” may be visited.

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 47 – Price 20 pence where sold  © Janet Moreton, 2008