** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
A feature in the December issue of “Country Walking”magazine, illustrates two mature gentlemen with walking poles ascending the slopes of a frosty hill. So, yes, even though most of the walking gear adverts are posed by folk in their early twenties, the walking press are aware that there are numbers of seasoned (and even old) ramblers still treading the turf, so two handsome, silvery haired gentlemen may be selected as role models… We retired persons are the walkers with time to get out in the countryside more than once or twice per week, and are on the lookout for up-to-date information on new walks and equipment, travel and refreshment, and environmental issues. Country Walking and other national magazines try to fulfill this function for the whole of the UK – in a more humble way Cantab attempts to update you on the local scene.
Part of this issue specifically addresses those of us who are over the magic “60”. This means, in Cambridgeshire at least, we have, since October, just acquired a free bus pass, allowing us to travel gratis throughout the county, and over the borders to Saffron Walden, Newmarket, Biggleswade, Royston, Market Deeping, Downham Market, Kings Lynn, and even Stamford. On weekdays, we may not use the pass before 9.30am, so the more distant locations are perhaps not very practical if a long walk is planned. So here is an opportunity to save money, leave the car in the garage, be environmentally “green”, and try some linear walks not accessible by car. Here is how we got on…
General Comments – “free” buses
Living in Cambridge some 15 minutes on foot from Drummer Street bus station, Roger & I are probably as well-placed as any to try the free bus options for country walks. The first step was to gather a bunch of timetables from the bus station. We studied these at home, and decided in the first instance, that services of interest were those of frequency at least once per hour, and preferable half-hourly or better.
Stagecoach Citi7 runs every 10 minutes during the day from Cottenham to Sawston, some buses continuing further to Whittlesford, Duxford, etc and, once per hour, to Saffron Walden. We tried this first. Like many services, the bus took a very long time from Emmanuel Street to the Railway Station, and we resolved in future to walk to just beyond the station to catch it – almost faster on foot! Later, we found that the buses “clumped” in busy periods, but seldom had to wait for this service more than 20 minutes. However, on one cold morning in October, aiming to catch the Citi7 to Saffron Walden in Sawston, we waited half-an-hour in vain – it never came, to the distress of 8 potential passengers at the war-memorial.
We had no problem with Citi10 running every half-hour out to Bottisham, Lode, The Swaffhams & Burwell en route to Newmarket. We have used it successfully several times, including to visit Anglesey Abbey. An excellent service provided by Huntingdon & District “Huntsbus”, leaves Drummer Street about 3 times/ hour for Fenstanton, St Ives, Hartford & Huntingdon. We used this even before it was free!
Citi 13 runs to Haverhill via Addenbrookes, Babraham, Abington, Linton & Horseheath, again with a half-hour service. One dark November afternoon, emerging from the café at Abington, we just caught a Citi13, passing either 15 minutes late, or 15 minutes early!
The dark cold days of November & December are perhaps not the best season to wait in chill winds for a bus, but shelters exist in the larger villages. Sometimes there is only a bus-stop on the side towards Cambridge, so going in the other direction, one has to wait opposite, without a shelter. One final point to remember is the additional walking you may need to do, to reach the bus-stop before you start (and finish) your walk proper. This may amount to an “overburden” of say, 2 miles, and should be allowed for in the energy equation!
Having sounded cautionary, we enjoyed several free trips, and good walks, two of which are outlined below. We will continue our investigations in the Spring, and should there be a demand, will extend the linear walks suggestions.
Example Linear “bus walks”
Saffron Walden – Sawston 11miles
Explorer 194, 209.
Citi 7 from Addenbrookes 9.32 or Sawston Memorial 9.52
Alight Saffron Walden centre. Visit parish church, make for Catons Lane (football ground). Footpath N uphill crossing Westley Lane, turn W near Four Acre Grove to Springwell. Cross B184, path opposite to Lt Chesterford, footpath to Gt. Chesterford. From railway crossing, detour S on bridleway over M11 bridge up Coploe Hill, turn W on field-edge bridleway to Coploe Rd, descend past Nature reserve to Ickleton. Pass through rec, use Butchers Lane, & take paths to & beside railway & across meadows to Hinxton Mill. Take road over level crossing & ford to Duxford (short cut across rec & note nature reserve & 2 churches). Take road (with footway) towards Whittlesford station. Either straight ahead on footway of Duxford Rd, right alongside the rec, & footpath over meadows, railway & bypass to Sawston, bus-stop opposite bakers near Memorial.
Or Detour via Chuck-a Bush Farm, to visit Whittlesford & church.
Horseheath to Linton, 9 or 7 miles
Explorer 209, 210.
Citi 13 from Drummer Street 9.35
Alight Horseheath village green. Take path or road to Cardinals Green. From Allington Cottages, a cross-field path joins a bridleway going E, then SSE. After a mile, through a copse, a branch path W leads to Mill Green, Shudy Camps. Amble past the watertower, down into the village. A path from the village sign (and seat) leads back towards Cardinals Farm, and Cardinals Green. Take the bridleway (Harcamlow Way) towards Bartlow, where visit Roman burial mounds & church. From church, use the new footpath along private road through housing & barn conversions, then road towards Hadstock. Turn off on Chalky Road (track) to Malting Cottages. Cross A1307 & walk to Mill, church & High Street. Join bus at the shelter near village sign. Omit detour round Shudy Camps for shorter walk.
Latest on Cambridgeshire Byways
Readers will recall the ongoing campaign to improve the state of byways for walkers.
Regarding the Roman Road, the “Via Devana”, or Wool Street between Balsham and Horseheath, some progress has been made in that a short section, ca. 150m, by the junction with Woodhall Lane has been made up with tarmac planings, improving what was probably the worst section. However, the continuing stretch to the B1052 remains rutted and almost impassable in deep mud.
To the North of Balsham, the byway, Fox Road, is in an even worse state, from about half a mile out of the village, up to its junction with Six Mile Bottom Road. We tried to use this path on the shortest day of the year. Deep mud & ruts surfaced the path in places, while in others, huge puddles filled the byway: thick fog added to the air of intense gloom…. Near Green End Farm, the surface seems to be contaminated with deep, especially sticky clay. We escaped into the adjacent cultivated field, in order to make progress at all. Discussions, we understand, are being had between the County & Parish Council and local farmers. Meanwhile, walkers of the Icknield Way LDP are getting a pretty shabby deal, on what is Cambridgeshire’s only Regional Route.
Elsewhere, progress is a little better.
In Rampton, we have a report that the historic section of the Aldreth Causeway is closed to vehicles for surface repair work, but remains open to walkers and horseriders. We are still awaiting legislation for regular Winter closure to traffic of this and other byways. We also learnt that work is in hand on grading & reprofiling Reynolds Drift (by way 4) & byway 5 to Cuckoo Drift . The paths are closed to vehicles but still open to walkers & riders. The contractors are also going to provide a better surface for Pauley’s Drove, Byway 2. In Longstanton, a Council officer reported on 15 December on work grading & reprofiling byway 7, using funds made available to integrate the Northstowe new town’s paths into the network. Meanwhile the byways will be closed to drivers, but open to walkers and horseriders.
We used Porters Way near Kingston in early December. Surface improvements were made a couple of years ago. The end leaving Old North Road opposite the Red House pub is now in very good order. The other end, approaching the B1046, is deteriorating, in spite of clearance & French Drains. It is already rutted and rather muddy, but still easily passable in walking boots. In Knapwell, Thorofare Lane had clearance and surface improvements last year, and is currently pleasant and easy underfoot.
We recently attempted a comprehensive survey of the byways of Melbourn. These were mostly in good condition, being on well-drained chalk. Sadly, most are dead-ends. Unfortunately, we were unable to use Melbourn Byway 19, off New Road, as it was at that time totally blocked by caravans. A Council officer informed that he was in progress of getting these removed.
Congratulations to Duncan!
Cambs RA member, Duncan Mackay has recently won second prize in the Kendal Film Festival on his short film, entitled “Is it Right to Roam”. He writes, ” I took a group of young film makers from The British Schools Exploring Society round several farmers in the Lake District, and asked them how the right to roam legislation was working now that it is two years old. I’m sure you can imagine the sort of reactions we got. It made a very good film and we had great fun doing it. In fact, I was surprised how reasonable some of the farmers were. There was much less opposition than one might suppose. You can see the film on the Kendal film festival website, under the film school section”.
Parish of the Month – Ickleton
As the name suggests, the parish lies on the historic line of the Icknield Way. However, the walkers’ LDP does not pass through the village, but instead descends Strethall Field, and takes the available bridge crossing of the M11, into Great Chesterford, continuing to Linton and, untimately, Knettishall Heath in Thetford Forest. Ickleton has almost no public footpaths outside the village envelope, the cottages and village paths are attractive, and worthy of investigation.
Neolithic flint tools were found in the Coploe Hill area and below the A11, and a Neolithic axe was found during excavations of a Roman Villa. The chalk ridge along the S border of the parish was formerly the site of barrows, which once marked much of the Icknield Way route. A Roman villa, sited S of the village was excavated in the 1880s. It sounds rather luxurious, having at least 17 rooms, some of which were decorated with painted plaster, with fleur-de-lys, wild rose and dancing girls.
There was a small nunnery in the village intil 1536, when it was dissolved. The present Abbey farmhouse, dating from the C17th, has a medieval doorway, and a barn with C14th woodwork. The parish church was built about 1100, using some Roman materials. Following arson in 1979, restoration revealed C12th wall paintings of Christs’s passion, and martyrs, and a C14th Doomsday over the chancel arch.
The medieval village consisted of only the main street, Abbey Street, on the line of one of the tracks of the Icknield Way. A quarter-mile N was another settlement, Brookhampton, now lost. This too was on one of the Icknield Way tracks, that forded the Cam before reaching Hinxton. Weekly markets & an annual fair were held between the C13th & C19th. Today the village has many thatched and half-timbered cottages.
The open field system ended with Inclosure in 1814. Presently, there are 12 public rights of way in the parish, and the Nature Reserve, Coploe Hill Pit, permitting public access. The latter is reached from Coploe Road at TL 493 426. The gate gives into a shallow disused chalk pit, largely grassed over, with attractive flora in Summer.
Ickleton Suggested Walks…
Start at the rec., where there is some parking.
To go N from the village, start on Fp5, on Butchers Hill at TL 494 440. Find the start through a metal gate in a high brick wall. The signpost is inside! This attractive path runs NW in a narrow lane between banks, then through horse-paddocks., crossing a bridge, and through kissing gates, to join Bp 2, at a crossing of paths, TL 491 444. Bp2 continues NNW, first as a lane, then a grassy baulk between open fields. At the parish boundary with Duxford, the bridleway continues as a footpath – is this where one slings the horse over the rider’s shoulder? A route continues into Duxford village, alongside the chemical works, on a path behind Duxford Road hedge. Visit the interesting inner-village paths between flint walls and old houses in Duxford, the little village green, and 2 churches. Return SSE on a quiet lane past the other side of the chemical works. Just before the level crossing at TL 488 454, a path in Duxford will lead you back to Ickleton Bp 2 and your outward route. Do not seek the path shown crossing the railway at TL 491 451 – this has been obstructed by the railway fences for years, in spite of our continued objections. Instead cross the footbridge by the deep ford, and continue towards Hinxton Mill. (The mill is owned by the Cambridge Preservation Society, and open on some Summer Sundays). A path leads past the buildings, and drops down into the watermeadows, which cross diagonally.. (Note that the meadow paths are sometimes flooded in Winter, but permissive field-edge alternatives are available). Both routes reach the railway at TL 493 448, and Ickleton Fp3 starts here along-side the fence, in an attractive defile between bushes. On reaching the road, cross the level-crossing, and immediately take the signed Fp 4 diagonally across a pasture. Emerge on Brookhampton Road, to find Fp11’s kissing gate almost opposite, to lead you back to the bridge for Fp2 at TL 493 442, and your outward route.
Back in Butchers Hill, cross to find the signed Fp6, between “Dove Barn” glimpsed through an ancient wooden archway, and “Lane End”. Pass through a passage between high flint walls, to emerge on Church Road, with the church to the left. Turn right for the village shop & the rec. (4 miles).
Fp8 is a signed footpath crossing the rec. from Frogge Street, into Back Lane. This is a good way to get to Coploe Road, and visit the nature reserve, or a route to join the Icknield Way LDP. Note there is also an unofficial way out of the rec. in the S corner, to join Fp9 , which circles back to Frogge St to emerge at TL 496 435. The official start of Fp9 is in Southfield Close. (If you continue down Frogge Street footway towards Gt Chesterford, you will past a Trout Fishery, which sells fish, and has a café). Further down the road, just a few metres of the start of the Icknield Way path at the edge of Gt Chesterford, by the railway crossing is actually Byway 10 in Ickleton.
Another possible circuit to Hinxton may be made using Byway 7, which leaves the end of Mill Lane at TL 497 440, and crosses the railway by a level crossing. Beyond, the most noticeable feature is a nature reserve notice, with a made-up path going off left, with the remark that it is available to persons coming from Ickleton or Hinxton. This attractive & useful (non-definitive) path leads behind the Genome Centre, and inside a hedge beside the Ickleton Rd, and constitutes the most attractive route to Hinxton. However, the right of way continutes ahead on short grass, soon crossing a footbridge over the R.Cam or Granta. Beyond, the path continues as Hinxton Byway 3, using the sewage works concrete road, and emerging just beyond Stump Cross roundabout. By passing on the verge in front of the entrance to the Genome Centre, one can turn left down New Road into Hinxton, near The Red Lion. This time, return over the level crossing at TL 494 445. Walk down the road, and from the corner by the old cemetery, take Fp1 SW along the lane and down a hedge-line onto the footway of the B1379 Duxford Rd. Return S, passing the site of Abbey Priory on the W, near the crossroads. (3.5 miles)
Best Wishes for Christmas, and for excellent walking in 2007.
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Issue 39 © Janet Moreton, 2006.