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CANTAB85 – June 2016

CANTAB85 – June 2016 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Focus on Royston, Herts
Royston’s adjacent common, Therfield Heath, is a wonderful open space, with free parking, or easy access from Royston Station. The Heath gives immediate access to the hills beyond, higher than anything in Cambs! Before you go tramping off on these hills to Therfield, Sandon, Kelshall, Barley, Barkway and places beyond, pause to appreciate the riches of Royston.

Around Easter, the nature reserve at the east end of the Heath is well-known for its display of the Pasque flower, the Anemone pulsatilla, together with cowslips and violets, on an isolated spur of bare hillside. White heleborines may be seen in the adjacent woods in May.

Later in the Summer, the main part of the heath is a treasure trove of wild flowers, especially at the west end, in the little dry valleys.

Alfred Kingston wrote a monograph, “The Heath and its Wild Flowers” published originally in 1904, but reprinted by Warren Bros. and Cooke Ltd in 1961. By 1904, the Royston Golf Club had already been formed using part of the Heath in 1892, and had erected “a handsome and commodious club house on the corner nearest the town”, and a public pavilion, near the cricket ground opened by public subscription in 1895. *[See also Cantab 17 – Royston 1900: A year in the life of a small town.]

Kingston lists the flowers which could be seen between June and August, an impressive list, now sadly reduced, so that, for example, I do not think we would now find two of the orchids he quotes – Gymnadenia conopsea (fragrant orchid) or Orchis ustulata (burnt orchid), but Ophris apifera (bee orchids) pop up occasionally in all sorts of places.

Nor has the ground-nesting stone curlew survived the invasion of hundreds of walkers, golfers, kitefliers and dog enthusiasts, but instead we have a fair chance of seeing feathered red kites!

From Kingston’s list of 1904, and with some modern additions, I produce here a restricted list which Roger and I identified on the Heath last Summer, and which might act as an aid to identification, in conjunction with a field guide.

Agrimony (yellow)
Birds-foot trefoil (yellow, touch of red)
Bladder campion (white)
Burnet saxifrage (brown & white)
Candy-tuft (white)
Cathartic flax (white)
Centuary (pink)
Clustered bellflower (deep blue)
Dropwort (white, pale pink)
Forgetmenot (blue)
Greater celandine (yellow)
Ground thistle (purple)
Germander speedwell (bright blue)
Hairbell (pale blue)
Mouse-ear hawkweed (lemon yellow)
Heath spotted orchid (spotted leaves)
Horse-shoe vetch (yellow)
Jack by the hedge (white)
Kidney vetch (yellow)
Ladies bedstraw (yellow)
Milkwort (blue or mauve, purple)
Meadow rue (pale yellow)
Mignonette (cream)
Musk thistle (purple, nodding)
Rock rose (yellow)
Rose madder (pink, very small)
Silver weed (yellow, silver leaves)
Small scabious (lilac)
Squinancywort (mauve or white)
Tall broomrape (brown)
Toadflax (yellow & orange)
Viper’s bugloss (blue & pink)
Welted thistle (purple)
Wild thyme (light purple)
White and red campions
Yellow-wort (yellow!)

Later in the Summer flower:
Autumn Fellwort (purple)
Carline thistle
Meadow Sweet
Rosebay willow herb
Wild chicory

Ramblers sometimes say to us, “How do you know what flowers to expect here?” Perhaps this will help! This is not a comprehensive list and we have not included the common “weeds” of the daisy, dandelion variety. See if you can do better!

Visible Prehistory
As well as being a valuable wildlife haven, the Heath is an important prehistoric site. The oldest feature is a Neolithic long barrow, 6000 years old. Looking north from the long barrow, one can see the route of the Icknield Way, an ancient trade route from the Norfolk coast to SW England. The Heath’s high ground also attracted Bronze Age burials, here as One Hill, Two Hills and Five Hills. The features known as Mile Ditches (parallel to the Therfield Road) are Iron Age, and were probably territorial boundaries.

If the weather turns wet, Royston has inner resources.

The Royston Cave, a bell-shaped chamber cut into the subterranean chalk is unique in Britain. It contains numbers of carvings and symbols, whose origins are uncertain, although it has been claimed to have been associated with the Knights Templar, before their dissolution in 1312. The cave is located in Katherine’s Yard off Melbourn St, near the cross roads in the middle of the town.

The cave is open to visitors by guided tour, 2.30-5pm, Sat, Sun, Bank Holidays between 26 March and 25 Sept, and also Wed in August. Adults £5, Seniors £4.

Royston Museum
The original museum in the town hall, was opened in 1856, but was re-established in 1984 in the Old Congregational Church School, off Lower King Street. There are extensive local archives, pictures, archaeological finds, interpretations of Royston Cave, The Royston tapestry, and much else.

The museum is open all year, 10 – 4.45 pm, Wed, Thu and Sat, and also 2 – 4.45 Sun, Easter – 30 Sept. Admission gratis. Donations appreciated.

The parish church is set in attractive municipal gardens in the town. It is part of the old Norman priory, with a Victorian chancel.

Long Distance Paths
Royston is, of course, a hub of Long Distance Paths.

The Icknield Way Path is a 110mile trail, linking the Ridgeway Path to the Peddars Way. Together these routes take strands of the ancient Icknield Way trade route which crossed England from Norfolk to Dorset. Royston lies squarely on the route of this popular path. We have the 5th edition of the walkers’ guide, obtainable from the Icknield Way Association. See:

The next long distance path is an unusual one. The Hertfordshire Chain Walk consists of 15 linked circular walks through rural East Hertfordshire, and published for the East Herts Footpath Society . The edition we have was published by Castlemead publications, Ware. The route passes through Therfield, narrowly skirting Royston!

The Hertfordshire Way is a magnificent 166 mile route, covering, as the name suggests, most of the County. This was very much a Royston walkers’ initiative, with the first section or “leg” going from Royston to Wallington. The guidebook, edited by Bert Richardson of RA Royston Group, is published for the Friends of the Hertfordshire Way by Castlemead publications. See:
Janet & Roger Moreton

Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge
Nick Ballard writes in praise of our city cemetery in the RSPB magazine. Mill Road is “a closed cemetery, with no burials since 1955. Over eight acres harbour a surprising variety of animals and plants. My species list includes more than 110 plants and grasses (excluding trees and shrubs); 42 birds; at least 9 mammals including two species of bat, weasel and dormouse; 23 species of butterfly and plenty of lichens and other diptera. The Diocese of Ely must be praised for their management, along with the Friends Group which promotes the value of the site.”

The main entrance is off Mill Road, opposite the “Sally Ann” charity shop, and using all the paths, it is possible to make a walk of nearly a mile. Alternatively, one can make a short cut to Gwydir Street or Norfolk Street.

Essex Coast Path
The entire length of the Essex Coast Path has been opened, making the longest coastal walk in an English County, including large numbers of creeks and estuaries.

Essex RA are justly proud of their new path, and announced the imminent official opening in the September edition of the Essex Area Update. Peter Caton has written a book, “Essex Coast Walk”, available on Amazon. Maps and photos illustrate the text with details of ports, towns and villages along the route, nature reserves and points of interest, as well as the history of the coast.

Watching our words! A Footpath:
What do we mean by a Footpath?
In Britain, a footpath –
is a path for people to walk along,
is a walkers’ path, especially in the countryside,
is a narrow path for walkers only,
is a path for pedestrians alongside a road,
is a pavement,
is a term in geology meaning a horizontal expanse of bare rock or cemented pieces.

When using the term “footpath”, perhaps we should watch our step!

Try “Footway” for a made-up path alongside a road. “Public Footpath” or “Public Right of Way” (PROW) for a countryside path. However, “PROW” does not define the usage of the way – it needs to be qualified as a footpath, bridleway, byway, cycleway, road or whatever. And a road may be private, and yet have public footpath rights.

The term “pavement” is also fraught with difficulty. A pavement is a surface that is paved over. Pavements are part of the Highway. When they run alongside a county road, they do not have any separate legal existence.

A highway engineer regards the term “pavement” as referring to the whole paved area, so the footway alongside may or may not be classed as pavement depending on whether it is surfaced.

Finally, use “Sidewalk” for a footway if you go to the USA!

Letter to the Editor, County Summits. (See Cantab 84)
“Hello Janet & Roger.
Back in 2001 there was an article in the Cambridge Evening News about the highest village in the county, which they gave as Great and Little Chishill equal at 475ft. This provoked several items of correspondence and I wrote saying Great Chishill was highest, but didn’t know exactly where, but thought it was off any road. I then consulted OS who eventually came back with the very accurate grid reference of TL 42738 38546 and a map with a nice star in the middle of a road. This turned out to be Hall Lane Great Chishill.

Just a few months later I obtained the book ECHOES which was published in 2000 and describes walks to all of the county summits in the country. In that book several of the local summits are different from those you have quoted from Paddy Dillon’s book.. In the acknowledgements the author thanks the OS for their support of the project, so presumably they supplied heights and references. It seems to me that over the years OS have revised heights as they are able to use more sophisticated methods of surveying.”
John & Tessa Capes, 23 Feb. 2016

Hoffer Brook project
South Cambs District magazine describes improvements made to the Hoffer Brook between Foxton and Newton, where it runs beside a public footpath. Fallen trees have been cleared, and tree thinning and scrub clearance will let in more light. The water quality is good, and a fish survey is being mounted. It is hoped the brook will in future be less prone to flooding.
The first phase of the work on the brook was funded through the Cam and Ely Ouse Catchment Partnership, and a band of volunteers teamed up with the Wildlife Trust. The local landowners, Richard Barnes of Foxton and David Watson of Thriplow Farms helped with machinery and access for the works.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab usually appears some 4 times per annum.. 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. 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
Cantab85 © Janet Moreton, 2016.

CANTAB84 – March 2016

CANTAB84 – March 2016 published on

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


Why not Sawston?
Cantab Rambler goes back to 1999, and a majority of issues include a “Parish of the Month”, as I have been told this is a popular feature.

So why not Sawston – the biggest village in terms of population (but not, in land area, the biggest parish) in South Cambs? It is because I have been daunted by the task of describing the many inner village paths through the housing, and partly because I felt that many readers will know Sawston very well already. However, I hope the following may be of interest, and contain something new for you.
Janet Moreton
N.B. You can look up a previous “parish of the month” under cantab-rambler, on Cambridge RA Group’s website,

Parish of the Month – Sawston
Sawston is quite a small parish of 770 ha. Most of the parish is situated on fairly flat chalk soils to the east of the bypass, which separates it from its water meadows by the R Cam, and Whittlesford beyond. The village, however, is the largest old-established parish in South Cambs [Cambourne looks set to have a population of around 10 000, but it does comprise 3 villages!], with a shopping centre and facilities sufficiently large and varied to accord it the status of a small town.

Like most of the villages of the Cam valley, there are traces of prehistoric settlement. A Neolithic flint axe was found S of the village, and signs of Neolithic tool production were found on the site of the old vicarage. At least 10 ring ditches, former Bronze Age barrows, are grouped around a former trackway, and a Bronze Age hoard (axes and spears) was found on the Icknield Way. Borough Hill Iron Age fort was located on the W side of the railway, near the present Spicers Works (ca TL472494, not accessible).

The Romans left few traces here. The parish was settled by the Saxons in the C7th, when agricultural patterns were established. An Anglo Saxon burial was found in 1816, when workmen dug gravel from Huckeridge Hill, ca. TL 481503 on the road to Cambridge, finding a sword, a bronze bowl and snake’s head buckle. An Anglo Saxon mill existed at Dernford.

In early times, the places where the river could be forded gave rise to scattered settlements along these routes. The manors of Dernford, Pyratts (on the site of Sawston Hall), and Huntingdon are recorded throughout the Middle Ages. Later in the Middle Ages, the N-S route, on the road between Cambridge and Royston became more important than the E-W routes, with the village cross marking the junction with Church Lane, at TL487492. Linear development occurred along the High Street, consolidated in the C13th, when Pirot, the lord of the manor, planned a village extension in the direction of Cambridge.

As early as C17th, paper making started at Dernford Mill, although a mill had been present here since 956. In the C19th, Towgood had a paper mill, and built homes for his workers. Spicer Brothers purchased the paper mill in 1917.

A Chamois leather works at TL 486489 was established by Hutchings & Harding in the. mid C18th, with later premises dating from the mid C19th. T S Evans of Old Yard Leather Works developed The Spike for housing at the S end of the village. Crampton’s Mineral Waters was another large employer. Thus, by the mid C19th, aided by the coming of the railway, and the introduction of steam power in the paper industry, Sawston was an industrial village, putting behind the poverty of the earlier part of the century, when at times up to a third of the population had been on poor relief following agricultural inclosure in 1802.

Domesday records 3 manors, and a population of 41. The census of 2011 recorded some 7145 residents.

Points of interest
The parish church of St Mary The Virgin is a Norman foundation, dating from the early C12th. Its tower is 600y old, and the nave arches are Norman and Early English. It is usually open.

Nearby are the locked gates of Sawston Hall, unfortunately not open to the public. The hall, the former seat of the Huddleston family for more than 400y, briefly sheltered Mary Tudor in 1553, but was burnt by the mob after her escape. Some of the original building remains. Stone from Cambridge Castle was used in the rebuilding, which is dated in the central quadrangle 1557 and 1584.

Notable old buildings in the village are C16th Ward’s House, and Huntingdon house (typical H-plan manor with cross-wings), and a manorial dovecote in Hammonds Rd.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest
One SSSI lies to the W of the bypass and up to the railway line, being one of few remaining areas of fen carr in the S of Cambridgeshire. The other is Sawston Hall meadows (both inaccessible).

Public Footpaths
Fp1 – Dernford Rd to Lt Shelford boundary
Fp2 – Cambridge Rd to Dernford Rd (fp1)
Fp3 – Hillside to Martindale Way
Fp4 – Baulks (High St) to Crampton Terrace
Fp5 – New Rd to The Baulks
Fp6 – Mill Lane to Common Lane
Fp7 – Mill Lane to join fp 6
Fp8 – The Bull, High St to Common Lane
Fp9 – High St to Whittlesford
Fp10- Catleys Walk, London Rd to fp9
Fp11- Babraham Rd to Church Lane
Fp12- Church Lane by Mile Path to Babraham
Fp13-The Green Rd to Sunderlands Corner
Fp14- Church Lane to Pampisford fp 2
Fp15- Mill Lane rail crossing to Whittlesford
Fp16 No 11 Church Lane to Churchfield Ave
Fp17- High St to Shingay Lane
Fp18- Chestnuts, Mill Lane to The Baulks
Fp19- Mill Lane to West Moor Ave.
Fp20- The Baulks from Crampton Terrace to Mill Lane (continues fp 4)
Fp21- Paddock Way to fp 11
A street plan is essential for following the inner-village paths. Without one, I have become misplaced on more than one occasion in the large housing estates!

Outline walks
Here are a few suggested walks, probably well known already to local readers, taking one outside the village envelope, and with ideas for further extension. They mostly involve a certain amount of road walking, and are thus more suitable for the muddy winter months, which commonly extend into April. I would suggest that an exploration of some of the inner village paths, using a good street plan, is also interesting and worthwhile.

A To Whittlesford & beyond 3, 6 or 10miles
From Sawston carpark (CP) TL 487494, go S down London Rd. Turn off R down signed fp 9, or shortly after along Catleys Walk (fp10). Cross the bypass and the railway, and enter Whittlesford past the Hamilton Kerr Institute (restorations for the Fitzwilliam museum). Cross the large rec towards Whittlesford Churchyard (approached via a residential road, to the R of the pavilion) to use Whittlesford fp 1, becoming Sawston fp15 over a footbridge, cross the railway on the road by Spicers barrier, and then the bypass. Find a “backs of gardens” route, fp 20, leading to the Baulks and so to High St and the CP. This route may readily be extended to include a walk around Whittlesford and the Moor (6 miles), or also paths to Thriplow (10 miles).

B To Dernford and Whittlesford 5 miles
This rather “roady” route takes in the historic Dernford Hamlet. From the CP walk NW up Huckeridge Hill along the footway of Cambridge Rd. Turn left on signed fp 2 (past a flock of sheep?) to the bypass. Cross with care and follow the signed path to Dernford, two arable fields to be negotiated en route. At Dernford House, the path is waymarked through the garden. The start of the continuing Lt Shelford fp 2 is sometimes very damp. Reach the road at Rectory Fm, and turn S on the road to Whittlesford, passing attractive lakes (but take care, no footway). It is a pity there is no route through Spicers land. At TL 466486, take the path SSW then SE through a pretty young plantation on access land in the centre of Whittlesford. On reaching the road, turn left and walk to Whittlesford Guildhall. A snicket at TL 473485 leads to Whittlesford church (usually open via door at rear, also WC). Return by the route described in Walk A.

C To Babraham, 4, 5 or 7miles
From the Sawston CP walk to the parish church, go down Church Lane, and follow “the green road” to across the rec. Cross Babraham Rd, turn R and take a signed path L, Babraham fp 11 to Rowley Lane. Turn R along the lane and follow it to the S end of Babraham. Return immediately on a new /footway cycleway (adjacent to Sawston Rd), or, from the road corner, take a crossfield path to join Sawston fp 12, Mile Rd. (4 miles)

However, from the wall at the S corner of Babraham, it may be desired to walk to the “George” PH for refreshments, and, on the return, visit the “Pocket Park” and the signed route to the Church, in a handsome rural position against the backdrop of Babraham Hall. (total 5 miles)

To extend this route yet further, continue on the path by the R Cam past Babraham Hall, and research buildings and across fields and tree belts, passing a turning R across a footbridge to a path to the A1307. However continue ahead to a substantial bridle bridge marking the next crossing of the Cam. Note the mounting blocks here, following the conversion of Rowley Lane to a bridleway. Turn round here, and walk back down Rowley Lane to join the return route. (total 7 miles)

D To Pampisford 4 miles
From Sawston CP, walk to the parish church, take Church Lane, and turn half right on fp 14, joining Pampisford fp 2 to Pampisford Wych. Go S down this road (no footway), and turn off R on a signed fp through Home Fm. In Pampisford, take a short cut across the rec and visit the church. Follow the road through the village, to the pub on the corner. Turn R along London Road, taking a detour, if desired, to the L, through the yard of the Black Bull, and continuing on fp 6 along the edge of a sports field, before turning R for High St. This walk is not readily extended, except by making various detours on Sawston inner-village paths.

East Anglian County Summits
Here is a suggested project for the Spring
Why not visit the East Anglian County Summits?
Cambridgeshire’s Top, at 146m, is located S of The Hall, Great Chishill, on Landranger 154, TL 427380. From the B1039, a track runs close to the site.
The Top for Essex, 140m is nearby, at TL 433362 in Great Chishill.
Norfolk’s County Top, 102m, is at the accessible Roman Camp, Landranger 133, TG 185415, near Sherringham.
Look for Suffolk’s Top, 128m, off the A143, at Depden, SE of Elm’s Farm. There is no trig point – a GPS might suggest the exact place, (Landranger 155, TL 786558).
Bedfordshire’s Top, 243m, is on the Dunstable Downs, about a mile out of Bedford off the B4541, Landranger 166, SP 008194.
Finally, the highest of them all, the Top for Hertfordshire, 244m is at SP 914091 on Landranger 165 off a minor road 0.5km W of Hastoe, in the Chilterns.
Data from “The County Tops”, Paddy Dillon, 1985.

Cambridge Weather 2015
The Botanic Gardens issued a report of last year’s weather, summarised below.

The year started with some instances of light snow, which quickly disappeared. Rainfall for March, April and June was below average, and there was evidence of the ground cracking on warm days in April. July was a month of extremes, when 35.0degC was recorded on 1 July, and storms brought 87.1mm rain overnight on 23 July, contributing to an unusually high month’s total of 153mm. Numbers of days of high winds occurred, which resulted in temporary closure of the garden. The year finished with a rainfall total of 556mm, almost exactly the average annual rainfall of 557mm.

Elsworth Footpath 2
Problems have arisen recently relating to path usage on and around Elsworth Footpath 2. The path is signed alongside the village school, TL 313637. It passes down a fenced passage, goes round the edge of a small field, over a couple of small bridges, and then goes generally NW towards Pitt Dene Farm. The problem is on this latter section. Walkers have used the available farm track, whereas in fact the right of way follows the field edge on the other side of the ditch, before lighting off across the fields near the site of some former pits. Fairly recently the landowner has taken steps to inhibit the use of the farm track. Do you know this path? Have you walked along the farm track, believing it to be a right of way? RA Cambridge Group have offered to help Elsworth Parish Council assemble some evidence of past usage. Please send any details to me,
Janet –

The Bike-Bus Explorer, Cambridge to Gamlingay on Sundays
Just before going to press, I have heard a rumour that the Bike-Bus Explorer, mentioned in the last issue, is presently discontinued. Please check before making plans to use it.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab usually appears some 4 times per annum.. 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. 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
Cantab84 © Janet Moreton, 2016.