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CANTAB11 February 2002

CANTAB11 February 2002 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


The publication of the Countryside Agency’s Rights of Way Condition Survey 2000 has confirmed what all walkers knew already. It concluded that 25% of England’s paths are not easy to use. The Countryside Agency invested £30 million in the path network over 10 years,  and the report rather suggests that the public has not received value for money via the County Councils.  Walkers can expect to encounter a problem on average every 2km  on England’s 188 000km of rights of way.. £69 million is needed to bring paths up to the national target. Maintaining the network in optimum condition would cost £18 million annually.

The survey gives a table of statistics, county by county. Cambridgeshire claims to have 66% of the network “easy to find”, 77% “easy to follow” ; 21% “possible to follow”; 3% impossible; 85% “satisfactory”; 5.2 obstructions per 10 km; 4.8 problems for walkers per 10 km.  Remember the site surveys were done in Summer.

Cambridgeshire looks about average compared with other counties. Suffolk has now overtaken Cambs. in terms of recorded path quality.  It is perhaps no surprise that Lincolnshire is the worst.

Counties which claim to have 95%+ satisfactory paths are: Berks; Cumbria; Derbyshire; E. & W. Sussex; Gt. Manchester; Hants; IoW; Staffs; Suffolk; Surrey; Warks; W.Midlands; W & S.Yorks; Wilts; Worcs (who claim 99% satisfactory). Perhaps one should use this list when selecting a holiday destination!

Meanwhile,it might just be worthwhile to write to one’s County Councillor, pointing out that the County has just received an extra package of money from the government, and that a very deserving and worthwhile Section to receive some extra funds would be the Rural Group.  Point out the value of rights of way on the health of the population, and the importance for tourism…

Countryside Focus
This is the name of a “newspaper” style magazine, produced by The Countryside Agency, the organisation which replaced The Countryside Commission.

We have seen the Dec/Jan issue.  In 8 pages, the magazine covers a wide variety of issues, not many being directly related to the path network.  The lead article is “New hope for rural services“, and the centre spread is devoted to “Bringing vitality back to the villages“. The final page is “Farmers shown road to recovery“.  There is also “new thinking on second homes” and “whatever you do, don’t forget riders“.

However, there are useful snippets of information on the path network.  There is a brief summary of the conclusions of the national Rights of Way Condition Survey, published by The Countryside Agency in December. Nationally, users encountered as many problems as they did at the last national survey in 1984.  The Countryside Agency feels that a new approach is needed.  The magazine is available free from Countryside Agency Publications, PO Box 125, Wetherby LS23 7EP.  e-mail

Black & Brown Waterway Trails
The Black Fen Waterway Trail and The Brown Fen Waterway trail are two new routes centred on Ely and Boston respectively, and promoted by Fens Tourism.  As the name suggests, both routes stay close to the fenland watercourses.

The Black Fen Trail is a 62 mile (100 km) circuit, from Ely, via Littleport, Downham Market, Nordelph, Outwell, March, Chattris, Sutton, Wilburton, Stretham Old Engine, Little Thetford, and back to Ely.  The route is already waymarked in the Ely and Stretham localities (and maybe elsewhere) with attractive discs, marked “Black Fen Waterways Trail”.

This route is served by some public transport on Mondays to Saturdays, but careful planning would be advisable, as some of the bus services only run three times per day.

The circular Brown Fen Trail runs from Boston, south towards Spalding and Crowland, before returning north to Boston via Donington.  The route also 62 miles long.

Your editor tried in vain to obtain details of both these routes from the Tourist office in Ely. From another souce, eventually she learnt that waymarking has indeed been underway, and a leaflet has been produced, which describes both routes, one on each side of an A3 sheet.  Then a right of way dispute arose on a small part of the Brown Fen Waterways Trail, and until this was settled, the authorities were loath to make the leaflet available.  However, we have received a copy of the leaflet recently, so hope it will be generally available soon.  It would have been pleasant to sample The Brown Fen Trail, for example near Spalding in the Spring bulb season.

The Fens Waterways Guide
This is a free colour guidebook which is obtainable from the Ely Tourist Office in Oliver Cromwells House. It has attractive illustrations, and splendid maps of the fenland waterways systems.  However, it is aimed mostly at fishermen and the boating fraternity, and has no information about footpaths. It does have details of where to stay, and of eating places, and is useful in providing opening times for attractions and places of interest.

The Fens (Tourist guide)
Also available from Ely Tourist Office (and elsewhere – try Cambridge Tourist Office) this does have a section on fenland walking opportunities, mentioning The Fen Rivers Way,The Nene Way, The Hereward Way, and even The Macmillan Way. (The latter runs all the way from Boston in Lincs to Abbotsbury in Dorset).  There are excellent articles on fenland towns, and wildlife and environment of the fens.

On page 9 is the statement that a leaflet on the Black & Brown fens Waterways trails “will be available in March 2001“.

Wagn-ers Walk
When your train is late, and you are hanging about Cambridge station, pick up a small purple/orange leaflet showing an improbably clean couple going for a country walk.  This is, of course, an advert for places to visit, and places to enjoy country walks using WAGN trains.

Suggestions include visiting Hatfield House, Knebworth Park and Ware Priory.  Canal walks in London are promoted, as is the New River Walk at Hertford. Rather more details are given for the Cole Green Way walk of 3.5 miles, near Hertford.

One feels that WAGN could be a little more ambitious with their suggestions.

Vive “Passion Rando”
The French equivalent of the Ramblers’ Association is the Fédération Français de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP). Their magazine is “Passion Rando”, published by FFRP, 14 rue Riquet, 75019 Paris. Thanks to kind friends resident in France, recently I had an opportunity to look at a copy.  For anyone who reads French reasonably fluently (which I certainly do not), it would make an interesting comparison with the Ramblers’ Association Journal.  The Autumn 2001 issue  includes articles on rambling for children; health hazards of eating unwashed/uncooked low growing fruits in the countryside; the value of the GR (long distance path) waymarking; and calendar of national events.  The major article focuses on a celebratory mass gathering of walkers in Alsace.

We also found a précis of statistics on the French walking scene, in a news-snippet on the Internet written by Alan Mattingley, who lives in France.  From this we learn that some three-quarters of the French take outdoor recreation, of which walking is the most popular, with 66% of the population (or 30 million people) participating. (Similarly, the Environment Agency records that country walking is the most popular outdoor recreation in the UK)

In France, it was found that 22% of walkers only use routes close to home, but another 19% only go walking when on holiday. The French authorities have discovered (as did the UK Tourist offices when struck by the Foot & Mouth crisis) that the growing popularity of walking medium & long distance paths, leads to a demand for accommodation en route, baggage transfer services, food etc.

Every year some 750,000 walks guidebooks are sold annually, many via the FFRP.

In France, some 20,000,000 pairs of walking boots are thought to be currently “in circulation” with some 5,000,000 pairs sold annually. So when you next have that French walking holiday, think of all the other pairs of boots tramping the GRs!

Even the new Explorer Maps are not up-to-date!
Most readers will have bought some of the new range of Explorer maps.  However, changes to the County Council’s Definitive Map occur all the time, by means of path diversions, creations, modifications, or extinguishments, so even new maps are never completely up-to-date.  The following items note some of the more useful changes which have occurred recently in South Cambs.

New paths near Thriplow
Thriplow has long been known for having numbers of permissive paths along local farm tracks.  Notices at the ends invite walkers to use them, keeping dogs on leads etc.

A new permissive path towards Whittlesford under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme has also become available recently.  This leaves “The Drift” public right of way at TL 455 471 by a notice & map inviting its use.  It runs NNW towards the spring known as Little Nine Wells, going through a waymarked gap in the hedge, and then towards the M11.  It continues in the field alongside the  M11, to climb a flight of new steps at TL 457 486, and crosses the M11 on the bridge for the minor road into Whittlesford.  Thus it is possible to continue on “The  Moor” footpath in Whittlesford, extending the walk further if desired, and return to Thriplow on The Drift footpath from TL 466 477.

In addition, there is also a fairly new right of way, which leaves The Drift at TL 453 469  turning off S towards the fishing pits.  It is waymarked through a small wood, follows field boundaries, and emerges into the recreation ground at Heathfields Estate, near Duxford.  From here, it is possible to return to Thriplow by walking SW past the garage on the A505, and using the signed Footpath 5 passing the big barns.

New bridge at Bourn
Cambs C.C. have recently put in a new footbridge at Caxton End, at TL 318 573. This bridge enables Footpath 9, running in a pleasant grassy field from a signed stile at TL 319 572 to be used, thus avoiding the narrow road.

New waymarking of Kingston footpath avoiding Cranes Lane
Next time you walk in Kingston, be aware that an alternative exists to the muddy and water-logged Cranes Lane.  If you look carefully on the OS map, you will see that a separate footpath (Kingston no.14) exists parallel over part of the length.  It has take several years to persuade Cambs.C.C. that this path had a useful function, and to bring it back into commission. It has recently been waymarked by joint parish/RA action.

Start up the village end of Cranes Lane, and enter the play area by a green metal sign at TL 345 549.  Continue through the grassy playground by the hedge, and exit into the arable field, to walk ca. S parallel to Cranes Lane, but on the other side of a tall hedge. This is Footpath 14. The hedge on your right ends at the junction with Footpath 15, waymarked turning off E. From here, Cranes Lane & Footpath 14 merge for a while into one wide grassy track, unhedged on the east side.  Fortunately this section is usually drier. At TL 338 537, Footpath 14 crosses a ditch on a new bridge, and once more has a separate identity, continuing with a hedge & ditch separating it from Cranes Lane, as far as TL 338 529, where it re-joins the lane. The last section is at present less satisfactory, being sticky and overhung by the hedge, but further improvements are planned.

New Willingham to Earith path
On 3 Jan.2002, Cambs.C.C. gave notice of the creation of a new bridleway in Willingham parish, as part of the planning agreement for the Over gravel extraction.  The bridleway runs from the N end of West Fen Road, TL 397 731 in a NE direction towards the B1050 road near Bridge Farm, then NW parallel to, but one field away from the road to TL 391 745, where it meets the unclassified road running N to Earith Lock.

This makes possible a long circuit from Over, going to Overcote, and along the bank of the R.Great Ouse to Earith Lock, returning by the new bridleway, and also recently created paths to Over Gravel.

Secretary of State Confirms new Footpath in Over Parish
On 18 December 2001, and following a local public inquiry, an Inspector confirmed the Order adding a new public footpath along the E bank of Swavesey Drain, from Station Road, Over at TL 367 698, to TL 366 702, where it joins an existing footpath from Station Road, and continuing alongside Swavesey Drain, to reach the bank of the River Great Ouse..
This is a good birdwatching area in Winter.

If you go down in the woods today.
At Brandon Country Park, Suffolk, where so many of us enjoyed walking earlier in the year, when many other paths were closed by the Foot & Mouth crisis, you will now find that several sections of the wider loops of forest paths & cycleways are presently closed by tree felling operations. And at High Lodge, on the other side of the B 1106, there are major building operations, and the shop and cafe are closed until June.

Parish Paths Partnership, “P3”
This is Cambs.C.C.’s ongoing scheme whereby some parish councils are given a grant to carry out path maintenance. Reports in the Autumn 2001 Bulletin include details of a 16 page booklet on walks in Brampton, Hunts. Copies can be purched for £2.99 from Pat Doody, c/o 5 Green Lane, Brampton, Huntingdon, Cambs. PE28 4RE.  tel: 01480 392706  e-mail:
Any profits will be donated to the Wildlife Trust.

Cantab Rambler is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or the author of an individual item.  Janet Moreton 01223 356889


Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, February 2002