** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
I understand we are shortly to have a Year of The Volunteer. But before you all rush out to sell secondhand shirts in Oxfam, consider also the needs of the Ramblers’ Association, and indeed, of other environmental charities.
Membership is down, since with the recession people are cutting back on subscriptions. And there have always been those who walk by themselves, or with family or with a walking club, who believe their wants are satisfied without the Ramblers’ Association, and who forget the work this charity does to protect their interests. If you are not a Ramblers’ member, I remind you that the subscription pays/has payed for the RA to fight path closures, to press for access to moorland and heath, and currently to work on the coast path. In Cambridgeshire, The RA was funding a transport consultant to support us in obtaining path crossings over the A14 at the Inquiry, until the new government cancelled the project.
But I address those who regularly send their membership dues to The Ramblers. Looking at the combined programme for Cambridgeshire Area, I find almost every Group has vacancies on its committee, sometimes masked by a single member occupying more than one post. Consider the attendance at AGMs, when it is well-known that folk avoid the occasion, lest they be elected onto the committee. One concludes that the members-at-large feel committee members are a gene-selected race apart, and of course it is out of the question that they themselves should agree to serve. For your information, we too are outdoor folk, for whom committees are a necessary evil.
If you think this is unnecessarily hard hitting, consider Cambridge Group. Our much-loved Footpath Secretary for Cambridge City, Jack Lewry, died so prematurely just a year ago, still dealing with Cambridge planning matters affecting paths, almost to the last. In spite of the efforts of the Chairman and Committee, this post remains unfilled, although maybe 100 or more Cambridge members live within the City itself. In absence of a City officer, some things have had to be neglected. For example the University is planning development of a West Cambridge Site, and has repeatedly invited a representative of the Ramblers to its meetings, but we have been unable to respond, perhaps with future implications for paths on the site.
For those for whom Committee work is totally objectionable, there are other ways to serve the cause of keeping the path network in optimum condition. The role of volunteers in on-site footpath work is likely to be needed much more as financial restrictions tighten the purse of County Councils.
Roger and I are Footpath Secretaries for South Cambridgeshire District, the 100 parishes (with some 1300 paths) surrounding Cambridge City. We have been in this post for ca.30 years. We did it as well as we could while we were both working, and before the advent of the Internet, which has made communications so much easier. Over the years, we do feel that our contribution, together with the work of others within the RA, and working with the County Council and local people, has made a difference to the Cambridgeshire path network. In the 1980s and 1990s we were much helped by other people within the Group who turned out to help with path surveying and waymarking, and problem reporting. Nowadays, volunteers are much thinner on the ground.
However, presently we are fortunate to have in our Group Tim Miller, who has become a “Footpath Guardian”, and regularly visits a small group of parishes, Over, Swavesey, Fen Drayton, Willingham etc., reporting problems to ourselves and to the County Council. Tim is an experienced walker and map reader, and his reports are a model of clarity. Moreover, if there are problems such as blocked stiles or dumped cars, he has the spare capacity to return again later, and yet again if necessary, and report again until the problem is cleared. With 1300 paths to cover, we are not always able to repeat visits. Tim is able to work by himself, and so there is a small group of parishes that we do not need to visit so often. And friends like John and Tessa Capes, regularly report upon problems around Sawston. How wonderful it would be if another 20 or even another 5 people appeared, willing to do a similar task elsewhere in the District!
We have reaped satisfaction and enjoyment from our path work, which is now a full-time occupation, but there have been other times of frustration and weariness. We would be happy to continue if there was more help. We are no longer young, and aware that we come this way but once. There are other activities we like to do. If you are still reading this, think on these things. Cambridge Group is not alone in having these problems.
Afoot in the Mordens
Guilden Morden and Steeple Morden, between them, have 107 public rights of way, as well as large recreation grounds apiece, and young Woodland Trust Woods: White Ponds Wood by a stream behind Steeple Morden rec; and Tween Towns Wood in Guilden Morden, on low land beside the same stream.
In recent times, there have been changes to the path network, some of which are on-going. This article aims to update you on a few paths in Guilden Morden, and to give an impression of the work that has been done by Cambs CC and of the complexity of the network. All problems described in the text are already reported to Cambs.CC.
Byway 9 in Guilden Morden, shared with Steeple Morden as Byway 1, runs from New Road at Great Green TL 286446 to a bridge over the River Cam at TL 283463, leading to Tadlow.
This hedged lane, formerly deeply rutted and founderous in Winter was closed for many months while repair work funded by CCC went forward. The lane is presently in lovely condition. One of the hedges has been cut back, and replanted in places, and the surface of the route has been made good. Do use and enjoy the autumn colours! There is a Seasonal Traffic Restriction Order (with gates locked against wheeled traffic in Winter) hopefully preventing damage occurring again.
Fp 14 should turn off W from Cobbs Lane at TL 286448, to run between an electric fence and tall hedge, but is presently obstructed by overgrowth. A little further along, however, Byway 8 turns off W at TL 285452 as a grass track, which later becomes a narrow residential road, leading back to Guilden Morden. A third option, just before the bridge over the river, is to take fp 2, at TL 283463, and follow the comfortable grassy field-edge, later continuing as a farm track, back to Green Knoll Barn, Guilden Morden.
Cold Harbour Farm
In 2005, a new path, fp 56 was created by agreement down the driveway to Cold Harbour Farm, to turn SW across an arable field as the existing fp 48. At the same time, fp 48 was re-aligned away from a grassy baulk which ran close to the buildings to a mid-field position. The N end of fp 48 crosses the drive, now avoids a horse paddock, and reaches Ashwell Road at TL 276415. The S end of fp 48 reaches the County Boundary ditch, to continue beyond as Ashwell fp 18.
Following the diversion, we were not pleased that the new line of fp 48 was (and is) often not reinstated. Worse, there is a sign put up at the top of the drive, on Ashwell Road, “Private Road, No Public Access“. Now whilst it is true that fp 56 runs down the verge to the drive, and not the drive itself, this is a misleading and discouraging notice. There is a signpost finger attached to a roadsign on the opposite side of the road, a long way away, and often not observed by potential path users. Cambs CC have now accepted that this is a problem, and have agreed to erect a “Public Footpath” signpost on the verge at the top of the drive. Let me know if it has happened, or if you have any problems here, please.
Obscure paths mid-village
Guilden Morden fp 31
Footpath31 is an example of an obscure path, useful as a short cut from Byway 27 (Church Lane) to Buxton’s Lane, without walking along the High Street. At TL 279437, the path goes down a narrow passage between trees to emerge after 30 m into a small arable field. Fp32 continues ahead, also going to Buxton’s Lane, at TL 280434, but fp 31 turns half-right to run S across the corner of the field (usually cleared). At the other side of the little field, TL 279436, the path crosses a hard track, passing a neglected farm yard on right, and goes through a narrow passage under an elder tree, to reach the rear of domestic gardens. Here it enters a narrow way between gardens, continuing S to cross the drive from High Street to house no. 57A at TL 2790 4354. Beyond the drive, a mostly 1m wide passage leads S under trees, with garden fences to left & right eventually emerging between houses nos 1 & 3 on Buxton’s Lane (Byway 29) by a signpost at TL 2790 4344. This is a good example of several narrow, and rather adventurous paths in the Mordens. This one is not recommended for the very substantial walker, or one wearing many layers of clothes, as it is only 0.5m wide in a few places, e.g. where it passes a tree!
Guilden Morden Footpaths 43 & 44.
These paths are almost opposite fp 31, on the other side of the High Street, and are an example of Cambs CC’s ongoing efforts to sort out some complicated problems in this parish.
Fp43 is not really a problem, except that it lacks a signpost, and it is quite well used by village people. On High St. at TL 278435, fp 43 starts through the wide concrete entrance to the yard of Home Farm. The RoW runs W on a clear space up to 10m wide in the hard-surfaced yard between sheds and barns, to exit through a wide gateway. There used to be a waymark here, but the exit is now partially blocked by some old farm machinery, which Cambs CC has promised to get removed. At TL 277435, it emerges onto Bridleway 17 (Silver Street) at a T-junction.
Now for the really difficult one. Go across the yard on fp 43, and exit onto Silver Street. Fp44 should turn SE through the middle of a barn, and take a devious route across a derelict field, and behind gardens, to emerge through the garden of house no 74 High Street, and meet High St between the gardens of houses 72 & 74. The barn seems to have been there many years, possibly even when the path was added to the Definitive Map in the 1950s – perhaps it was an open-work structure then! However, presently, it is possible to walk a few metres SW (left) down Silver Street, and enter the derelict field (weeds and old polytunnels) making generally for the rear of gardens of houses 58 – 66 High Street. Cambs CC has recently partially cleared and waymarked the entrance to the rear of garden of house no 74. It is possible to go through the garden, keeping at close as possible to the fence with no 72, and emerge through a gate. Cambs CC has consulted with Cambridge RA Group and the landowners on a diversion of this path, and it seems likely that only the part affected by the barn will be diverted. In the garden, there was a hazard of a broken manhole cover, obscured by a flower pot close to the path, and vegetation at the rear of the garden, but these problems are in hand with Cambs CC..
There are at least a dozen paths which emerge through gardens, orchards or paddocks in the Mordens, several now waymarked and in good order; some like fp 44 being worked on; and a few still in a difficult condition. Guilden Morden fp 20 (behind Town Farm) is another path being considered for diversion. At present it is obstructed by a stable block.
I hope this article has given some insight into complexity of this locality, for which the use of the 1:25 000 OS sheet 208 is scarcely adequate.
New wood in Cambridgeshire
The Summer 2010 issue of the County Council magazine, “Your Cambridgshire” has an article on the planting of a new wood between Girton and Oakington. Some 400 volunteers planted about 3000 trees, but when the task is complete, 8640 broad-leaved trees and shrubs will make up the new community wood in the 46 hectare site. New access arrangements will allow the public to enjoy the site. The wood has been planted to celebrate 100 years of County Farms Estate.
Vandalism to Fleam Dyke steps
Sadly, the new steps at the Fulbourn end of Fleam Dyke, put up in the last year by Cambs CC for £5000, have since twice been vandalised. Repair cost about £500.
At Brandon Country Park, Suffolk, where cars used to park gratis, there is now a charge of 50p on weekdays, and £2 at weekends. The adjacent toilets & cafe are open until 4.30pm.
At High Lodge Country Park, Norfolk, the car parking is more expensive, £1.80 per hour, with a maximum of £10. Free parking is still available at Warren Lodge, in Rishbeth Wood.
Debden village, Essex, has a large carpark in front of the recreation ground, a popular place to start a walk. Recently, a notice has appeared, to the effect that parking is limited to 2 hours, other than for users of the recreation ground.
It is reported that non-members of the National Trust, parking at Wimpole for £2, can get this refunded when making purchases in the shop.
The Pathfinder Long Distance Path
This 46 mile circular route, passing old wartime airfields, was created by the military in honour of the Royal Airforce Pathfinder Force. The leaflet was produced in 1999, but I have only just got round to trying the route. Details of the route may be obtained from The Pathfinder Project Officer, c/o The Central Registry, RAF Brampton / Wyton PE18 8QL. Recent OS Sheets Explorer 225 and 227 have the route marked.
I walked (most of) it with friends, in sections, and using two cars. If any readers have done it using public transport, or all in one trip, I should be interested to hear from you. Day 1 was walked from Dry Drayton to Papworth Everard; then successive trips continuing to Godmanchester; to Broughton; to Bluntisham, and then to Longstanton. The amount of road walking required was discouraging, so we missed out the part between Longstanton and Dry Drayton along the very busy road that connects with the A14 near Bar Hill.
On Day 2, we cut out 1km of road walking, by taking a pleasant route through Graveley churchyard, then continuing on a path through pasture to rejoin the road at TL 246643.
On Day 3, near RAF Wyton, we cut out 2km of road walking, by taking the bridleway from the A1123 on the outskirts of Houghton at TL 280726, then the footpath running approx. N across 2 fields to reach the A1090 just beyond the airbase. This left another 2km of busy road, before we could turn off, thankfully, on the path towards Kings Ripton.
So we will not be able to claim our certificate for having done all the route (£2 from the address above) but we have visited some new sites and paths, and thought about the frantic and dedicated wartime activity in these now very quiet fields.
Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
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Price 10 pence where sold Cantab 58 © Janet Moreton, 2010