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** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **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

CANTAB25 July 2004

CANTAB25 July 2004 published on

 ** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


There is a tendency to travel further afield in the Summer, and for many of us the pleasant shady walks in Thetford Forest, and the well-maintained facilities at West Stow Country Park, Suffolk, will already be well-known. This issue aims to provide the background to West Stow, and some suggestions for shady Summer walks.

Janet Moreton

West Stow, Suffolk
Archaeological studies showed that between 450 and 650 AD, an Anglo-Saxon settlement occupied a sandy site near the River Lark, 6 miles NW of Bury St Edmunds.  The settlers either advanced in shallow boats up the River Lark, or on foot along the trackway called the Icknield Way, the oldest road in Britain, being in Saxon times already at least 2000 years old.

Today, the Country Park stands on the same site, and reconstructed houses of the  Anglo-Saxon village gives visitors the opportunity to picture life during this early period of history. In particular, special events, such as costume drama, and  demonstrations of crafts, such as weaving, basket making, and metal and leather working give visitors a chance to interact with modern-day Anglo-Saxons .

Most walkers, however, will visit the Country park to walk round the attractive lake & by the river, and to roam more widely in the adjacent Kings Forest, which is a part of the East Anglian Forest known generally as Thetford Forest.

Development of West Stow Country Park
The site was originally part of West Stow Heath, forming part of the adjacent Culford Estate.  In 1886, this part of the heath was sold to the local council, and later a sewage farm was established at the east end of the site.  This did not close until 1953, when the area was used for mineral extraction, and then, in the 1960s, as a municipal rubbish dump! When the dump was full, a gravel pit was dug at the west end of the site, and the landfill site landscaped with the topsoil.  During excavation of the gravel pit, the Anglo-Saxon site was discovered and investigated, and subsequently the reconstructed village was built on the original ground.  At the east end of the site, the building and chimney of the old pumping station remain.  In 1979, the Country Park opened officially, comprising 150 acres  of heath, sparse grassland, swamp, woods, and  the lake.  It is possible to walk over 2 miles on made-up paths.

The Visitor Centre (opened 1988) and Angles Café overlook a bird feeding area with hides, and information boards relating to wildlife are distributed round the site.

Forest on the Norfolk-Suffolk Border
The Breckland, around Brandon and Thetford, until the 1920s was a region of dry, unstable sands, much uncultivated. Land became available between the wars due to the depressed state of agriculture, which produced great poverty in Breckland, and led to many farmers subsisting on the produce of rabbit warrens. The first land for tree -planting was acquired by the  Forestry Commission from 1922, and gradually more added until 80 square miles were planted with trees, mostly Scots and Corsican pines, making Thetford Forest the largest in England. Adverse climatic conditions (rainfall average 23 inches/annum, cold Winters, dry Summers ), and a poor soil (deep sands, or shallow sand over chalk) dictated the choice of conifers.  In the post-war years, opening of much of the forest to the public, amenity planting of deciduous trees, and development of car parking and recreational facilities, has given us the lovely forest we can now enjoy.

Walking in the West Stow locality
The best map to use is the Explorer 229.  Several Long Distance Paths (LDPs) pass through West Stow, emphasizing its importance in the network of walking routes. These include: The Lark Valley Path; The Icknield Way; and the St Edmunds Way.

–But consider first easy walks in the immediate vicinity of the park, where a leaflet is available from both the café and the Visitor centre to guide your steps around West Stow Country Park itself.  The shop attached to the café also has leaflets on some of the other routes described below.

Nearby, on the junction of the A1101 with the minor road to West Stow village is the Ramparts Field Carpark and picnic site.  In Summer, it is well worth pausing for a short stroll here, and admiring the wildflowers.  The short grass may be bright with the white flowers of meadow saxifrage in April, small clumps of the rare maiden pink, and yellow biting stonecrop in June, and purple vipers bugloss and rose-bay willow herb in high Summer. In Winter, you will have to be content with the odd gorse bloom.

Off the A1101, between Lackford and Flempton is the Lackford Bird Reserve, with several hides, giving views of birds on several attractive lakes.  The recently opened Visitor Centre has excellent displays and facilities. An agreeable walk of a couple of miles is possible here, with many pleasant distractions.  However, be warned that it is not safe to walk here from either Lackford village or Flempton, as the busy road has no footway or verges, nor does there seem to be any route on foot into the reserve other than down the driveway off the A1101.

North of the Country Park, on the other side of the road is The Kings Forest, which is largely open access on gravel or grassy rides.  Look out for signs advising of forestry operations, and if you venture into the smaller rides, making several turns, be sure to take a compass as well as a map!  It is in the less frequented rides where you will more likely encounter deer and the shyer birds. We have seen a rough-legged buzzard and sparrow hawks here, and, on an unforgettable night walk, heard night-jars.

–For a more substantial walk traversing the site, try The Lark Valley Path, which is a 13 mile linear waymarked route between Mildenhall and Bury St Edmunds, passing Icklingham, West Stow, Culford and Fornham All Saints.  A bus service runs between the end points of the walk, and some of the buses actually call at the park entrance. Telephone “County Connections” on 01473 265676 for details.

–It is possible to use the Lark Valley Path going W as the start of an excellent 13 mile circuit.  Follow the waymarked route NNE out of the Country Park W of the lake, crossing the road and continuing briefly NNE on the rough track, Weststow Road, towards the Kings Forest. In 250yd, at a prominent waymark post, turn left (W) to follow the Lark Valley Path towards, then through Icklingham.  At the far end of the village, on a sharp bend in the A1101, turn NNE up the track called Seven Tree Road.  Follow this 3 miles to the T-junction with Dukes Ride.  Turn E to the B1106. A footpath runs S by the road just inside the hedge at far as Shelterhouse Corner.  Here there is a monument to George V, where pick up Queen Mary’s Avenue between fine trees, leading into the long byway, Weststow Road, which returns you to the Country Park.

–For a walk leading out of the forest, take the Lark Valley Path E out of the Country Park past the old pumping house, following waymarks through a strip of woodland, and turning shortly along by the River Lark, to emerge by a charming little bridge where the road crosses. Turn left to follow this minor road to West Stow Church.  Almost opposite, the Lark Valley Path enters the grounds of Culford Hall, now a boarding school.  The route either follows the right of way along the drive, or a marked permissive way beside the river. In either case one emerges in Culford village, where a path (best in Summer, damp in Winter) is the start of a route to Timworth. From the A134, follow a minor road to Timworth church, and take a right of way from the rear of the churchyard across a point-to-point course to Ingham.  A footpath runs W through Place Farmyard across arable fields back to Culford.  From Brockley Corner, a sandy byway runs N past a tumulus called “Hill of Health” on the map.  After half a mile, turn left on the path to Wordwell Hall.  Over the road, a further footpath continues W to the edge of the forest.  Follow shady rides along the forest edge to Forest Lodge,  and the hard track S, to pick up the road leading W, shortly back to the country park. (12 miles).

This walk can be shortened considerably by turning N on the waymarked  path crossing the playing fields in Culford Scholl grounds, and turning E along the road, to join the byway past “Hill of Health”. (8 miles).

The Icknield Way Long Distance Path, runs 100 miles from Ivinghoe Beacon near Dunstable to Knettishall Heath in Suffolk, passing through West Stow. The route is co-incident with the Lark Valley Path from Icklingham to Weststow Road in the Kings Forest .  It passes through the Country Park, and from Forest Lodge, makes along the edge of the tree belt to Wordwell Hall, before joining the long byway NNE, then E to D-House.  The route uses Euston Drove, and through the Euston Estate, to Knettishall.

The St Edmunds Way, starts in Manningtree, to pass through Flatford, Bures, Sudbury, Long Melford, Stanningfield, Bury St Edmunds, West Stow, Thetford and finishes at Brandon.  Approaching West Stow from the E, the route passes through the grounds of Culford Hall, and beyond the Country Park, it leaves NNE along the track variously called Weststow Road, or The Icknield Way (not to be confused with the LDP of that name).  A route along the New Barnham Slip takes one into Thetford, then by riverside to Brandon.

Further reading
East Anglian Forests – Forestry Commission Guide, Ed. Herbert L.Edlin
HMSO, London 1972. ISBN 11 710032 3

The St Edmund Way – A Walk across Suffolk
Jean & John Andrews (£4.25 from 6, Priory Close, Ingham, Bury St Edmunds, IP31 1NN)

The Icknield Way – a Walkers’ Guide
Available from The Icknield Way Association
D. Northrop, 5 Perne Ave, Cambridge, CB1 3RY, tel. 01223 244522

The Value of Trees in Society
A new Woodland Trust Report (see Broadleaf, No.62, Spring 2004, p.7), brings together evidence of the total value of woodland in society, in terms of economic, social and environmental factors.

James Cooper, the Woodland Trust’s public affairs manager quotes the health benefits of walking and cycling in woodland beauty being estimated as saving the NHS up to M£4.5 per annum in the West Midlands along, while general tree cover of 20% was thought to add 7% to house prices in parts of Central England and the Welsh Borders.

A Forestry Commission study estimated that the absorption of (airborne) pollution by trees resulted in the saving of 65 to 89 lives in the UK per year.  A Northumberland study put the value of woodland for flood alleviation at ca. £1200 /ha. Over a quarter of the 350 million woodland visits by the public each year generate money into the local economy.  Residents of tree-lined streets are reported to be in far less conflict with neighbours compared with those in treeless neighbourhoods.  For the full report visit  Meanwhile, just enjoy a walk in the woods!

The Woodland Trust
Britain’s leading woodland conservation charity offers free public access at nearly all its 1180 sites, covering 19 209 ha.  Members receive the magazine “Broadleaf”, and an annual directory of sites.  We admire especially the initiatives within the last 20 years of new woodland planting, which has particularly benefited East Anglia.  The Woodland Trust is at Autumn Park, Grantham, Lincs.,  NG31 6LL. tel 01476 581111.

New Bridleway at Bottisham, Cambs.
Four members of RA Cambridge Group attended the official opening on 29 March, of a new bridleway on Cambridgeshire County Council land.  It runs from the A1303 “old Newmarket Road” at grid ref. TL 562 600 to Swaffham Heath Road at TL 570 620, and consists of a grassy field-edge path beside a hedge.  It is crossed by a footpath from Park End, Bottisham, and the south end connects with the network of byways from Great Wilbraham and Westley Bottom.  Thus it makes possible a number of new circuits in the Bottisham – Wilbraham locality.      JM

Looking Back – When did that happen?
Coming across a bunch of old Cambridgeshire County Council newsheets called “Countryside Matters”,

Summer Issue, 1990 had an article on the opening of 26 miles of the Ouse Valley Way, “the culmination of a huge programme of work organised by Huntingdonshire District Council.” Today, this has become but one section of a much longer route from the upper reaches of the river in Bedfordshire, to the exit of the Great Ouse into the Wash.

Spring Issue, 1991, refered to the purchase of 164 acres of the Gog Magog Hills by the Magog Trust in 1989. In 1991, 26 acres were sown with chalk grassland mixture, 30 acres were sown as meadowland, and 18 acres of woodland were planted. Some of the trees are now 15 – 20 feet high, and the wildflowers are more beautiful each year…

The same issue emphasised the requirements of the 1990 Rights of Way Act, especially in respect of farmers marking cross field paths across arable fields. Thirteen years on, the Ramblers’ Association is still fighting this battle on our behalf…

Summer Issue, 1991 featured plans for Milton Country Park.  Contractors working for South Cambridgeshire District Council had at that time completed a £280 000 demolition and clearance job ready for landscape work to begin.  Today, the Country Park is well-established, and users are enjoying the additional benefits of the adjacent newly opened cycle and footbridge over the A14.

Spring Issue, 1992 described the start of the then Countryside Commission’s scheme for Parish Paths Partnership.  This scheme, involving some 70 parishes or so per year in Cambridgeshire, gives small grants direct to parishes for managing their local network.

The same issue has a double spread of the problems of litter in the countryside.  Here, nothing changes – the major problems are fly tipping, and dumping of old cars.  These eyesores are reported regularly to the District Council, not always to any effect.  Other problems are litter bins, which, of course, need emptying. Seeing overflowing bins creating a horrible mess after a bank holiday, it confirms my personal view that most tourist sites would be better without them, so that we should take our litter home. JM

Correction – Great Chesterford
In the last issue, describing walks around Great Chesterford, I erroneously described this village as being 6 miles from Cambridge.  I had intended to put 10 miles.  Eagle-eyed John Capes spotted this mistake, and puts the distance at 11 miles.  Thank you, John.-

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, 10p 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 10p 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


Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2004