Skip to content

Document Header

Content Header

CANTAB61 March 2011

CANTAB61 March 2011 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Editorial This month we have a delightful reminiscent article by John Capes on rambling abroad as it was nearly 60 years ago.

Otherwise, my recent excursions in Whaddon, investigating a proposal to divert a footpath, and planning a led walk for Cambridge Group’s Summer programme, led to Whaddon’s promotion as “Parish of the Month”. I hope the article provides the walker with some added interest in this low-lying piece of South Cambridgeshire.

Parish of the Month – Whaddon

Whaddon was originally settled by Danes.

The subsequent medieval village was based on two E-W routes, one past the church and Hoback Farm, crossing the R Rhee at Malton en route to Barrington. The southern one passed Manor Farm (now the golf course), and made for Meldreth. These tracks joined at Whaddon Gap, where they crossed Ermine Street.

The northern boundary of the parish is formed by the R.Rhee, with the lands to the south almost flat, between 20 & 25m. To the SE, the boundary is the Hoback Stream, which provides water for some moats, and to the East is Roman Ermine Street, the Old North Road. The parish lands were enclosured by an award of 1841.

Archaelogical digs in the centre of the parish in 1995 discovered several square pits, ditches, and signs of a hearth, with dating evidence suggesting the Iron Age. Previously, a Neolithic axe had been found near the R Rhee, and some prehistoric flints in ground to north of the present settlement. Roman and Anglo-Saxon traces have been found on the borders of the parish at Wimpole and Arrington (see Cantab 59, Nov 2010).

The population in 1088 was recorded as 43. By 1377 there were 170 tax-payers. In 1871, the census gave 384 residents, some engaged in coprolite digging. In 1996, the population was 540, augmented by troops & families from Bassingbourn barracks.

Points of interest

St Mary’s church (TL 349466) dates from ca. 1300, having a Perpendicular tower and north doorway. It is reputed to contain interesting C15th carving to the chancel screen and roof bosses, but sadly is kept locked. A rectory was recorded in 1359, lying within a rectangular moat, of which the south part is still shown on the OS sheet. The present house retains a late medieval structure, and may be studied discreetly from the pleasant churchyard. Fp 6 leads from the churchyard, across the large recreation ground to the village hall.

Sites of Old Manors The site of the former moated manor at ca. TL 352 465, given to Ely in 970, is now under the golf course. The south arm of the moat is 8m wide and still filled with water. This estate passed to Hardwin de Scalers after 1066, then sequentially to the families Tempest, Harleys of Wimpole, then the Pickerings, but was finally demolished in the C19th. The site was ploughed out, but in recent years has been grassed over by the golf course, which is crossed by Fp7. The welcoming golf club-house is also a café, shop and post office.

Several erstwhile moated sites in the village have been filled in and ploughed. However, Turpine’s Manor, a pre-conquest estate stood at Town Farm on Church Street, where a dammed part of the stream survives. Hoback Farm (called Holebec in 1224) TL 358 470, still has a rectangular wet moat, but is unfortunately too far from Fp 4 to be seen.

Whaddon Great Green is a large wedge-shaped area of common land, running from the corner of Bridge Street to the Meldreth Road, and traversed by Fp8.

Dyers Green was always a separate hamlet. Its dead-end road, Bridge Street, at TL 350454 gives onto a junction of paths. Fp9 leads through Fountains Farm (legally, at present actually through the 1960ish farmhouse) towards Whaddon Green. Fp12, leads via Fp 11 to Ermine Street. Bassingbourn Byway 22 leads south to Chestnut Lane, as does Whaddon Fp13, via Bassingbourn 21, meeting the road near Kneesworth.

The fountain on Bridge Street From early 1800s to the 1950s, the attractive fountain was the only source of drinking water for the locality. It was bought by the village in 2000, and the fountain was repaired and the adjacent railed area planted with wild flowers. The project is dedicated to the memory of Fred Bradley, the Parish Chairman 1992-6.

Eternit Works – artificial stone Co. This was originally the Atlas Stone Co., and has an attractive 1930s brick frontage with stone reliefs, one depicting Atlas, TL 364446. It is actually outside Whaddon parish in Meldreth, and Meldreth Fp 2 sets off east outside its carpark.

Nursery in a former Methodist Chapel. On the corner of the road at Whaddon Green, TL 353 467, two paths turn off. Fp4, going north, makes for the historic crossing of the R Rhee at Kings Bridge. Fp5 wanders behind hedges and property boundaries, rejoining the road to Meldreth further on. The chapel here, with a small elderly congregation, closed ca 2000, but was soon re-occupied by tiny tots.

Walks from Whaddon (Use Explorer 209)
It is possible to use the village hall car park, if there is no function underway. Otherwise, park considerately round the village, or at parking provided at the start of the permissive paths, which are present as grass tracks round the edges of fields on the arable land between Whaddon and Ermine Street.

Inner village loop walks Start with the village hall behind you, and turn left along Chapel Street, passing Town Farmhouse and the village sign on a small triangular green. Turn left towards Dyers Green, passing the old fountain in a railed enclosure. Where the road ends, turn left on Fp9 down the drive of Fountains Farm. Following the path through the yard, and forward on a grassy field edge by a ditch. Emerge at the end of Fp8 on Great Green. Fp10 is a tiny spur leading out onto Meldreth Road. Turn left along the road, and take Fp5 signed off left at Whaddon Green. Follow this path past a cottage, over a footbridge, and later, over another small bridge to turn left, and return to Meldreth Road between the Nursery and an engineering works. Follow the road west to the church. Take Fp6 through the churchyard into the recreation ground, and back to the village hall.

Set off as before left along the road, soon turning into the entrance to the golf course. Fp7 passes near the club house (PO, café), and goes WSW by a line of trees, then finds a bridge over a stream into Great Green. Turn back to the road junction by the village sign on Fp8. Go a short way along the road to Whaddon Gap, soon turning SSW on Fp11. This can be followed to Ermine Street, but for the present circuit, half-way along, turn off E on Fp 12 to Dyers Green. A short walk N along the road returns one to the village hall. The above walk of little more than 3 miles takes in the “core” of Whaddon.

Longer walks are possible, with outline suggestions as follows.

To Wimpole and Orwell, 8 miles From the village hall, cross the rec (Fp6) to the churchyard, turn left past the church, and take Whaddon Fp3 going NW from the road junction. Follow continuing paths in Wimpole parish up the Avenue, crossing the A603 with care. Visit Wimpole Park (all facilities). Emerge down the entrance drive, and take the permissive path down Victoria Drive opposite, leading back to the A603 opposite the turning to Orwell Village. Walk to Orwell Church.

Take the road opposite past the Chequers PH, shop, and school, and where the tarmac road turns (Hurdleditch Road), continue on Orwell Fp10, first SW, then SE and S across Malton Golf Course. The route crosses the historically-sited Kings Bridge over the R Cam, and returns us to Whaddon on Fp4, emerging near the nursery. Use Fp8 along Great Green to return to the centre of Whaddon.

The walk may be extended to 11 miles by taking in the Cobbs Wood Farm and The Mare Way after visiting Wimpole.

(c) Circuit via Melbourn, 9 miles From the Village Hall, go to Dyers Green, and use Fp9 to reach the Meldreth Road. Walk towards Eternit Works, and immediately beyond, turn left on Meldreth Fp 2, signed to Meldreth village. Opposite Meldreth Church, take the path signed past the watermill, and follow the very beautiful route by the R Mel, over the railway, and under the bypass to continue near the river into Melbourn recreation ground. Emerge between retirement bungalows into the centre of Melbourn. Walk SW through the village, cross the bypass, and find the start of Ashwell Street. Turn off N before reaching Ermine Street, using a signed path skirting both a wood and Kneesworth Hospital, to emerge through a farmyard onto Chestnut Lane. Turn left with care on the road into Kneesworth, then shortly right on a signed path going N. This passes a new reservoir, and goes behind garden boundaries, becoming Whaddon Fp13, leading to Dyers Green.

Abroad in the Fifties
In the November Cantab, we discussed the problems of walking alone in a foreign country, without having much of the local language. Here, John Capes has kindly taken time to share with us his experiences of walking alone in Switzerland more than 50 years ago.

“I first went abroad in December 1949 in army uniform at the taxpayers’ expense as part of my 18 months National Service. Final destination was Dortmund in the Ruhr Valley of Germany, and there I spent the next nine months. During that time I did not learn much German: we were not supposed to fraternise with the locals, and those Germans working in the barracks knew sufficient English to get by, but I picked up a few words.

My next foray to foreign parts was in 1957 when I joined a Youth Hostel Association party on a walking tour of Luxembourg, the Mosel Valley and the Rhineland. Again there was no real need for much German, within the party we didn’t need to use it and contact with the local population was left mainly to the lady leader who had a good working knowledge of the language.

In 1959 I decided to go it alone. Although I was a member of the RA I decided not to go with a Ramblers Holidays party but booked with the Swiss Travel Service for a fortnight in the Bernese Oberland, staying at a hotel in a small village just south of Interlaken. This part of Switzerland is German speaking. In those days travel was mainly by boat and train – who remembers couchettes?.

I have a copy of ‘Teach Yourself German’ price 6s (30p), which in the front says ‘New Impression 1957’, but I am not convinced I bought it then, but think I got it for the 1959 trip. Also to help with the language I bought from Swiss Travel a small booklet called ‘Sprechen Sie Deutsch?’ for 3s 6d (17½p), which contains useful words and phrases and their pronunciation, which I still have. I don’t remember learning much from either of these before I went; I think I just hoped everything would be alright!

For navigation purposes I bought two 1:50,000 scale maps – Interlaken and Jungfrau – priced at 6s 3d (31p) each, labelled in German – Landeskarte der Schweiz; and in French – Carte nationale de la Suisse; which I think means they are the equivalent of our Ordnance Survey (OS) maps. These I still have. Swiss maps of that era (they may still be) were relief shaded, that is they have darker shading on one side of a ridge and lighter on the other. As the Bernese Oberland is rather mountainous there are also numerous contours. Paths and tracks are marked, but not as prominently as on OS maps, black dotted lines were used which tend to merge into the background. For that terrain larger scale maps would have been better.

So the vital question – how did I get on? The answer – very well. The lack of language was not really relevant. My few words enabled me to ask for things, I knew the numbers and I could always say ‘Ich bin Englander’ to explain my lack of understanding. The understanding of English by the locals was variable; in the hotel and shops it was reasonably good, but out in the countryside virtually non-existent.

Being at the junction of the Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald Valleys, with mountain railways in both directions and also down to Interlaken the village was in an excellent position for walking and I was spoilt for choice of routes. Any disadvantage with the maps was countered by the excellent condition of the paths and tracks. They were so well used and signed it would have been difficult to go wrong.

I walked up the Lauterbrunnen Valley, up the zigzag path to Murren, then by funicular railway down to Lauterbrunnen and train back. I took the train to Grindelwald, up the chairlift to First, walked the ten miles along a ridge path to Schynige Platte, down a rack railway and back up the valley by train. I went by train to Kleine Scheidegg (at the foot of the Jungfrau) and walked back to Wengen, and then train back. I walked to Grindelwald and went to look at the glacier above the town, and came back by train. I did a cruise on Lake Brienz; I went on a coach tour over three mountain passes that included going into an ice cave carved into the Rhone Glacier. The biggest excursion was on the Jungfrau Railway; this is carved up through the Monch mountain to the highest station in Europe on the Jungfraujoch at 11,333 feet, I walked out onto the Jungfrau Glacier, and on a very clear day had a marvellous view to the north extending for about 400 miles. My memory is of an excellent fortnight – some light rain on one day, otherwise mainly sunny and warm.”

John Capes, Jan. 2011

Two new routes in Little Shelford The Whittlesford verge & Clay Pits paths will be opened on Sunday 27 March, starting at the Navigator, Little Shelford, 2pm. All are welcome. Information from Peter Dene., or see the village website:

Shepreth Footpath 11 renovation
This is the charming path which starts beside the R. Shep, from the minor road near the RSPB reserve at TL 402 460. A signed handgate gives access to a narrow way beside the clear chalk stream overhung by willows. Later the path continues on a wide grassy ride by the river, and turns left onto a farm-track at TL 399 465. This leads to the old (bypassed) A10 almost opposite the Green Man pub. Here, on 9 Jan, we found a small County Council map and notice, advising of repair work along the path, between 20 Sept 2010 and 19 Mar 2011. The path would be closed while reconstruction was underway. Some pruning had already occurred.

Finches Walk, Cambridge City 42 , on Empty Common A sign announced that the central section between the allotments and Bentley Road, would be closed from 17 January for 42 days for tree works.

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, 20p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink. If you would like to receive an issue by post, please send an A5 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


Price 20 pence where sold Cantab 61 © Janet Moreton, 2011

CANTAB47 August 2008

CANTAB47 August 2008 published on

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


No, Cantab is not dead, only having a rather prolonged Summer break!  Meanwhile, material has been building up in the input folder, and there has been the occasional enquiry…So, here is the usual mix of information and comment hopefully of interest to ramblers in Cambridge and around East Anglia.
Janet Moreton

Have you a network of local paths?
As local Footpath Secretaries within the Ramblers’ Association for parishes in South Cambridgeshire, various complaints and enquiries are received.  One type comes from  walkers living in a village, who have problems with their local network. Most often, the problem relates to the condition of the paths – perhaps overgrown, muddy, or even obstructed.  But there are some villages in Cambridgeshire where it is quite difficult to make a local circuit using off-road routes, as the path network is too fragmented, or just plainly inadequate.

Until a few years ago, Landbeach was one such parish, with only the byway, a Roman Road, Akeman Street (Mere Way) running into Milton, and a few fragments of paths elsewhere. Then Cambridgeshire County Council planted a largish area of County Farms Estate with new forestry, and followed this up with a permissive path route off the Roman Road. The result is a very attractive 5 mile circuit, used by both local walkers, and by other ramblers who have spotted the discreet waymarks (TL 466639, TL 472652).

However, Little Shelford, a parish with a much larger population, has been considerably less fortunate.  Someone seeking a circular ramble would either have to walk quite a lot of road, or drive somewhere else. Below is a history of the situation, succinctly summarised by a local resident.

Countryside walks in Little Shelford
by Peter Dean
Do you like to take walks in the countryside?  Do you think it is important that there should be paths in and around villages where you might be able to do this?   The government thinks so:  its Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW 2000) was intended in substantial part to promote this.  It called on County Councils and other local authorities to identify the paths within their areas and register those not already on their Definitive Map.   Parish Councils, as they had been in the past in response to such calls in the ‘50s and ‘70s, had the duty of carrying out the work of identifying and registering (making claims for addition to the Definitive Map) of any such paths in their local area not thus included.

Little Shelford has no countryside (i.e. circular) walks.  In this respect it is the poorest village in South Cambridgeshire.  The average number in South Cambs villages is 13.   In the experience of many people who walked them, Little Shelford, up to about 11 years ago now, used to have at least two:

Path 1:  Garden Fields to Bradmere Lane (Claypits Lane) along the Parish Ditch
Path 2:  Cow Walk to Wale Recreation Ground to join  the Riverside Walk.
These were closed off with barbed wire in 1997.

Little Shelford Footpaths Group, a sub-committee of the Parish Council which had been alerted by the 2000 Act and by queries from parishioners, began collecting data from witnesses able & willing to testify that they had walked the footpaths in question over a period of years. These paths had not been registered following the previous calls.

When collected, this evidence was submitted to Cambs.C.C. The County Definitive Map Officer  recommended approval of the Path 1 application, but approval of only a part (Cow Walk itself) of the Path 2.  The Assistant Director Environment did not accept these recommendations and ordered a newly-appointed Map Officer to undertake a new review of the evidence and provide a report on each of the paths, not a single report covering both paths.  Little Shelford Parish Council (LSPC) meanwhile collected and submitted further signed user-witness statements.

The new Map Officer’s recommendation in his two reports, for which not many witnesses were interviewed, was that neither path application should be approved.  Insufficient evidence was given as reason.  No explanation was offered about the reversal of the previous officer’s recommendations, despite the submission of additional user-witness statements.  His recommendations were accepted by his senior officer and the applications refused.

As the only step left at this point to LSPC, an appeal was made directly to the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs.  This was examined by an inspector who did not visit the village nor consult LSPC.  His report concurred with the County Council finding that an order could not be made on grounds of insufficiency of evidence.  DEFRA accepted his findings and notified LSPC to that effect in December 2006.

Despite these rebuffs LSPC has decided to continue to work for the recognition of these paths.  Advice has been sought from and given by the Ramblers Association and the Open Spaces Society, two organisations specialising in responsible access to the countryside, the latter of which LSPC is now a subscribing member and which has expressed strong support for the application after reviewing all relevant documents.

(Extracted with permission from Little Shelford Parish newsletter)

On 23 September, Little Shelford Parish Council meets to discuss this situation. We wish them success.

A welcome notice
In May, I had been walking along the towpath of the Grand Union Canal in Northants.  I turned off to walk back to Welford along the Jurassic Way, when I came across this notice posted at each end of a cross-field path (OS Explorer 223, SP 633 795 – for those who like references): “POLITE NOTICE.  Apologies for any inconvenience caused during our repairing of the footpath, we hope to have it rolled and seeded soonest, weather permitting. Thank you.” (sic)
Bernard Hawes

Bernard wonders whether any readers have come across similar notices ever.  This is the first he has seen in many years of walking, and it makes a welcome change from barbed wire stiles and 6 inch wide token restorations.

Parish of the Month – Boxworth
See: Explorer 225.
The parish of Boxworth occupies more than 1000 ha (2600 acres) of mostly heavy clay land, located between Conington to the north, Elsworth to the west, Lolworth to the east, and Knapwell and Childerley to the south.  All these parishes except Elsworth have small populations, and remain very rural, in spite of their being sandwiched between the A14 and the A428, and of their close proximity to Bar Hill and Cambourne, and provide a good tract of pleasant walking on generally reasonable paths.

Historical Notes
I am indebted to a leaflet on Boxworth, by Christopher Parish, 1990, available from the parish church. Both he, and Alison Taylor in “Archaeology of Cambridgeshire”, Vol.1 (Publ. Cambs CC, 1997), agree that there is little trace of early settlement, apart from the discovery of a Roman gold coin, featuring Vespasian of the first century AD.

Landowners of Boxworth (including Ramsey Abbey) are ennumerated in the Doomsday Book. Overhall Grove was the site of an important medieval manor, held until the C14th by the “de Bokesworth” family.  The site was decayed by the C17th, but badgers still dig out medieval pottery in the nature reserve.

Huntingfields Manor  was owned by the Knevitt family until 1516, when it was sold to Thomas Hutton, and the moat existed until 1960 near the south end of Footpath 3, when it was filled in. In the C17th the manor house was moved to its present site (adjacent to bridleway 2), the property subsequently undergoing C18th remodelling.

The third Boxworth Manor was Segrave, held by the monks of Tilty Abbey, and located off Battlegate Road, opposite the start of Footpath 5. The Explorer sheet 225 shows “medieval earthworks” in Grange Wood, and the OS First Series 1:25 000 indicates a moat, but, Christopher Parish assures us that “badgers and several setts are the only occupants nowadays”.

The church of St Peter has a C12th nave;  the south aisle is C14th; and the vestry & chancel C17th .  Extensive restoration was carried out in 1868.  The old school, on High Street, was opened in 1839.

The population at Doomsday was 33. By 1801, the village held 220 souls; 350 in 1871; and back to 200 in 1951. Today, the village remains small.

Enclosure of the open fields under an Act of 1837 was completed by 1843. Some 129 acres went to the rector, and the remainder to the Thornhill Family, all common rights having been extinguished.  Dating from before enclosure, School Lane and Manor Lane, part of High Street to the north of Manor Lane, and the old road to Lolworth through Alice Grove are old hollow ways.  Old foundations of houses can been seen in fields either side of Manor Lane. The NW half of Farm Close shows ridge & furrow marks, which may also be seen at the NE end of the old cricket field.

New Barn Drift is “recent”, not being present on the 1650 map, nor the 1836 OS sheet. An older access to the church ran parallel to Church Lane, and N through the site of the sewage pumping station and wood.

In 1650, High Street opposite Church Farm did not exist., nor did the road to the A14. The road to Elsworth is “recent” (i.e. not on the 1650 map), cutting through the boundary hedge of Lapp Close.  The old route to Elsworth is thought to have gone S along the present Footpath 5 to Overhall.  An alternative way to Elsworth from Main Street went from near West Close to the Short Hedges Road.  A road existed on the SW side of Grape Vine Cottages leading round Farm Close , and NW of rectory land  to Short Hedges.  Part of this road behind Grape Vine is still visible.  Wander down the village, and see if you can spot some of these remnants.

An anomaly may be seen on the Explorer map. Lolworth Footpath 3 fails to pass beyond the parish boundary, having mysteriously vanished in Boxworth, although having apparently survived Enclosure.  The continuing route in Boxworth on old maps meets High Street, at or near a point where there is a large, handsome brick-built barn, perhaps some.100 years old, and  almost certainly present in 1952, when the  Definitive Map for Cambridgeshire was drawn up.

The present path network
Boxworth still has a good network of some 14 paths, all generally in fair order, with signposts indicating the start of paths, and gates or reasonable stiles.

Bridleway 1 leaves High Street at TL 349646, starts NW up a hard roadway, and continues as an earth track between arable fields, joining Conington bp 4, and continuing to the outskirts of Conington village.

Bridleway 2 has a sign at TL 349646 pointing across High Street to Manor Lane, again starting as a hard “no through road”.  It  passes the Manor House, crosses an attractive fenced causeway between lakes and trees, and continues as a field-edge path. Beyond a culvert bridge, it continues into Lolworth parish on Lolworth bp 1.

Footpath 3 is a pleasant inner-village path, turning off Manor Lane at TL 352645, crossing a pasture field, and passing through a small wood, before emerging  on High Street at TL 349643.  Dog owners should note the pasture occasionally contains cows.

Similarly, Footpath 4 runs across a field, sometimes with cattle, leaving High Street at TL 346642, and reaching School Lane at a kissing gate, TL 348644, opposite the rear entrance to the churchyard.

Footpath 5 is the through route to Knapwell, leaving Battlegate Road (not far from the smart “Golden Ball” Inn) at TL 345639, running generally SW to emerge on Knapwell fp 1, near the Overhall Grove nature reserve.  Footpath 6 is the start of the path actually in the nature reserve, continuing as a permissive route (part of Boxworth parish, although close to Knapwell village).

Footpath 7 is a gravel / grass track  starting E at TL348 627 along Battle Gate Road to join the network of paths in Childerley hamlet.

Byway 8, Thorofare Lane, joins Battlegate Road at TL 345623 with the road to the South of Knapwell. From the same point, the track running east towards Childerley is designated Footpath 10.

Footpath 9 is a short path branching off Thorofare Lane at TL 335624, going N towards Overhall Grove reserve, while Footpath 11 turns south along grassy field edges, then SE towards Birds Pastures Farm. Note a slightly awkward stile at TL 343 613, between 2 fields.

Bridleways 12, 13, 14 form a triangle south of Battle Gate near Birds Pastures Farm, giving access to the network of Childerley paths to the east.  Bridleway 12 joins Knapwell byway 7 running SW to the old A428. The presence of a road-bridge here over the new dual carriageway A428, gives useful access to Cambourne. Bridleway 13 follows the hard farm road.  Bridleway 14 goes across an arable field between TL 344 616, opposite a ruined house, to a gate at a field corner, TL 347 614, and in recent years has usually been reinstated.

Walking Routes
From the above notes on the path network, it is clear that it is possible to make a variety of circuits, involving Boxworth, Conington, Elsworth, Knapwell, Childerley, Lolworth, and Cambourne. Roughly speaking, a 3-parish circuit gives a route of 6 – 7 miles, and a 4-parish circuit some 10 – 12 miles, perhaps more if including Cambourne.
N.B. Two parishes in this locality have been featured before in “Cantab Rambler”.
See Cantab 17, Jan 2003 for Elsworth.
And Cantab 41, April 2007 for Conington

Overhall Grove, TL 337 633
Some 17 ha of land, an SSSI,  are owned by the Wildlife Trust. Nearest access from a road is best made from the path beside Knapwell Church. The Grove consists of a poorly drained woodland, mostly small-leaved elm, which has suffered Dutch Elm disease. Spring flowers include bluebells, oxlips and wood anemones. Autumn visitors will appreciate a good display of fungi, as well as seasonal foliage colours. Note the display boards. The “Red Well” may be visited.

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, 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, and a 20p 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


Cantab 47 – Price 20 pence where sold  © Janet Moreton, 2008

CANTAB44 December 2007

CANTAB44 December 2007 published on

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


I led a walk in late November, advertised as an opportunity to view late Autumn colours.  We visited Hayley Wood, and were lucky to find still a reasonable number of leaves still hanging on the trees like tattered coloured prayer flags. But underfoot was a bright, if rather soggy carpet of leaves, to remind us of a pleasant dry Autumn.

Unless in Thetford Forest, and its conifer plantations, or visiting foreign parts on a Christmas jaunt, one is unlikely to have spectacular leaves, fungi, or indeed wild flowers to admire now. So I always consider Winter is particularly the time to seek out interesting buildings on a walk; to study our lovely local churches, or just to look at the lie of the land, its bare clay or chalk revealed.

So this Month’s parish, Meldreth, has rather more description of its buildings and history than usual.  Tell me if you find this interesting, or if more walks’ details would be preferred.

Janet Moreton

Parish of the Month – Meldreth
On 18 November, I visited Meldreth Community Hall, for an “open day” in which a wealth of information on the history of the village, and its present activities were displayed.  I took notes, and augmented this by some reading, especially in Alison Taylors’s “Archaeology of Cambridgeshire”, Vol. 1, published by Cambs.C.C in 1997.

Prehistory;  Roman…
The parish covers 976 ha, of flattish chalkland in the valley of the Rhee.. Like most of South Cambridgeshire, human occupation goes back a long way. The Neolithic Age is represented by finds of an axe, flints and pottery in the village.  A smith’s hoard of the Late Bronze Age was found near the station (including 27 axes, 3 spears, 9 swords, and 15 lumps of bronze). Iron Age shards of pottery were found near the bypass. From Roman times, a lead coffin containing a bronze armlet, a perfume bottle and a coin of Cunobelin were found at Mettle Hill in 1816. Since then, several stone coffins have been found at Mettle Hill (one of which is now kept in the church nave), and pottery and bronze items,C1 – 4th  were found in the north of the parish.

Saxon; Norman; Medieval
Mettle Hill, called Motloweyhil in 1319, was the site of the moot for Armingford Hundred, probably on the same slight mound that the Romans had used to bury their stone coffins.

The oldest part of Holy Trinity Church is C12th, built on the site of an earlier wooden church, recorded as “monasterium” in Domesday. The church is of rubble, with external clunch walls, the present heavy rendering dating from 1838-42.  The fine lofty interior has a Perpendicular S aisle arcade of 5 bays.  The narrow Norman chancel has 3 tall Norman windows, and a thin narrow one, depicting a monk kneeling before the Lamb of God.  The lower stages of the tower date from the late C12th, with upper stages built a century later.  The font and parish chest are C15th, as is the king-post roof.  The C15th stalls with carved poppy heads were taken from a Suffolk church.  Remnants of the screen are late C15th, made up and installed in the C19th.  In 1658, George Pyke of Sheene Manor left £120 for the building of a funerary chapel to the E of the S aisle.  The fine peal of 8 bells has the tenor dating from 1617.

A moated site off Bury Lane (byway 12) still marks the position of successive Sheene Manor houses, once owned by St Evroul Abbey in France after the Norman Conquest, then by Sheene Priory in Surrey by 1415. The present house , seen best through Winter trees, has an incomplete moat.

Much easier to view from footpath 6 at any time of year is Topcliffe’s Mill, opposite the church. The path goes directly past the mill-race. The site of Topcliffe’s Manor (mentioned in texts from 1290) was by a moat S of the church.  In 1380, there was a thatched house & gateway. In 1553, the Manor was granted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London.  In 1617 and 1631, the Mill and Manor Close were leased to Robert Halfhead. Sadly, the mill ceased to operate in 1942. Also in the parish were Church Mill, Sheene Mill, and Flambard’s Mill, of which there is now no sign.

Vesey’s Manor stood on a moated site next to Topcliffe’s.  Another moat surrounded Flambard’s Manor, again long gone, but whose name is remembered in Flambard’s Close, at the end of which a footbridge gives access to Footpath 6, beside the R.Mel.

The Victorians…
By the C19th, the houses in the parish were grouped in 5 hamlets: at North End; around the church; along High Street and at Manor Close; at Chiswick End; and around Sheene Mill.  Meldreth seems always to have been well-populated, with ca 200 residents in Domesday, a population of 1931 recorded in the 1851 census, and ca. 1800 in 2000.

The group of properties by the railway station dated from the coming of the railway in 1851. The simple 2-storey Great Northern station, with a station house, goods-shed, warehouse stabling, and row of 6 cottages completed a small railway settlement.  Between 1892 and the 1950s, there was also a tramway, running from the cement works to the station.

Like the rest of the chalk belt from Leighton Buzzard to Burwell, Meldreth was affected by Coprolite mining in Cambridgeshire in the C19th., the crushed and treated fossil deposits being used as fertiliser, as containing 35 – 60% phosphate.  The Cambridgeshire Collection has an old photo (ca.1880) of railway waggons taking Coprolites from Whaddon to Meldreth Station.

The 1820 map of the parish, just before Inclosure shows several large fields: Little Field; Chiswick End Field; Little Holme; Synacroft; Mantry Field; Hollow Field; Down Field; Northfield. If this represents the relic of the medieval 3-field system, then it must  reflect the effect of more than one Manor in the parish, each with its own set of fields. The 1st Edition of the Ordnance Survey sheet for Meldreth, at 25 inches/mile is dated 1887.  An interesting 1910 Land Valuation Duty map exists. Older maps show areas of orchards. Many of these were grubbed out in the 1950s, but Fieldgate Nurseries (established 1969) and the Cam Valley Orchards still provide an opportunity for buying local produce.

The present OS Sheets (Landranger 154, Explorer 209) show a reasonable network of public paths in the parish, numbered up to 14 on Cambs.C.C’s definitive map. Paths between Meldreth and its “sister” parish Melbourn are somewhat debased by the need to cross both the railway and the bypass, the latter built 1988.  Crossing the railway is easy, but requires the usual care on a busy line.  The bypass can give trouble to cross at peak times – avoid especially late afternoon in dim Winter light, as commuters start home…

Many pleasant circuits are possible, starting, for example, from a small carpark opposite the church (but not on a Sunday morning), or from the railway station.

Thus, from the church, take fp 4 to Malton Lane, N along the lane to Malton Cottages, across the field to walk by the R.Mel to Orwell.  Here inspect the new Chapel Orchard (picnic site), and the chalk pit (nature reserve).  Return via the path to the golf course, crossing the R.Cam at King’s Bridge, and thence to Whaddon.  Return on fp 2 from the cement works to near Meldreth Church  (8 miles).

The energetic can extend the walk from Orwell to Wimpole Hall (12 miles). Again starting from the stile beside Meldreth church, take fields parallel to the road on fp 3, to return to the road to Shepreth.  Turn off across Shepreth L-Moor and exit towards Shepreth church.  Take the path past the rear of the zoo, and over the railway to Barrington.  Return along the green, to Dumpling Cottages, and past young woodland back to Malton Lane, by the Meridian Stone. Take the path to the R.Mel, returning to the road at Malton Cottages, and so back to Meldreth. (7 miles).

The most attractive path in Meldreth is fp 6, from opposite the church, passing the old mill, and running through woodland, beside the R.Mel.  It crosses the railway, beyond which is a choice of routes through to Melbourn recreation ground.  Turn W to pick up Bury Lane,  cross the bypass (twice), and use the ancient Ashwell Street towards Kneesworth. (When last here, we were relieved to see the fly-tipping had been cleared).  Turn N up a good path behind Kneesworth hospital.  Beyond the farm shop on Chestnut Lane, turn left, then soon right on a footpath N to Whaddon. Visit Church, or golf-course café,  again returning via the cement works (7 miles)

For a satisfying linear walk, from Cambridge take the train to Meldreth.  Return on foot through Shepreth L-Moor reserve, Barrington, Chapel Hill, Haslingfield, Cantelupe Farm Road and bridleway, Grantchester (the orchard tearoom?) and so to Cambridge by the riverside and Paradise.   (13 miles)

Essex Bridleway Improvement
An historic bridleway linking Hainault Forest with Havering Country Park, now provides permanent access to Woodland Trust land at the adjoining Havering Park Farm.  Previously, a section of the Havering Link leading through the forest had been impassably muddy in Winter, but the new, slightly diverted route will be accessible year round.

The Woodland Trust acquired 4 fields at Havering early 2006.  Three of these fields are to be returned to wood-pasture: already cattle have been brought in to graze.  The fourth field was once part of the forest, and has been restored with 10 000 native broadleaf trees, planted by local schoolchildren & scouts..

Norfolk last October
A party primarily of Ramblers’ Association Cambridge Group had a very pleasant mid-week break in Norfolk in October.  Most of us stayed at Butterfly Cottage, (; tel. 01263 768198) in Aldborough, not far from Blickling, where we were most comfortable, and very well fed.

Our first (afternoon only) walk was centred on nearby Blickling Park. All went well within the park, but on venturing down a signed path towards the R. Bure, the boardwalk gave out abruptly some 100m before the river bank, and the innocent-looking grass beyond was found to be some 4 inches or more deep in water!  Having survived this hazard, the walking for the remainder of the week was dry underfoot on predominantly sandy soils.

On 3 subsequent days, we enjoyed a mixture of country and coast each day with 10 – 12 mile walks based on Sheringham, Wells and Cromer. The walk along the sand at Wells on a falling tide, on a day of quiet clear beauty was voted the top experience of the week. On the last day, some of the party lingered for a morning walk round The Walsinghams and Great Snoring.

Whilst Norfolk walking is within 1.5 – 2 hours driving from Cambridge, taking a few days away with friends provides a much more relaxing break, and the opportunity to share knowledge of attractive venues beyond the scope of the normal weekly walking programme.

Janet Moreton

Claiming old paths in Little Shelford
We were sorry to learn recently that two paths claimed as rights of way at Little Shelford on the basis of 20 years uninterrupted use by local people had failed to satisfy Cambridgeshire County Council’s criteria for a Modification Order under The Wildlife & Countryside Act, 1981.  In this case the relevant 20 year period was between ca 1950 and 1970, which means that many former users are now dead, and others, obviously, have less-than-clear memories of the exact situation. While some County Councils insist on a minimum number of witnesses (six seems to be a common minimum),  this does not seem to have been the problem in this case.

However, the organiser of the campaign, Peter Dean, (tel. 01223 846343) would like to hear from any older readers who used the footpath from Garden Fields, to the end of Bradmore Lane, or Cow Walk and a footpath through the woods to The Wale Recreation Ground.

Cut the Clutter!
The Open Spaces Society has just produced a new information sheet, C18, “Removing and Improving Path – paraphernalia“. Written by Chris Beney, the document is available at £5 from the Open Spaces Society, 25A, Bell St., Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, RG9 2BA.

Methods of reducing unnecessary and undesirable structures on public paths, such as gates and stiles are outlined. We are told how to identify such structures, establishing their legality, and, where appropriate, getting them removed or altered.   For most people, the need to open (and close) a gate, or climb a stile is an inconvenience on a path, but if one is less-able, then such footpath furniture might prove an insurmountable obstacle.

Chris Beney states “Government is committed to the rule of using the least-restrictive option on paths, but this is not often followed in practice, despite there being a British Standard, BS5709:2006, which gives clear guidance on how to achieve it.”

Stop Linton Wind Farm
RA Cambridge Group’s Committee has been approached by the Stop Linton Wind Farm Group about the implications for walkers and other “users”, and the impact of a proposed wind farm both on routes and on the landscape.  The proposal is for eight turbines some 125 metres high stretching down the ridge from Catley Park to the Cam Grain silos near the Cambridge to Linton Road. There are fears that if one such development is approved, other landowners might be tempted to make similar proposals.

If readers of Cantab Rambler wish to know more about the proposal, please visit
David Elsom

Falling off a gate…
It was reported in the last issue of Cantab that Roger injured himself falling from a locked gate obstructing a public path from Stretham to Wilburton, East Cambs.

It was found later that Roger had broken his collar bone.  After 10 weeks, there is some improvement, but he is still wearing a sling much of the time, and is not yet driving.  Many thanks to all who have offered sympathy and help.  Although we reported the incident promptly to Cambs.C.C, it was over 3 weeks before a Council Officer inspected the site, and longer before we learned that the farmer disclaimed knowledge of the correct line of the path.  Roger has yet to receive an apology.

The December Quotation
I have finished another year, said God,
In grey, green, white, and brown;
I have strewn the leaf upon the sod,
Sealed up the worm within the clod,
And let the last sun down.”

Thomas Hardy, “New Year’s Eve

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, 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, and a 20p 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 20 pence where sold

Cantab44 © Janet Moreton, 2007.