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CANTAB79 December 2014

CANTAB79 December 2014 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


Manifesto for Open Spaces
The Open Spaces Society (OSS), in its Summer 2014 magazine defines its policies in advance of the next General Election in Spring 2015. It is suggested that committed walkers and lovers of green spaces have ready a number of questions to put to their MPs and Candidates, and to be prepared to press them to promote the Open Space’s Action Plan.

The Plan seems full of good ideas (or ideals!) some of which are noted below.

Public Paths
The OSS considers that routes in regular use should be exempt from the 2026 deadline for claiming new public paths, with a commitment to lift this deadline should the new procedures in the Deregulation Bill not prove effective in accelerating and simplifying claims.  Highway Authorities must have sufficient funding to carry out their statutory duties with respect to public paths. Grants to landowners should be conditional on all public rights of way on their land being unobstructed.

Space close to homes
Every citizen should have access to good quality open space within 5 minutes walk of home. To this end, there should be clearly defined criteria designating open spaces, e.g. in local plans. There should be a requirement to provide suitable alternative land before a public open space is taken for another purpose. There should be incentives for developers to provide areas of public open space through the planning system, and support for communities to acquire land for public open space.

Village Greens
Where an application has been submitted for a town green or village green, the land should be protected from development until the application has been determined.

Common Land
County & Unitary Authorities should have a duty to take action against unlawful works on Common Land. And the whole of Part 1 of The Commons Act, 2006 should be implemented in England, so that registers are finally correct after 50years. The OSS would like to see a 20mph speed limit on unfenced roads passing commons.

New Public Footpath at Coton
See Explorer Sheet 208

A public path creation agreement has been signed between Cambridge Past, Present and Future ( PPF formerly the Cambridge Preservation Society), and Cambridgeshire County Council.  The Order has been made under the Highways Act 1980 section 25 creating Public Footpath No.10 in Coton, Cambs.

The path has been made possible by the construction of a new footbridge over The Bin Brook, using £36 000 raised by PPF. with generous assistance from various grant-giving bodies. The footbridge was opened with acclaim last June, by Mrs Beryl Smart, rambler, long-time Coton resident, and a dedicated volunteer in the County Council’s Parish Paths Partnership scheme.

Some notes on locating the path might be helpful. From Coton Church, turn along Whitwell Way, passing the school on the right, and a couple of cul de sacs on the left. Turn left down St Peter’s Road, to reach Brookfield Road at a T-junction. Here, turn left, and Fp10 starts in the corner of the cul de sac, at TL 4087 5852. The route goes through a kissing gate, and crosses the Bin Brook on a new foot-bridge, then goes through a second gate into a large meadow. The right of way leaves the field in the diagonally opposite corner, at TL 4106 5831.

However, looking across the field from near the Bin Brook, it is not possible to see the exit on the far side, but on approaching, an obvious route continues east on a grassy lane between hedges, passing the sewage works. At TL 4111 5831, the right of way exits through a gate onto a tarmac lane, a shared access with the sewage works, and meets Grantchester Road at TL 4125 5832.

Opposite, a permissive path leads into Coton Countryside Reserve, and a network of other paths.

From the new bridge over the Bin Brook, it is also possible to turn right in the meadow, following the hedge on the right to the corner at TL 4095 5830. A hand-gate leads to permissive paths circum-navigating a large arable field, part of Rectory Farm, and privately owned, and leading to other permissive paths in The Countryside Reserve.

Parish of the Month – Abingtons
OS Explorer 208
Great and Little Abington face each other across the usually narrow stream of the R Granta. The impression is of a single village, with many very pretty old cottages, interspersed with a couple of small C20th housing estates, and retirement bungalows, and, set apart, the former Land Settlement housing amidst what was once market gardens.

Great Abington has 9 public paths, and Little Abington has 6. Taken together, these paths make only for gentle strolls, were one to stay rigorously within the parishes, but linked with the wider network into Babraham, Hildersham, Linton or into Essex at Great Chesterford, some fine walks are available.

Like much of Cambridgeshire, the Abingtons have evidence of prehistoric occupation, with groups of round barrows built along the main route of the ancient Icknield Way. But there is nothing to see – they were ploughed out in the C20th. Pieces of Bronze Age pottery were found, ploughed into ditches, and occasional sherds of Iron Age pottery connected with an Iron Age cemetery in nearby Pampisford. Roman pottery was found, in two separate sites in Great Abington especially near the church and river.

Part of the Anglo-Saxon Brent Ditch, with very little trace of bank surviving, alas, runs NW from the tongue of chalky boulder clay , stretching W to Abington Park Farm, up to the A11, then across to the wooded park of Pampisford Hall, ending in the springs in Dickman’s Grove.

Walkers love maps, and we are fortunate to have in the Cambridgeshire archives some historic maps of The Abingtons, acquired in 2003. They are an important record of changes in the landscape, land use, and buildings in the village. They may be seen, by appointment, at the County Records Office (R 103/52). I discovered this source from a charming calendar produced in 2004 by the Abington History Group.

Five maps acquired 2003 are:
Plan of the Manor of Little Abington (Norden, 1603); An exact map of the Manor Farm of Abington Hall, (Fallowes, 1716); Plan of the farms at Great Abington belonging to the Executors of John Mortlock (Watford, 1818); Plan of the Parish of Great Abington c. 1800; Plan of the Parish of Little Abington 1803.

Other available maps are: Plan of the River Sluices and New Cut in Little Abington 1719; Plan of a Watercourse and parts adjacent in the Parish of Little Abington, 1837; Map of Clare College Land in Little Abington, 1790.

Taken together, these maps show the growth and redistributions of buildings in the villages, the presence of roads no longer in use, the names of holders of strips in the common fields, up to the time of Inclosure (1803, 1807), the park around Abington Hall, and the changes in watercourses, and major roads.

After 1066
The whole of the Manor of Great Abington was given to the de Veres. Their manor house was on the site of Abington Hall, 1060 – 1570. The hall was rebuilt in the C15th, sold in the late C17th, and rebuilt 1712 and the park landscaped by Humphrey Repton. A few fine parkland trees survive, in the (now inaccessible) grounds of The Welding Institute, occupant since the mid 1940s.

The N boundary of Little Abington parish is formed by the Cambridge to Colchester Roman Road, known as Worsted Way or The Via Devana. The W boundary of the parish follows one of the strands of the ancient Icknield Way. The original villages were sited on routes which took advantage of river crossings. Two such tracks also crossed old river-edge routes between Cambridge and Linton, on opposite sides of the river. Later shifts of settlement patterns led to building further from the churches, slight earthworks of the two medieval villages being visible near both churches. The park around Abington Hall blocked growth in that direction.

Little Abington village developed along a street at right angles to the river. Over the years, this E – W trading route was replaced by a N – S route, causing C20th traffic problems before a village bypass.

But it is the churches that lead us into recorded history, for Little Abington’s church, at the edge of the park, has 2 doors and a N window of the Anglo Saxon type, although probably dating post-conquest. The building was restored in 1885, but the narrow original Norman S doorway survives. The font has been in use for 700years. The Kempe window, 1901, depicts the adoration of the Magi.

Great Abington’s church has a Norman font with a Jacobean cover, a C13th South arcade and lancet windows. A life-sized knight in Caroline marble, Sir William Halton, lawyer, 1639, leans on his elbow.

Both villages possess clusters of thatched timber framed cottages. Later buildings in Cambridgeshire Cottage Improvement Society’s characteristic “Cottage Gothic” are preserved. On the bend in the High Street, Jeremiah’s Cottage recalls Jeremiah Lagden, a legendary highwayman of the Newmarket Road who lived at Old House, Little Abington.

In 1936, The Land Settlement Association was formed to give unemployed men a chance to begin farming, as here on the edge of Great Abington, which two generations later was sold to the occupiers. Subsequently, the estate roads were dedicated as public footpaths in 1988, following a public inquiry.

More housing had been built in both villages after 1950. From a combined population of 34 in 1086, by 1996, some 1340 people lived in The Abingtons.

The Paths – Little Abington
Byway 1 is a section of the old “Via Devana” Roman Road, from TL 5479 5057 to Worsted Lodge.

Fp2 runs from the Cambridge Road, A1307, at TL 5300 4960, leading N up the field boundary.
It reaches “The Pits” (wooded old chalk diggings to left) to continue as a slight worn track on a grass field-edge then goes across a field to end at Grange Farm Cottage. It is a pity it does not go through to the Roman Road.

Fp3 starts at TL 5210 4970 on the old A11, signed going WNW on a strip across arable, to cross the huge metal bridge over the new A11. It joins Babraham fp 4, making a useful & pleasant through route.

Fp4 starts at a sign at TL 5300 4958 on the A1307. It runs S between garden fences of houses 29 & 31. The path crosses a stile into pasture, and leaves by a squeeze stile the other side, emerging into Church Lane between houses 36 & 36A, not far from the church. Together with Fp6 (below) it makes a pleasant short circuit.

Fp5 starts at TL 5312 4925, on Church Lane on a fenced gravel path behind gardens, with the former scouts camping ground to left. It crosses the R Granta on an attractive bridge (supplied by The Welding Institute), and continues across the recreation ground, with views of Abington Hall across fields to the right. A kissing gate leads to the drive to Great Abington Church, and thence to High Street, having become Great Abington Fp1 at some point on the recreation ground.

Fp6 leaves the A1307 at TL 5293 4959, going S between houses no 31A & 33 to right, as a gravel path between fences. It reaches Bourn Bridge Road at TL 5292 4947, between Weavers Cottage and Meadowside.

The Paths – Great Abington
Fp1 joins Little Abington Fp5 on the rec, forming a pleasant route between Church Lane & High Street.

Fp2 starts from High Street, adjacent to a ‘bus shelter at TL 5315 4852, entering a rough grass field. Handgates lead in and out of a large garden, continuing beyond SW across a grass emerge on Pampisford Road at TL 5291 4819.

From Pampisford Road, opposite the S end of High Street at TL 5313 4813, Footpath 3 runs S through the former land settlement, at first along a narrow hard path, then along a concrete road. “Chalky Road” between houses and greenhouses. Fp6 & Fp7 turn off right in the private estate. Beyond the housing, the track continues uphill on a hard path, later between arable fields, to meet Fp4 at a T-junction, TL 5276 4610 on the hill crest. This path and fp 4 are the key to routes into Great Chesterford and Linton.

Fp4 starts at the junction with Great Chesterford Fp 1 (Essex) at TL 5236 4579, crosses the county boundary ditch by a culvert The path runs NNE with ditch & hedge to left, reaching a corner by the buildings of Abington Park Farm, TL 5246 4613. Here the path turns right (ESE) on a 3m wide concrete farm road. It soon passes Park Farm Cottages on left, and continues to the junction with Fp 3 turning off left at TL 5276 4610. Fp 4 continues ca. ESE on a grass track, later, passing a young wood on right. The path reaches a crossing ditch & culvert by Hildersham Wood at TL 5329 4587 to continue as Hildersham Fp 11.  A continuation gives access to paths to Linton & Great Chesterford.

Fps 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 were added to the Definitive Map in 1988, and are all paths in the former land settlement estate, very suitable for a dry-shod Winter walk.

Fp5 is Cutting Rd, leaving Pampisford Rd by the phone box, TL 5267 4821. Fp6 is North Rd, leaving the old A11 at TL 5174 4835, & Fp7 is South Rd, leaving the old A11 at TL 5157 4777.

Fp8 is a narrow footpath between trees, going S between Cutting Rd and South Rd , and Fp9 is a narrow path alongside garden fences from North Rd, TL 5194 4825 going S to South Rd at TL 5184 4759.

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now usually appears every three months. A large number of you receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 20p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink.  Also available on website:

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
Cantab79 ©
Janet Moreton, 2014

CANTAB71 January 2013

CANTAB71 January 2013 published on

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


Happy New Year! Accept a brief season’s greetings, and an apology that this issue contains no “Parish of the Month”. You may recall that the November issue was completely taken up with Fen Ditton, so that now I have an accumulation of news items best seen before they become too stale.

Good wishes and good walking for 2013. Janet Moreton

The length of a walk
How many times at the end of a pleasant day have I overheard a remark, as follows: “Nice walk – how far did you make it then?” Estimates are made, perhaps, from a finger round the map, pedometer readings, or nowadays with a GPS. The walk’s leader may have originally entered “10 miles” in the programme, only perhaps to have changed the route slightly, over- or under-estimated the route with a piece of cotton round the map, or unwisely trusted one of those little “map-measurer” gadgets with a wheel. My own feeling is that a variation of 10% or so from the stated target distance is absolutely acceptable, but a walk of 14 miles which was supposed to be only 10 might well raise questions, if not outright complaints.

I have recently come across a series of discussions in “Ramblers Net” on the length of the British Coastline, which is relevant to the length of any path or walk. I paraphrase Pete Bland, himself summarising the contributions.

The length of anything depends on the measuring stick in use. Using a thick piece of string on your map, will give one result, but magnify your map and use thin twine and there will be a larger result. Use a GPS on the walk and the result will be different from someone else’s GPS reading. Trace the route with Anquet or Memorymap, and the computers will give yet another estimate. There is no such thing as the “correct distance”. In particular, the length of a walk given by your GPS will depend on: the frequency of position sampling; random errors in the position calculated; and the degree to which the GPS performs automatic smoothing of the data.

The problems associated with measuring coastline length led Benoit Mandlebrot to invent a new branch of mathematics called “Fractals”. The following quotation comes from “Chaos” by James Gleick (ISBN 978-0749386061), in a chapter on “A Geometry of Nature”.

“An observer trying to estimate the length of England’s coastline from a satellite will make a smaller guess than an observer trying to walk its coves and beaches, who will make a smaller guess in turn than a snail negotiating every pebble.

“Common sense suggests that, although these estimates will continue to get larger, they will approach some particular final value, the true length of the coastline. The measurements should converge, in other words. And in fact, if a coastline were some Euclidean shape, such as a circle, this method of summing finer and finer straight line distances would indeed converge. But Mandlebrot found that as the scale of measurement becomes smaller, the measurement of the coastline rises without limit, bays and peninsulas revealing ever smaller sub-bays and sub-peninsulas – at least down to atomic scales, where the process does finally come to an end”.

Shall we go for a four hour walk?

Octavia’s Walk
The National Trust has named a 6 mile circuit at Wicken after Octavia Hill, to mark the 100th anniversary of her death. The NT’s “News from the Fen” of July 2012 outlines events which led to the organisation’s formation.

In 1885, a campaign was started to raise public awareness of changes which the bringing of the railway would precipitate in the Lake District. Octavia Hill collaborated with Robert Hunter and Canon H Rawnsley on this issue, and their collaboration led the formation of The National Trust.

The promoted walk starts from the Wicken Fen Visitor Centre car park. (Note there is a parking charge, which will be refunded if the sum is spent in the visitor centre or its café).

The walk goes along Lodes Way onto Burwell Fen, on land bought by the NT in 2001. It crosses Burwell Lode, and continues south to cross Reach Lode, where walkers turn right along the bank. The route continues to Upware, and returns to the visitor centre via Wicken Lode. My experience of this area suggests that after prolonged rain, wellies would be a good idea.

Love or Hate?
Put this date in your diary for one reason or another. Between 31 August and 2 September 2013, the “Lodestar” festival will occur in Lode Fen, involving (doubtless loud) popular music, theatre, etc. You may wish to purchase tickets for this event online from

Or lovers of the quiet countryside, like me, will record the dates to ensure that on no account will they inadvertently venture near the vicinity.

Village Greens and Commons It is worth noting that the Government has published The Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which, amongst other things, contains changes to the law for registering new town and village greens. The reforms intend to exclude applications to register new greens on land that has actual or applied-for planning permission , or any land for potential development identified in a local or neighbourhood plan.

New commons and village greens are still being registered in Cambridgeshire. For example, there has been an an application to Cambs County Council to register land by Water Lane, Oakington as a common.

The Open Spaces Society has, as one of its prime aims, the protection of commons, greens and other open spaces. In 2011, the Society responded to calls from members for advice on protection and management of at least 62 commons, 28 registered greens, and 44 other open spaces. DEFRA and its Welsh equivalent sought advice on 81 applications for works on, or exchanges of common land. (The Society objected to 27 of these). Many more cases and disputes reached them via consultations from official bodies or were dealt with by the Society’s local correspondents. For more information, see

The RSPB in East Anglia
At Cambridge RA Group’s AGM on 23 November, our speaker was Graham Elliott, the RSPB’s Area Manager for Cambridgeshire and the fens, speaking especially about Fen Drayton Nature Reserve. For those who missed a good talk and slide show, here are some ideas for birdwatching walks, following my visit to another RSPB reserve at Fowlmere.


The Winter and early Spring are especially good times for birdwatching in East Anglia. Recently in the Fowlmere RSPB reserve, a copy of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ promotional pamphlet for East Anglia was pressed upon me. I am not an RSPB member. I like birds, but in general can no longer hear their high pitched songs, and have always felt more drawn to a study of flowers or fungi, or other static targets, rather than to a bird someone saw half a minute ago, but which had flown by the time they told me!

However, the list is impressive, with some 20 reserves featured.

Fowlmere Reserve itself is the nearest to Cambridge. Parking and entry are free, but a donation is always appreciated. Similarly, we all enjoy free access to Fen Drayton Lakes reserve, both along public footpaths, and on permissive trails. Indeed, most of us will have known this site before it was acquired by the RSPB, and before access via the Guided Busway from Cambridge or St Ives became so attractive an option. (See Cantab 64)

The next-nearest reserve from Cambridge is the RSPB’s headquarters outside Sandy, Bedfordshore and this again needs no introduction. I featured Sandy as Parish of the Month in Cantab 63 of July, 2011, suggesting various walks based on, or including, the delightful (sandy) walks around the reserve. It should be noted that parking for non-members is currently £4 per vehicle, so it was suggested that walkers park in the town, and use the attractive quiet Stratford Road past the station and cemetery to access the reserve.

How many readers know Lakenheath Fen Reserve, just over the Suffolk border? The RSPB created this wetland only a few years ago, out of arable farmland. Here I was absolutely amazed to see some cranes on one occasion. The reserve is accessible on foot along the Hereward Way, from Brandon, or from Lakenheath. There is a carpark charge for non-members.

The Ouse Washes Reserve is a wonderful sight in Winter. I visited once by coach for an evening floodlit “performance” by the Whooper and Bewick swans. On other occasions, we have walked in on the Hereward Way, only possible when the road bridge is not flooded.

The Nene Washes Reserve is doubtless better known to Peterborough residents, and a wonderful place for waders Access on foot is possible along the Nene Way along the South Barrier Bank some 2 miles from Whittlesea.

Other reserves are further away, and probably more suitable for a weekend break. Suffolk has two coastal reserves, at Minsmere and North Warren, and one at the ancient Wolves Wood, near Hadleigh.

Norfolk RSPB guards little terns at Great Yarmouth, displays huge numbers of waders along the coast at Snettisham, and has a wetland reserve at Titchwell Marsh. There are 3 reserves in the Yare Valley.

Essex RSPB boasts the Stour Estuary, and has a visitor centre at Wat Tyler Country Park, Pitsea.

How can the Ramblers attract and keep new members? What do members of the Ramblers want from the Association?
These are the questions posed at a recent forum attended by Cambridge Group Secretary Jill Tuffnell. The Ramblers CEO Benedict Southworth and Chairman Jonathan Kipling have been holding a series of regional meetings with representatives of local groups and Jill attended the only session covering London, the South East and East of England.

The facts are that Ramblers’ membership nationally has declined in recent years, with many new members failing to renew their subscription for a second year. Does the organisation offer what they need? Can we learn from successful local groups’ experience in terms of maintaining or increasing their numbers?

As a general rule – at least in the London/home counties – it is the groups which have a wide-ranging programme of local walks and trips, a very extensive group website with sections offering downloadable walks and also regularly updated online newsletters which are most successful. Some have been able to attract a regular inflow of new talent to their committees/officers. Success helps to support further success, with sufficient numbers of volunteers coming forward to break tasks down to manageable chunks. For example they have been able to create email lists of members who can readily be contacted. (This may seem easy, but everyone has to be contacted individually to ask for up-to-date details of such addresses and permission to use them!). The Cambridge Group is not so lucky. We rely on a few volunteers doing a lot of work. Our Area no longer functions as a decision-making body, which means more work for Groups. And – with a very successful local Rambling Club providing a wide-ranging programme of walks – we find it particularly challenging to maintain members who are only interested in a Wednesday or Sunday walk! Also in 2011 a number of new Ramblers members may have had their subscription paid by HF Holidays – and their membership may lapse one year on.

The publisher of Cantab has volunteered this slot to ensure the issue is aired amongst local Ramblers’ members. Cambridge Group welcomes any help you may be able to offer us – especially on our Committee, but also in any other role, such as helping with newsletters or developing our website.

Jill Tuffnell

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab appears approximately 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 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 71 Price 20 pence where sold © Janet Moreton, 2013.

CANTAB30 May 2005

CANTAB30 May 2005 published on

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


Following the November 2004 issue of “Cantab“, which was given over almost entirely to Balsham, as parish of the month, I received a modest amount of feedback.  Some folk said that, while they had enjoyed reading of the history of Balsham, and suggestions for less obvious walks, they would have liked the usual additional “snippets” of local walking information.

One other comment was to the effect that a comprehensive discourse on a parish was appreciated, but enlarging the magazine would allow for other topics to be covered!  For reasons of time and economy of paper, there are no plans to increase the size of “Cantab” at present, so I resolved to keep the popular “Parish of the Month” series within bounds. However, in this issue, there seemed much to say about Gamlingay, so the resolve has, once again, been stretched.  So I hope you will find something of interest in the discussion of South Camb’s most outlying parish!

Janet Moreton

Parish of the Month – Gamlingay
(OS Landranger Sheet 153, Explorer 208)
Normally, I would chose the month’s parish for its paths – either a dense network allowing a wide variety of walks, or at least a set or well-maintained or interesting paths which allow circuits.  Gamlingay has neither of these things!  It has 13 rights of way, but these constitute a rather fragmentary network. Note, however, that waymarks on local paths were recently renewed by Ramblers’ Association volunteers from Cambridge Group.  The parish does have mostly a dry sandy soil, giving good walking in damp weather; it lies at the ends of two long distance paths; and it has three nature reserves, of which one, Gamlingay Wood, allows particularly pleasant walking.

Buildings and history (1, 2)
Gamlingay is an interesting place, with the atmosphere of a little town.  Although just within South Cambs. District, its red-brick buildings in the old quarter have more the atmosphere of Bedfordshire and the Midlands.

Gamlingay, “the land of Gamlea’s people”, grew up on the N side of the valley of the Millbridge Brook. Domesday records give the name as Gamelinge or Gamelingei. From medieval times, it was always the largest settlement in the locality, and retained its traders and craftsmen after the loss of its market, following a devastating fire in 1600. The parish church of St Mary the Virgin is in the Decorated & Perpendicular style, the interior containing some C15th woodwork.  The almshouses in Church Street were built 65 years after the fire.

Merton Manor Farm had connections with Merton College, Oxford, from 1268, when Walter de Merton bought the estate, and passed it to his house of scholars. Parts of the present farm date from the C15th.

A manor house belonging to the Avenel family is recorded from the C12th to the C14th at Dutter End.  The house is gone but the hedged bank of its deer park is still visible in places. In 1712, Sir George Downing bought the old deer park, and used material from his manor house in East Hatley to build a mansion in formal gardens.  Sadly, this house was demolished only 50 years after its building, following family feuds, after Sir George Downing’s fortune went to the founding of Downing College, Cambridge in 1800.

Natural History
Gamlingay is a very large parish, at a height of 25 – 75 m,  mostly on the greensand, but with patches of clay in the far north & south of the parish, and also to the east of the village itself. Very poor drainage in some places has created acidic bogs.

The Wildlife Trust guide (3) describes 3 nature reserves within the parish.

Gamlingay Meadow, TL 222 510, is approached from the road to Gamlingay Great Heath & Sandy.  After 1.5 miles a track leads to the reserve accessible through a kissing-gate, and one is advised to park on the verge.  The meadow is a residual fragment of the heath on acidic greensand which once covered this area. It is adjacent to an attractive wood of birch and beech (inaccessible).  The meadow comprises an area where the sand is thin, and the underlying gault clay produces boggy grassland. Plants noted in season are marsh willowherb, and marsh birds-foot trefoil.

The other end of the meadow lies on Footpath 4,an earlier turning off the same road, and which is part of a through route to Potton, and can be incorporated into a wider walk.

Gamlingay Cinques, TL 226 529, is a small area of gorse, rough grass and trees.  It was once quarried for sand, creating hollows which expose the underlying neutral gault clay, thus creating unique botanical habitats. At suitable seasons expect heather, heath bedstraw, ladies smocks and slender St John’s wort.
Adjacent to the reserve is a most useful car park, regularly frequenterd by walkers on the Clopton Way (4), and the Bedfordshire Greensand Ridge walks (5).

Gamlingay Wood an SSSI, has car-parking at TL 241 537, off the B1040 to Waresley.  It consists of 120 acres of ancient mixed wood-land, parts of which belonged to Merton College, Oxford from 1268 to 1959, and is one of the best documented woods in the UK. The ancient wood grows on a mixture of soils, and is especially good for wildflowers in April and May, with oxlip, dog’s mercury, bluebell, yellow archangel, violets and wood anemone. A circuit of the woodland, making about 2 miles, is highly recommended. There are clear paths, punctuated with benches, and  several rides cross the wood.

More recently has been added a substantial area (Sugley “Wood”) to the east, which is being allowed to revert to scrub and natural woodland, encouraged by deliberate seeding from the adjacent old trees.

Do not attempt to walk to the wood along the B1040 from either Gamlingay or Waresley – there is no footway and the road is busy.  Instead, take Footpath 1 from Dutter End at TL 246 525.  Where the right of way turns left on a track at TL 244 527, instead turn right on a permitted path, courtesy of Merton College, Oxford.  At ca. TL 245 530, turn left on a newly planted avenue, and walk up to the rear of the wood, where a kissing-gate gives access at TL 243 533.

Walking opportunities
The Clopton Way(4)  is an 11 mile linear walk to Wimpole, starting from Gamlingay Cinques carpark. It traverses Potton Wood, and visits the interesting church at Cockayne Hatley, Beds.  Passing back into Cambs. at Hatley Gate, the path runs along the ridge above the B1042, going through the site of Clopton medieval village. The route continues through Croydon (perhaps with a refreshment break at The Queen Adelaide?), before using paths into Arrington, and finishes in style down the driveway to Wimpole Hall.

The Clopton Way is covered by OS Landranger Sheets 153, 154.  A leaflet is available from Cambridgeshire County Council (tel.01223 717450).  Note that waymarks along the route are presently rather faded or decayed, but there should be no route-finding problems.

The Bedfordshire Greensand Ridge Walk(5) is a 40 mile linear route, which starts over the Cambs. border at Gamlingay Cinques carpark. It follows a prominent line of hills across Bedfordshire, in attractive scenery, and on mostly dry soils of the lower greensand geological deposit.  From Gamlingay, the well-waymarked route runs SW very pleasantly through parkland, passing Woodbury Hall, to Everton, where there is a pub. The line continues on a bridleway through the RSPB reserve at Sandy Warren, and descends to lower ground through Beeston, and Northill.  Trending S, then W, the route passes through Haynes, then makes for Clophill. The path passes Houghton House (John Bunyan’s “Palace Beautiful”), and reaches its half-way mark in Ampthill. The walk goes through Eversholt and Woburn, and finishes in Leighton Buzzard.

A leaflet is available from Bedfordshire Leisure Services Tourist Info Office, Bedford, 10 St Pauls Square, MK40 1SL, 01234 215226,  Landranger Sheets 153 and 165 cover the route.

Local walks round Gamlingay
The shortage of paths in the wider locality (and especially in the adjacent Waresley parish) makes it difficult to arrange longer circular routes based on Gamlingay, but the following short circuit of 3.5miles within the village gives an impression of the area.  If combined with a visit to Gamlingay Cinques reserve and there-and-back visits to Gamlingay Wood from Dutter End, and Gamlingay meadow from Dennis Green, the route could be extended to up to 9 miles.

From the church, walk E up Church End to Dutter End.  At TL 246 526, turn NW on Footpath 1 on a track between fields. At TL 244 528, optionally  turn right for Gamlingay Wood, but to continue the circuit, turn left here, trending W to exit on Arenells Way.  Turn left, and walk to Church Street. (Note the almshouses on the left). Turn right to the cross-roads in the village. Continue ahead to Green End, to find a “Public Footpath ” sign in front of the Wale Group Building.  Footpath 10 wends its way, mostly in a fenced defile, between industry and housing onto Gamlingay Cinques Road.  Turn left to walk down the road to Gamlingay Cinques carpark. (Visit the reserve, if desired, via a kissing gate at rear of car-park). To continue the circuit turn left in front of the carpark, across rough grass, and onto a grassy access track between houses.  The track (Footpath 9) passes between properties, and continues between fenced paddocks.  At TL 226 526, turn left onto Footpath 8.  This goes SE as a grass/earth track between fences and hedges, emerging on a gravel access drive onto Heath Road at TL 231 520. (Optionally, turn right on the road for an out-and-back visit Gamlingay Meadow, turning left at the sign, TL 227 517). Otherwise, turn left along the road, then turn right (S) down Dennis Green, which veers E, and leads you back towards the village.Emerging from West Road, turn left on Mill Street.

Next to house 19A, cycle barriers control access to Footpath 3,  a passage running E between garden boundaries onto Stocks Lane.  Continue in the same direction along what becomes Station Road, passing the Village College on the right, and Merton Manor House and its dovecote on the left.. Footpath 2 turns off NE at TL 244 521, signed up a tarmac drive, at the end of which the RoW turns left, to continue as a well-used path in grass.  A bridge crosses a stream and the path continues WNW across a small grass field to exit into St Mary’s Road, near the church.

Other Paths
Of the other rights of way in the parish, Footpath 4 to Potton via Potton Bridleway 11.  Presently two of its stiles are in poor condition – take care!
Footpath 5 runs from Potton Road to Potton Wood, continuing as a permissive path in Potton Wood.
Footpath 7 is a somewhat obscure path between Potton Road (where it starts through the gate of Alicattery of Everton) and emerging through the garden of ‘Bladen’, house no. 25, Everton Road.
Footpath 13 is a short cut in the village between Stocks Lane and Mill Street.
Bridleway 11, off Long Lane, (TL 267 531 – 270 523) is well-used, being part of a route between Hatley St George & Little Gransden.  Bridleway 6 needs good nerves, and careful observation of approaching aircraft, as it crosses the Fullers Hill airfield.
Bridleway 12 is an extension of this path, at TL 263 540 joining Bridleway 6 in Little Gransden.

Janet Moreton

Further Reading

1. South Cambridgeshire Official Guide, Publ. South Cambridgeshire District Council.

2. Archaeology of Cambridgeshire, Vol. 1, South West Cambridgeshire, by Alison Taylor
Publ. Cambridgeshire County Council, 1997. ISBN 1 870724 84 4. pp. 51 – 52.

3. Your Guide to Nature Reserves in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
Ed. Sarah Wroot, Publ. The Wildlife Trust, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, 1993. ISBN 0 9520788 0 5. pp. 80 – 85.

4. Clopton Way – Gamlingay to Wimpole.
Folded, illustrated leaflet, with sketch map. Publ. Cambridgeshire County Council, Rural Management Division, undated.  40p.

5. The Greensand Ridge Walk.
A3 folded, illustrated leaflet, with sketch map. Publ. Beds. Leisure Services Dept. (see page 2).

Quotation of the Month
“Landscape is silent until you unlock the codes.  The English landscape with its fields and hedges is just an agreeable and apparently arbitrary patchwork of shape and colour until you know something of its private language.  But when these undulations become ridge and furrow, when that die-straight hedgerow is an enclosure boundary, when those lumps and bumps are a deserted medieval village, then the whole place speaks…”

Penelope Lively, “A house unlocked”. Penguin 2002

Preserving our interests – Some Outdoor Charities
The Open Spaces Society
This Society, formally The Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, was founded in 1865, and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body. It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and the public’s right to enjoy them. It advises local authorities and the public, and manages and preserves open spaces acquired by gift or purchase. A registered charity (214753), it relies on voluntary support from subscriptions, donations and legacies. Local problems are handled via voluntary “local correspondents”. There is a small paid staff at its office:
25A Bell Street, Henley on Thames, Oxon, RG9 2BA. Tel 01491 573535
e-mail   web:

Whilst nearly everyone will have heard of the RSPB, which of you knows of the charity specifically to save our wildflowers?

Plantlife was set up as a registered charity  (No.1959557) in 1989 to protect and save wild plants in their natural habitats. Plantlife now owns 22 nature reserves covering 5000 acres. By purchasing some of the most endangered habitats to create protected reserves, a proportion of the most vulnerable species have been saved. Founded by botanists, a key aspect has been assembling and analysing data on plants at risk.  Reports & recommendations are published regularly. Members (who are invited to name their own subscription) may become local Flora Guardians, support the management of reserves, or help with conservation work in important habitats. Others take part in the Annual Common Plants Survey, or campaign for change through writing letters to policy-makers and the Government.

For more details, contact: Plantlife, The Wild Plant Conservation Charity, 21, Elizabeth Street, London SW1W 9RP.

Information on temporary path works in Cambridgeshire
From time to time, Cambridgeshire County felling, or repairs to a bridge.  Details are published in the local paper (both the Cambridge Evening News, and the Cambridge Weekly News), but it is easy to miss these announcements. You can also find this information on the web at:
(Traffic Delays and Streetworks Information – Current Temporary Road Closures and other Orders).

For example between 21 April and 23 May this year, Godmanchester Footpath No.3 will be closed for weir repairs, affecting access to Portholme.  It is not the intention to report such closures in “Cantab” as they are usually of fairly short duration, and the date could be past before an issue comes into circulation!

Roger Moreton

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


Issue 30; Price 10 pence where sold

© Janet Moreton, 2005.