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CANTAB77 June 2014

CANTAB77 June 2014 published on

** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **


All Creatures Great and Small
Compiled by Laurie Friday and Basil Harley, the “Checklist of The Flora and Fauna of Wicken Fen” was published by Harley Books in 2000. I have just bought it at the knockdown price of 50 pence in Wicken Fen Information Centre.

My interest lies with flowering plants, ferns etc, covered in 8 pages, and in fungi (2 pages), and bird and mammal life (6 pages). The rest of the 103 page volume covers bacteria, algae and protists; lichens, liverworts and mosses; spiders, harvestmen, mites and ticks and the like; copepods, ostracods, fishlice, crayfish, etc; mayflies, dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, earwigs, lice; bugs and leafhoppers; moths (lots and lots) and butterflies; and innumerable lists of different types of flies.

One thing my bargain buy has confirmed is that there are huge numbers and types of these lesser creatures (many of which I had never heard of). And they are not just in Wicken Fen, but of course various species are distributed all over the countryside.

On the whole, we co-exist with them reasonably well, putting up a fight against the odd mosquito, or being aware when we pass a farmer spraying his crop against the concerted attack of some maverick organism.

Janet Moreton

Could it happen now?
Last issue’s article on the 1993 protest walk in Lincolnshire received some interesting feedback.

From Kate Day, Cambs CC’s Project Manager for Local Infrastructure and Street Management came the comment:
” Brett Collier was married to my geography teacher so I knew him, although not well, so nice to see him mentioned in print again. After 27 years with Cambs CC, it is interesting to see how the circle turns – I still have the Ombudsman and committee report from 1988!”

Peter Dene is our correspondent from the Little Shelford Footpaths Group.
“Thank you for the latest inspiring look back. I’ve forwarded it to fellow members of the LS Footpaths Group (LSPC). Now in process of making final submission before imminent Public Inquiry on our Bradmere Lane/Garden Fields ROW saga in Little Shelford. It’s into its 11th year…

I was delighted to hear from Stan Knaffler, formerly of RA Lincs, now living in Cumbria.
Lovely to read your piece about the campaigns that were organised to open up the PROW system to walkers in the 80s & 90s and Metheringham in particular. Metheringham was unusual in that it had an over-abundance of PROW and consequently landowners simply ignored their obligations. However, the major landowner (of 16 000 acres) met us and we agreed a rationalisation programme which provided an excellent network of paths, including links to other parishes. He then ensured that this was legally actioned.

In the eighties, I invited my MP, one Edward Leigh, to accompany us through some local parishes where I lived (south of Market Rasen) to see the extent of the problem of obstructed PROW. He was about to introduce a Private Members’ Bill to provide freedom to roam based on the Swedish model. However, he was told that such a “freedom” would fail to obtain enough votes in the house and was persuaded to introduce what became the 1990 Act which dealt with legal widths of paths and procedures for diversions etc. This strengthened our ability to challenge both landowners and County Councils who were not doing sufficient to keep paths clear.

There are still a number of PROW problems today, but it was only by campaigning (the slogan was “Feet on Paths”) that Rural Councils (many of which had landowner-councillors) took notice and pressurised landowners to comply with the law.

“Parish” of the Month – Newnham in Cambridge
Note: a street-plan is recommended, as well as OS Explorer Sheet 209.

The neighbourhood of Cambridge W of the river has been known since the Middle Ages as Newnham. This is not a separate village, being enclosed within Cambridge City boundaries – but it still has something of the atmosphere of a village, and is the starting point for some good walks.

There are indications of settlement in early times. From Newnham Croft finds included bangles, bosses and rings, and a fine bronze broach. By Roman times, Cambridge was ringed by nearby settlements, including one at Newnham.

There was an order of Carmelite friars established near the mill for about 40 y in the latter half of the C13th. Medieval Newnham must have been a hamlet without a church, as the first church, a wooden structure, was not built until about 150y ago, to be replaced by the present St Marks, Barton Road, in 1900. Travelling from Newnham to Cambridge in early times might sometimes have been difficult, with the River Cam’s several channels crossing the trackway where Silver St is now.

Until the Parliamentary Inclosure of the western fields in 1802 – 4, there were only a few buildings, mostly around Newnham Mill and pond. The mill race is reputed to predate Domesday book. The outward appearance of the mill remained much the same when rebuilt after a fire in 1853, although now modified as a restaurant.

In the early C19th, there were a few cottages along Malting Lane. More development followed in the late C19th. The then 100y old Malting House on the corner of Malting Rd was rebuilt before WWI.

Following inclosure of the west fields, college gardens were made on the Queen’s Road – Grange Road area, and a few substantial houses were built.

Newnham developed into a residential suburb in the second half of the C19th. Newnham Croft was begun in 1850s and 1860s with the building of terraced houses in Derby Street, Hardwick Street and the W side of Grantchester Street. The roads remained unpaved until the early years of the C20th. Gradually houses were added in Merton Street through the 1880s. In 1882, University statutes first allowed fellows of colleges to be married, when Newnham became a desirable residential suburb. Building activity increased in the years up to WW1.

Open land disappeared as houses were built in Owlstone Road (1900 – 04) replacing private gardens known as Paradise. There had been a path across the field leading from Gravel Pit Lane (Grantchester Street) across to the bathing place and houses at the end of Grantchester Meadows. By 1903 Rev Symmonds was complaining that cyclists were making the path very muddy. Paradise House, built on a small island in the Cam near the end C18th, remains well hidden by trees and undergrowth- gates close the bridged access.

About 1820, a house was built on land now occupied by Owlstone Croft. In the 1920s-30s this was a girls’ school; later commandeered by the army in WWII; sold to Addenbrookes in 1946; and now being redeveloped again.

The alley that connects the closed end of Marlowe Road with the bend in Millington Road was made in this form in 1911 – 2, though there had been a narrow lane on the site of Marlow Rd. At one time a gate was locked once a year, but this had gone by 1939. Elsewhere, a break in the paled fence gives pedestrian and cycle access from the lane extension of Kings Rd into Millington Road.

Until the late C19th there were no buildings at the country end of Barton Road on the S side The land was developed around 1900. The OS map of 1886 shows 2 houses W of Grantchester Rd, Grays Fm & a cottage (now 78, 86 Barton Rd). The land opposite was marshy & needed a wind-pump to reduce the water level. Beyond was an orchard and open farmland, through which ran the Bin Brook. Development started in 1911 just beyond Grantchester Road., with the building of a house called Tollbar.

The Perse Almshouses, Newnham Road, originally donated 1625, were re-erected by William Sindall 1886. The adjacent filling station was once the Tally Ho pub. The Causewayside Flats, 1930s, occupy part of the previous Motts Dairy site.

A curious feature is a 2 acre wooded lake called Bolton’s Pit, lying SW of the Barton Rd – Grantchester Rd corner but totally invisible to the public gaze

Colleges and University Buildings:
On Sidgwick Ave, one may visit the Museum of Classical Archaeology displaying plaster casts of antique figures – mostly white – although it is a shock to discover the original statues were painted in bright colours!

Beyond stretch the University Arts Faculty buildings, housing the English Faculty library, the History Faculty, Oriental studies and Criminology and others, all post-1960s. Wander through here towards West Road and the University Library…

Newnham College, fronting Sidgwick Ave., opened 1875 was designed by Basil Champneys The Bronze entrance gates to Old Hall were presented in memory of Miss Clough, the 1st Principal The E part (the Pfeiffer building) was built in 1893, and connects by nearly 0.5km of corridors to Old Hall and Sedgwick. Kennedy Buildings were built 1905, Peile Hall 1910 Off Sidgwick Ave, note the modern Library extension (1961) and particularly the more recent Archives building, built to resemble an old chest.

Ridley Hall (1881) on Sidgwick Avenue houses graduates from any university, who intend to take Church of England Orders. Round the corner on Grange Rd is the Anglican Selwyn College, founded 1882. Red-brick Robinson College, a recent foundation, presents an almost military face to Grange Road.

By Silver St Bridge is Darwin College, its name commemorating the author of The Origin of Species. This small college of graduates, founded 1964, incorporates the riverside house, Newnham Grange, bought in 1885 by Charles son, George Darwin. George’s daughter, Gwen Raverat, wrote the Cambridge Classic, “Period Piece”, published in 1952.

Walk Newnham
1. Most readers will be familiar with the free parking available at Lammas Land at TL 447574. Be aware that it opens at 10 am. This carpark is ideally placed for leading visitors on walks north along the Backs, using the Fen Causeway crossing near the Ley’s School. In Spring, note purple toothwort parasitic on hazel growing on Crusoe Island.

2. The hard path from Grantchester Meadows Road leads, of course, to The Red Lion, The Green Man, and The Orchard, and other Grantchester attractions. Use the muddy riverside path to return, for preference. Did you know the riverside alternative only became a legal right of way by dedication in November 2001? (4 miles)

3. Discover the recently improved surface of the riverside path through Paradise, noting the alternative boardwalk through the willow thickets by Owlstone Croft.  In Spring, the nature reserve is known for its snowdrops, and later a good display of scented butterbur. (1 mile)

4. Use the Lammas Land parking, to walk your visitors to the Millpond, up Malting Lane, past Ridley and Newnham colleges, through the Sidgwick Site to West Road, in front of the University Library, along Burrell’s Walk, back along Grange Road, passing Selwyn College. Turn left at Barton Rd, Millington Rd, Marlowe Rd, Grantchester Meadows, and back through Paradise. (3 miles)

5. For a longer circuit, from (3) turn right on Barton Rd and use the newly signed (TL 427 574) permissive path on Barton Rd opposite Laundry Farm to connect with the end of Fulbrooke Road. Return to Lammas Land via Selwyn Road, Millington Road etc as above. (5 miles)

6. From the Grantchester Footpath, a permissive path at TL 439 569 leads past Pembroke College Sports Ground onto Grantchester Rd. Opposite, a further permissive path leads round the edges of arable fields to the outskirts of Grantchester at TL 427 560.

Newnham – John A Gray
Hanwell 1977, ISBN 0 9505992 0 4

A history of Cambridge – Bruce Galloway, Phillimore,1983,
ISBN 0 85033 450 0

Cambridgeshire – Norman Scarfe
Shell, 1983, ISBN 0 571 13250 2

Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post
Cantab now appears every three 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.


Cantab 77 © 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.