February walks

Into another month of lockdown – it’s good to think this should be the month where we get the first glimpses of Spring. We’re keeping an eye out on our Monday walks.

1 Feb – West Cambridge – Coton loop

7 miles. University Library to West Cambridge via the Coton footpath. Enforced diversion to Madingley Rd. Over the M11 and take the Coton Road. From Coton nature reserve, cut across fields to Barton Rd, Newnham. Via Gough Way and Cranmer Rd, back to the UL.

On a dull winter day we headed out from the University Library. We wandered through the university’s still evolving West Cambridge site, stopping to look at progress on the building of the latest (third) Cavendish Laboratory. Our original plan was disrupted by the fact that the Coton footbridge over the M11 was closed, requiring a relatively unattractive diversion via Madingley Road that added a mile or so to the walk. Having further lengthened the walk by missing the turn into Coton High Street, we cut back across fields to St Peter’s church, surprising a llama on the way. Then we yomped through the Coton Nature Reserve (useful walk ideas and maps on the website) and across sodden, muddy fields and the second M11 footbridge (thankfully open) to Newnham. Mud, mud, mud, and more mud – keep this one for the summer, maybe including a stop for lunch at the Plough once lockdowns are over!

8 Feb – Fen Ditton – Mill Rd loop

7.9 miles walked – intended route 6.6 miles. Fen Ditton along the river via Stourbridge Common to Riverside (we had to detour this bit). Cut up via Abbey Rd, St Matthew’s St and Mill Rd Cemetery to Mill Rd. Walk almost the length of Mill Rd. Then via Vinery Rd to Barnwell Rd and cut across Coldham’s Common, emerging on Newmarket Rd beside the football ground. Visit the leper chapel (owing to our detour, we did this on the way out) then follow Ditton Walk, cutting through to Ditton Meadows and back along the cycle path to Fen Ditton.

A cold winter’s walk with light snow on the ground and in the air. Quite a lot of the route was around urban east Cambridge – not, in all honesty, the most attractive of our walks, and it was made longer and less enticing by enforced detours that cut out much of the riverside part. First, we had to give up on the path along the bank at Fen Ditton, which was too wet. Then we found the path closed due to work on the new Abbey-Chesterton bridge. The good news is that, when completed, the Chisholm walking and cycling trail of which this is a part should improve this and other routes around here.

There were a few of points of interest along the way. The leper chapel on Newmarket Rd has a fascinating history. In the middle ages it was, apparently, one of the most lucrative postings in the English Church, raking in income from the annual Stourbridge Fair that had originally been intended to support the lepers… who had since moved to Ely.

Somehow, it was also the first time either of us had ever walked through Mill Rd Cemetery, which turns out to be a rather pleasant city-centre haven. Outside lockdown, the cafes of Mill Rd would offer plenty of pitstop opportunities. We stopped for a look at the old Cambridge Union Workhouse on Mill Rd, which has a surprising family connection that I’ve written about here. And we peered through the railings at the marvellous new Cambridge Central Mosque – we must come back when it is open to visitors. Back in Fen Ditton, the Ancient Shepherd’s Pub would be good for a post-walk wind-down. The route map below is the one we were aiming for – although the first mile-and-a-half turned out differently!

15 Feb – Newnham – Trumpington – Grantchester

6.3 miles. Lammas Land car park across Sheep Fen, via Latham Rd and Newton Rd, skirting Clare College sports ground to join the busway footpath out to Trumpington. Cut through the new housing via Byron Square to the High St, then through the new Trumpington Meadows estate and out to Byron’s Pool. Follow the river back to the Grantchester Rd and then the Grantchester Meadows path back to Newnham.

A pleasant day with perhaps the first hint of Spring about it, and an excellent circular route on the southern edge of the city. It was the first time I had walked through the new housing estates and paths around Trumpington, where I lived for seven years in the 1990s. The degree of change in the area is quite amazing to see. That said, a lot of this walk is actually through open countryside, green space, or the rather exclusive streets off Trumpington Road. So a nice stroll, and good underfoot for the winter – will come back for this one. Maybe with a stop for lunch or a pint in Grantchester when that’s possible.

22 Feb – Lolworth – Knapwell – Boxworth

Walk 15 in Cambridgeshire Circular Walks. 6.5 miles.

Lolworth – Chllderley via the footpath from the end of the High St. Pick up the Pathfinder Long Distance footpath to Knapwell. Walk through the village to the church then follow the footpath to Boxworth. Take the footpath through fields at the back of the village to the church, then Manor Lane and the footpath back to Lolworth.

After a few weeks in or skirting the edges of the city, we decided to risk the still-soaking landscape and head out into the countryside again, while keeping it fairly local. We set off from the hamlet of Lolworth around a circuit of the nearby villages on a mild, still day with just a hint of rain in the air. For the first mile-and-a-half, the path runs between two hedges, and was indeed pretty muddy, although passable by keeping to the edges. Once we picked up the Pathfinder Long Distance path at Childerley, conditions underfoot improved and were pretty good for the rest of the walk, excepting the need to climb into a hedge in order to skirt a flooded dip in the path at Knapwell!

I didn’t have high expectations of this walk, as perceptions of these villages are dominated by their proximity to the nearby A14 dual carriageway. But, in fact, the traffic noise was never worse than a very distant hum and the walk itself was peaceful and pleasant, with sightings of early spring buds, a deer, and plenty of birdlife. This is where Cambridgeshire has begun to rise up out of the Fens and the countryside starts to roll quite attractively. The route, through fields and woods, is well-kept and waymarked. We stopped for a coffee in the pretty churchyard at Knapwell. Nearer the end of the walk, the Golden Ball at Boxworth looked like a likely refreshment stop for post-lockdown times – and there is another handsome medieval church here. We’d definitely come back and do this walk again.

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