March walks

Into March. Covid lockdown continues, but there is a firmer (allbeit provisional) promise of a route out, and Spring is definitely arriving. Our list of completed walks is building up quite nicely now, and we’re adding more this month.

We’re also contributing the steps walked this month to St Laurence’s Parish CAFOD Group’s Walk for Water campaign.

1 Mar – Willingham and the Great Ouse

Walk 18 in Cambridgeshire Circular Walks. 6.25 miles. From Willingham, out along the Earith road, cutting off on the Flat Road bridleway to the river. Along the river and then back to Willngham via the Aldreth Causeway and Iram Drove.

We started from our neighbouring village of Willingham on a dull, chilly morning. A friend had advised that this was a nice walk, but hard work on a windy day. We could see what she meant, as this is a Fen landscape with, in places, precious little shelter between the walker and Siberia. But, in today’s still conditions, this wasn’t a problem. Underfoot was good too. Quite a lot of this walk is on concrete or stone tracks, and the grass track parts had survived the winter well. It’s a good stroll out along Flat Road and very pleasant on the elevated path alongside the river (past the alpaca farm!).

The return route is along Aldreth Causeway – one of the three original ancient causeways onto the Isle of Ely, often associated with Hereward the Wake. The causeway emerges at the iron age earthworks of Belsar’s Hill, which sounds interesting, but is actually rather disappointing – as you can’t access or really see the site from the path, and there seems to be a fly tipping and litter problem here. That aside, this is a decent countryside walk and, given its convenience to home, one to which we’ll return.

8 Mar – Lode – Stow-cum-Quy Fen

Walk 10 in Cambridgeshire Circular Walks. 5.5 miles. From the church in Lode, past Lode Mill, out around Stow-cum-Quy Fen, returning along Quy Water at the back of Anglesey Abbey.

A Monday afternoon walk for a change, and a pleasant one (despite the drizzle) across the fenland behind Lode and Stow-cum-Quy villages. We did have to cut out the very furthest corner of the walk owing to a flooded path (which shows as a little ‘spike’ in the routemap below, where we had to turn back). And we ran into a couple of other wet/muddy patches. But there is a network of footpaths out here that are generally dry and in good nick, and very well signposted – so it wasn’t too difficult to find an alternative route through. The walk finishes along the embankment beside Quy Water, running at the back of Angelsey Abbey estate. We’ve walked along the other side of this too many times to count, particularly with small children, so it was interesting to see how it connected to the countryside beyond. There’s no real stopping-off point on what is a relatively short loop but, for future reference, there is also a potential longer route across country to Horningsea here.

15 Mar – Ely to Little Thetford

Walk 19 in Cambridgeshire Circular Walks. 6.8 miles. From Forehill Car Park in Ely picking up the route in the book by the cathedral, through Ely City Golf Club via the Cawdle Fen footpath and on out to Little Thetford, returning along the river.

Out from Ely on a bright, breezy spring day. A pleasant start through the town and across the golf course, although the path across the course is quite wet at this time of year. And the Cawdle Fen footpath out to Little Thetford, though passable, was slow going and treacherously slippy in places. It’s also rather close to the A10 for a lot of the way, with quite loud traffic noise. And at the end of the path is Little Thetford which won’t really be troubling the compiler of any list of attractive Cambridgeshire villages.

Turning for home – Ely cathedral on the far horizon

After the village, we climbed onto the embankment by the Great Ouse and drank a coffee sitting on a bench with a good view across the fen to Soham. And the walk back to Ely along the river was much better, with the path in good condition and the view of the cathedral ahead of you the whole time (albeit slightly compromised by the new bypass). Overall, this was a good leg-stretch, but there are better ways to earn a nice riverside stroll than the outward leg of this route, so this is one of our lower-ranking walks so far.

22 Mar – Cottenham – Rampton

7.5 miles. Long Drove loop followed by Cottenham to Rampton via Broad Lane / Cow Lane path, returning along the Cottenham Lode.

Stayed really local this week, setting out from our front door in Cottenham on a walk that connected our default lockdown loop around Long Drove and Church Lane with a longer loop out to Rampton village. The resulting figure-of-eight was a very pleasant early springtime countryside walk, almost entirely on paths or quiet fen droves with conditions underfoot very good the whole way. Although this is territory that is about as familiar to us as it could possibly be, we did actually manage something new – taking a worthwhile detour off the path to visit the peaceful thatched church in Rampton which, amazingly, neither of us had been to before.

* A variant on this walk is a slightly extended version of the Rampton loop, which makes that walk 5.4 miles – see March 2024.

All Saints, Rampton and its thatched roof
Cottenham Lode

29 Mar – Wicken Fen to Upware

Walk 11 in Cambridgeshire Circular Walks. 6 miles. From the Wicken Fen National Trust car park via Breed Fen Drove, Spinney Drove and the Fen Rivers Way to Upware, returning by Reach Lode, Wicken Lode, Monks Lode and Back Road.

Accompanied by Ella, a bright and breezy spring walk for Joy’s birthday. This is a good walk, skirting around the outer edge of the Wicken Fen nature reserve (apparently the country’s oldest nature reserve). Good paths and classic Fen views. Always interesting to contemplate the 2m+ drop between the undrained land in the reserve, and the drained land outside. Post lockdown*, the Five Miles from Anywhere No Hurry inn might offer a chance for a riverside stop about halfway round. There are also plenty of options to both shorten and lengthen this walk.

* We revisited this walk in January 2024.