April walks

The gradual easing of the 2020/21 winter lockdown is becoming more noticeable as we enter April – and we may venture slightly further afield with some of our walks this month.

5 Apr – Linton, Rivey Hill and Hildersham

Walk 22 in Cambridgeshire Circular Walks. 7.3 miles. From Linton, climb Rivey Hill and continue past Chilford Hall, turning onto the Via Devana Roman Road. Cut back along the bridleway to Hildersham and then return to Linton along the Granta valley.

Yesterday we sat in the garden in one layer of clothing on a glorious Easter Day. This morning, we woke up to flurries of snow! The winter walking jacket was taken down from the peg where I had thought it might now hang undisturbed for a few months, and hats and gloves were collected. During March we had stuck to the Fen Edge, so we decided to head the 20 miles or so to Linton, on the far side of Cambridge, in search of some hills.

The day brightened considerably and we ended up walking in pleasant sunshine with blue skies, though with an occasionally biting north-easterly wind. This is a very nice walk, and conditions were excellent – although, for future reference, the initial climb up Rivey Hill, where a stream runs down the middle of the path, might be something of a mudbath after any sustained wet weather. The water tower at the top of the hill dominates the landscape around here and, from there, it is an easy descent past the entrance to Chilford Hall. We remembered a family wedding held there on a baking hot June day nearly 16 years ago. Climbing again, we joined the Via Devana Roman road – which, further along, forms part of the Wandlebury walk that we did back in January. Today, the hedges on either side provided welcome shelter.

Holy Trinity, Hildersham…
…and its Victorian wall paintings

We turned off down the hill to Hildersham. Across these low chalk hills on the borders of Cambridgshire, Suffolk, and Essex, the flint is noticeable, scattered on the paths and fields. And flinty pebbles clad the walls of the tidy Holy Trinity church in Hildersham, where we stopped for a coffee. The interior walls are notable for their Victorian era wall paintings – the result of a 19th century ‘restoration’ that probably wiped out lots of the original medieval features but which, nevertheless, I rather liked! Hildersham is a pretty village, with the Pear Tree Inn looking like it could be worth a post-lockdown visit. And the end of the walk is a nice stroll along the Granta valley back into Linton.

23 Apr – Fen Dayton Lakes

5.5 miles around the perimeter of Fen Drayton Lakes Nature Reserve.

More aspects of normal life are slowly returning, which in general is great news, but is disrupting our Monday walks. For one reason or another, we’ll probably be shifting to Fridays. Today we were constrained by work commitments and my first visit to the dentist for 18 months, but after that we headed over to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Fen Drayton Lakes to squeeze in an afternoon stroll on a beautiful day that felt more like early summer.

A trail map for the reserve is available here. From the car park, we headed up to the Great Ouse, turning left along the river and left again along the far side of Drayton Lagoon. We continued straight to join the purple trail, walking around 3 sides of Elney Lake. Turning right onto the busway for a short distance, we then followed the red trail on a circuit of Ferry Lagoon, back to the car park.

On a Friday afternoon, there weren’t many people around, and this was a peaceful waterside walk, surrounded by birdlife. This is a very pleasant place to walk, particularly in these conditions, and is also easily accessible by bike or bus from the busway, with lots of connecting paths to the surrounding villages and into St Ives. We’ll be back to explore more.

30 Apr – Coton to Madingley via the American Cemetery

4.9 miles. From Coton on the Madingley footpath, through the American Cemetery and onto Madingley Hall. Returning via Church Land and along the A1303 back to the Coton-Madingley footpath.

We went out for lunch. Just the two of us. In an actual pub. Well, outside an actual pub. For the first time in over a year! Thanks to the Plough in Coton for breaking our lockdown run in a very pleasant fashion. It’s also a good spot for the start, end, or middle of a walk – for example, it’s on the route we walked out from the city back in February. But today, after lunch, we headed in the other direction, out towards Madingley. The tide of mud that we waded through in the winter has subsided and dried, so it was easy walking.

Climbing the hill out of Coton you get a good view back towards the city. At the top of the hill is the American Cemetery. A thought-provoking and peaceful place to wander through, and always worth a visit. Exiting by the back gate, we detoured into the 800 wood, a plantation created for the 800th anniversary of the University back in 2009. Walking on into Madingley, we came to Madingley Hall and the picture-postcard village church. We made a short circuit around the Hall gardens (coffee available at a small cafe) before heading out of the village by Church Lane.

We were short of time, so walked back along the A1303 for half a mile or so to rejoin the Coton-Madingley path back to our starting point. With a little more time, we’d have avoided this stretch along the main road and completed a loop down the quieter Long Road and back into Coton along the Wimpole Way footpath. Another alternative would be to return along our outward route with the variation of taking the footpath through the wood on the western edge of the cemetery, rather than walking back through the cemetery.

Together with the connections to the paths into Cambridge, all of this means that there are lots of options for the future should we need an excuse to visit the Plough again, or indeed the Three Horseshoes in Madingley.

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