October walks

Autumn is arriving – the perfect season to get back to our weekly local walks.

3 Oct – Wilburton – Haddenham

5.5 miles. Starting at St Peter’s church in Wilburton, picking up the footpath to Haddenham. Through Haddenham on the High St and Aldreth Rd, then following paths along the New Cut below the two villages before climbing back to the far side of Wilburton and returning to our starting point through the village.

For the first time in a while, we’ve managed consecutive weekly local walks. This week, the UK’s fuel supply crisis (the latest in our on-going series of post-Brexit screw-ups) continues, so we decided to minimise the driving and nipped 3 miles up the road to our neighbouring village of Wilburton.

Wilburton sits on the low ridge that marks the edge of the Isle of Ely and we started by walking along that ridge on the road towards Haddenham. A footpath (hard to find given its sign is almost entirely concealed in a hedge) allowed us to cut away from the road and reach Haddenham via peaceful fields, with a view of Ely cathedral away to the north. Reaching Haddenham, we turned down the hill towards Aldreth, cutting off on a path to the left just before the road leaves the village.

The path drops further down the ridge – a really pleasant walk through orchards on a bright, breezy afternoon – and, at the foot of the hill turns along the New Cut drainage ditch, running parallel to the ridge back towards Wilburton. This is a nice, quiet country path, with open views across the fen stretching towards Cottenham. After crossing the Twenty Pence Road, we turned back up the hill, arriving back on the far side of Wilburton from our starting point, and then detoured across the recreation ground and through the village back to the church.

This was a pleasant walk, particularly the parts through the orchards and along the foot of the ridge. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here, so not one that justifies a long trip. But if you’re local (as we are) and looking to stretch your legs, it’s a good option. The lower parts did look as if they might get a bit soggy in winter, so one for when it is drier underfoot.

Oct 8 – Wimblington to Stonea Camp

7.25 miles. Walk 20 in the Cambridgeshire Circular Walks book. From Wimblington, a figure-of-eight loop on farm tracks and Fen footpaths to the site of the Roman camp at Stonea.

Deep into the Fens, to Wimblington, one of the few walks from the Cambridgeshire Circular Walks book that we haven’t done yet. There doesn’t appear to be much except pancake-flat fen farmland around here, and most of this walk was a stroll on grassy paths and concrete farm tracks between black-earthed fields (the potatoes and wheat had been recently harvested) on a very mild, still, October morning. But, at the far end of the route, is the site of an iron age hill fort (although perhaps stretching the definition of ‘hill’) and the subsequent Roman camp at Stonea. Here, the remains of large defensive embankments and ditches surround a fairly substantial area and lead you to wonder what supported hundreds of people out here two thousand years ago (wool and salt, apparently).

We headed back into Wimblington, making a good 7-mile hike in total, and rewarded ourselves with a sandwich and a beer at The Anchor Inn, which seemed a decent straight-up village boozer. A nice-enough walk to tick off the list but, while the ghost of a Roman town is interesting to contemplate, the rest of the walk is relatively mundane, and doing it once is probably sufficient.

15 Oct – Holywell – St Ives

4.25 miles. Following this route from the Cambridgeshire Walks blog although starting in Holywell. A loop to the edge of St Ives and back via the river, Meadow Lane, Needingworth Rd in St Ives, and the Parson’s Drove footpath.

This route, from the Cambridgeshire Walks blog is designed as a loop from St Ives out to Holywell and back. But we wanted to finish with lunch in Holywell, so started and ended here, halfway round. Holywell is a very attractive village (and apparently a rare example of an Anglo Saxon ring village layout) perched on a bank set back from the Great Ouse, immediately across the river from the Fen Drayton Nature Reserve, where we walked back in April.

In beautiful October sunshine, we took in the picture-postcard village frontage before arriving at St John the Baptist’s Church, site of the well that gives the village its name.

A pleasant stroll across fields to the river, and then along the river bank, is followed by a less pleasant haul of just under a mile straight along Meadow Lane past industrial plants, rubble tips, and a large car park, emerging on the St Ives ring road.

A walk along Needingworth Rd taught me some interesting Cambridgeshire Catholic history. The Catholic church of the Sacred Heart, which stands here, was designed by the renowned Catholic architect of the Gothic revival, Augustus Pugin, and originally built in Union Road, Cambridge in 1843. It was superseded by the new church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs (where I worshipped when I first lived in Cambridge, post-university) and, in 1901, a local benefactor paid £1,000 for the whole building to be moved by barge and rebuilt in St Ives.

Re-crossing the ring road, we picked up Parson’s Drove, a much more pleasant shaded path, with glimpses of the adjacent gravel pit lakes, all the way back to Holywell. We lunched at the Old Ferry Boat Inn – taking in the river view from a table outside was an unexpected bonus at this time of year. A good location, a nice old building, good service, a decent pint of Tribute beer – although this is actually a fairly run-of-the-mill (Greene King) chain pub, with the food and trappings that go with that. Still, the garden makes a nice spot for a drink on a sunny day. Maybe that would be a better use of this walk: out and back to St Ives along Parson’s Drove, with a loop around Holywell village including a stop at the pub for a drink, and cutting out the unattractive slog along Meadow Lane.