March 2022 walks

After a couple of missed weeks due to work and travel, we got back to the walking project in the middle of the month, just as Spring made a timely arrival.

18 March – Sawston – Whittlesford loop

5.7 miles, taken from the list of walks on the Great Shelford village website, here. From the war memorial in Sawston via Mill Lane and public footpaths to Whittlesford. Make a loop past Rayner’s Farm, alongside the M11, and back via West End. Returning to Sawston via the footpath from the end of Whittlesford’s Mill Lane.

A beautiful spring morning and a pleasant south Cambs walk. This is a well-connected part of the county. I often think of it as somewhat dominated by its transport links and, indeed, this walk crossed the Sawston bypass, a rail line, and skirted the very edge of the M11 motorway, all to the occasional soundtrack of aircraft heading to or from Stansted airport. But, in fact, a lot of the walk was also through peaceful countryside, and Whittlesford’s village centre looked very appealing on a sunny day.

The walk forms a figure-of-8, and its focal point is St Mary’s and St Andrew’ church in Whittlesford, currently celebrating a (slightly speculative) millennium. Apparently, it is famous in historical graffiti circles for its graffiti, particularly the image of an archer carved into one of its pillars. We only discovered this after the visit and so completely missed it*, although I did photograph a stained glass window of a “bowman of Whittlesford, Crecy, 1346”. The church itself was being re-roofed and is tidy, evidently well-used, and a somewhat unusual architectural jumble, discussed here. Outside, the graveyard includes an impeccably-kept Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of WWII graves (many were airmen based at nearby Duxford). Our current news is dark, three weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The graves of Polish and Czech pilots were a salutary link to our shared history with Eastern Europeans struggling for freedom.

‘A bowman of Whittlesford, Crecy, 1346’
Polish war grave

Following the loop of the walk from Whittlesford out to the M11, we were surprised to find ourselves walking the boundary of a hidden grass airstrip, which nestles in the gap between the motorway and a rather spectacular new modernist house. Back in Whittlesford, we stopped for a coffee beside its village war memorial, before crossing the village green and finding our way back to Sawston.

We’d happily repeat this walk. All of the paths were good condition (a lot of the route is on metalled surfaces) so it would be a good winter option. The route description from the Great Shelford walks website is accurate, with the exception of a couple of now-outdated details – the stile at Rayner’s Farm, and the bench referenced slightly afterwards have both disappeared. We finished off with lunch in the Green Room at Sawston, a newish bistro/cafe, conveniently located right at the start/end of the walk.

* We repeated this walk and checked out the graffiti in January 2024.

25 March – Bluntisham – Colne – Somersham – Earith

8.5 miles, taken from the list of walks on the Great Shelford village website here. Leaving Bluntisham on the Colne road, cutting onto the cross-country footpath to Somersham just after the Colne village sign. Through Somersham, leaving on the Chatteris road, pass Dews coach depot and then take the footpath to Earith, returning to Bluntisham via the path at Whybrow Close.

A glorious spring morning to wander the Fen edges. This walk includes two disused orchards where the remaining fruit trees were coming into bloom. The Great Shelford village website walks have been a great recent discovery, providing a good list of ideas just as we were beginning to run short of inspiration, 45 walks into our project!

This was another solid country walk, linking up four Fenland villages. The website descriptions are good, but (at least as accessed in March 2022) aging a little. Follow the general idea, but don’t count too much on the detail (e.g., this one referred to landmarks including Rowell’s Store in Bluntisham, a line of poplars, and a copse that are no longer there).

The paths were, as promised, in pretty good condition and quite dry for the Fens, with the exception of the grass drove between Somersham and Earith, which had been badly churned by large farm vehicles.

St John the Baptist, Somersham looking springlike.
Somerham to Earith in the sunshine.

There’s nothing too remarkable to see on this walk in these fairly low-key villages, although the Baptist Meeting House in Bluntisham, which was being renovated, is an impressive-looking building, and St John the Baptist’s in Somersham looked good when approached by its daffodil-lined entrance path in the spring sunshine. But peaceful countryside in great weather is always a good place to be and, on the last leg, we detoured a little from the published route to stop at the Crown pub in Earith, lunching in the sunshine by the river. The pub feels slightly dilapidated in places (its mooring stage appears to have collapsed into the river), but I can totally recommend their beef and horseradish ciabatta.

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