April / May 2022 walks

April was a poor month for our walking, albeit interrupted mostly for good reasons – holiday, Easter, and family visits. For the first time in two-and-a-half years, we even managed to leave the UK with a long weekend in Amsterdam and Antwerp. We did manage to log a decent (not really circular) walk during a trip to Norfolk, which doesn’t really count towards our local walks project. We got back to that in May.

30 Apr – Burnham Deepdale to Brancaster Beach

6.1 miles. Out and back from Deepdale Camping via the Norfolk Coastal Path to Brancaster Beach.

Our first campervan away trip of the year to north Norfolk and the excellent Deepdale Camping site. It was pretty chilly (1C) on Friday night, so we were glad to have a small heater and warm bedding in the van. But Saturday was a lovely, sunny day and we walked the 3 miles to Brancaster Beach and 3 miles back. This is an out-and-back route rather than one of our usual circular walks, but with a good purpose – a couple of hours sitting on the beach with a picnic.

The walk itself is very pleasant, following the Norfolk coastal path and then the dyke from Brancaster out to the beach. The path has peaceful views across wild marsh under big skies towards the sand dunes on the seaward side, and the chance to ogle the backs of a series of impressive coastal properties on the landward side. At the little harbour at Brancaster Staithes, I acquired the obligatory seaside Mr Whippy ice cream on the return journey. No paddling today, as the tide was out a good half-mile, but we did respect the British tradition of failing to apply sun cream on a bright Spring day at the beach, and so both returned with bright red faces.

St Mary’s Church and its 1,000 year-old Saxon round tower at Burnham Deepdale.
Turning slowly red on Brancaster Beach.

6 May – Burwell – Reach

7.1 miles. Loop out from Burwell via Burwell Lode, Reach Lode, Devil’s Dyke.

Finally back to our local circular walks project – the 46th such walk took us to the large village of Burwell on a lovely, warm Spring day. The weather matched what was a really pleasant walk. We started at the Anchor Pub and headed off into the country, walking for a mile-and-three-quarters pretty much dead-straight alongside the Burwell Lode. As the Lode kinks and is crossed by a cycle bridge, we entered National Trust land connected to the Wicken Fen nature reserve, where we walked last March.

The landscape here is the typical wetland found around Wicken, with its busy bird population – Joy was annoyed not to have brought her binoculars. We cut away at 90 degrees from the raised Lode, dropping down onto the Fen and following the path across it until we came to Reach Lode, where we climbed up to the embankment and headed towards Reach village.

We were last here on just the 2nd walk of this project, 44 walks and 18 months ago. On that winter day, we walked from Reach’s huge village green through the mud to Swaffham Prior, returning along the impressive Saxon earthwork that is the Devil’s Dyke. Today, all of the paths were bone dry, and we stopped for a coffee on the green, site of the 800-year-old Reach Fair. The 2022 edition had, in fact, taken place just last week. We briefly followed the reverse of our previous route, leaving Reach along the dyke, before cutting off it after half a mile or so, taking the footpath across fields back to Burwell, with the spire of St Mary’s church before us. The church is a large, impressive, light-filled, building. Local legend exaggerates a little in claiming that the 15th Century architect ‘practiced’ on King’s College Chapel before doing his best work in Burwell.

We stopped for lunch in the Five Bells Pub – a very nice sandwich and a pint sitting in the sunshine in the pub garden, before the final mile back through the length of the village to our starting point. This is a walk we’d happily do again.

13 May – Eddington – West Cambridge – City – Histon Rd

6 miles. From Thornton Rd, Girton, via Eddington to the West Cambridge site and into the city. Along the river to Jesus Green loch. Returning to Huntingdon Rd via backstreets.

Although we started in Thornton Rd, for the free parking, I’ve labelled this walk as beginning around the corner in Eddington, since our main motivation was to nose around this new Cambridge suburb. To me, it’s an odd place although, to be quite fair, it has still to settle. It’s in a great location. Some of its design is laudable, with built-in sustainable living, exemplified by the attractive green drainage areas running between some of the house frontages (no doubt, the image that features on the brochures) plus a quota of essential key worker housing. But the back of the streets, serried ranks of apartments, and a lot of the public spaces still seem quite bleak. And a cold wind funnels through the place, even on a fairly mild day. I wish it well and hope it matures, rather than going the same way as so many other grand architectural visions for ‘a different way of living’. Right now, I couldn’t really advocate forking out well over a million quid for a four bedroom terraced house – but perhaps that is more a comment on the general insanity of Cambridge house prices.

Two faces of Eddington. Brochure-friendly frontages…
…but a lot of it still feels bleak.

That said, we then followed the cycleway towards the city, which would make for an attractive-enough commute, before cutting off alongside the University’s Astronomy Department and across Madingley Road to the still developing West Cambridge site, where Cambridge is building a fair approximation of a campus university. The 3rd incarnation of the Cavendish laboratory, the University Physics Department, is going up fast and the neighbouring science, computing, and engineering departments look sleek, though still fairly lifeless – perhaps COVID working from home is still blighting them.

It’s a really nice walk from here along a green corridor all the way to central Cambridge, and we strolled through the historic centre, stopping for a coffee and famous chelsea bun at Fitzbillies. Dodging the irritating touts trying to sell punting trips, we walked along the river to Jesus Green, before cutting up through quiet, Victorian back streets, the peaceful Histon Rd cemetery, and cut-through paths all the way to Huntingdon Rd. From there, back to the car.

Overall, this was a pleasant walk through the north-west of the city. Even if much of it is just on residential streets, there is plenty of green space, variety, and much that is in the process of changing. So it will be worth coming back to see what’s new. Being entirely on good footpaths, it would also make for easy winter walking.

20 May – Ely – Queen Adelaide

6.8 miles. From central Ely, along the Prickwillow Road, then following the Clayway Drove to join the Ouse opposite Clayway Farm. Returning along the river.

Our 48th local circular walk, and the third from Ely. Back in January we’d walked part of the 10 mile walk 27 in the Cambridgeshire Circular Walks book, out to Little Downham, north west of Ely. This time we headed north east and took in most of the rest of that route, beginning by walking its eastern side in reverse – out along the Prickwillow Road and into the countryside via the grassy Clayway Drove.

The walk starts with a stroll by the cathedral….
…and incudes the 2021 Boat Race course.

Reaching the River Ouse, we turned back towards Ely on the riverside embankment. This long, straight stretch of river was the location for last year’s University Boat Race, relocated here for just the second time in its history due to a combination of Covid and problems with Hammersmith Bridge on the usual London course. Today it was inhabited by just a single rower, a heron, and a large flock of geese that took to the water as we approached.

At Queen Adelaide’s bridge, the site of the start of the race, we crossed to the other bank, relying on the map in the Cambridgeshire Walks book. Although we were no longer on the route of the walk, the map appeared to show the Fen Rivers Way footpath running alongside the road and river here. The usually reliable footpaths map also shows a path here.

In fact, there is no path and this was a rather unpleasant and quite dangerous half mile on a road with no verge and speeding cars, made worse by the light drizzle that had been falling for much of the walk suddenly turning heavier. We were very glad to get off the road and take a cup of coffee in the shelter of some trees, now (owing to poor preparation!) fairly wet through.

A good soaking

The rain eased, and it was a nice walk back through the meadows along the river into the town, where we dried off over a drink and sandwich in the Prince Albert pub. Overall, this is a pretty good walk as long as you take one of the possible alternatives to the section on Queen Adelaide Way, which is in no way appropriate for walking.

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