June / July 2022 walks

Another break in our weekly walking program during early June, with interruptions including a Killers concert and university open day. But as we get back to business, we have just 4 walks left to hit the target of 52 walks in our big circular walks project.

24 June – Cottenham – Cottenham Lode – Great Ouse

7.4 miles. From Cottenham, north alongside Cottenham Lode to the Great Ouse, then follow the river west, returning to Cottenham along Lockspit Hall Drove.

To our shame, it has taken us over 20 years of living in Cottenham to walk this route out to the river although, in our defence, it doesn’t feel like too many other people walk this way either. We passed only one other person on foot in the whole circuit outside the village. He was very near the start and carrying a telephoto lens – evidence of the interest of birders in the flooded field near the Smithy Fen travellers site, which is currently hosting (very unusually for this part of the world) a white stork. We were able to see the stork – quite an impressive site through binoculars. But, without the benefits of a telephoto lens, photographing it on your phone doesn’t really work!

Having got that far by leaving the village past the church on the High Street, turning off at Smithy Fen, and joining the path alongside Cottenham Lode, we then followed this all the way to the river Ouse near Twentypence Marina. The grass path on the west bank is mown and well-kept the whole way. We were on the east bank, which is similar for a mile after which maintenance abruptly stops, leaving you to navigate a further mile through long grass and nettles which, in places, come up to your armpits. For future reference, stay on the west side!

There is supposed to be a path here!

We then followed the river for about a mile-and-a-half. This grassy path also feels fairly underused, although it only became overgrown for a very short section before we left it. We did at one point climb a barbed wire fence, hop a drainage ditch, and then repeat the manoeuvre in reverse, to divert around two huge bulls that were next to the path ahead, and looking interested in our approach. We left the river near the far end of Lockspit Hall Drove – the hundred yards or so that connect the river path to the drove is not marked as a public footpath, but there is a track there. We returned to the village along the long, straight, concrete, drove lanes between fields of potatoes.

We could see why this route may not too well-used – the Lode-side walk is quite pleasant, but is 2 miles straight out-and-back from the village, with no real destination at the end (except, perhaps, a riverside picnic?). Turning it into a circuit makes for a longish walk and the riverside paths here are neither well-advertised, nor particularly well-maintained. But, on a warm summer’s day with a cooling breeze, it still made quite a good walk – if we can steel ourselves to brave walking past those bulls, we might be back before another 20 years are up.

8 July – Aldreth – Great Ouse – Aldreth Causeway

4.6 miles. From Aldreth via Fen Side, Cross Drove, and Hoghill Drove. Footpath to the river, returning via the river path and Aldreth Causeway.

Our 50th circular walk was a relatively short one on a hot, hot summer’s morning. We stayed close to home and to the previous walk on the Fen Edge, but crossed the river to start in the hamlet of Aldreth. Known as the site of one of the three causeways through the marshes into the Isle of Ely at the time of the Norman conquest, the area is often associated with the resistance of Hereward the Wake.

It’s somewhat easier walking between fields of wheat, rape, and maize these days. We left from the small parking area at the end of Aldreth High Street, following the rough concrete lanes of Cross Drove and Hoghill Drove eastwards for a mile-and-a-half. Where Hoghill Drove turns left towards Haddenham, we turned right on a footpath to the river.

We emerged onto the river bank almost opposite the point where we’d left the river path on the other bank during last week’s walk out from Cottenham, and we could see the familiar Cottenham church tower on the horizon. The grass path along the river had been cut and was generally easy going although, in a few places, brambles are encroaching, requiring care when walking in summer shorts. We followed the river, passed by a few pleasure boats as we walked, back to High Bridge, where we stopped for a coffee in the shade, before returning to Aldreth along the route of the old causeway.

A nice, easy Fen walk and riverside walk. There’s also a shorter westward loop out from the causeway that could be used either as an alternative or to make this into a longer circuit.