Strolls in the Cambridgeshire countryside are an all-year favourite but particularly lovely during the Festive break, when it’s frosty and the winter light makes everything just a bit more golden and prettier.
Going out for a walk is a perfect way to keep active during the holiday and enjoy time together with friends, family, the dog, or get some time alone to think and reflect on the past year.
Our public rights of way team know the county’s network of paths inside out and have compiled their top county walks to explore or do again throughout the winter. Here are their top ten suggestions…
- Camilla suggests: “Walk across Coe Fen in Cambridge on a frosty morning, and for a longer one, along the Old West River at Aldreth, via Aldreth Causeway. This is slightly more remote for peace and quiet and there is an interpretation board at the Causeway crossing over the river.”
- For Daniel, a personal favourite is a circular walk from St Ives town centre to Houghton and the Hemingfords. “It’s lovely at any time of the year. It is about five to six miles long, passes some lovely pubs, as well as Houghton Mill, St Ives old bridge and of course the shops and facilities in St Ives. It’s also easily accessible from the Guided Busway.”
Laurence’s top three suggestions include:
- “A circular walk from St Neots via Paxton Pits Local Nature Reserve at Little Paxton and onto Hail Weston, where the reopened pub is great for an open fire and hot chocolate.”
- “The network of Footpaths and Bridleways between Wimpole Hall and Haslingfield offer great views of the surrounding countryside in South Cambs from the higher ground in this area.”
- “The network of Footpaths and Bridleways around Little Gidding west of Sawtry, with its famous church that was immortalised in T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name.”
For Karen, it has to be:
- The Bishops Way, a seven to nine miles exploration around the fens between the Cathedral City of Ely and its Bishops Palace at Little Downham. “It is a good area to explore as it combines the attractive fen islands of Ely and Little Downham with its hinterland of drained farmland. The walk sets Ely in its context, and the quiet droves will let you get close to the birds and animals that depend on the drainage channels
criss-crossingthe area. Look up to see buzzards or owls hunting, glance along the drainage ditches to catch a flash of the kingfisher or the elegant little egret, or the less elegant grey heron that tends to land like a discarded umbrella.”
- Another of Karen’s favourites is Wicken Way, a seven-mile walk around the National Trust’s Reserve. “The walk
donot require entry to the Wicken Fen reserve, but instead let you see the land between Wicken and the town of Soham giving you a sense of the big skies and rolling weather systems that pass over this reclaimed land. Give yourself time to appreciate where many of the countries vegetable crops are grown, and plot your progress against the windmills of Wicken and Soham, watched by the bulk of Ely Cathedral and Soham and Wicken’s own Churches. A perfect walk for people who have moved into the area wondering how Cambridgeshire all works!”
- Karen also suggests not to miss Whittlesey Way, a five-mile walk set around the small town of Whittlesey. Karen explains: “This small town is another Fen Island set in drained land but their Straw Bear festival makes mid- January a good time to explore the
area,when the revival of a two-day festival featuring the Straw bear and his handler makes a focal point for the town. Market day is Friday and there is a surprising buzz to the little town, which is served by a railway Station on the Peterborough/Ely line.”
- Sarah’s favourite is the RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes. What makes it stand out for her is “the beauty and the quiet. You can spot the different types of wildlife, with lots of paths and lanes to walk along. It’s about a five-mile walk that will take you across the Guided Busway and along the River Great Ouse. It’s easy to park and there’re great local pubs on the way for a quick tipple!”
- Last but not least, Marc suggests a walk around Wimpole Hall’s grounds. “Go past the gateway beside the Hardwicke Arms Pub and walk over a cattle grid to access the path that will take you right to the front door of Wimpole Hall on to the extensive surrounding grounds. The area in front of the Hall was once the medieval village of Wimpole! Continue up over the hill and see if you can spot the folly in the distance? This is not a long walk, and you can park at the National Trust car park (fee applies except for members) and then go for tea and cake after! There is also a good path west from the hall that goes to the deserted medieval village of Clopton, where you can find an interpretation board about the dramatic story of the area.”
Maps and information leaflets for these walks, along with additional walking suggestions are available on the Visit Cambridge website.
For more tips to enjoy the Cambridgeshire countryside, visit https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/libraries-leisure-&-culture/arts-green-spaces-&-activities/enjoying-the-countryside/ and to view the County Council’s interactive Public Rights of Way mapping visit www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/rightsofway.