Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category

Visiting Woodwalton Fen Nature reserve

Wood Walton Fen

This probably as close to how the fens were before they were drained

My wife and I visited Woodwalton Fen Nature reserve recently, it has been a number of years since our last short visit. We parked alongside the Great Raveley drain that forms part of what is in effect a moat that surrounds the reserve. The reserve needs these surrounding and network of internal waterways to keep the ground moist and maintain its height above the surrounding land. The land roundabout has been drained and is as a consequence lower.

We crossed the bridge into the reserve walking to the thatched information shelter where we picked up three leaflets, each a guide to a different walk around the reserve. We decided on the waterfowl trail and set off.

Woodwalton Fen information Centre

Woodwalton Fen information Centre

The Great Fen Project of which Woodwalton Fen is part is returning the area to the fen wetlands that existed before their drainage. The ground is boggy and wet nearly everywhere, apart from some wooden walkways, in many places, there are ponds of dark peaty water. The landscape gives some indication of how difficult travel must have been in centuries past when most journeys in the fens were made on either foot, horseback or by boat.

The Bungalow Woodwalton Fen Nature Reserve

The Bungalow Woodwalton Fen Nature Reserve

For a while we saw little in the way of wildlife save for a few swans and an odd duck, then after coming across the bungalow and a beautifully carved memorial bench beside it, we spotted a dear in the distance. Surprisingly for this early in the season there were a number of butterflies around we spotted Brimstone and Peacock for certain.

Carved Memorial Bench

Carved Memorial Bench

 

A deer in the distance

A deer in the distance

A sleeping Swan

A sleeping Swan

We gingerly edged around a sleeping swan then came across a ditch full of frogs apparently mating and the biggest ball of frogspawn I have seen. I cannot remember seeing so many frogs in one place they all seemed to be thriving looking at their size.

Frog spawn

Frog spawn

Frogs

Frogs just two of a huge cast

We rambled on finding the winding footway to Gordon’s hide. The hide is elevated roughly ten feet above the level of the mere sharing the same name, it gives a good panoramic view of the open water and the surrounding fen. We will bring binoculars on our next visit.

We continued on the trail until we found ourselves back alongside the Great Raveley Drain. We followed this until we reached the bridge at the entrance and crossed to collect our car. As we walked alongside the drain we encountered a tree obviously hollow, home to wild bees. These little fellows seem to have an aerial motorway across the drain, the bee traffic seemed heavy and continuous.

Bee hive in a tree

Bee hive in a tree

We reckoned that we had spent the best part of two hours wandering around this beautiful, tranquil place and are determined to return sooner rather than l

The start of autumn

Autumn leaves

A start to autumn a first fall of leaves

Winter is seldom welcome however autumn with its beautiful paint box colouring the leaves of trees in red, golds and browns is another matter entirely. Autumn never starts on a particular day we try to box it with dates but it comes and goes to suit itself. The corn harvest in the country seems to occur with the last of summer, whilst the blackberry and apple crops seem to coincide with the first hints of autumn, for me autumn starts with the browning of leaves. I was walking my son’s dog in our Lattersey Nature Reserve and found an early first fall of brown leaves starting to cover the ground. Autumn can stay for a while but it needn’t hurry away to let winter in, not on my account anyway.

U3A Walking Group Houghton Trip


 

We travelled to Houghton Mill by car, thank you to our chauffeurs. On arrival the group gathered together in the car park, the weather was fine remnants of the early mist were diminishing fast under the strengthening sun.

Ready for the off

Ready for the off

The current mill at Houghton on the river Great Ouse was built in the seventeenth century, with improvements made in the nineteenth century, it is now owned by the National Trust and in working order. When I was a lad it was disused as a mill and used as a Youth Hostel. There was mention of a mill on the site as early as the Doomsday Book, one was originally built in 963AD

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Houghton Mill

 

We walked through the mill, (the footpath passes though the building itself), crossed the bridges and set off across Hemingford meadow towards Hemingford Abbotts, it was dry under foot with little wind. the group crossed the bridge into Hemingford Abbots then walked along Common Lane into the centre of the village. There are many attractive old cottages remaining together with a thatched pub, the Axe and Compass.

Axe and Compass

The Axe and Compass

When I was a young lad, I left school at fifteen and started working at a garage in Hemingford as an apprentice mechanic. Although I left the garage close on fifty years ago a lot of the village is familiar, though changed from how I remember it. we followed the footpaths to the river then walked along the bank until reaching Hemingford Grey. I used to know a man who lived in River Cottage at Hemingford Grey. He was a customer of the garage where I worked and a friend of the owner, he had been a prisoner of war by the Japanese. At the age I was then, his experiences didn’t interest me as much as they would now, the one thing I recall him saying was the commander of the prison camp, believed he must be intelligent, believing he came from Cambridge rather than living close to it.

St James Church Hemingford Grey

St. James Church Hemingford Grey

St. James church in Hemingford Grey was approached walking along a path beside the river, it is in a beautiful position. We walked past it and after a while walking through Hemingford Grey village passed some picturesque lakes, formed I would imagine from disused gravel workings carrying on further we found ourselves back on the open meadow.

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A view of the lake

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Back on the Meadow

We continued across the meadow until we reached the outskirts of St Ives at the Dolphin Hotel passing through its grounds onto London Road. Leaving the hotel behind crossing the historic town bridge into the town. The bridge is noted for its’ old chapel in the centre, the chapel is now single storey, I have seen old photographs of it having three storeys, the upper two, which had been added to the original, were removed in the thirties.

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A view from the bridge

Entering the centre of St Ives, I was surprised at how prosperous the town now looked. It seems an influx of people commuting to Cambridge has brought more wealth to the town and provided the money for things to improve. We carried on through St. Ives passing the Nelsons Head pub, which featured in my misspent youth. An acquaintance of mine owned a very elderly Humber Hawk car which had lost reverse gear, a three point turn necessitated the passengers disembarking and providing the reverse push. The chap was showing off to a young lady who worked at the pub one night and in the process managed to crash into a bollard, as a result the passenger side headlight pointed skyward and to the left. As he drove along, the headlight that side, shone into upstairs bedroom windows.

St Ives

The walking group sightseeing in St. Ives

We carried on along the Waits beside the river, then through All Saints churchyard continuing on past the bridge to Holt Island, then onto the Thicket, the footpath to Houghton.

Chinese Bridge St Ives 2

The bridge to Holt Island

The Thicket is a pleasant wood lined walk to Houghton passing through the nature reserve. We re-entered Houghton passing some really picturesque buildings en route, this is one.

Thatched cottage at Houghton

This cottage wouldn’t be out of place on a chocolate box.

Continuing back into the centre of the village past the Three Horseshoes on the right and to the left a statue of Potto Brown.

Three Horseshoes

The Three Horseshoes

Potto Brown

Statue of Potto Brown

I had seen Potto Browns’ statue on visits to the village in the past but paid little attention to it, I didn’t know who he was and couldn’t read the inscription, so with the aid of Google did a bit of research. The tenant of Houghton mill during the nineteenth century and a philanthropist, founding many local schools, a chapel, also allotments amongst other things for the poor. There are more details for him on Wikipedia and the St Ives.org website, under oddities.

We completed our walk by returning to the Mill for a well earned cuppa at the National Trust cafe. All in all an excellent walk, together for me and one or two others, originating from this part of Cambridgeshire, a trip down memory lane. My thanks to the organisers and to the weather.

 

 

 

 

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