From fens to faculties...
There comes a point on each of the Fenland rivers – the Great Ouse and its tributaries – where the flat fen landscapes are left behind and the rivers change from artificially straight, high-banked land drainage channels to look more like ‘normal’ rivers. There are more trees, some hints of oncoming hilliness, and the surroundings become less windswept and more suited to a winter walk. And on the River Cam, that change comes somewhere around Waterbeach, six miles north east of Cambridge.
But that’s not the only reason we’re starting there. It’s also the only railway station between Cambridge and Ely, so it’s handy for those arriving by train, or returning to their car at the end of the walk. And it’s the current limit of the well-surfaced length of towpath shared with National Cycle Network Route 11 (but don’t worry, it isn’t overrun with speeding cyclists) – north of there, it’s a muddy footpath in winter time.
It’s also part of the Fen Rivers Way (which reaches all the way to King’s Lynn). So follow the road out of the village from the station to just before the bridge and opposite the Bridge Inn, a Fen Rivers Way signpost points to your right. You also might spot a Cam Conservancy sign using the delightfully old-fashioned ‘halingway’ for towpath.
The river follows a gently meandering and often tree-lined course through quiet and slightly undulating farmland, with little to disturb the peace other than the occasional train on the nearby railway. To your left after a mile, you can catch a glimpse through the trees of the tower of the Horningsea parish church which dates back 800 years.
Another half-mile brings further evidence that the flatlands are being left behind, in the form of Baitsbite Lock and its adjacent weir. The top gate is a guillotine (common in this area, with locks doubling up as water control
Our walk takes us along the River Cam from the very edge of the Fenlands to the heart of the historic university city of Cambridge
Approaching Magdelene Bridge along the boardwalk