From fens to fac­ul­ties...

Canal Boat - - River Cam - TEXT AND PIC­TURES BY MARTIN LUDGATE

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

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