Cambridge to Ely Walk – Saturday 18th May

Text from Ian; pics Francis

Fourteen IOG members ventured outside of Suffolk on a lovely sunny day in May to walk the 22 miles from Cambridge to Wicken Fen and Ely via the Rivers Cam and Great Ouse.

It was an early start for most, arriving at Ipswich train station before 8am for the trip to Cambridge. Upon arrival at Cambridge we met up with more members of the group before commencing our walk through the City of Cambridge to the banks of the River Cam. We were rather more fortunate with the weather than two weeks prior when the pre-walk was completed in wind, rain and hail.

The initial 7 miles of the walk followed the River Cam and offered the opportunity to see a number of rowing boat crews training on the river, and an abundance of wildlife, especially waterfowl. After a brief stop at the Bridge Pub near Waterbeach for lunch we crossed the the opposite bank of the river walking towards Upward before heading inland to explore the beautiful National Trust-run reserve of Wicken Fen. The fen, which was man made, was created to farm sedge and reeds in addition to peat digging and eel fishing. The reserve is also the home of the iconic wind pump; once common in the fens this is the last working wooden wind pump in the area.

Unfortunately, unlike on the pre-walk, we did not catch sight of the marsh harriers or hobbies (The UK’s smallest falcon); however, many birds were seen including herons, goldfinches, reed buntings and sedge warblers to name a few.

After 14 miles we stopped for coffee and cake at the lovely (but expensive – £3.50p per sausage roll) – National Trust cafe. It was then time for the last 8-mile walk into Ely for dinner. This stretch, although beautiful, was a long haul and comment was made that once joining the banks of the River Great Ouse, about 5 miles from Ely, and catching our first glimpse of the impressive cathedral, it was several miles before the cathedral appeared to be getting closer. The group was joined by one new member and at least one other that had never experienced a walk of over 20 miles, and it would be fair to say they were feeling their efforts at this stage. This part of the walk did offer the opportunity to get very close to a large herd of water buffalo which are farmed in this area both for their meat and milk which is used to make Mozzarella cheese.

As the evening started to draw in and with the cathedral at least seeming much closer we eventual arrived in Ely for a well earned drink and meal before catching the 8:30pm train home to Ipswich.

A special mention should go to Rachael and Ian who, after walking 22 miles, then jumped in their car and attended a barn dance.

Thank you to all of those who spent the day with me, it makes the planning of these walks so much more enjoyable when nice people join you.