I hopped on the train from Ely to Royston one Saturday morning in August with a sausage pastie in my rucksack and a song in my heart, how lovely to be back on the trail again! The plan was to walk from Royston to Cambridge (just under 20 miles) while trying to catch a glimpse of the River Cam every now and again.
I arrived at Royston at about 10am and strode off through a business park/industrial zone, across the busy A505 and finally hit some countryside. For a short while I joined the Icknield Way path that runs from Thetford to Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chilterns. (Jo and I are planning to walk the Icknield Way later in the year).
While following a path through a farmyard I was stopped by a farmer. ‘Uh oh’ I thought, ‘this could be trouble’. But in fact it was quite the opposite. The farmer was very chatty, we stood together in the yard talking about walking and walkers, the harvest and how hard it was for him to find anyone to help bring the harvest in this year.
It was good to breakdown (for me anyway) the stereotype of an angry farmer chasing people off their land. I wished him well for the harvest and went on my way.
I was heading for the village of Orwell, about half way between Royston and Cambridge where I planned to have lunch and enjoy a pint at the village pub. But before that I was to have my first rendezvous with the Cam. My how narrow and shallow the river is at this point, hardly even a river, a stream perhaps? But still, a very pretty stream.
Straight after the Cam I had to follow the public footpath across the New Malton Golf Club. I was a little nervous about this, thinking that the golfers might not be too happy with a scruffy hiker striding out across the greens. Still, it was a public right of way and one that had been there for probably hundreds of years before the golf club came along. I took my compass out, took a bearing for due north and marched on. No one seemed to care.
After the golf course I spent some time floundering around muddy fields and bushwhacking my way across overgrown ditches and the like. Eventually I came out on a B road half a mile south of Orwell and found this:
Do all villages on zero longitude have such a marker? There must be a story behind it but frankly I was too hungry to do a search on my phone web browser thing. Instead I ate most of my apple and sausage pastie before taking a self-portrait:
The damned pub in Orwell was closed for ‘refurbishment’ which was a little annoying. I finished the rest of my food outside the pub and headed upwards and onwards.
Yes, upwards! Do you know there are hills in Cambridgeshire? Small hills but perfectly formed and much loved by sleepy hikers. I took off my shoes and socks and dozed in the summer sun.
From Cracknow Hill I walked around the edge of a quarry and then down into the village of Haslingfield where I had a delicious pint of Greene King IPA in the Little Rose pub. After the pint I hunted around the village for a short while trying to find the River Cam without any luck. The river is marked on the map but eluded me completely. Oh well.
By this time I was starting to tire and was pleased to start getting glimpses of Cambridge in the distance. I eventually arrived in Grantchester on the outskirts of Cambridge where I found the Cam. It was a lovely scene, people swimming in the river, punts a punting and lots of folk just sitting on the river bank with food, drink and dogs.
I followed the Cam on into Cambridge where I sat in a park eating an ice cream and sipping a cup of tea. An excellent end to a fine day in South Cambridgeshire.