Hit the North! – Stage 2: Little Downham to March

This is stage two of the Hit The North expedition.

I set off across Little Downham recreation ground on a bright and sunny autumn morning.

The plan was to follow the Hereward Way to March, a distance of just under 20 miles.

The Hereward's Way near Little Downham
The Hereward’s Way near Little Downham

I crossed many fields; good black fen soil, lush green grass.

Green and black fields
The black and the green

Then came the start of the waterlands

Where the 30 Foot Drain meets Abraham's Drain
Where the 30 Foot Drain meets Abraham’s Drain

I finally reached the New Bedford river where I stopped for some snacks and a quick self-portrait.

Me at the New Bedford river
Me at the New Bedford river

I walked along the bank for a while and met a lonely looking horse on a long chain.  Was it happy?  Hard to know really.  It was doing a good job of keeping the grass cropped.

Past the horse the grass was thick and wet with dew, hiding big bushes of nettles.

I decided to drop back down onto the road.  No sooner had I reached the road when a farm dog rushed at me.  I backed up onto the bank and shouted ‘No!’ at the top of my voice.  The mutt stopped, growled and stared fiercely at me.  I walked back to the top of the bank, I swore at the dog and its owners, whoever they might be.

It can count itself lucky I didn’t have a stick with me.

I crossed the New and Old Bedford river via the A101, a dangerous route, I can tell you.  Not one I’d want to do again.  Hairpin bends and blind corners, the locals careering past like formula one drivers.  Not fun at all.

To my surprise I arrived in Welney in one piece.  I’d reached the half way point and celebrated with a lovely pint of Egood’s Cambridge bitter at the Lamb and Flag.

At pint at the Lamb and Flag, Welney
At pint at the Lamb and Flag, Welney

After a drink and pastie it was back to the road, and quite a bit of road it was as it turned out.  Four or so miles of tarmac and pavement, somewhat demoralising, especially as I was starting to tire a little.

The Sixteen Foot Drain
The Sixteen Foot Drain

Finally I reached the Sixteen Foot Drain which marked the last quarter of the walk.  I hiked across pumpkin fields for thirty minutes or so before arriving at the River Nene.

On the other side of the river was a wind farm.  I know many walkers hate wind turbines but I thought these gave a rather beautiful backdrop to the occasionally featureless fen countryside.  I enjoyed the graceful movement of the huge blades and the way their shadows danced over the footpath.

Wind turbines by the River Nene (old course) north-east of March
Wind turbines by the River Nene (old course) north-east of March

I found a place to sit for a while and enjoy the afternoon sun. A narrow-boat passed, I saluted the passengers, it was then I realised I hadn’t met another walker during the entire journey.

I shot a little bit of video:

March was only a couple of miles to the west, it was good to have some time to relax.

Me by the Nene
Me by the Nene

I was feeling very tired as I trudged into March

Narrow boat just outside March
Narrow boat just outside March

I had thought about another pint in town but was just too knackered to look for a nice pub.  A friendly local pointed me to the railway station where I hopped on a train back to Ely.

9 thoughts on “Hit the North! – Stage 2: Little Downham to March

  1. Lovely pictures, Martin. Loved the green and black field! Agree with you about wind farms – I love watching them too. Look forward to the next instalment!

  2. Great idea! From Newark you might consider taking the Trent Valley Way up to Misterton via the Trent and the Gringley Canal, or miss out Newark entirely by joining the Viking Way at Woolsthorpe on the Grantham Canal, which will take you to Lincoln then on to the Humber Bridge. Though, of course, I realise you have to take into account the public transport connections!

    I’m walking the Trent Valley Way myself at the moment — in short stages — as you may know from my blog. I’m using a mixture of car and public transport. Some of the stretches have been there-and-backs — so in the end I’ll have walked a large chunk of it twice!

  3. +The Solitary Walker: Yes, I noticed your walk, maybe we’ll pass each other at some stage! I’d love to walk the Trent and hope to join it at Newark.

    I had thought about the Lincoln route but would rather stay more central, I want to see some hills, something we lack in the fens ; )

  4. Walking and cycling are wonderful ways of seeing the countryside in detail . The photos are great . hard to take in that Vermuyden designed the two Bedford rivers to drain the Middle levels 350 years ago with the Duke bedFord,s merchant adventurers

  5. Which route to take north? On my remarkably similar sectional Land’s End to John O’Groats walk completed ten years ago, I headed from Nottingham into the Peak District, and then took the Pennine Way up to Scotland.

    There are so many alternative routes you could take – we are truly blessed in having such a wonderful varied landscape to call our home.

    The Viking Way is worth doing, but nothing beats the Peak District for me. Then again, I’m a Derbyshire lad.

    1. I’ll have to take a look at the route you took from Nottingham to the Peaks, which, I agree, are a truly beautiful part of the country.

      1. Personally I wouldn’t take my route, which was planned to take me past the house I was born in and my parent’s then home.

        The Derwent Valley Heritage Way might be a better way of getting to Matlock, although that’d miss out the Ashbourne part of the White Peak. Or The Bonnie Prince Charlie Trail from Derby to Ashbourne, then the Limestone Way or Tissington Trail north.

        There’re so many stunningly lovely alternatives. Why not branch your walk and do two parts, meeting up at (say) Edale?


        1. Very useful suggestions David, thanks for posting! As part of the Hit The North expedition I’m planning to hike the Grantham to Nottingham canal over a weekend, wild camping along the way, should be fun.

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