Ouse Valley, Cambridgeshire

The Cambridgeshire Fens, a complex system of waterways used to control flooding, are at their finest on a crisp winter’s day. 

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From the ancient market town of St Ives, this route traces the Ouse Valley Way through traditional fenland and along the course of the River Great Ouse, to Earith. 

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1 From the Cattle Market car park, pass the library on your left. Turn right along Station Road. Pass a tourist information kiosk and a church, keeping Oliver Cromwell’s statue to the right. Continue along Foundry Walk, then left along Bridge Street to the River Great Ouse, where an impressive bridge incorporates the Chapel of St Leger. Built in the 1420s, it is one of the few remaining chapel bridges in the country. Return to the tourist information kiosk, then turn left along Market Road, veering right to cross a traffic island, and walk along Meadow Lane.

After 200m bear left then immediately right, keeping a flooded gravel pit to the left. Continue ahead, rejoining Meadow Lane. Pass Marshalls factory and walk to a junction of paths. Turn right and follow the path to the left, where the River Great Ouse joins you. Go through a kissing gate and continue along the riverbank. Bear left at a marker post, cross a footbridge and turn left towards Holywell church. Go through two kissing gates to the roadside. In the churchyard is an ancient well, once said to have possessed special healing powers.

2 Turn right along the lane into Holywell. At the Old Ferry Boat Inn, step inside the cosy bar to discover a granite slab within the floor. The stone marks the grave of a 17-year-old girl, Juliet Tewsley, who was buried over 900 years ago. According to legend, she committed suicide for the love of a local woodcutter and her ghost is said to roam the inn.

Once you’ve enjoyed a pit stop and possibly a ghost sighting, leave the inn and, with it on your left, continue along a bank to Overcote Lane.

3 Follow the Ouse Valley Way signs, go through a kissing gate and along a raised flood bank, where the river again accompanies you. Further on, you pass through the Greenwich Meridian Line. In winter, the meadows on either side of the river regularly flood. The raised banks are designed to contain the water within the meadows, attracting large numbers of wildfowl, such as mute swans, greylag and Canada geese, along with wary grey herons and short-eared owls.

Pass Brownshill lock on the right. Cross a bridge and go through a gate to a fork in the path. The land to the left is being developed asan RSPB reedbed nature reserve.

4 Walk ahead, with the river to your right. After 600m the path curves left, then right. On the left is Berry Fen. In harsh winters the fen can freeze over and local people take part in speed-skating competitions and play ice hockey. Once past the trees, continue ahead to rejoin the river. Keep going until you reach a wire fence, then turn left, passing poplar trees.

Go through a kissing gate and walk ahead to the A1123. From here you can catch a bus back to St Ives.

Useful Information

TERRAIN: Well-marked paths over grassy fenland; muddy in places.

GETTING THERE:

  • BY CAR: St Ives is east of Huntingdon via the A14 and A1096. The car park is adjacent to the bus station, off the A1096.
  • BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Buses 15 and 15A run between Cambridge and St Ives, stopping at Earith from Monday to Saturday. Bus 21 runs between Ramsey and St Ives, stopping at Earith from Monday to Friday.

MORE INFO
St Neots Tourist Information
The Old Court, 8 New Street, St Neots, Cambridgeshire PE19 1AE
Call 01480 388788

Click here to find out more about the Ouse Valley Way

The nearest public toilets are on Market Road, St Ives.

MAP
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 225. Grid ref: TL 317 712

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EAT/STAY
The Old Ferry Boat Inn
Back Lane, Holywell, Cambridgeshire
PE27 4TG
Call 01480 463227