Mad Ideas: Long Walks: Cambridge to Brancaster

other mad ideas: long walks

To my father, who taught me the joy of walking.


Date Distance Whither Accommodation Route
2002-10-10 33 miles Downham Market Chestnut Villa Earith then along the Old Bedford River
2002-10-11 31 miles Docking Staffordshire House down the river to King's Lynn, then Castle Rising, Sandringham, Fring
2002-10-12 5.5 miles Brancaster beach - along the road and into the sea.
Total: 69.5 miles

General notes

This is the first of a planned series of long walks from Cambridge. On this occasion I will be walking alone.

The destination, Brancaster, is my favourite nearby beach. For someone who practically grew up on the beach, Cambridge seems very far from the sea.

The route also takes me along the Old Bedford River, a very straight drainage ditch twenty miles long which cuts off a great curve of the River Great Ouse. This is part of an extraordinary 17th century engineering accomplishment: the drainage of the Fens, which turned nearly a million acres of estuarine marshes into productive agricultural land (and also destroyed the livelihoods of many of the inhabitants, who were dependent on the marshes, and also led to the Enclosure of much common land). I have a book on the drainage of the fens to read en route.

I expect walking along the Old Bedford River to be a somewhat hypnotic, if dull, aid to contemplation.

The 5-day weather forecast for King's Lynn (from the BBC) is good, as of 2002-10-09:

Thursday Friday Saturday
General partly cloudy cloudy sunshine
Temperature 14/8 15/10 16/10
Wind 13 E 8 SE 14 W

Sunrise is at about 07:20, sunset at about 18:15. The last mile or two on the first day has street lights. Most of the second day is on-road walking.

Day 1: 2002-10-10

Miles Directions Total
1.0 Over A14, bear left through Histon village 1.0
1.5 To Gun's Lane, a BOAT 2.5
2.5 along Gun's Lane to Rampton, then L onto the road 5.0
2.5 along the road to the B1050 in Willingham, turn R 7.5
3.0 along B1050 to A1123 at Earith, turn L 10.5
0.25 along A1123 to PO, turn R onto the path after the bridge 10.75
3.0 along OBR to "the gullet" 13.75
0.5 along OBR to the road bridge at Sutton Gault 14.25
1.25 along OBR to the main road bridge (A142) near Mepal 15.5
3.25 along OBR to the visitor's centre, Welches Dam, etc 18.75
0.75 along OBR to the pub at Purls Bridge 19.5
1.5 along OBR to the railway bridge 21.0
1.75 along OBR to a pumping station 22.75
2.0 along OBR to bridge etc at Welney 24.75
4.25 along OBR to branch 29.0
2.25 along OBR to join River Great Ouse (bridge, lock etc) at Salters Lode 31.25
1.75 along A1122 into Downham Market 33.0

Staying at Chestnut Villa, 44 Railway Road, Downham Market, PE38 9EB, prop. June Plumb, 01366 384099: 200 yards on the left after crossing the bridge. 20 GBP. Hot bath. Have asked for early breakfast.

Downham Market has pubs, chip shops, etc.

TIC at Downham Market: 01366 387440

OS Explorer series 225, 228, 236.

Day 2: 2002-10-11

Miles Directions Total
2.5 R bank of River Great Ouse (not the channel) to bridge at Stowbridge 2.5
3.0 R bank of RGO to bridge at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen 5.5
1.5 R bank of RGO to Wiggenhall St Peter, turn R along road 7.0
4.0 follow road over channel, then L, continuing N to big roundabout with A17, straight on 11.0
1.5 A148 into Lynn, past bus station, onto A1078 12.5
3.0 past docks etc on L, road bears E, take second real L (signed Castle Rising?) 15.5
2.5 along road over Lyng Common to Castle Rising 18
1.0 N from pub, NE over bridge to A149, turn L 19.0
1.0 N on A149, take second R through wood 20.0
2.0 NE through wood past Sandringham House, join B1440 and follow it around to R, then take first L 22.0
1.5 N past farms to second cross-roads, at which turn R 23.5
2.0 along minor road to Shernborne, straight on 25.5
2.5 along minor road to Fring (crossing the Peddars Way), straight on 28.0
3.0 along minor road to Docking, join B1454, turn L after church 31.0

Castle Rising, just north of Lynn, has an excellent castle with many happy memories.

Staying at Staffordshire House, Station Road, Docking, Norfolk, PE31 8LS, prop. Sue Williams, 01485 518709: turn left after church. 32 GBP, 16 paid on plastic as deposit. Hot bath.

Docking has several pubs serving food.

TIC at Hunstanton: 01485 532610

OS Explorer series 236, 250.

Day 3: 2002-10-12

Miles Directions Total
4.5 along B1153 to Brancaster, straight across 4.5
1.0 minor road to beach 5.5

Walk straight into sea, shedding pack and clothes en route.

Brancaster has a terrific beach; ideal for sandcastles (weather permitting). The plan is for the rest of my family to meet me on Brancaster beach at about lunchtime.

TIC at Hunstanton: 01485 532610

OS Explorer series 250.