Walking for miles across the fens

It was a beautiful spring day. I’d spent much of the morning giving out finish tokens at parkrun, and I was reluctant to spend the rest of the day indoors. Colin planned us a walking route. I donned my walking gear, such as it is: Fivefingers trail-running shoes, walking trousers that convert by the magic of zips into shorts, a men’s walking shirt and my apricot parkrun t-shirt. I took a woolly hat with me just in case, along with a hoodie for warmth and a lightweight windproof jacket.

Start to Prickwillow

We set off south along the road parallel to the River Great Ouse, then veered off to the left, away from the river, along a public footpath. It turned from a drove into the edge of a field into tractor tracks across the dark fen soil: powdery when dry, squidgy when damp.

We watched out for wildlife, but the noxious fumes of a crop-spraying tractor seemed to keep most of it away. The occasional dove flew overhead.

The sun blazed between rabbit-tail clouds; the wind swept across the fens, nothing to block its path.

We left the farmland behind and joined the road alongside the River Lark, sheltered from the wind by the flood bank. At a shallowish part of the flood bank, we clambered to the top, where we could see the river and the flat fens beyond. The train bridge across the Lark forced back down to the road at another relatively shallow spot.

Prickwillow to Stuntney

The road ended at the main road through Prickwillow. We sat on a bench by the bridge and reminisced about the days when we’d had the boat and moored up at Prickwillow.

When we were rested, we left the river and headed cross-country towards Stuntney. We took a public footpath across private land. The path was paved with cracked earth and patched with stones and broken tiles.

Looking towards Stuntney, Cambridgeshire

The route was long and straight, and the sun blazed and the wind blew. I was glad of my woolly hat. The land – black soil and green crops – was flat, with only pylons and poplars on the horizon. Deer hung out in groups in the middle of the fields, undaunted by the crows.

Stuntney to Ely, the end

Stuntney is at the top of a rarity in the fens: a hill. At the top, we stopped for another break on a bench at the bus stop. We watched a man delivering flyers destined to go from doormat to dustbin.

Stuntney village sign

We retraced our steps down the hill towards Ely. I’d never walked under the train bridge on Station Road, certainly not since the changes they made to the layout when they closed the adjacent level crossing to force tall vehicles to use the then new southern bypass instead of crashing into the low bridge because their drivers were too impatient to wait at the level crossing. I have walked under it now. Our walk ended at Ely Station.

Final thoughts

I enjoyed the walk, but I’m not fit enough to walk that distance (nearly ten miles) easily. I need to practise walking long distances. Once I can do that, we can be more adventurous on our walks.

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