I’ve been going on at my friends about wanting to walk from Cambridge to the sea for more than a year now and had until today never got off my fat ass to do anything about it. Well, today was different - although there were a couple of alterations to the original plan to be honest. one: I borrowed Helen’s bike so it wouldn’t take all weekend, and two: I only went as far as the nearest bit of tidal water, which thanks to the magic of the Hundred Foot Drain (which runs straight as a narrow forty miles from Denver Sluice up to Earith) is only actually about ten miles away. But it was a lovely day for a bit of a cycle ride, and Helen wanted to use the computer to update her CV.
In Oakington, the second village I went through, somebody had set up a big stall covered in flags in front of their house:
It was ace, very colourful. They’d also painted their section of the roadside fence in blue, white, and red stripes. There was a holder for a collection box, but some bastard had nicked the collection box, so the poor villager’s effort was wasted. It would have been for charity, as well.
Next village up was Longstanton, which is connected to Oakington by a concentration camp. I was hailed in Longstanton by somebody wishing to know where immigration was. I tried to explain that he’d clearly already escaped once, and besides I had no idea where the entrance was, but he said they’d said left at the church, so I concurred.
Found out almost immediately that Longstanton has two churches.
There’s a nice windmill on the way to Over. Over is 14 metres above sea level, which puts it ‘over’ most of the fens, and worthy of a windmill, a radio mast, and a water tower. It’s also the subject of a funny Cambridgeshire joke:
Q. What did Willingham say to Needingworth? A. It’s Over between us.
Following signs from Over to Overcote (the names just keep getting better…) led me all the way to Brownshill Staunch, which is where the great ouse stops being tidal, which I had decided would count as being at the sea. It even smelt of estuary, as it happened to be low tide. I went and hunted for shells, and slipped on some slime and ended up with my foot covered in mud. It was top!
But time was dragging on, and I hadn’t brought any bike lights, so my joyous return to childhood was cruelly short. Turning the bike back toward Cambridge, I passed through an increasingly similar-looking series of villages, about which I remember little: Willingham, Cottenham, Landbeach. Discovered that ‘Public Byway’ is council speak for ‘you could cycle down here, I mean it would technically be legal, but it’s bumpy as hell and being lived on by travellers right now so you’ll have a fun obstacle course of potholes, odd bits of machinery and bonfires to contend with.’ Even being a Roman road doesn’t seem to help. I guess not even the Romans could engineer roads to withstand 2,000 years of neglect.
I ended up giving up on the Roman road and cycled round the other side of the landfill site. But by this time it was getting dark and my mind had turned to the prospect of beer and Uncle Dirty Dave’s Chili.
So there we go. Maybe I shall walk to the real actual sea soon. After I write up, maybe. It’s 50 miles to King’s Lynn along the Fen Rivers Way. I’ve been advised, should I attempt it, to bring a large quantity of ibuprofen. That sounds like fun!