Fen Rivers Way
The Fen Rivers Way is a footpath that follows the rivers Cam and Ouse from Cambridge across the wide expanse of the fens to Kings Lynn.It is a long distance footpath that spans a distance of 50 miles (80 kilometres).
To Ely from Waterbeach
  • Walked by Sally and Richard, 15th March 2009
  • Approximately 12 miles, almost all on the Fen Rivers Way

We’d been walking the Fen Rivers Way from north to south, but we decided to walk this leg from south to north because it was easier to park in Ely, catch the train to Waterbeach and walk back to Ely than it would have been to do it the other way round. It was a lovely sunny day so it was also advantageous to have the sun behind us rather than in our faces. To the south of Ely, the Fen Rivers Way has routes both sides of the river; we decided to follow the path on the western side of the river.

We left Waterbeach Station at around 9.05am and followed the path to the River Cam just to the north of the Cam Sailing Club.We followed the embankment by the river, reaching Bottisham Sluice and Lock quite soon. We continued by the river passing, on the opposite side of the river, first Bottisham Lode (which actually goes to Lode) then Swaffham Lode (which goes to Swaffham Bulbeck).

We became aware of runners coming towards us and it was obviously a race. We discovered later that this was the Turing Trail Relay, an annual event organised by Ely Runners and named after Alan Turing (who was a marathon runner as well as being involved in the development of computers as we know them) who trained on these paths when a Fellow at Kings College Cambridge. Most of the runners were extremely polite and thanked us for moving out of their way; a few weren’t! The footpath left the marshes and descended to the washes, obviously quite recently flooded. It was easier for the runners to pass us in this section and there were very attractive flooded areas (with wildfowl) to our left.

We climbed back onto the embankment and soon reached the Marina and the ‘Five Miles from Anywhere; No Hurry’ Pub at Upware. Reach Lode, Burwell Lode and Wicken Lode converge close to this point and then join the River Cam; not surprisingly the river was becoming noticeably wider.

The path is close to Wicken Fen at this point, and soon after crossing the A1123 at Dimmock’s Cote we passed the Wicken Washes; more attractive flooded areas with lots of wildfowl.We’d passed several marinas already (it’s a good job that all the boats from these marinas are not on the river at once; it would be awfully congested!) and we reached the Popes Corner Marina at Holt Fen. This is the point at which the river we were following changes its name from the Cam to the Great Ouse, at the same time as it is joined by what appears to be a tributary alternatively known as the Old West River and the Great Ouse.
The River Great Ouse upstream from this point passes the Old Stretham Pumping Station, the Lazy Otter Pub close to the A10, then Willingham, Earith and St Ives, before wending its way towards Bedford, Milton Keynes and its source in Northamptonshire – so really and truly the Cam is the tributary of the Great Ouse, not the other way round; it just doesn’t look like this on the ground). Richard’s Mum remembers the Fish and Duck pub at Popes Corner from around 50 years ago; sadly it appears to be derelict now. We crossed the attractive new footbridge then stopped for lunch, sitting on the bank of the river.
After lunch we continued along the embankment by the Great Ouse, passing close to Little Thetford and crossing Braham Dock (Drain) on a footbridge.Ely Cathedral was always visible, and getting closer. We crossed the railway line (the branch line heading to the south east) then passed behind the King’s School playing fields and the station. We crossed the A142 then passed under the main north-south railway line to emerge at Ely Marina. We left the Fen Rivers Way and walked up towards the Cathedral by way of the Eel Trail through the Jubilee Gardens and Cherry Hill Park; runners on the final leg of the Turing Trail Relay were taking the same route. There are frequently black and white horses on the common land in front of the Cathedral; today there was a beautiful black and white foal too.