Ouse Valley Way - Houghton to Earith

25 May 2014

With Lucy, Hetty and Ellie at a rally trial at Abbots Ripton just north of Huntingdon, it was a good opportunity to return to the River Great Ouse, which I last visited on a circular walk west from Houghton Mill, so that's where I started today, heading downriver past St Ives as far as Earith.

Houghton Mill with its large water wheel on the left. This mill dates from the 18th century: there has been a mill on this site for over 1000 years.

The route to St Ives is along the Thicket Path, a broad tarmac path mostly in woodland, very busy on this pleasant Sunday afternoon with families, dogs and many many cyclists, making it hard work managing George and Lottie, keeping them safe and out of other people's way.

We reached the waterfront at St Ives, where I stopped for a late lunch around 2.30pm. Ironically, having walked through countryside for almost an hour, on reaching the town next to a road was the first place where it was safe to let the dogs off the lead, and they mooched about while I had my sandwich. Back on the lead we continued through St Ives and out along the long Meadow Lane, changing from a modern well-maintained road to a poorly maintained road where both the road and pavement were underwater at times, to a dirt track.

Eventually escaping Meadow Lane, we finally reach the river, which we walk along for a little way

We then turn away from the river towards the church at Holywell

One of the many attractive cottages on Holywell Front

There is then a longish section along the top of an embankment but, unusually for an embankment, with thick wooded hedges on each side.

Returning to the riverside for most of the rest of today's walk, we pass the site of the Overcote ferry - the car on the far side is on the evocatively named Chain Road

There's quite a bit of water still in the river, and there is water between the main channel and the flood embankment.

Passing the stone which claims to mark the line of the Greenwich Meridian

Though I had to travel a bit further before my GPSr agreed that I was crossing into the eastern hemisphere - OpenStreetMap and Google Maps agree that the sculpture may be a little too far west

More evidence of the spreading river

Approaching Brownshill Staunch, with the conveyor for moving sand and gravel from one side to the other as part of quarrying operations.

Below the lock is officially tidal, and my map has a nominal 10cm fall, but this afternoon the water levels is the same either side, but this boater is still having to tie up and raise the lock gate which is currently under water to allow his boat to proceed through - presumably an interlocking mechanism prevents both gates being raised at once, but today it would save a lot of effort and time.

Returning to the western bank after our exploratory visit to the lock on the eastern side

George in the vegetation as we make our way past Berry Fen

The tower of Bluntisham church across Berry Fen

Ahead is the marina at Earith

The remains of the bridge which once carried the Great Eastern Railway from St Ives to Ely

Walking through Earith

The Old Bedford River, built between 1630 and 1636 financed by the Earl of Bedford, aiming to move much of the water from the Great Ouse out to sea as quickly and directly as possible rather than being allowed to flood the Fens from its natural course.

Hermitage Lock in the distance allows boats to lock down (sic) off the tidal Great Ouse into the non-tidal Great Ouse, also known from this point as the Old West River.

To the north runs the New Bedford River or Hundred Foot Drain. This was completed in 1652 and carries most of the flow of the Great Ouse.

Total 15.4 km in 3 hours 57 mins.


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson