Somersham fields and allotment gardens

This walk starts in a charming village, taking you down leafy lanes. Amble between peaceful fields of barley with a typical open Cambridgeshire vista as shown below. Finish by dreaming of your own hideaway as you wander between allotment plots both tiny and huge, wildlife friendly and neatly tended.

Heaps of butterflies, moths, dragonflies and damselflies. Bursting with wild flowers of all varieties. And peaceful. This walk is one of the quietest and most meditative. Take a picnic with you, or afterwards stop off at one of two most worthwhile eating places.


This 3 miles (6,600 steps) walk involves easy walking through fields, woodland, allotment gardens and a pleasant village. In spring there is orchard blossom, in autumn trees are bursting with plums and apples. Wildlife and historical interest. The field crossing leading up to the allotments can be very muddy in winter. Refreshments available at the end of the walk require a short car trip.


Starting point
There is a free car park in Church Street, roughly opposite the church.

Somersham is an Anglo-Saxon settlement. The Bishop's Palace, located at the far end of Church Street, was a grand location visited by both King Richard (Richard the Lionheart) and King John around 1200. There are few historical buildings left in the village after a series of fires in the 19th century.

Walk out of the car park and cross over to the other side of Church Street, where there are two interesting features. The first is a stone marking the Greenwich Prime Meridian. Somersham is positioned right on the Meridian. There's also a useful map of the village displayed nearby.

To see the second feature, head towards the village centre, past the front of the church grounds. About 50 yards brings you to a building whose red bricks bear many initials, evidence of idle school children up to no good outside what used to be the village school.

Retrace your steps to walk through the church grounds. As you bear to the right, look over to your left to view one of only three dovecotes remaining in Cambridgeshire. This one dates from the late 1700s.

Head down a narrow alley that comes out on the High Street. Cross the road, turn left, then turn right down King Street. Almost immediately turn left into Rectory Lane.


Point 1
After about 200 yards, at the end of the last row of cottages, turn right into Chapel Field Lane, beautifully green and full of wildlife as shown above. Turn left when you reach a T junction. The allotments to the right are a testament to what enthusiasm and hard work can achieve. No so long ago they were much larger plots, abandoned and covered in briar and weeds. The allotment association that runs the site have broken up the area into much smaller plots and they show evidence of enthusiastic digging. See the comment at the foot of this page for more information about the allotments.

After just over 200 yards the lane turns to the right, but you should carry straight on to the footpath, keeping the field edge to your left. On the right are the first orchard trees, full of plums and apples.

About another 200 yards will bring you to a T junction. Turn left and follow the path as it skirts around the field.

Point 2
Turn right when you reach the track from College Farm, to head towards wind turbines in the distance.

In late spring and summer the fields are full of yellow rapeseed or soft barley. Skylarks hover, filling the air with song. The drainage ditch to the left is a haven for wild flowers, the air full of butterflies and dragonflies.


Point 3
After just over half a mile you'll reach a small copse. Inside there's a path running at right angles, the route of the Pathfinder March. In amongst the trees you'll find a few remaining signs of the Somersham to March railway line, as shown above.

Turn right to head back towards Somersham. After 300 yards the route turns slightly to the right, to head across a field towards a tree line and the allotments.

If the weather is damp the public footpath across the field can be muddy. The farmer periodically has to plough up the field, including the footpath, but should reinstate the path to a minimum of one metre width within fourteen days of ploughing. The Rights of Way Officer at Cambridgeshire County Council has taken action in the past to have the route reinstated. If you encounter problems at this point of the walk, please add a comment at the foot of this page.

Having crossed the field, you'll find yourself heading into a small copse and then along a narrow track as shown below, full of blackberry flowers and fruit, with many dragonflies and butterflies. There are more orchard trees, bursting with plums in late summer.


Point 4
Turn left at the top of the track. The allotment plots in this part of the site are huge, many look untended. Those that are occupied provide a perfect venue to get away from busy modern life.

As you wander along you'll catch sight of chickens and geese. There are interestingly constructed sheds of all sizes. The plot sizes reduce to more manageable proportions further on, and there's a distinct increase in tidiness.

Point 5
After just over 100 yards follow the path around to the right. Another 400 yards plus and you're back at Chapel Field Lane. Turn left to retrace your steps into Rectory Lane, King Street, the High Street and through the church grounds to return to the car park.

The Rose and Crown, in the centre of the village, appears not to do food at present. Take a short trip to the edge of the village and there's a good option at Hotpots Tearoom, at Cranbrook Plants. The tearoom is very charming English bone china style, opens all week (though best to book for Sunday lunch) and serves a full range, from tea and cake to roast dinners. It's a bit expensive but worth a visit. Also on the edge of the village is The Windmill, a very stylish venue with high class food where they do lunches for £6 and have a pleasant garden.

Click the Print Friendly button below to print out this walk to take with you. Or for more walks click the 'Return Home' button at the foot of this page. Did you enjoy the walk? Notice anything unusual? Why not add comment below to tell fellow ramblers what you liked about it?

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:52 am

    Hi, I did this walk yesterday but we took it a bit further at point 3 on your map and went through the little copes into the Golf Course. Although a bit confusing to stumble across a gold course with no obvious sign as to where the public footpath disappeared to, we found it to the left of the fairway, and this went through some woods, across some wooden bridges and was quite charming and then the gravel path that runs straight through the golf course. We turned left at the end of the gravel path and into Lakeside Lodge for lunch and then walked back the same way, picking up your route again at point 3. I stumbled across your blog whilst looking for OS maps, so thanks for posting these. Really well laid out and I love the photo finishes :)

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    1. Thanks for the positive comments Bunny... always welcome!

      I have looked at the walk on the other side of Lakeside Lodge golf courses, but haven't yet added it since it meant some road walking, which I prefer to avoid. Following your recommendation I'll look at it again.

      If you're after OS maps, you couldn't do better than http://footpathmaps.com. Just put in your postcode, pan out once to see the red footpath routes, and drag the map to where you want to search for walks.

      Regards, John

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  2. Anonymous7:53 am

    We have read your article with interest but feel that we should correct you on point 1. The allotments are not owned by the council but are in fact privately owned and run by a committee of volunteers. Somersham and District Smallholding and Allotment Association Ltd. has owned the site which comprises Chapel Field allotments and King Street allotments for many years - the oldest records that we have go back to 1920 but the Association actually began prior to this..You are correct in stating that many plots were overgrown and neglected but in the last few years the committee have worked very hard to encourage new members on site and also have given much of their time to improving allotments and common areas including the roadway. We are very fortunate to have plots of this size as no council plots are as large. Anyone who would like an allotment on this site should apply via the Association website and not through the council.If you would like any more information on the history of the site please contact the current Chairman, Mr, Geoff Parish on 07525 901735.We hope that this information is useful to you
    Kind Regards
    Geoff and Jose Parish

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    1. Hi Jose, Geoff... really appreciate the information about the allotments. Being an enthusiastic allotmenteer at Hill Rise Allotments in St Ives, I admire the improvements your association have achieved at the Somersham site. Hope the details you've given generate more interest from Somersham residents. I've happily amended the text in point 1 above to reflect the information you've given.

      Many thanks, John

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  3. Anonymous7:54 am

    Did this walk with a small group about 10 days ago. 2nd para of point 3...and just over 300 yards route turns slightly right etc...
    Half of this path, well indicated, was ploughed up. Dodgy to go across so we went around the field. Did the farmer go halfway and then realise he should not have ploughed?No idea.
    Good leisurely walk- the parish church is worth some investigation.One gravestone is of a former Guardian crossword compiler.
    Alan Butler.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Alan. I've updated point 3 above since it's not the first time the route across that field has been ploughed up. It also makes the going difficult and particularly sticky if the ground is wet.

      It is definitely a public footpath across the field. A landowner is allowed to plough, but must reinstate the path within fourteen days to a minimum width of one metre (Highways Act 1980 s 134(3) (a) and (b)). I've contacted Cambridgeshire County Council and asked them to take action and give me an update.

      Regards, John

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    2. Hi Alan... Here's a quick update on the issue you raised. The Rights of Way Officer at Cambridgeshire County Council contacted the farmer and the route has been reinstated by pressing the soil down and marking the route using tractor wheels. Thanks for letting me know of the problem, and I've thanks the Officer for such a quick turn around. Copies of the email texts I received are shown below. Many thanks, John

      EMAIL 1
      Thank you for reporting this issue in Somersham. I have just spoken to the farmer’s wife who has assured me that she will let her husband know about this and they will resolve it shortly. I have asked someone to call me back to let me know when it has been reinstated and will let you know when I have been contacted.

      If you don’t hear back from me by the end of the week and notice that the footpath has still not been marked then please let me know and I will chase it up.

      EMAIL 2
      The farmer has phoned me back and reports that the footpath has been levelled, ‘pressed’ and marked with tractor wheelings.

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  4. Anonymous7:55 am

    There are two errors on your descriptions of the Somersham Allotment routes.

    Route 1
    "After about 200 yards, at the end of the last row of cottages, turn right into Chapel Field Lane, beautifully green and full of wildlife. Follow the lane as it turns left".
    Although people do follow the lane as it turns left this is not a footpath, it looks as if it should be, people should keep straight ahead.

    Route 4
    You state "As an alternative you can carry straight on along the path". Not correct, there is no alternative, this is not a public path, turn right only.
    Feedback please.

    Roger H

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    1. Hi Roger… Thanks for the feedback.

      The Somersham OS map shows the lane turning left from the end of Chapel Lane as a footpath (there’s a dotted red line). You cannot ‘keep straight ahead’, only turn right towards the allotments main entrance.

      I accept under point 4 the track that carries straight on is not shown on the OS map as a public footpath, although it is a clear allotment track and links to the public footpath running along the backs of houses at King Street. If you're aware of any issues in using this track please let me know and I'll be happy to remove this part of the walk.

      Here's a link to a great free OS map viewer for you to check this out : http://footpathmaps.com

      Regards, John

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  5. John

    http://my.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/myCambridgeshire.aspx?MapSource=CCC/AllMaps&Layers=row,row-TROs&tab=maps

    This is the definitive Map Statement of CCCouncil and illustrates the non connectivity of the footpaths much more clearly.
    Roger H

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    1. Thanks for the update, Roger. The map does clearly show the point you are making. I've already removed the alternative route in question to simplify the walk. Appreciate the follow up. Regards, John

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