Wander along hidden leafy lanes to pass by riverbanks full of wild flowers and wildlife. Picnic beside an ancient mill pond or snack in a beautiful Anglo-Saxon village.
Find out who Battcock's Island was named after. View one of the few artefacts remaining of the St Ives to Huntingdon railway line. Look for eels and trout in Houghton Trout Stream.
This three mile (6,600 steps) walk takes you to hidden leafy lanes, riverside and village. Plenty of spots to picnic or buy lunch or a snack. In winter can be muddy between points 3 and 4.
Park in the recreation ground car park located to the right on St Ives road, just as you turn off the main A1123 Houghton Hill Road for Houghton. Walk out of the car park, cross the road and turn right to head into Houghton.
Just over 20 yards turn left into Home Farm Road. After 150 yards take the footpath on the left. At the T junction turn right and follow leafy Meadow Lane, one of several ancient hidden routes through the village. This area is full of wild flowers and wildlife, with a sleepy stream winding its way below a footbridge on the left.
Continue straight along Meadow Lane. After 300 yards cross a residential road, and another after a further 80 yards. Another 300 yards brings you The Thicket path.
Cross straight over to continue walking down Meadow Lane, passing through a metal gate. There's a field of alpacas on the left, the route then rising up and over what used to be the railway track from St Ives to Huntingdon.
Just beyond is a bridge over Houghton Trout Stream. A few yards further and after crossing a stile head left, keeping the stream on your left. Follow the track along the field edge as it winds to follow the stream, as shown in the image above.
After just over a third of a mile Houghton Trout Stream meets a tributary of the River Great Ouse. Turn right, keeping the tributary on your left. A further third of a mile and you pass into another field. Continue walking along the field edge with the tributary on your left.
After 250 yards you'll notice an island in the river tributary. This is Battcock's Island. Cambridgeshire Walks often ponders who landscape features are named after and why. In this case there's an interesting bit of history involved from when Frank Battcock, a forward looking farmer, moved to Hemingford Abbots in 1854 and farmed in the area, including the island.
Continue following the tributary for a further 400 yards. You'll pass along the edges of another two fields, one of which has a huge willow tree pushing up against a footbridge. Looking back, you'll catch a beautiful view of St James' Church at Hemingford Grey, as shown in the image above.
You'll reach another footbridge, this one over a weir at the beginning of Houghton Trout Stream. Just below the weir there may be an eel in the shallows.
Beyond the footbridge you pass into a wooded area. Here there are two attractions. The first you'll notice are huge wooden trestles as shown below, all that remains of supports that once carried the St Ives to Huntingdon railway over the River Great Ouse.
The second attraction is a babbling brook caused by another smaller weir, a rare sound in the flat lands of Cambridgeshire. As you cross over a second footbridge look back to the weir and you'll see shoals of fish dancing ahead of the weir in oxygen-rich water.
Cross another footbridge and follow along field edges with the Old Mill Stream on your left. As you reach Houghton Mill caravan park on your right, to the left you'll find a picnic spot overlooking the mill pond. This spot is very popular, with safe bathing so long as the mill wheel isn't operating.
A couple of hundred yards and you reach Houghton Mill cafe. You can buy lunch or a snack to eat on their well positioned picnic benches overlooking the mill pond, but they are a bit pricey and there is a better alternative in the village.
Walk on past the cafe to Houghton Mill. This National Trust property, pictured below, is worth a visit if open. There has been a mill on this site for over 1,000 years. The current building dates from the 1600s.
Continue the walk by passing the mill and turning right up Mill Street. Glebe Cottage on the left is a beautiful early 1600s timber framed and thatched cottage. St Mary's church dates from the 1300s.
At the top of Mill Street you'll reach the village square. Houghton is a beautiful village of Anglo-Saxon origins, well worth walking around. There are many fine listed buildings. The magnificent, but less than perpendicular, timber framed cottage overlooking the square is the village's oldest house, dating from the 1400s. It was originally a yeoman farmer's house, subsequently the George and Dragon public house.
On one corner of Mill Street is Houghton Tea Room, beside a memorial to Potto Brown. One of the best tea rooms for quality and value, if you're unlucky and all the seats taken, buy a take away meal and drink to sit under the clock tower in the centre of the square and watch village life pass by.
Turn right by the memorial to Potto Brown and walk down The Thicket road. About 170 yards on the right is Houghton Manor, a very stylish building where the attention to detail is amazing. A few more yards on the left is Rose Cottage, a tiny 1600s thatched cottage. Turn left up the footpath to the side of Rose Cottage to follow yet another hidden and delightful route through the village.
Head roughly straight on for 300 yards until you find yourself back on Home Farm Road. Turn left to return to the car park and the start of the walk.
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