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Ely Cathedral and River Trail

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Ely Cathedral and River Trail
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 31 May 2012 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Ely Cathedral and River Trail Walking Guidestar1 Ely Cathedral and River Trail Walking Guidestar1 Ely Cathedral and River Trail Walking Guidestar1 Ely Cathedral and River Trail Walking Guidestar1 Ely Cathedral and River Trail Walking Guide
Cambridgeshire, Ely
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
Ely Cathedral and River Trail
Length: 4 miles,  Difficulty: boot Ely Cathedral and River Trail Walking Guide boot Ely Cathedral and River Trail Walking Guide
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A 3.5 mile circular walk from the beautiful cathedral city of Ely in Cambridgeshire. The walk leaves the market square to head out along an ancient lane to reach a viewing point at Rowsell Pits nature reserve, before returning along the River Great Ouse and through the city gardens. There’s a chance to visit the famous cathedral, great views across the nature reserve and you can enjoy the tranquillity of this stretch of the river.

The walk is mostly flat with just one descent as you leave the market place and then one long and steady climb through Jubilee Park to reach the cathedral. There are no stiles, two kissing gates and a number of steps to cross over the footbridge. The paths are a mixture of pavements and tarmac/stone park paths which are all well made. The meadow alongside the river is often used to graze cattle so take care with dogs as you pass through here. Approximate time 1.5 hours.

The walk starts from the Market Square in Ely, on the corner of the High Street and Market Place. Parking is available in a number of pay and display car parks around the city centre. Approximate post code CB7 4NY. Ely train station is within walking distance of the start point.

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Walk Sections

Market Place to Railway Bridge
Market Place to Railway Bridge

Start point: 52.399 lat, 0.2661 long
End point: 52.3961 lat, 0.2739 long

Make your way to Market Square and go to the corner which is the corner of Market Place and High Street. You’ll see the War Memorial here which is a concave decorated arched stone seat set into the wall. Facing the memorial bench, turn left and follow Fore Hill heading down hill.

Pass the Royal Standard pub on the right and then cross over Broad Street to continue straight ahead on Fore Hill. As the road bends hard left, fork right to go ahead onto the road called Waterside. Take the first left, which swings hard left past a house on the left called Crown Point. Follow this road, Willow Walk, as it then bends right and heads between residential properties. Beyond the houses continue with an open green area on the right. At the end of this road you will come to the river with a railway bridge across.

Railway Bridge to Springhead Lane
Railway Bridge to Springhead Lane

Start point: 52.3961 lat, 0.2739 long
End point: 52.3993 lat, 0.2749 long

Follow the main vehicle lane as it swings left through a small parking area. At the end of the parking area continue ahead on the concrete path entering the open fields of Creswells Pocket Park.

Follow the raised path as it swings to the left with the children’s play area to the right. A few paces later fork left onto the branch of the path which takes you through a gap in the tree line ahead. (Just before the tree line glance left for the first of many views of the cathedral on this walk).

As the path turns hard right, fork left onto the smaller woodchip path and then go down a few steps and over the wooden footbridge across the stream. You will reach a T-junction with Springhead Lane.

Springhead Lane to Roswell Pits
Springhead Lane to Roswell Pits

Start point: 52.3993 lat, 0.2749 long
End point: 52.4013 lat, 0.2809 long

Turn right onto Springhead Lane, a wide stone track with arches of trees overhead. The hedgerows lining the ancient lane are filled with typical ancient native species including sloe, elder, ivy and hawthorn. This was once the main thoroughfare to Ely in the early 13th Century.

At the end of the lane, pass through the metal kissing gate and turn left into the stone lay-by. Turn left along the lane and follow it as it swings right with the large body of water already visible through the trees on the right. As you reach the section with metal railings each side, take the opportunity to enjoy the views in both directions. To the right are views across the nature reserve, and over to the left views across to the city with the cathedral marking the skyline.

Roswell Pits is managed by the Wildlife Trusts of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough. The nature reserve has developed naturally in the old clay pits here. The pits were used for centuries to supply clay for brick making and for strengthening fenland river banks. Today the disused pits are a refuge for wildlife that was once widespread across the fens. The open water attracts a variety of wildfowl while many other birds and insects shelter in the reed beds and scrub.

Roswell Pits to Cuckoo Bridge
Roswell Pits to Cuckoo Bridge

Start point: 52.4013 lat, 0.2809 long
End point: 52.4004 lat, 0.2892 long

When you’ve finished enjoying the views, retrace your steps along Kiln Lane. Go ahead over the level crossing. Continue straight ahead along the lane, passing the WA Cook and Sons engineering facility on the right. Go ahead alongside the gate for Environment Agency Ely Depot and along the narrow stone footpath to reach the metal arched bridge, known as Cuckoo Bridge.

If you visit in the spring and you’re lucky (we were!) you will hear the cuckoos that give their name to the bridge. Take time to enjoy the views across the surrounding fenland from the centre of the bridge. The bridge was rebuilt in 2000 by the County Council and Environment Agency.

Cuckoo Bridge to Quay House
Cuckoo Bridge to Quay House

Start point: 52.4004 lat, 0.2892 long
End point: 52.3954 lat, 0.27 long

Turn round and retrace your steps heading back to the industrial area. Immediately after the parking area for the engineering facility (and before you reach the level crossing), turn left down the narrow tarmac path. The path is signed for Ely and River Way.

Pass through the metal kissing gate into the meadow alongside the River Great Ouse. Note the meadow is home to ground nesting birds and also often holds cattle so take particular care with dogs. Follow the raised stone path straight ahead with the river over to the left.

At the far end of the meadow, pass through a metal kissing gate and then follow the path underneath the railway bridge. Keep left to join the narrow riverside path with the river to the left.

Follow the dog leg to the left to reach a raised section of tarmac path running above the river passing an art gallery to the right. Immediately afterwards turn right to pass Peacocks Tea Room on the right and then keep left to follow the pavement swinging back alongside the river. Over to the right is the series of whitewashed buildings of Quay House.

Quay House to Cathedral
Quay House to Cathedral

Start point: 52.3954 lat, 0.27 long
End point: 52.3982 lat, 0.2636 long

Go ahead on the riverside walk, passing The Maltings on the right. The Maltings was built in 1868 for the brewery of Ebenezer William Harlock. After it was damaged by fire it was bought by the district council for £100 and today it is an arts complex including a cinema, theatre, restaurant and bar.

Soon afterwards, you’ll come to Jubilee Gardens on the right. Turn right onto the path through the park called Merchant’s Way. Keep on the winding path to the left of the gardens and you will pass the metal sculpture of an eel.

Whilst the origins of the name ‘Ely’ are still disputed, the derivation that is widely accepted is that of a translation for ‘district of eels’ or ‘eel island’.

At the top of the park, cross over the road using the pedestrian crossing. Turn right for a few paces and then left through a set of black wrought iron gates. Follow the wide tarmac path winding gradually uphill through the parkland. On the right you’ll be able to see the cathedral once again.

At the top of the slope, about 50 yards before you reach the stone arch out onto the road, take the first right signed for Cathedral and Tourist Information. Go ahead on this path to reach the cathedral.

Cathedral to End
Cathedral to End

Start point: 52.3982 lat, 0.2636 long
End point: 52.3991 lat, 0.2653 long

The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity is known as the Ship of the Fens, a name inspired by the distant views of its towers which dominate the low-lying fens all around. Construction of the cathedral was begun by William the Conqueror in 1083, with it finally opening in 1189. The cathedral was sympathetically restored between 1845 and 1870 by the architect George Gilbert Scott.

Turn right in front of the cathedral and follow the path as it swings through the grounds with the cathedral over to the left. On the opposite side, leave the grounds via the stone arch on the right, signed to the shopping area. Turn right onto the pavement and follow this past the shops on the left to reach the war memorial on the right hand side.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2012 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


1 responses to "Ely Cathedral and River Trail"

You just can't believe the scenery! I had no idea how beautiful Ely is!

By RuthBaldry on 2015-03-08 17:18:56

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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