Nene Valley walk
A short break in Cambridgeshire’s Nene Valley recently saw Spirit of Freedom customer Georgie Mansfield head off on a fantastic dog walk with her Labrador that takes you through fields, fords, streams – and even under the Nene Valley Steam Railway…
Distance: Around 3.5 miles (approx 1.5 miles if you take the short route).
Time: Allow 1.5 hours for the full route.
Map: Explorer 227 (Peterborough, March, Whittlesey, Chatteris & Oundle).
Start/parking: Free parking in the Nene Park Trust car park at the bottom of Splash Lane in Castor.
Nearest town: Peterborough.
Refreshments: The Royal Oak and The Prince of Wales Feathers pubs, both in Castor village.
Suitable for: All walkers, but you will need your wellies as the route is through fields and can get muddy and slippy in places. It is not suitable for wheelchair users or pushchairs and some elderly, larger dogs may struggle with the stiles. The walk is mostly flat, with some gentle inclines.
The Royal Oak Inn, on Peterborough Road in Castor, is just a short stroll or drive from the car park. Well-behaved dogs are welcome in the beer garden to the front of the pub and there is a tie ring by the door so you can leave your dog tied up safely while you pop in to order your drinks. Dogs aren’t allowed inside as the pub serves food, but the landlord is more than happy to provide bowls of water for his canine visitors, so you can all leave refreshed! (Tel: 01733 380217.)
The walk takes you under, and alongside, the Nene Valley Steam Railway and trains run on selected dates all year round (visit www.nvr.org.uk). Home to Thomas the Tank Engine, the line runs for seven and a half miles between Yarwell Junction and Peterborough and has been used in a number of Bond films. The bridge you walk under at point 6 is particularly famous, having appeared in Octopussy and Goldeneye.
In Roman times, the village of Castor adjoined Durobrivae (or the ‘Fort by the bridge’), a settlement and army camp at the point of two important Roman roads, Ermine Street and King Street. According to records, Roman pottery known as Castor Ware was made locally and exported throughout the Roman empire.
1 Park in the Nene Park Trust car park at the bottom of Splash Lane (the road turns into a gravel track with lots of pot holes, so watch out). As you walk out of the entrance to the car park and turn right you’ll see a gate and footpath sign to your left. The path takes you through a field, though stick to the right hand side to avoid the dyke that cuts the field almost in half. Provided there are no sheep about, this is a great off-lead stretch as the field is fenced and visibility is good.
2 Walk under the railway bridge and over the stile into the second field (larger, less mobile dogs may struggle here as there isn’t much room for dogs to nip through). The field ahead undulates and there’s a great stream to the right for water-lovers. Look back at the top of the hill and you’ll see the spire of Castor’s St Kyneburgha church, which dates back to Norman times. Head towards the top left of the field and over the stile, then follow the path along the edge of the fence, with views over the Nene Valley.
3 At the end of this path is a stile, followed by a short stretch alongside a private driveway, leading onto a road called Mill Road. Turn right and follow the road round, past the mill and through a gate into another field, with a disused windmill on your left. Cross the first ford (there’s a footbridge if you don’t fancy getting your feet wet). Walk through the field, keeping left and hugging the water’s edge, then cross the second ford or walk on a bit further and cross the footbridge.
Note: If you don’t fancy doing the whole route, turn left onto Mill Road at point three and walk back along the road, then turn left again just before the hump-back bridge. A track leading off to the left, alongside the railway, will take you back to the railway bridge and the field near the car park.
4 As you cross the second footbridge you’ll see a path that leads to the right, through a gate and then along the edge of the River Nene, with swathes of woodland on the other side of the bank. It’s a safe off-lead track, but watch out for horse riders and other dog walkers as this stretch is on the fringes of the Ferry Meadows Country Park and can get busy at weekends.
5 At the end of the track a steep incline leads you up level with the railway track. Turn left and follow the concrete path along the edge of the track. The railway is fenced off, but dogs can run through the wire, so your recall skills must be good if the trains are running (I have to keep Millie on a lead here as she races off along the track if she spots rabbits!).
6 Walk under the railway bridge (made famous by the Bond movies) and follow the track straight ahead, still alongside the railway. After a few hundred yards you’ll come to the point under the bridge where you first went over the stile. Retrace your steps back through the field near the car park – and keep going along Splash Lane if you want to find the pub!