The Hereward Way leaves Peterborough using paths, cycle paths and roads beside the River Nene, which is visible for the first five miles. Sadly a couple of miles are spent beside or on a road which can be bothersome at times. Once the tidal lock at Dog-in-a-Doublet is reached the trail heads south towards the Fenland town of Whittlesey.
The first seven miles of this leg used to be spent in the company of the Nene Way, before the latter diverts off immediately to the north of Whittlesey. However, in the early 2000s the Hereward Way was diverted over the then-new Millennium Bridge over the Nene after 3.3 miles. The following describes both routes (the original one is still in use by the Nene Way).
1 hours 50 minutes
Map of the leg
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.
This leg starts on the northern side of the A15 bridge over the River Nene in Peterborough at TL192981. Pass a beautiful stone building on the right and then turn right to join the riverside path, which runs alongside the concrete riverbank. The river and path soon curve to take a more southeasterly course. After a third of a mile it passes under the A1139 bridge, and then continues for another half mile until the concrete riverbank ends at a stream inlet beside Fitzwilliam Bridge.
Turn left to join a cycle path that crosses the stream on a small bridge. On the other side of the bridge continue along a good surfaced cycle path that heads eastwards along the top of the flood bank, with the river about ten yards away to the right. After 1.75 miles a road is reached at TL234984, with the Shanks Millennium foot and cycle bridge over the river on the right.
Just before the bridge is reached, turn right to cross the footbridge over the river, and descend down the ramp on the other side to join a track that crosses the washes. After about 250 yards the track curves left and then right to cross a bridge over a stream, and then curves slightly left to climb a bank. It soon reaches a junction with other tracks at TL237980.
Turn left to start following a cyclepath eastwards along the top of a bank. It makes a couple of small curves to the right, and after about 1.2 mile curves sharply to the right to head south for a sixth of a mile until it ends at a T-junction with a track, with a sports' club car park off to the right. Turn left along the track, which soon becomes Stonald Road. After 0.85 miles this ends at a crossroads with the B1040 at TL269975.
Turn right to follow the B1040 south towards the centre of Whittlesey. When the road forks immediately after the Ram Inn, take the left-hand branch that becomes Delph Street. After 200 yards the road curves to the right to head south for another 200 yards. When it curves to the left once more, head straight on across the pavement for a few yards to reach the A605 road in the centre of Whittlesea at TL270972.
This stretch starts off from the Shanks Millennium foot and cycle bridge at TL234984, and follows the same route as the Nene Way. It is 4.3 miles in length, 1.5 miles longer than the old route.
From here the trail follows the floodbank, with the river and the North Bank Road on the right. In summer months it may be possible that the bank is too overgrown to follow, in which case you will have to follow the road; fortunately the verge is wide. The road and bank curve slightly twice before settling onto an east-northeasterly course. After 2.5 miles it reaches the Dog-in-a-Doublet lock and sluice; the road diverts to the left around the lock and then right, heading past a now-closed pub. Shortly afterwards the road ends at a junction with the B1040 at TL275994, with the Dog-in-a-Doublet bridge immediately to the right.
Carefully cross the B1040 and then turn right to cross the bridge. Immediately on the other side turn left along a green track that runs alongside the southern bank of the river. After a couple of hundred yards the track curves to the right to head south-southwestwards towards some power lines. It becomes a gravel track; after nearly half a mile the track curves to the right to reach the B1040 once more at TL273985.
Turn left and start following the B1040 road southwards; there is no pavement but the verges are wide. The road immediately crosses Little Bridge over Moreton's Leam. After nearly two-thirds of a mile the road enters Whittlesea; cross over a crossroads with Bassenhally Road at some traffic lights, pass the Ram Inn on the left and when take the road forks, take the left-hand branch that becomes Delph Street. After 200 yards the road curves to the right to head south for another 200 yards. When it curves to the left once more, head straight on for a few yards to reach the A605 road in the centre of Whittlesea at TL270972.
Places of interest
Peterborough is a city located in the northwestern corner of Cambridgeshire. It grew up as a settlement near the old roman road, Ermine Street, which ran between London and York. The city lies at the western edge of the Fens, and the dry land has always attracted people. This can be seen in the form of Flag Fen, a well-preserved Bronze-age settlement situated to the east of the city.
A monastery grew up in the area in early Saxon times, and this was later expanded into the abbey complex that formed Peterborough Cathedral. Many religious institutions were built up in the Fens, including Ramsey and Thorney Abbeys, but of these only Peterborough and Ely remain, possibly due to their better links with the outside world.
The town grew with the coming of the railway in the 1840s, especially when the main line between London and Edinburgh passed through. The combination of railways and large local clay deposits led to the creation of a many brickworks in the immediate area of the city. Another large industry in the city is the Perkins industrial engine maker.
The population of the city has more than tripled since the Second World War, and has grown by successive waves of immigrants including Italians who worked at the brickworks, Indians and Pakistanis and more recently Eastern Europeans. This gives a very cosmopolitan atmosphere to large parts of the outskirts of the city; sadly on a few occasions there have been clashes between different groups of youngsters.
Despite its growth and the presence of the Fens, Peterborough has plenty of green spaces both within and without. The city is surrounded by a 45-mile long cycle path called the Peterborough Green Wheel. Additionally, the River Nene provides a green route through the city.
location UID #275
The East Coast Main Line
The East Coast Main Line is one of the two main railway lines that connect London with Scotland. The southern stretch of what is now the ECML was opened by the Great Northern Railway in 1850 and within twenty years had been extended by allied companies all the way to Edinburgh. In 1923 these were amalgamated to form the London and North Eastern Railway. The LNER's express trains became famous around the world, and none more so than the Flying Scotsman that first ran in 1862.
Diesel gave way to steam in the early 1960s, when the well-regarded Deltic locomotives took over the route. In the 1980s they were replaced by the HST 125 diesels before the entire route was electrified in the late 1980s.
Settlements around the route grew massively during the Victorian period due to the good links with both capitals, and places like Peterborough and Doncaster owe much of their success to the railway.
location UID #276
Peterborough Cathedral is situated right in the middle of the city, yet the simply magnificent Early English Gothic west facade is not spoilt by the surrounding buildings. To stand in front if it is to take in one of the most superb cathedral views in Britain. Every walker should try to make time to visit the cathedral, and if possible to take a walk around.
A church was first built on the site in the seventh century, and this was refounded in late Saxon times, along with the nearby monasteries of Ramsey and Ely; it seems like the remoteness and sheer inaccessibility of the Fens appealed to the ascetic monks.
A potentially interesting fact: it is alleged that Peterborough Cathedral can be seen from Ely Cathedral, 25 miles to the southeast. If you are following the Hereward Way then you will feel every mile of that view.
The Peterborough Chronicles, part of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and an invaluable source of information on early Norman times, were written at the cathedral.
location UID #277
The prehistoric settlement of Flag Fen was discovered in the 1970s when aerial photos and excavations uncovered Bronze Age droveways and field boundaries - the oldest discovered evidence of livestock agriculture in Britain. Further digs led to the discovery of round houses. Digs are continuing so that archaeologists can discover more about this ancient period of our history; however a large and interesting visitor's centre, open during the summer months, provides recreations of the landscape as it would once have been, including recreations of the round houses built as part of an archaeological experiment.
location UID #278
The area of the River Nene called 'Dog-in-a-Doublet' has always intrigued me. The sluice and locks mark the highest limits of the tidal Nene, and are therefore important to avoid polluting the river upstream with salt water. The structure was built in 1937, moving the tidal limit downstream from a sea lock to the west of Peterborough. Maintenance is an on-going issue, and the complex was given a £1.2 million update in 2010/11. The gates of the structure that seem so small when viewed from a distance are truly massive up close. In the 1990s a fish pass was created beside the sluice, and salmon have been seen swimming up it.
location UID #279
I spent a great deal of my time as a child on building and demolition sites, and therefore I am well aware of the existence of the 'Fletton' style of bricks, named after the Fletton Brickworks in the nineteenth century. The popularity of Fletton bricks in London led to the creation of a massive industry, and brickworks eventually stretched along an expanse of Oxford Clay on the south side of the Nene from south of Peterborough to Whittlesey. Millions of houses have been made in Britain using Fletton brick, which unfortunately is soft and not particularly frost-resistant.
Several chimneys south of the Nene mark the site of Hanson's King's Dyke brick works; they just about tower over the wind turbines that have recently been constructed in the area. Many of the historic clay pits were abandoned as they were worked out, and these are now flooded and provide a haven for bird life.
One long-closed pit provides interesting memories for me - I made my first open-water scuba dive at Gildenburgh Water, which lies immediately to the east of Whittlesey. The water in early February was very cold and a bit of a shock after my training in a nice, warm swimming pool.
location UID #281
Whittlesey is a small Cambridgeshire town built on a ridge of high land in the Fens to the east of Peterborough. A Roman causeway called Fen Causeway connected the town with Peterborough and March, and it is believed that settlement has continued in the area since that time. The town expanded considerably after the Ely to Peterborough railway opened in 1845; strangely the name of the station is 'Whittlesea' with an 'a', whereas the town's name has a 'y'.
There are plenty of shops, accommodation and pubs in the town, and some pleasing architecture including a superb Buttercross in the market square. The town hosts a strange festival in January each year - a man dressed in straw called the the Straw Bear walks around the town with attendants of musicians and a keeper; the resultant festival lasts for the entire weekend with dances and concerts. The Straw Bear was once a common custom throughout the Fens but died out; it was restarted in Whittlesey during the 1980s. Strangely a similar festival takes place in Germany.
The Nene and Hereward Ways both pass through or near the town; they used to take the same route, but in the early 2000s the Hereward Way was diverted along paths to the south of the Nene.
location UID #280
Regular train services run between Whittlesey and Peterborough. Whittlesey station is a little over half a mile southeast of the centre of the town, but is easy to get to. Peterborough station is also half a mile north of the river and trail. See the National Rail website for more information.
Stagecoach in Peterborough Route 33 runs frequent services between Whittlesey and Peterborough.