This leg is a superb contrast to the previous one; it follows tracks and roads eastwards from Shippea Hill station towards Lakenheath. Before it reaches the village, however, it turns off to head north to follow the Little Ouse river. This is a superb stretch of trail that heads through the Lakenheath Fen RSPB, with a great deal of wildlife to see from the path. The last stretch follows tracks and paths east from Lakenheath station towards the small town of Brandon.
4 hours 37 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 off at Shippea Hill railway station at TL641841. Cross the level crossing by the station southwards and then immediately turn to the left, crossing a ramshackle bridge over a drain to join a track. This heads eastwards with the railway line to the left. After a little over a mile a barn is reached on the right; here the track curves to the right and passes through Lodge Farm to become a surfaced public road called Sedgefen Road. Follow this road; when it curves sharply to the right continue straight on along a minor road for another half mile until it curves sharply to the left at TL676841.
Do not follow the road around the bend and instead continue straight on along a good track. When this forks at a house continue straight on along a rougher track; a quarter of a mile after the house it curves sharply to the right to head south for a fifth of a mile before reaching a cottage on the left. Squeeze past the cottage gates on the right to reach another road at TL683837.
Turn left and follow this road as it immediately curves to the right. It heads southeastwards, passing Russell Farm on the right. After half a mile it curves sharply to the left to head northeastwards for a quarter of a mile. At a sharp right-hand bend at TL694836 turn left along a track that heads in a rough northwesterly direction. When this fork after a few yards take the right-hand fork; this soon curves to the right to head northwestwards with Lakenheath Old Lode mostly hidden to the left. After a mile the track reaches a gate guarding a railway line. Go through the gate, carefully cross the railway and then through the gate on the other side to join a footpath that runs along the top of a floodbank. Follow the path for 0.4 miles until it reaches a little cottage on the right.
Here the path turns right, temporarily joining a track that crosses the drain next to a pumping station. As the track immediately curves to the right, turn left to continue straight on along a footpath that heads along the top of a flood bank. This winds in a rough easterly direction alongside the Little Ouse for about 3.5 miles. The trail is easy to follow along this remote section; it goes through four metal clapper gates before it eventually ends at the B1112 road immediately to the south of Wilton Bridge. Turn right and follow the B1112 south for nearly 300 yards until it reaches a level crossing over a railway line, with Lakenheath station immediately to the right.
Cross the railway line and continue south for 150 yards, passing Hiss Farm on the left. Immediately after the last barn turn left down a good-quality track. This heads eastwards for a little under half a mile before it curves to the left and then right to reach a bridge over the Cut-Off Channel. Cross the bridge and continue eastwards along the track, which runs between hedges.
1.5 miles after the cut-off channel, the track curves to the right to head east-southeastwards; after another half-mile it curves to the left to regain an easterly direction, passing a farm and an electricity substation on the right. At TL767864 the track curves to the right; here turn left to go through a metal pedestrian gate to join a bridleway that follows a rougher track northwards through trees for a quarter of a mile.
As the hedge on the left ends and the track curves to the right, turn left to leave the track for about fifty yards and then turn right to follow a footpath for a short distance across a field; a waymarker shows the correct place. At the end of the field it continues between hedges, soon ending at a T-junction with another footpath. Turn right and follow this eastwards towards some trees. Go through a clappergate and follow the path as it heads through the trees with a fence on the right. This then meets a track called Smallfen Lane at TL770868.
Turn right to follow this lane southeastwards for 250 yards; just before it curves to the right turn left through a gap in a hedge to join a footpath that heads eastwards between fences. The path curves slightly to the left and the fence on the right becomes a hedge and fence; at the current time (2011) this stretch heads through a pig-farm.
The path curves to the right, keeping a fence on the right, and then to the left to reach a wooden footbridge on the left. Cross this, and on the other side turn right across some grass to reach a track. Cross this and head straight on across a recreation ground to reach a metal clappergate in a fence. Go through this and continue across a paddock to reach another clappergate. This leads on to a third clappergate and finally a pedestrian gate to reach Coulson Lane on the outskirts of Brandon.
Turn left and follow the lane as it heads northwards with a wall on the left. Just after the last house on the right, turn right down a narrow gravel path between walls to reach the A1065 in the centre of Brandon at TL783866.
Places of interest
Lakenheath and the airfield
Lakenheath is a large village situated on the eastern edge of the Fens, where the land rises up to form the Brecklands of Suffolk. It is dominated by the massive USAF base that sits immediately to the east.
An airfield was first established in the area by the Royal Flying Corp in the First World War, but was abandoned at the end of hostilities. In 1941 it was rebuilt as a base for Stirling bombers, but was upgraded before the end of the war to cope with heavier bombers. This work came to nought, as the war ended before the work was completed.
In 1948 control as transferred to the American Military as RAF Lakenheath, and it has remained in their care to this day. A number of heavy bombers have flown from the airfield, including B50's, B29's, B47's and refuelling aircraft. Nowadays it is home to a large F15 fighter wing, whilst the larger transport, AWACS and refuelling aircraft fly out of the nearby Mildenhall airbase.
location UID #291
The Little Ouse River
The Little Ouse River rises near Redgrave on the Suffolk / Norfolk border and flows westwards into the Great Ouse near Southrey in Norfolk. Like many Fenland rivers, its course has changed many times over the years as the fenland was drained. Many of the floodbanks that protect the low-lying land surrounding the river carry footpaths, and it is navigable by boats as far as Santon Downham, to the east of Brandon. A long-distance path, the Little Ouse Path, runs from Brandon to Thetford.
location UID #292
Brandon and Brandon Country Park
Brandon is a small town situated mostly on the Suffolk side of the Norfolk/Suffolk border, which follows the Little Ouse to the north of the town. The town sits at the eastern end of a tongue of Fenland that protrudes into the surrounding higher Brecklands.
It is well stocked with shops, including a couple of supermarkets and several pubs and hotels; a railway station on the Ely to Norwich line is conveniently sited right to the north of the town.
Brandon Country Park lies immediately to the south of the town, in a clearing within Thetford Forest. This is very popular, especially during the summer months and at weekends throughout the year. Several long-distance paths pass through the town; the Hereward Way heads through it on its way to Harling Road, whilst both the Little Ouse Path and St Edmund's Way start in the town on their way to Thetford and Bury St Edmunds respectively.
location UID #294
Again, transport on this stretch is difficult. Despite both Shippea Hill and Brandon having railway stations, travel between them is hard because currently (2019) Shippea Hill has only one train per day in each direction, both at inconvenient times. Lakenheath station (about three miles west of Brandon) also has occasional trains back towards Ely, but again they rarely stop at Shippea Hill.
Perhaps the best method - if you can tackle long walks - would be to link this leg with the previous one and walk from Ely to Lakenheath or Brandon in one day. Alternatively you could use a taxi to return to Shippea Hill.