This leg of the Hereward Way shares a path with the Nene Way, which follows the River Nene from near its source in Northamptonshire to its outlet in the wash. The trails stick close to the northern bank of the Nene for most of the way as it heads eastwards towards Peterborough, although the river is often out of view. Some of the route is also spent in company of the Nene Valley Railway, and if you are lucky you will be able to see steam trains in the distance. It is a surprisingly rural walk, even when it approaches the centre of the city and there is only one intermediate settlement on the route, Sutton.
3 hours 46 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 on the A47(T) to the east of Wansford at TF080996. Carefully cross to the southern side of the A47(T) and head down a track. After a few yards turn left down a footpath to join the Nene Way, which will be following the same course as the Hereward Way as far as Peterborough. The path skirts a big Telecoms mast on the right and then turns to the right to reach a stile; cross this and descend a slope off a small shelf onto the floodplain. The path heads eastwards across scrubland with the River Nene away to the right and the main road to the left. The path crosses a number of stiles and footbridges as it heads on.
At TL091991 the path curves to the left away from the river, and then right to skirt a cutting on the left that carries an old railway line. When a metal gate is reached take a wooden clappergate immediately to the right of the gate and walk on through a field, paralleling the track on the left. At the end of this field the path curves to the left slightly to reach another wooden gate. Go through this and continue along the path with a hedge on the right and fence on the left. The path ends at a road opposite a church in Sutton.
Turn left to head northeastwards for about twenty yards towards the church, and then turn right down a green lane called Lovers Lane, passing a little cemetery on the left. As the lane curves to the left turn right across a stile to join a footpath that heads across a field with a hedge to the right. When the hedge on the right ends, turn half-left to head southwards, aiming for a stile in a fence.
Cross this stile and head straight on, aiming for a railway bridge in the distance. Halfway down this field the path crosses a footbridge over a drainage ditch on the right before turning left to continue towards the railway bridge. As it reaches the bridge the path climbs up onto a boardwalk that leads under the railway line at TL093979. Pass under the bridge and follow the boardwalk as it curves to the left. When the boardwalk ends cross a stile and continue along a path that climbs up steps onto the railway embankment. At the top of the bank turn right to follow a narrow path that runs alongside the railway line on the left.
After a few hundred yards at TL102979 the path turns to the right and drops down off the embankment. Immediately after is passes under some power lines it crosses a stile and turns right to head south towards the river; it then curves to the left to follow a good path eastwards with the river on the right. Cross another stile and continue on along a good path, still with the river on the right. The path crosses a series of stiles and passes a bridge over the river on the right.
At TL122974 the path turns to the left, heading towards a clump of trees that guards an ox-bow lake. Skirt the edge of the lake on the right; the path soon curves to the left away from the lake following a ditch on the right to a stile that guards a footbridge over a stream. Cross a stile on the other side of the footbridge and climb up a bank. At the top follow a fence on the left to a stile beside a metal gate. Keep the fence on the left as the path sinuously winds around before reaching another stile beside a gate. Cross this and continue on with a fence on the right to reach the end of Mill Road at TL128969.
Turn right down this road; it soon curves to the left and becomes an unsurfaced track once more. Pass through a wooden pedestrian gate and continue on along the rough track with a hedge on the left. The path passes the stump of an old windmill on the left as it parallels the northern bank of a stream called Back Dike; it soon curves to the right to reach a footbridge across the stream. Cross this and turn left to roughly follow the southern bank of the stream southeastwards for another third of a mile to reach another footbridge at TL134963. Cross this and turn right to join the western bank of the River Nene.
It is then simply a case of following the good riverside path as it winds towards Peterborough. After three-quarters of a mile it reaches a railway bridge over the river; follow the path as it climbs up onto the embankment and carefully cross the track. Descend the path on the other side and rejoin the path as it heads northwards with the river on the right, going through a couple of gates on the way.
The river slowly starts to curves to the right; as it does so the path climbs up to the right slightly to reach a stile beside a metal gate. Go through this and continue on with a hedge on the left; shortly after this the path descends a slope towards the Milton Ferry Bridge at TL143984. As it reaches the bridge go through two gates to reach the track that runs over the bridge. Cross this and join a good track that heads through the Ferryhill Plantation.
When the track forks take the left-hand fork that heads uphill; when the track reaches a T-junction turn right down a surfaced track with a golf course on the left; the track soon reaches the Bluebell footbridge at TL154977. Do not cross the footbridge and instead continue straight on along a footpath with the river on the right. The path soon opens out into a grassy area and crosses a plank footbridge over a stream before heading on to reach a more substantial bridge over a reedy stream.
Cross this and continue on with the golf course on the left. After another fifth of a mile the path reaches Orton Lock on the right; continue on along a surfaced path that heads through a bridge under the A1260. Shortly afterwards the main path curves to the left; here continue straight on along the riverside path. Over the next mile and a half it crosses two substantial footbridges over inlets as it heads eastwards towards the centre of Peterborough.
The path passes under a footbridge and two large railway bridges; shortly after the second railway bridge head under another footbridge and continue on until the bridge that carries the A15 over the river is reached at TL192981, where this leg ends.
Places of interest
Wansford (properly known as Wansford-in-England) is a small village situated right beside the A1 to the west of Peterborough. Like many villages in the area, the buildings are mostly of local limestone and topped with roofs of Collyweston slate or thatch. The village arose as a coaching stop beside the ancient bridge over the River Nene - some arches of the current bridge date back as far as 1571, although they have been much altered over time.
One of the hotels in the town, The Haycock, is based on a seventeenth-Century coaching inn. There is also a pub, the Cross Keys.
location UID #270
The Nene Valley Railway
The Nene Valley Railway is a preserved railway based on the eastern end of the old Northampton to Peterborough line, first opened in 1845. The line closed in 1972, but was soon bought by the Peterborough Development Corporation. This foresight led to the creation of one of Britain's premiere preserved railways. A decision was made to convert the line to the continental Berne loading gauge, allowing the wider European locomotives to use the line. Trains now regularly run between Yarwell Junction, to the southwest of Wansford, and Peterborough. This part of the line is coincident with both the Nene and Hereward Ways, and could therefore be used as a novel return journey to a short walk along the river.
location UID #271
The River Nene
The River Nene is a long river that flows from Arbury Hill in Northamptonshire to the sea at the southern edge of the Wash. On the way it flows through many towns and cities, including Northampton, Wellingborough and Peterborough.
The stretches of the river downstream of Peterborough have been much altered during the draining of the Fens, the new course being far straighter. Originally the river was tidal past Peterborough, but a sea lock in the city and later a sluice at Dog-in-a-Doublet barred the tides.
Although hardly one of Britain's best-known rivers, there is much to see and do along its entire course. A long-distance footpath, the Nene Way, follows the river for 110 miles from Badby in Northamptonshire to near its outfall downstream of Sutton Bridge in Lincolnshire.
location UID #272
Castor Mills and Durobrivae Roman Town
A small lane leading down to the Nene from the village of Castor ends at the site of the early nineteenth-Century water mill called Castor Mill. The building is still extant and is grade-II listed, but has been converted into a house. A prominent stream called Back Dike appears to have been the mill stream.
Nearby is the stump tower of a windmill that sits in a field right beside the Hereward and Nene Ways.
On the other side of the river is the Durobrivae Roman Town, which is trapped between the river and the A1(T). This was a fortified garrison situated at the point where Ermine Street, the roman road between London and York, crossed the River Nene. The banks of the town and even the layout of some roads are clearly visible as crop marks on Google Earth. A treasure horde, the Water Newton Treasure, was found nearby in February 1975. It includes what is possibly the oldest church silver plate in existence, and is of such importance that it was claimed by the British Museum.
location UID #273
Peterborough rowing lake
Next to the Nene on the western outskirts of Peterborough is the 1,000-metre long Thorpe Meadows Rowing Lake. This is run by Peterborough City Rowing Club; the Nene and Hereward Ways pass very close to the southwestern end of the lake, allowing good views along it.
location UID #274
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
Peterborough railway and bus stations are in the centre of the city about half a mile to the north of the river.
Delaine busesservice 205 runs between Stamford and Peterborough five times a day (no services at weekends), calling at Wansford on the way. Note that the bus stop in Wansford is a short distance away to the west, on the other side of the A1(T) on the Old Great North Road in the village.
It is also be possible to use the Nene Valley Railway to get back to near Wansford on days that the line is operating; this may give a much more pleasant and memorable return journey. However a walk back from Wansford Station to the village of Wansford would be required; the best route would be to follow the Nene and Hereward Ways.