Walk to Better Health

The Great Fen Local Ramble at March I went on recently had people who regularly attend 1 hour long health walks in their Fenland towns. logos

The NHS recommends that walking can become part of a healthy routine through integrating it into your daily schedule, for example walking the children to school or walking to work. To keep walking interesting and sociable, you can cover different routes and distances, set goals and join local walking groups.

Examples of walking organisations and their walks near Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area

Walking for Health is a relatively recent health-related initiative that is aimed at people who do little or no exercise but who would like to become more active. Based at Cambridgeshire ACRE in Littleport, I found many different health walks within 15 miles, many of which are also in or around the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area:

  • East Cambridgeshire: Heart Beat at Littleport (10:30 am, Harley-Davidson Sculpture, Church Lane, CB6 1PT) and Ely (2 pm, Ely Cathedral, Minster Place, CB7 4D) every Tuesday; Littleport (Evening Walk, 6:30 pm, St George’s Medical Centre, Parsons Lane, CB6 1JU) on Thursdays.
  • Mytime Active Cambridgeshire Walks at Littleport (6.30pm, St George’s Medical Centre every Wednesday) and Wisbech (2.15pm, Chapel Road) every 2nd Tuesday and March (10am, Merceford House) every Tuesday; (10.30am, Cornerstone Surgery) every Thursday; (12.30pm, George Campbell Leisure Centre) every Thursday.

Organisations and resources for health walks

Ramblers organises group walks for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, including previously inactive people, people with a specific health condition and people with wheelchairs. They hold walks in towns, cities and the countryside to promote walking for health, leisure and as a means for getting around.

The Fenland Ramblers gathering up in Swaffham for a walk in the surrounding Norfolk countryside. Source: Lizzie Bannister
The Fenland Ramblers gathering up in Swaffham for a walk in the surrounding Norfolk countryside. Source: Lizzie Bannister

There are several Ramblers groups local to the OWLP are: Cambridge and Peterborough,  Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, and Cambridge and Huntingdon. Keep posted on these Ramblers’ websites to see if you can enjoy the Ouse Washes via walks at places in and around the scheme area. Remember that organisations like the Great Fen Project also hold walks in the area, information about which may be available from local walking group, nature conservation groups, and leisure or health centres. Other national initiatives such as Walk4LIfe supports the activity of walking and changes to better lifestyles for health benefits, this interactive map from Walk4LIfe shows some of the local walking opportunities around the Ouse Washes, including at the Welney WWT reserve.

Squeezing alongside houses can be part of a walk, as it was for Woodman's Way route  near March - sourced by Lizzie Bannister

Squeezing alongside houses can be part of a route near March – sourced by Lizzie Bannister

Health benefits

Walking has become a popular health-related activity advocated by health professionals. Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of various illnesses and have many positive benefits. Cambridgeshire Mind recommends being active and taking more notice of the world to enhance wellbeing, which can be met by walking outdoors. To get the health benefits from walking, it needs to be faster than a stroll, which raises your heart rate and makes you break a sweat. Walking is an ideal exercise for most people – one that can be built up slowly in pace and distance as suitable.

two friends from the Great Fen Local Ramble group enjoying their walk while in conversation

Two friends from the Great Fen Local Ramble group enjoying their walk while in deep conversation

Walk anywhere!

Also, remember the countryside isn’t the only place to walk – towns and cities offer interesting walks including parks, heritage trails, riverside paths, commons, woodlands, heaths and nature reserves. Ely’s Country Park, for example, produced leaflets on walk routes, which involve trails that pass by the River Ouse, Roswell Pits, the Hereward Way and through an ecological and geological Site of Scientific Interest, and include magnificent views of Ely Cathedral. Your local towns and villages often have walks and routes – see your parish or local newsletters or magazines and parish council resources like websites for them.

The Great Fen Local Ramble group on The Woodman's Way near March on the way to Wimblington

The Great Fen Local Ramble group near March on the way to Wimblington – source: Lizzie Bannister

Walking is great for giving to charities, community involvement and social inclusion

Walking is a popular way for raising money for charity – whether through sponsorship to achieve great distances and individual aims for a charity that is close to the heart, or as a fun, collective activity where monies are generated by contributions and entry charges. The charities can be illness-related – for example, there is a 5km circular Walk for Macmillan in March. The emergency medical organisation of Magpas is one of many charities being supported by the Ouse Washes Experience (organised by the Ely Hereward Rotary Club), which people can choose to walk 8.5km or 17km, run 8.5km or cycle 11.5km, 17km or 32km on the 21st September.

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Walking for work: Mixing business with pleasure

LogosI took the day off from my summer placement with the Ouse Washes: The Heart of the Fens – A Landscape Partnership Scheme (OWLP) to mix pleasure and business. I went on the Woodman’s Way walk at March and Wimblington, which is just outside the OWLP area. I found this walk on the Great Fen Project’s website and wanted to attend as it was around where I live and ride my pony on and would like to become more involved and to meet and enjoy the countryside with other people.

I also wanted to promoted OWLP and unleash my journalistic powers so came with a camera for this blog. I had already written my blog on part of the walk.

Our starting point at iconic St Wendreda of March

Our starting point at the iconic St Wendreda church of March

We started off with a scenic and historic meeting and brief lecture at St. Wendreda Church in March with the walk leader, Adrian Kempster, who informed us of the importance of the church because of its saint, an Anglo-Saxon princess who had healing powers, and the angel roof carvings. Being of the local tribe with these ramblers who never or rarely have been in the area, I was asked about directions by Adrian and we all went off at a jolly energetic pace. I quickly met a local March Ramblers’ leader assistant whose responsibility was to supervise for those lagging behind and we talked a lot on our way round. I was taking the photographs and I never considered myself as an amateur photographer before, so skills were also expanded from this walking experience.

Jolly start off under Fenland skyline onto farmland to the dismantled railway line

Jolly start off up track past the Neale-Wade Academy of March under Fenland skyline onto farmland to the dismantled railway line

To set the scene, the Woodman’s Way brought us through ancient wooded islands of March and Wimblington, which is reflected by the names we came across – Eastwood, Linwood, Hatchwood and Coneywood. From the unsteady track that took us away from the town, we entered the dismantled old railway line that is now a densely and diversely wooded and vegetated all along except when separated by tracks that remind us of the surrounding expansive arable landscape. We spotted interesting features along the way, including a horse paddock and variation in the track.

Down into an important and economic area of mixed land use

Down into an important and economic area of mixed land use near Hook Lane, Wimblington

We then took a detour into the industrialised farming area next to the Fengrain plant, down interesting enclosed footpaths, next to a plant nursery, into a village rife with farming activities followed by a lovely long and tree-lined loop back towards the path alongside the arable field next to the plant. Such tours offer a view of the important farming and horticultural economy in the Fenland. We then moved onto another diverse but not so densely wooded and vegetated track that has more challenging terrain.

In the real working and living Fenland countryside

In the real working and living Fenland countryside

We soon crossed the busy A141 bypass and were given sanctuary in the lovely St Peter church of Wimblington by the friendly people at the church and rested in the graveyard.

Exploring the Wimblington church of St Peter during our rest

Exploring the Wimblington church of St Peter during our rest

Refreshed and relieved, we set off at that same pace which puts strolling to shame into the village of Wimblington, which has a comprehensive range of services, across a large green then down a footpath into the outside village area (of Wimblington) towards March. We were soon travelling behind the houses (one of which is mine!) down another dense and diversely wooded and vegetated but narrower and grassier track, which is a byway. We came across a modern farmstead and lovely golf course, passed horse places and a deer farm before we crossed another byway with busy traffic. The track then lead us from farming and horses into a housing area of March. We interestingly went on a footpath alongside a house which led us onto a well hedged farmland with a ditch full of reed and other plants.

On the way back over farmland and next to different field boundaries

On the way back over farmland and next to different field boundaries next to March

From this, we worked our way behind urban settings to cross the graveyard church of St Wendreda and back to our cars.

My new friend kindly gave me and my worked legs a lift to our much needed refreshments at Weatherspoons in March.Afterwards, the tour was led to explore the March town. It had been a hot day but with a reasonable breeze and cloud cover so was favourable weather that encouraged a good turnout on this monthly (Wednesday) walk – the next Great Fen Local Group Ramble is on 12th November at Holme Fen!

I enjoyed the experience as I learnt more about my local environment, had some endorphins-boosting and rather energetic exercise and met some lovely people. This is all of the photogenic group modelling for me at our resting point in Wimblington!

The gang

The gang at St Peter church of Wimblington

Other related posts on nearby circular walks:

Mepal

Manea

Other circular walks in the area (near Wimblington):

Doddington