1 (7) Sawtry to Wood Walton – published
Download Walk Guide below
2 (8) Wood Walton to Ramsey – due 2023
From Sawtry, we travel east past Sawtry Fen and the ruins of Sawtry Abbey to cross under the East Coast mainline at Five Arches Pit where there is a Wildlife Trust nature reserve in a flooded pit, once worked for material to build the railway. After passing the moated site and old church at Church End, and Wood Walton village, the Trail then crosses some lovely, slightly rolling countryside through woods and meadows, some of them Wildlife Trust nature reserves, on the southern side of the Great Fen (Gamsey Wood, Raveley Wood, Lady’s Wood and Upwood Meadows).
After reaching the village of Upwood, the Trail travels on to Ramsey. An optional visit can be made to Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve, at the southern end of the Great Fen, and Ramsey Heights nature reserve and countryside classroom. Woodwalton Fen is one of the ‘jewels in the crown’ of fenland as it is a remnant of the ecologically rich wetland that used to cover much of the area.
‘This is a lovely, quiet, undiscovered part of the fen edge, full of history’
The route: ‘follow in the footsteps of the monks’
4.4 miles (7 km) Walking guide time 2hrs 30mins plus stops
In partnership with the Great Fen Heritage Group
This, now quiet, corner of the Fens hides a rich and eventful past with the remains of historical sites such as Sawtry Abbey, a medieval motte and bailey, and St Andrews church viewable from the walk. Having travelled south from the village of Holme, the Trail arrives in Sawtry and then heads southeast to the village of Wood Walton on its way to Ramsey.
The walk passes under the main London to Edinburgh railway line and through one of the borrow pits that were dug to obtain construction material, now being a nature reserve valuable as a small wetland habitat for birds. The walk passes mostly over Oxford Clay bedrock but also over an area where Peat remains, covering the clay. There are also views up to the ridge behind Sawtry which is made of Glacial Till, material left after glaciers retreated c.425,000 years ago.
This western part of the Fen Edge is ecologically important, having two National Nature Reserves, one being a key part of the Great Fen wetland restoration area. The walk passes through the southern end of the Great Fen and includes two nature reserves, managed by the Wildlife Trust, on the route itself.
Landscape and Geology
The ‘Peat’ of the Fens is very complex, its character dependent on the type of vegetation that it contains, including reeds, wood and sphagnum moss. The latter grows where material has built up high enough to escape the calcareous ‘fen’ waters and be influenced by (acidic) rain, thereby creating acidic Peat bog. This only occurred in a few areas but particularly in the ‘bays’ of this western fen edge. The most extensive marine incursion, during the Bronze Age, did not reach this far allowing a deep sequence of Peat to form uninterrupted (possibly since as long ago as c.8,000 years), although much has now gone. The Oxford Clay is famous for its fossils of marine reptiles, such as large Ichthyosaurs and Plesiosaurs (including Pliosaurs). In places it contains harder bands that form low ridges, providing higher and, therefore, dryer land. Most of the walk is over this clay, including the villages themselves.
Walk 2 (8): Wood Walton to Ramsey
Walk Guide to be published soon
This walk has some great views down over the fenland and encompasses both historic sites and some of the best small, fen edge nature reserves. Wood Walton village lies at about 20 metres above sea level on the slopes of a high ridge that encloses a deep basin on this far western edge of the Fens. It starts close to a medieval motte and bailey in Wood Walton and passes near Gamsey Wood Nature Reserve through quiet farming countryside before reaching Lady’s Wood and Upwood Meadows nature reserves. It then goes through the small village of Upwood, which was once home to an important Saxon nobleman who founded Ramsey Abbey.
Leaving Upwood, the Trail climbs a hill next to the former RAF Upwood site, which hosted Pathfinder squadrons during WWII, before descending into Bury to follow the 5m contour and Bury Brook into Ramsey to finish at the former site of Ramsey Abbey.
Walk 3 (8a): Wood Walton Fen and Ramsey Heights
The Walk Guide is not yet ready but see the route map (to the right/below). The walk follows Rights of Way from Ramsey or Bury until you each the road between Ramsey Heights and Upwood (Ugg Mere Court Road). You then walk down Chapel Road to Ramsey Heights Nature Reserve on the right and then further on to the end of the road which brings you to the entrance to Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve, part of the Great Fen. Ramsey heights NR has a small visitor centre/countryside classroom that is usually open during the day.
It may be possible to get a bus to where Chapel Rd reached Ugg Mere Court Road. You could use the bus to link with the part of Walk 2 above that joins Upwood to Bury or Ramsey. Car parking is available at Ramsey Heights NR and along the bank outside the entrance to Woodwalton Fen and along the street in Ramsey and Bury.
Ramsey Heights Nature Reserve is also a Local Geological Site due to its brick kiln and clay pits (now flooded). The Oxford Clay bedrock was dug to make bricks and tiles on site and some of the old kilns can still be seen. There is information on the history of the brickmaking and the remains of the workers’ buildings.
© Cambridgeshire Geological Society