12/09/2016 - Fen Rivers Way, 1 of 3, Cambridge to Ely
Nearly 45 years ago when we were students, DH, myself and a couple of friends set out from Cambridge to walk to Ely along the river. We had no proper gear and only a one inch to a mile map. I cannot remember the exact route we took but we were wrecked by the end, having had to climb dykes and fences and find our way across channels of water.
Doing it today brought back no memories. There is now an official route, signposted and waymarked. The first big shock was leaving Cambridge station and stepping out into the streets crowded with new buildings, buses, people and traffic. Nothing like 1974 when I left.
A perfect walking day, warm but not oppressive, the sun and the wind at my back. The first 6 miles were very domesticated, the path was tarmac or gravel all the way. The last 12 miles were almost entirely along a grassy floodbank.
This area, the fens, is of course totally different to the northern hills where I live. Totally flat, enormous fields of grains, cattle but no sheep, and rivers lined with rushes. Narrowboats and river cruisers, swans, geese and other waterfowl.
I had also misremembered the experience. In my memory Ely cathedral was visible almost from the start, looming large yet far away, never seeming to get closer regardless of how many miles are trudged. In fact, you don't see it until you round a bend about 5 miles from the finish, and it looks quite small.
When I got to Ely, I sat by the quayside and consumed 2 diet sodas, naughty, naughty. 18 miles, no feet to speak of, 6 hours 10 minutes, not bad for 63!