Planning the Route Stage 2 – Battle Gate Road to Hardwick

Although it starts with good paths, this section of the route contains the most challenging terrain. On previous visits I have often found it very muddy or overgrown. The path continues following the Greenwich Meridian Trail eastwards through Childerley and Dry Drayton before heading south and crossing the A428 at Hardwick about 10 km due east of Cambridge city centre.

Map reproduced from 2017 Ordnance Survey map with the kind permission of the Ordnance Survey

The first section continues on good farm tracks from Battle Gate Road crossroads to Childerley.

Childerley once comprised two medieval villages, Great Childerley and Little Childerley. Little Childerley disappeared in the 15th century and the owners of the manor cleared Great Childerley during the 17th century so they could extend their park. In the present day there is the manor house and some related buildings, a chapel, the farm and a few houses. A hospitality company hires out the long barn for weddings and other events

Childerley

Passing through Childerley there is a small wooded section before the path runs along the edge of a field. This is where it starts to get muddy as it is little more than a track beside the field.

Keep to the left of the hedge

Passing through a hedge, the route goes straight ahead across a field and then turns left to run diagonally towards the white farm building in the top left of the photo below. The farmer considerately runs their tractor across the field after ploughing so the path remains visible. When I visited in January the ground was extremely muddy. It just sucked at my boots when I stepped out into the field and I was unable to go more than one pace.

One week later I returned and the ground was bone dry, being on the side one of the few hills in Cambridgeshire it had drained completely. This photo was taken about half way across the field with the white farmhouse still at the top left. What looks like stones are actually parsnips, presumably the remains of last year’s harvest.

Having crossed the field there is a bridge across a stream. The photos below were on my first two visits in summer 2017 when the bridge was overgrown with brambles. I took the wheelchair on a second visit to make sure it would get across. On later visits I found the brambles had been cleared so are no longer a problem.

The bridge is followed by another diagonal path across a smaller field, which is also prone to being muddy. The route then goes through a tunnel created by the hedges of two houses on the western edge of Dry Drayton. It seems to be well maintained and I have never had problems going through it on four previous visits. The photo below is looking back down the path from Scotland Road, Dry Drayton.

Dry Drayton has existed since before the Domesday Book when it was called Draitone. Dry was probably added to the name to distinguish it from Fen Drayton about 8 km to the north west. The current population is about 650 people.

View south from Scotland Road, Dry Drayton

Walking east through the village, the parish church is on the right hand side and the route goes through the graveyard to the right of the church.

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Dry Drayton

Leaving the churchyard the path progresses along the edge of a field and then crosses the Callow Brook by the bridge below. The first and only steps on the route.

The path now runs south beside the Callow Brook for about 2 km towards Hardwick. Again the route can be muddy.

Approaching Hardwick there is the only difficult kissing gate on the entire route. There are two problems, the first is the height of the bar above the ground and the second is the limited space within the gate itself. I took the wheelchair on a previous visit and it is just passable.

The photo below looks back along the path with Dry Drayton church just visible amongst the buildings on the horizon. The trees mark out the path and the kissing gate can be seen at the bottom left where the hedge meets the first tree.

View towards Dry Drayton

The route now leaves the field paths behind and crosses the A428 Cambridge to St Neots Road by one of my favourite landmarks, the blue footbridge. At one point my wife was transferred from Royal Papworth to Addenbrookes Hospital and I had no idea how to get there. A nurse told me to go east on the A428 and take the exit after the blue bridge. As will be seen in stage 3 of the route, this leads to the M11 where it is just two junctions south and then follow the signs for the hospital. The blue bridge has held a special place in my affection ever since.

Due to the height of the bridge there are long slopes zig zagging either side, probably adding 500 m to the route with the wheelchair. Seems strange that the bridge is wheelchair accessible and is then followed by the appalling kissing gate which is not wheelchair friendly.

Almost directly opposite the exit to the blue bridge there is a small retail unit with a few businesses including the excellent Frankies Snack Bar. This is where I will stop for lunch having completed roughly half the distance. Apart from the Poacher in Elsworth, which I will pass before it opens, this is the first place on the route where food is available.

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