Fen Rivers Way

Last updated

Fen Rivers Way
King's Lynn lies at a trailhead
Length80 km (50 mi)
LocationEastern England, United Kingdom
Trailheads Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
52°11′39″N0°08′14″E / 52.1942°N 0.1372°E / 52.1942; 0.1372 (Fen Rivers Way (Cambridge terminus))
King's Lynn, Norfolk
52°44′51″N0°23′44″E / 52.7474°N 0.3955°E / 52.7474; 0.3955 (Fen Rivers Way (King's Lynn terminus))
Use Hiking
Sign at the King's Lynn end of the path Fens rivers Sign.JPG
Sign at the King's Lynn end of the path

The Fen Rivers Way is a long distance footpath that spans a distance of 50 miles (80 km). It runs between the City of Cambridge and the town of King's Lynn in West Norfolk. It follows the course of the River Cam and River Great Ouse across the Fenland landscape into the Wash. It provides a small part of European Long Distance Path E2 which goes from Nice to Galway.



The Fenland landscape is a man-made environment constructed over many centuries. This fertile land is dominated by agriculture and is dissected by dykes, draining ditches, rivers and embankments. The walk gives walkers the opportunity to see the Fenland's open landscape and skies that contribute to the character of the Fens. The walk has a number of points of historical and wildlife interest. The route passes close to five railway stations, offering opportunities for one-way walks of varying lengths.

The route

Starting from Cambridge, the route follows the River Cam with its banks and pastures fringed with weeping willow trees and out into the fens. The Cam Washes have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of their rare and special habitats and wildlife. Within this SSSI, otters can sometimes be seen. Approximately 17 miles (27 km) north-east of Cambridge is Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, where walkers will pass through the remains of a fragment of a Fenland wilderness of former times. Wicken Fen was the first nature reserve to be owned by the National Trust and has been in its care since 1899. Wicken Fen is a haven for birds, plants, insects and mammals. It can be explored by the traditional wide droves and lush green paths, including a boardwalk nature trail, giving access to several hides.

A little north of here, the River Cam joins the River Great Ouse. Next walkers approach the city of Ely. The magnificent Ely Cathedral and ancient city dominate the skyline for miles around. At the hamlet of Brandon Creek, the Great Ouse is joined by the River Little Ouse and the route enters the county of Norfolk.

The Great Ouse is now contained by flood banks and from these banks there are views of the surrounding countryside. Denver Sluice, being at the confluence of five watercourses, was first built across the river in 1651 as a focus of the flood defence system that protects the low lying Fens, although it had to be rebuilt after bursting in 1713. Nearby Denver Windmill is a fully restored 19th century windmill which lies on the path of the Roman Fen Causeway. The Ouse Washes are an internationally significant environment. Flooded in winter, they attract thousands of migrating wildfowl. From Denver the river is tidal, bringing with it subtle changes in scenery and habitat. Close by is the Relief Channel, the final link in the drainage system, completed in 1964. The two waterways meet at King's Lynn, the historic port on the edge of the Wash where the footpath ends.

Way markings

Fen Rivers Way waymarks (yellow for footpath and red for byway) Fen Rivers Way Waymark, South Cambridgeshire.jpg
Fen Rivers Way waymarks (yellow for footpath and red for byway)

The route is marked with a small circular badge with a blue eel logo.

In 1995, Cambridge's local newspaper, The Cambridge Evening News, ran a competition for its children's Saturday Club, to name the route and design the logo. The winning entry naming the walk "Fen Rivers Way" with an eel as the logo, was submitted by Alexander Hunt from Teversham.

Further walks

There are four smaller circular walks along the Fen Rivers Way.

Related Research Articles

Cambridgeshire County of England

Cambridgeshire is a county in the East of England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the north-east, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west. The city of Cambridge is the county town. Modern Cambridgeshire was formed in 1974 through the amalgamation of two administrative counties: Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, comprising the historic county of Cambridgeshire ; and Huntingdon and Peterborough, comprising the historic county of Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough, historically part of Northamptonshire. Cambridgeshire contains most of the region known as Silicon Fen.

The Wash Bay and estuary at NW corner of the East Anglian coast of England

The Wash is a rectangular bay and estuary at the north-west corner of East Anglia on the East coast of England, where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire, and both border the North Sea. One of the broadest estuaries in the United Kingdom, it is fed by the rivers Witham, Welland, Nene and Great Ouse. It is a 62,046-hectare (153,320-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is also a Nature Conservation Review site, Grade I, a National Nature Reserve, a Ramsar site, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area. It is in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of it is the Snettisham Royal Society for the Protection of Birds nature reserve.

River Great Ouse River in England

The River Great Ouse is a river in England, the longest of several British rivers called "Ouse". From Syresham in Northamptonshire, the Great Ouse flows through Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk to drain into the Wash and the North Sea near Kings Lynn. With a course of about 143 miles (230 km), mostly flowing north and east, it is the fifth longest river in the United Kingdom. The Great Ouse has been historically important for commercial navigation, and for draining the low-lying region through which it flows; its best-known tributary is the Cam, which runs through Cambridge. Its lower course passes through drained wetlands and fens and has been extensively modified, or channelised, to relieve flooding and provide a better route for barge traffic. The unmodified river would have changed course regularly after floods.

River Little Ouse

The River Little Ouse is a river in the east of England, a tributary of the River Great Ouse. For much of its length it defines the boundary between Norfolk and Suffolk.

River Wissey

The River Wissey is a river in Norfolk, eastern England. It rises near Bradenham, and flows for nearly 31 miles (50 km) to join the River Great Ouse at Fordham. The lower 11.2 miles (18.0 km) are navigable. The upper reaches are notable for a number of buildings of historic interest, which are close to the banks. The river passes through the parkland of the Arts and Crafts Pickenham Hall, and further downstream, flows through the Army's Stanford Training Area (STANTA), which was created in 1942 by evacuating six villages. The water provided power for at least two mills, at Hilborough and Northwold. At Whittington, the river becomes navigable, and is surrounded by fenland. A number of pumping stations pump water from drainage ditches into the higher river channel.

The Fens Natural region on the east coast of England

The Fens, also known as the Fenlands, is a coastal plain in eastern England. This naturally marshy region supports a rich ecology and numerous species, and helps absorb storms. Most of the fens were drained centuries ago, resulting in a flat, dry, low-lying agricultural region supported by a system of drainage channels and man-made rivers and automated pumping stations. There have been unintended consequences to this reclamation, as the land level has continued to sink and the dykes have been built higher to protect it from flooding.

Old Bedford River

The Old Bedford River is an artificial, partial diversion of the waters of the River Great Ouse in the Fens of Cambridgeshire, England. It was named after the fourth Earl of Bedford who contracted with the local Commission of Sewers to drain the Great Level of the Fens beginning in 1630.

New Bedford River

The New Bedford River, also known as the Hundred Foot Drain because of the distance between the tops of the two embankments on either side of the river, is a man-made cut-off or by-pass channel of the River Great Ouse in the Fens of Cambridgeshire, England. It provides an almost straight channel between Earith and Denver Sluices. It is tidal, with reverse tidal flow being clearly visible at Welney, some 19 miles (31 km) from the sea.

Ouse Washes

Ouse Washes is a linear 2,513.6 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest stretching from near St Ives in Cambridgeshire to Downham Market in Norfolk. It is also a Ramsar internationally important wetland site, a Special Protection Area under the European Union Birds Directive, a Special Area of Conservation, and a Nature Conservation Review site, Grade I. An area of 186 hectares between March and Ely is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, and another area near Chatteris is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust manages another area near Welney.

Wicken, Cambridgeshire Human settlement in England

Wicken is a small village on the edge of The Fens near Soham in East Cambridgeshire, ten miles north east of Cambridge and five miles south of Ely. It is the site of Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve.

Stretham Old Engine

Stretham Old Engine is a steam-powered engine just south of Stretham in Cambridgeshire, England, that was used to pump water from flood-affected areas of The Fens back into the River Great Ouse. It is one of only three surviving drainage engines in East Anglia, and is a Grade II* listed building.

Wicken Fen Nature reserve in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom

Wicken Fen is a 254.5 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest west of Wicken in Cambridgeshire. It is also a National Nature Reserve, and a Nature Conservation Review site. It is protected by international designations as a Ramsar wetland site of international importance, and part of the Fenland Special Area of Conservation under the Habitats Directive.

Fen Drayton Human settlement in England

Fen Drayton is a small village between Cambridge and St. Ives in Cambridgeshire, England, and between the villages of Fenstanton and Swavesey.

The following are lists of recreational walks in Norfolk, England.

Angles Way

The Angles Way is a long-distance footpath in England, close to the River Waveney and River Little Ouse and thus close to the Norfolk/Suffolk border between Great Yarmouth and Thetford.

Hilgay Human settlement in England

Hilgay is a civil parish in Norfolk, England, 4 miles (6.4 km) from Downham Market. It covers an area of 33.38 km2 (12.89 sq mi) and had a population of 1,341 at the 2011 Census. For local government purposes, it falls within the district of King's Lynn and West Norfolk.

Little Thetford Human settlement in England

Little Thetford is a small village in the civil parish of Thetford, 3 miles (5 km) south of Ely in Cambridgeshire, England, about 76 miles (122 km) by road from London. The village is built on a boulder clay island surrounded by flat fenland countryside, typical of settlements in this part of the East of England. During the Mesolithic era, the fenland basin was mostly dry and forested, although subject to salt and fresh water incursions. The marshes and meres of this fenland may therefore have been difficult to occupy, other than seasonally, but there is evidence of human settlement on the island since the late Neolithic Age; a Bronze Age causeway linked the village with the nearby Barway, to the south-east. An investigation, prior to a 1995 development in the village, discovered a farm and large tile-kiln of Romano-British origin; further investigations uncovered an earlier settlement of the Pre-Roman Iron Age. The Roman road Akeman Street passed through the north-west corner of the parish, and the lost 7th century Anglo-Saxon village of Cratendune may be nearby.

Cambridgeshire Lodes man-made waterways in the county of Cambridgeshire, England

The Cambridgeshire Lodes are a series of man-made waterways, believed to be Roman in origin, located in the county of Cambridgeshire, England. Bottisham, Swaffham Bulbeck, Reach, Burwell, Wicken and Monks Lodes all connect to the River Cam, while Soham Lode connects to the River Great Ouse. All have been navigable historically, but some are no longer officially navigable.

Woodwalton Fen

Woodwalton Fen is a 209 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in the parish of Woodwalton, west of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire. It is a Ramsar wetland site of international importance, a National Nature Reserve, a Special Area of Conservation and a Nature Conservation Review site, Grade I. The site is managed by Natural England.

Cut-off Channel

The Cut-off Channel is a man-made waterway which runs along the eastern edge of the Fens in Norfolk and Suffolk, England. It was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s as part of flood defence measures, and carries the headwaters of the River Wissey, River Lark and River Little Ouse in times of flood, delivering them to Denver Sluice on the River Great Ouse. In the summer months, it is also used as part of a water supply scheme for drinking water in Essex.