Comberton - Path Network Ideas

This is from https://pghardy.net/comberton/paths/ideas/.
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Comberton Paths

Comberton parish is very short of public footpaths and tracks, which is obvious if it is visually compared with neighbouring parishes such as Toft, Bourn and Eversden [Fig 1 - Cambridgeshire CC Interactive map]. In addition, the growth of the village during the 20th century has blocked some earlier routes, but more recently has massively increased footfall and demand for access to the countryside. This has become particularly obvious during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, when access to rural routes became critical to both physical exercise, but also mental wellbeing of residents.

As a COVID-19 lockdown project, I have sketched out a set of ideas for new path routes that could form the core of a new path network for Comberton parish. I stress that these are ideas, not existing public paths, so don't try and walk them! Fig 02 shows an overview of the core area around the village. Enlargements are shown below for the four quadrants [Figs3-6], and for the north of the parish[Fig7], as well as the whole parish [Fig8]

Fig01 Fig02
Fig 1 - Rights of way compared to nearby villages Fig 2 - Overview of path ideas for parish core

Lost Paths

There were historically many paths and tracks around Comberton, just as in the other villages. Before the enclosures acts of the 19th century, there was a general freedom to pass around the open fields of the three-field system, and to walk between villages and farms, and many of these routes continued forward into the early 20th century. However, despite the 'National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949', and the 'Countryside Act 1968' many of these missed being recorded on the county's definitive rights of way map in the 1960s, so were never shown as a right of way on OS maps. See the Ramblers page on Rights of way law. It appears that the parish council in Comberton in the 1960s was not effective in making the case for recording rights of way against opposition from landowners, as the parish has only about a third of the number of footpaths as neighbouring parishes, and has lost some ancient routes like the Lot Way - see https://pghardy.net/comberton/lotway/.

Path Ideas

I present a set of ideas for a better path network. Note that these are 'blue sky' suggestions, sketched from aerial imagery with no ground survey - no attempt has been made to assess the feasibility of any of these routes, and the landowners have not been contacted. They are meant to be the starting point for a discussion going forward, to establish a workable subset of candidates. They are drawn almost entirely along the grassy edges of existing field boundaries, so as not to cross agricultural or domestic land parcels. Hence, most could be implemented with minimal effort and minimal disruption to the landowner.

The paths fall into several classes:

Here are four maps, one for each quadrant from Comberton. Each of the path ideas shown as coloured lines on them is described in a later section.

Fig03 Fig04
Fig 3 - North-West Quadrant Fig 4 - North-East Quadrant
Fig05 Fig06
Fig 5 - South-West Quadrant Fig 6 - South-East Quadrant

Here also is a map for the suggested network in the northern part of the parish beyond the core [Fig7], and one for the complete parish [Fig8].

Fig07 Fig08
Fig 7 - North Area Fig 8 - All Parish

Path Descriptions

NW Quadrant

NE Quadrant

SW Quadrant

SE Quadrant

Permissive Paths

Currently, there are two permissive paths (as part of Diamond Jubilee Walk from 2012) from the Church east to the Drift. There is also a recent permissive path adjacent to Long Road on its east side, heading north towards the Whitwell Way, and a previous one further north on the west side of Long Road, joining rights of way behind Northfield Farm.

The Parish Council is responsible for the paths within the Recreation Ground, plus a well-used path from Green End to the Recreation Ground, and one at the other end of the ground through to Hillfield Road. These are not currently registered with the county as permissive paths, and hence do not appear on the county footpaths map. It would be good to register these routes.

As of January 2021, notices of a new permissive path have appeared on Olde Farm, covering my path suggestion NE06, and continuing north up the side of the recreation ground to the start of my NE07. This is not yet registered on the county web map site.

All these permissive paths are a very useful step forward, but would be much better if dedicated as rights of way to ensure permanency. I am assuming that these permissive paths remain available as part of the suggested network.

Re-establishing a Network of Paths for Comberton

I feel we owe it to our children and their descendants to try to re-establish a network of paths around Comberton. These could best be as dedicated rights of way, or if not, then as permissive paths.

When the current investigation is done, I intend to request that the Parish Council instigates a cross-village initiative to establish and promulgate a rich network of paths around the parish, for the future benefit of Comberton residents and other local walkers. This would doubtless take several years to achieve, but would be of benefit for many generations to come. To fund the development of the network, as well as any parish funds and donations from residents, local rambling clubs have funds provided by walking holiday companies such as HF Holidays and Ramblers Holidays, which might be available.

In addition, there is the future promise of ELMS, the Environmental Land Management scheme, which is described as the cornerstone of the government’s new agricultural policy. See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-environmental-land-management-scheme-an-overview. "Founded on the principle of 'public money for public goods', ELM ... means farmers and other land managers may be paid for delivering the following public goods: ... beauty, heritage and engagement with the environment."

It is notable that the neighbouring parishes of Barton and Longstowe have established a rich network of permissive paths over recent decades, to supplement their rights of way. More recently, Toft parish has dedicated a new right of way path along the east side of the golf course close to Comberton. It would be good for Comberton Parish Council to liaise with such active neighbouring councils and learn from their experience.

If you have further suggestions for paths in Comberton Parish, or comments on the suggested paths, please contact me at paul@paulhardy.net or telephone 01223 263232, or by mail to 15 Kentings, Comberton, Cambridge, CB23 7DT.

[Original draft V0.1 of 2 December 2020. This is V1.0 of 19 January 2021, PGH]


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