I always try to get in a fairly long run if I possibly can on a Sunday morning. If I get up early I can be out and back before my partner even begins to stir.
This morning however I was out for some considerable time and she had already stirred and begun to wonder if I was laying in a ditch somewhere with my life’s blood oozing out onto the abundant vegetation that surrounded and encased my defenceless body.
The truth was somewhat more prosaic.
I had set off without any kind of plan and then just kept going. I got lost several times but ended up covering what,for me is a very long distance (25km). It’s given me real hope that, with training, I may be able to complete my first marathon next year.
I began my run just weaving around Milton Country Park trying to figure out where I was going next. My first thought was the busway. This is a nice long straight piece of tarmac that’s really easy to run on. It was tempting but I decided against it in favour of something that might be a bit more of an adventure.
I broke out of the Country Park and headed toward the river. First decision there – should I turn left toward Clayhithe or right and over Baits Bite Lock. I chose the latter and over the river I went, heading straight on through the field, over a tiny wooden bridge that made me think of Billy Goats Gruff and Trolls and then up to Horningsea.
In Horningsea I found a lovely bit of green and a village hut/hall type thing. There was a bucket on a stand there which looked like it might have been part of the V.E. Day celebrations or possibly some Satanic rites. Maybe there is more going on in Horningsea than I might have imagined.
I romped around the funky little green area for a while and then spun off down the road a little. On Clayhithe Road there is a public footpath that points across the fields to the right. I’ve got lost on this footpath before so thought I would give it another try to see what happened this time. As soon as I got on to the field I was confronted with three choices. The one to the right says absolutely no entry. There are nesting birds and I should not be stomping along there disturbing them. I’m thinking that it’s awfully late in the year for nesting birds and that they should damn well hatch or get off the nest but I chose the path that seemed to loop around the hill and head for this huge electricity pylon (I’m told by someone who used to work with mapping infrastructure that I shouldn’t call them pylons – apparently their proper name is towers). I encountered a field of food that I decide is probably corn and joy of joys there has been a path cut right through the middle of it. It is always such a relief while running through fields to have the way so clearly marked. I always worry that I might be straying onto areas where I’m unwelcome.
I run on through the fields and arrive at the pylon/tower thing. There are an abundance of signs here. Which way should I go?
Well I’d just come from Horningsea so probably not that one.
Fen Ditton is a possibility but it does take me back towards home and I’m not ready to turn around yet. Quy is a good possibility but wait, there’s another option around the far side.
To Lode is says or if I wanted to be really adventurous I could go all the way to Wicken Fen. I decided to go to Lode and then consider which way to turn at that point.
I ran on down the path and eventually reached a road. There are a few houses here that I decide is probably Lode and another sign.
It’s very tempting to run down toward Bottisham and the river.
Hmmm – I take stock and realise that my legs are actually starting to hurt a little so I should start to circle around back toward home. I shall leave Bottisham Lock for another day. I turned right into the picturesque village of Lode. It is a breathtakingly beautiful little village. Lots of thatched cottages, modern bungalows and some touches of Georgian splendour. One of the joys of being out on a run with no pre-planned route is that I can take off in any direction I wish. I took advantage of this freedom in Lode darting off down a number of little alleys and alluringly beautiful pathways.I found a village green and something called Fassage Hall which sounds terribly old and grand but is actually a very modern looking village hall. It looked a splendid purpose built facility although not quite what I expected. I startled a number of dog walkers sauntering down the lanes. They all recovered quickly and wished me a cheery good morning as wound around and about, taking in the delights of Lode.
There were so many things I would have liked to photograph but I was trying to tell myself not to bugger about quite so much and actually do a bit of running. I couldn’t run past this building though without stopping to take a picture.
I’ve no idea what it is but it is a little bit special I’m sure you’ll agree.
I continued onwards until I encountered the National Trust property, Anglesey Abbey. It was closed but I was tempted into the grounds by a public footpath sign. Surely this won’t take me too far out of my way I thought, and I’ll just loop around the grounds and back out onto the road a little bit further down. I ran across the car park and down through the trees. There were many pathways there but I didn’t see any signage so had no idea which way I was going or even whether I was still on the public footpath.
I passed a couple walking their dog and they waved and smiled as I ran by. There was a tiny river/stream here and I followed its track as it emerged from the trees and snaked away into what looked like an endless chain of fields stretching as far as the eye could see. I followed the path for some time but it became more and more impassable as it continued onwards. My run quickly changed to a strange hopping, skipping and delicate sideways shuffle as I tried to avoid being nettled or scratched by brambles. I decided that this was probably no longer a path and turned back. I met the dog walking couple down the trail a little and decided that maybe I should ask for some directions.
“You’ve probably figured out I’m lost” I said as I ran back towards them. “No no” They said. “We thought you’d just had enough and were coming back.” I assured them I was, in fact, quite lost and was trying to head towards Stow Cum Quy and then to curve back towards Fen Ditton from there. They assured me that my route through the impassable brambles was the correct one and that if I persevered then Stow Cum Quy would be within my grasp. I turned back and fought my way through the undergrowth once more.
It went on and on and on but eventually it became more like a path and I stepped onto something that actually looked like a dirt track that could lead somewhere.
I stepped out onto the track and was confronted by another dog walker. I hailed her and asked whether I was heading in the right direction for Stow Cum Quy. She assured me that I was. She was tall, with brown hair swept back into a pony tail and wearing dark glasses. She looked like a French film star hiding from her millions of fans in darkest Cambridgeshire. She moved like a dancer and when she raised her hand to point the way I had to fight the impulse to applaud her grace and beauty. I thanked her profusely and continued onwards.
Stow Cum Quy was soon upon me and I turned right to head toward Newmarket Road.
This is a lovely little footpath that somehow manages to duck and weave away from the crazy roundabout that will take the eager motorist onto the mega highway that is the A14. The path leads you down onto Newmarket road and then through the Park and Ride site to Fen Ditton. I then found the footpath that took me to the church and onto the village green. It’s while running through these places that I realise how fortunate I am to live where I do. In one run I had been through several villages, Horningsea, Lode, Stow Cum Quy, Fen Ditton and my own village of Milton and all of them were just so breathtakingly beautiful. This is an absolutely splendid place to live.
I went through Fen Ditton but was really starting to suffer now. My legs were hurting and my drinking water was completely gone. However, there’s a house in Fen Ditton where they fly several different flags and often put out a sign saying what those flags are. They also have a water fountain on the roadside so I tried it out and found that beautiful clear cool water came from it that was just downright heavenly. Whoever is in that house, thank you thank you, thank you. You are doing a wonderful thing providing water to the desperate and needy such as myself. I ran on through the village and then down to the river. I crossed over the River Cam at Baits Bite Lock and then back through Milton. I’d done 25 kilometres but was completely exhausted. Still, it gives me great confidence that I am on track to run my first marathon next year.
A delightful run that I can heartily recommend. If anyone wants to try and recreate it for themselves then they could try following my route on Strava
I’ll also share two more photographs with you.
I think they were somewhere near Anglesey Abbey but I’m not sure.
One is what looks like a really imaginative allotment.
And the other is the lane that runs away from that allotment