Witchford Walks - Walk 10
This walk takes you through WWII history with fine views of our surrounding fenland and beyond. This is a walk of approximately 6 miles; estimated time 2½ hours. Before taking this walk, I suggest you visit the excellent display of memorabilia that Barry Aldridge has on display in the foyer of the old Grovemere building (see below) which tells the history of the airfield and will make the walk more interesting.
From The Village Inn make for Ely down Main Street and turn right into Bedwell Hey Lane. Notice the large boulder; this is believed to date from the Ice Age and was found by workmen digging a well where two cottages now stand. Continue past the playing field and through a side gate across the lane. The lane now takes you to what remains of Witchford airfield. Along this road on your right were service building and workshops. You can still see the old concrete paths across the ditch, with brick and concrete ramps where stores and parts to service the bombers were loaded onto lorries.
At the end, turn off the road (Bedwell Hey Lane) and bear sharp right where a gate takes you onto the airfield perimeter track. Bombers would queue on this track as they waited their turn to take off. Continue past a large concrete area where the track bears left and take in the marvellous views; to the left the cathedral dominating the Fens from its island and to the right the Isle sloping down to the fen with Stretham, Wilburton and Haddenham beyond. This perimeter track would have been much wider when in operation, with large concrete bays to your right where bombers were serviced ready for their next mission.
The land that slopes away on your right was in wartime covered with bomb storage. What history this part of our Isle has seen! Where bombers took off to defend our country in war time, some eight hundred years earlier Hereward the Wake and his Saxon warriors would have looked out over the fen to see the advancing Normans, and made England’s last stand against the invaders.
Continue along the perimeter track until reaching a small wooded area. Take the concrete road to the right as indicated by the footpath marker (please do not continue straight on as this is private land where small planes land and take off) which takes you past farm cottages and onto a grassed track all the way to the A10 where you turn right to walk along a wide grass verge well away from traffic.
Turn right again into Red Fen Road, from where a footpath just beyond a cottage on your right will direct you alongside the Grunty Fen Catchwater drain. Halfway along the drain, past Bedwell Hey farm, look to your right and you will see the top of Ely Cathedral looking like a castle set on the skyline. On reaching Grunty Fen Road turn right over the bridge using the permissive path on the left alongside the road and back to Main Street and then left to the Village Inn for well earned refreshment.
As an alternative, when you reach the A10, why not extend your walk before returning to Witchford by walking through Little Thetford to the river where you can rest on benches to enjoy the views and river life.