Witchford Walks - Walk 2
This is a sheltered walk with distant glimpses of Ely Cathedral; approximate distance 1¼ miles.
Starting from The Village Inn, formerly The Shoulder of Mutton, go towards Ely and at the lowest point in Main Street turn left to enter Broadway (opposite Grunty Fen Road), noticing village allotments on the right with their patchwork of plots and sheds.
A thatched brick farmhouse once stood to the right of Broadway. It was built against a then open Grunty Fen Drain, and was described in 1850 as one of the worst conditioned dwellings in the village. The large family of eight all suffered from fever, caused by the filth and damp from the drain. The dip in the Main Street, at the junction with Broadway, marks the location of the ford from which the village takes its name. Sandpit Lane, a lovely broad mown path between, on one side high hedges and trees full of bird life, on the other Grunty Fen Drain where moorhen, heron and kingfisher can be seen. As you bear left notice the pond, where in early summer, with patience, you will see newts and other pond life. Newts spend more of their life out of water than in it. The young newt does not return to the water until it is three years old having then reached maturity.
Years ago country folk used to believe newts could spit fire immediately on quitting the water. Others told horrible tales of victims who had succumbed from the effects of their poisonous fangs. Newts were also blamed for poisoning cattle that drank water that they inhabited. Thank goodness today we no longer believe such tales and our wildlife is now understood and valued. The pond was formed by sand extraction at the beginning of the 20th century. A well (not visible) in the left corner provided the village with water that was described as 'clear and wholesome'. In the 1921 drought this was the only well in the village, which did not run dry.
The wooden structure used to support the well pump. Leaving the pond continue into a meadow backing onto the school playing fields where campion and other wild flowers bloom throughout the summer. Then take a path which wends its way through a delightful wooded area where bluebells can be seen in spring. The bulbs were planted by the young children of Witchford. This path was made with much hard work by our Open Spaces Group and officially opened by James Paice MP on 16th November 2005 and given the name Sparrowhawk Way as sparrowhawks were seen nesting in nearby trees beside the narrow footbridge.
Notice the bird and bat boxes strategically placed through the wood by the scouts. On reaching Cathedral View Park bear left along the safeway beside the by-pass for a short distance, turn left onto Long Drove, passing beside a copse on the left planted by the late Mr Pamby. During the spring the ditch on the left teems with tadpoles. From Long Drove you go along Manor Road and past the village college. Manor Road marks the eastern boundary of Belhams End Field, another of the four open fields (first mentioned in Witchford Walk #1). Follow Manor Road into Common Road and back onto Main Street at The Village Inn. A public house already existed on the site of The Village Inn in 1839.