Norfolk & Cambs: The Fen Rivers Way

Date walked: 24/08/2021

Time taken: 3 days

Distance: 56km

Ascent: 40m

The Fen Rivers Way
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Fen Rivers Waymark


The Fen Rivers Way is a long distance footpath that spans a distance of 48 miles (77 kms). The path runs between the City of Cambridge and the town of King's Lynn in West Norfolk following the River Cam and River Great Ouse across the fenland landscape into the Wash. It mainly follows the raised and exposed western banks of these rivers, which can feel very exposed in windy conditions. There is an eastern alternative available between Cambridge and Ely. From Ely to Kings Lynn it is coincident with the much longer Ouse Valley Way.

This is yet another long distance path that I shall be walking in sections, using public transport wherever possible to arrive at starting points and depart from finishing points. The Cambridge to King's Lynn railway follows the river all the way up to Kings Lynn, so it is easy to walk short stretches and catch the train back to the starting point.

As I complete each section, I'll upload what I've done to date and then update the report as I complete the remaining sections. Currently only the Ely to King's Lynn section has actually been walked. I had expected to complete the entire route early in 2020, however Covid-19 put paid to that. 2021 perhaps?

I am walking the route from south to north and have described the sections that I have completed in that direction and in that order. Section 1 has yet to be fully completed. As soon as it is I shall add it to the report, however as there are currently some problems regarding access to the path near Ely it may be more useful to people walking the route if I publish the report on the forum now.

Section 1: Cambridge to Ely

Section yet to be completed

Section 2: Ely to Littleport

This is by far the shortest section, however it does allow plenty of time to explore Ely and its superb cathedral. With this in mind, given that I'm completing the walk in sections, I actually walked this section from south to north so that I could have lunch and plenty of time to spend exploring Ely after I'd completed the walk. I was also informed that the views of Ely were better approaching from this direction. They're not. The views, and the prevailing light, are better approaching from the south. There is an additional problem at present if walking north to south. The footbridge at TL 562 804 is currently closed.
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Closed bridge

The alternatives are to continue alongside the road (Queen Adelaide Way) for a couple of rather unpleasant two kilometres and cross the river by means of the A142, or walk back to where the B1382 crosses the river and enter Ely from that direction. Either way you miss one of the nicest sections of the walk unless you pick up the Fen Rivers Way from near the station, follow it to Cuckoo Bridge and then go into the city centre and view the cathedral (or not, entry to go inside is currently £8) and then pick up the Fen Rivers Way near the A142. This makes the section rather longer (although it's otherwise very short anyway.) I think the walk around this lovely city amply rewards the extra effort.
The description and photographs are organised as if walked from south to north to maintain continuity with the rest of the report. Route finding, once Ely has been left behind, is very straightforward (literally!) at times boringly so, but on a nice day with the sun at your back pleasant enough and easy.

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River Great Ouse near Ely Station

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Ely Cathedral

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Ely Cathedral

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Ely Cathedral

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Ely Cathedral

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Retrospective of route looking south near Littleport.

The "Swan on the River" Inn near here is again open, does breakfasts from 07.00 am during the week, (08.00 at weekends), if travelling southwards, or could be a good option for lunch before reaching Littleport when travelling north.

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The quay near Littleport station

The Official Route (Note bridge closure as detailed above):

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Length: 6.30 miles / 10.1 km Ascent: +9m / -30m Naismith: 2h 3m

Suggested alternative route (Including Ely and Cathedral):

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Length: 9.33 miles 15.0 km Ascent: +52m -54m Naismith: 3h 5m

My walk.including the detour and walk around Ely Cathedral and the city, was about 16 Kms/10.5 miles (which is what I've included in my totals for the walk). +40m. It was completed on 24th August 2021.

Section 3: Littleport to Downham Market

This section also coincides with the Ouse Valley Way throughout its entire length and, from Brandon Creek to Kings Lynn, with the Iceni Way.

Littleport and Downham Market both have railways stations on the same line. Indeed, those who are very fit could consider walking between Littleport and Kings Lynn and catching the train back, (it being less than 40 kms / 25 miles, as there would be no need to go into the town of Downham Market.)

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Town sign, Littleport

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The Ouse, near Littleport

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The Ship Inn Brandon Creek (currently closed)

Nearing Downham Market

There have previously been a good number of public houses along this stretch, however none had re-opened between the "lockdowns" and, sadly, some of them may never reopen again. "The Whalebone" in Downham Market was open however, and we were pleased to make use of it.

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Length: 12.4 miles 19.9 km Ascent: +22m -25m Naismith: 4h 1m

This section was completed on 2020.08.24

Section 4: Downham Market to Kings Lynn

This section also coincides with the Ouse Valley Way throughout its entire length.
At Kings Lynn there is a ferry link with the Peter Scott Walk (10 miles/16 kms) along the western edge of the Great River Ouse to the Wash and along the sea wall to the outfall of the River Nene.
Kings Lynn and Downham Market both have railways stations on the Fen Line and direct services from Ely and Kings Cross. If doing this section as a single walk, it is worth considering starting at Downham Market, which is easier to both access, and to find parking at, than at Kings Lynn (just 14 minutes away on the train).
If walking all the way to Ely, starting at Kings Lynn does eventually give excellent views of Ely Cathedral. You will be walking into the sun most of the way, I prefer it at my back.
This area does flood occasionally, (flood warnings were in place when we did the walk) and tides at this time of year can be in excess of 4 meters. If in doubt check tide times. Flood warnings are listed at:

As might be expected, this section is flat and not particularly varied, but it is good, easy walking.
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The Great Ouse near Downham Market

The best place for refreshment around halfway on this stretch is to be found at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, where The Cock is very welcoming and the local fish and chip shop worth seeking out. (Be advised the portions are generous).
The medieval church is excellent and well worth a visit. My photo scarcely does it justice.
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The Church of St Mary Magdalen

See: http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/magdalen/magdalen.htm
Other churches are passed, but this is the best.

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Ruined church at Wiggenhall Saint Germans

Saint Germans also has a pub, The Crown and Anchor, but it was closed at the time we reached it in mid-afternoon.

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Approaching Kings Lynn

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Custom House and Dock at Kings Lynn

Length: 12.6 miles 20.2 km Ascent: +26m -25m Naismith: 4h 5m

From train station to train station the walk is nearer to 14 miles in distance. I completed this section on 02.10.2019

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Comments: 2

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Donalds: White Coomb
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Attachment(s) Hewitts: Moel Penamnen
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jonathan - norfolk

Activity: Mountain Walker
Mountain: Kilimanjaro
Member: MTA; LDWA; Norfolk Wildlife Trust; RSPB; National Trust
Ideal day out: Epic ridge walk

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Corbetts: 13
Grahams: 10
Donalds: 16
Wainwrights: 204
Hewitts: 239
Islands: 3

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Ascent: 12856m
Munros: 3
Corbetts: 3
Grahams: 1
Donalds: 5
Hewitts: 10
Wainwrights 18


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Munros: 8
Corbetts: 4
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Ascent: 10327m
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