Walks index

River Cam walk - from Elizabeth Way to Stourbridge Common

This is the northern section of the River Cam through Cambridge. Things worth looking at are marked in red. Click on them, or on the links, for descriptions and pictures.

Start and end points Barnwell Priory Along the river Stourbridge Common North of river

Elizabeth Way Bridge
Abbey church
Wall with stones from Priory
Cellarer's Chequer
Equiano bridge
Museum of Technology
Stourbridge Common
Green Dragon bridge
Old ferry slipway
Green Dragon (pub)
Chesterton Tower
Chesterton Hall
St Andrew's, Chesterton
Logan's Meadow
Underpass Elizabeth Way Bridge Abbey church Wall with stones from Priory Cellarer's Chequer Riverside Riverside bridge Museum of Technology Stourbridge Common Green Dragon bridge Green Dragon bridge ferry slipway The Green Dragon (pub) Chesterton Tower Chesterton Hall St Andrew's, Chesterton Logan's Meadow Entrance to Logan's Meadow Swift tower

Map of River Cam from Elizabeth Way to Stourbridge Common

This is not intended to be a linear walk, with a start and an end. I will describe the places in order, but feel free to see them in any order you want. There is a scale at the top of the map. 100 metres is similar to 100 yards and 400 metres is about a quarter of a mile, so you can see that all of this is quite close together.

Click on the photos for a bigger version.

Underpass painting in the Elizabeth Way roundabout

Let's start at a point easy to find. Four important Cambridge roads, Newmarket Road, Elizabeth Way, East Road and Maid's Causeway, meet at the Elizabeth Way roundabout (with added traffic lights). This is a terrifying junction, and the sensible way to cross it on foot is through the underpasses. You enter these either by stairs or a ramp, and descend underground, only to find yourself in an open area, well below the level of the road and cars. There are four tunnel exits (including one you've just come through) and they are not sign-posted. However, each tunnel is painted with a scene. These give you a clue as to where the tunnel leads.

We are heading for Stourbridge Common, so walk through the Stourbridge Fair tunnel. These shows scenes from this large medieval fair. Click here for more information about Stourbridge Fair.

If you want, you can walk a short distance along Newmarket Road to see Abbey Church (formerly known as St Andrews the Less). You won't be able to see inside as it is kept locked, door and gate. The parish of St Andrews the Less has been taken over by Christchurch close by, and this church is used by a Polish congregation. Click here for a little more on the church, and other Cambridge churches.

This church is one of the few remaining buildings Barnwell Priory, an important medieval abbey. Click here for more information on Barnwell Priory.

Abbey church

Walk back to the roundabout, and then down Abbey Road, to see a little more of the Priory. Henry VIII started the Dissolution of the Monasteries from 1536. The buildings of Barnwell Priory were not reused, which happened to other abbeys. By 1578 the place had become a quarry. The garden wall in Abbey Road still has worked stone obviously taken from the Priory. This is the wall of an attractive building called Abbey House. Click here for more information on Abbey House. The last photo shows a bit of the wall of the Abbey in the garden of Abbey House, which can (just) be seen from Beche Road.

Stones from Barnwell Priory Abbey House Abbey House
Cellarer's Checker

Walk down Abbey Road and turn right down Beche Road.

There is one more building still standing which belonged to Barnwell Priory. It stands at the corner of Beche Road and Priory Road, and is called Cellarer's Checker. This was the office where the cellarer checked his stores and accounts. Nowadays it is kept locked but you can admire it from the outside. Click here for more information on the Cellarer's Checker, and click here for more photos.

Barnwell Priory dates to before the foundation of Cambridge University in 1209, and royalty used to stay there when visiting Cambridge. King John made a charter in 1211 granting to Barnwell Priory the right to hold of an annual fair in the area of the Common. This is not Stourbridge Fair, held on Stourbridge Common. It was Barnwell Fair, or Midsummer Fair, held on Midsummer Common, and it is still held every year, at midsummer, of course!

You can now walk down Priory Road to the River Cam.

This part of the river is called Riverside. It is possible to walk on this side of the river from the centre of Cambridge right out to Fen Ditton, a village outside the city. The nature of the path along the river changes, which makes it an attractive walk, and it is impossible to get lost. This part of the river has housing along one side, but the other bank is green, with trees, grass and water birds.

River Cam - Logan's Meadow opposite Riverside

River Cam - Riverside

Turn right with your back to the city centre, and facing a tall chimney. This belongs to the Museum of Technology. You must remember that this is a road. It does get a few cars, and there are a lot of bicycles, which sometimes go very fast. So keep an eye out. There is traffic on the river as well, which is more enjoyable to watch. Canal boats are moored along the bank, and there may be boats from the college or town boat clubs. They don't race here, but the boat houses are upstream and the racing and practice areas are downstream, so they pass through.

Below is the newest bridge across the river, opened in 2008. It was renamed the Equiano bridge in 2022, after Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), who was an active leader in the anti-slave trade movement. It is a cycle bridge, plus pedestrians can use it as well, of course. The bridge splits into two, with the red path taking bicycles, and the black path pedestrians. It joins Riverside, outside the Museum of Technology, to Chesterton on the other side of the river. If you want, you can cross the river here to see what's there on the north bank (see below), but this description will carry on along the south bank for a while.

Riverside bridge Swans under Riverside bridge

I can't promise that you will see a swan family under the bridge (see right)! The photo shows you how the urban and the countryside mix comfortably.

Museum of Technology

The Museum of Technology is right by Riverside bridge. I am afraid that this is another building which is likely to be shut. During the summer, it is open every Sunday, and the rest of the year, once a month. It has steam days on some Bank Holidays and school half terms, with other special events. The museum is full of old machines donated by local firms, stream engines, print machines, track from the Cambridge tramway, even old computers. It is a glorious jumble of rooms and tunnels and exciting places to explore, and during steam days there are several giant hissing and pumping machines to admire. Click here for more on the museum, with its website which will give opening times and events held there. However, even when not open, you can glimpse a couple of mysterious machines through the railings and stare up at the chimney.

These buildings used to be the sewage pumping station. In Victorian times, untreated sewage used to flow straight into the river and it stank! The steam pumping station was built to pump the drainage to the sewage farm at Milton. Further engines were added later to pump excess flood water and sewage into storm tanks. All this machinery forms the heart of the collection, but there is much more. If you found the museum shut, then visit their virtual tour online.

Carry on walking along the river, and finally you will come to Stourbridge Common, the original location of Stourbridge Fair. Cows graze on the common. They are safe, but don't stroke them as they are not pets, be careful of cows with calves, and do not allow your dog to chase them!

Stourbridge Common Cows on Stourbridge Common

Stourbridge Common is wilder than most of the Cambridge Commons. There are good footpaths but once you venture into the grass, you might meet thistles, or cow-pats. You can wander quite some way through the common, with an exit leading eventually to Newmarket Road, and a footpath to Fen Ditton. In fact, this is part of a long distance walk called the Fen Rivers Way, which goes from Cambridge to Kings Lynn. Click here and here for details. However, we have nearly reached the furthest point of this walk.

Here is the Green Dragon, or Chesterton, footbridge built in 1935. It connects Stourbridge Common to Ferry Path, Chesterton village. Like several Cambridge footbridges, this replaced a ferry called the Horse Grind ferry. 'Grind' meant that the ferry was pulled across by a chain wound usually by hand, but in this case, using a horse. The slipway that the ferry used is still there, on the other side of the river (see right).

Green Dragon or Chesterton footbridge Slipway by Green Dragon footbridge

The name of the bridge is easily explained, as it leads directly to the Green Dragon, a traditional pub which serves good beer and food. It is a historic building. You can sit outside by the river if you want.

Green Dragon pub Green Dragon pub

There are several ways to get north of the river. If you decide to explore all these places in one go, then you can cross the river at the Green Dragon bridge, walk west along Ferry Path, along Chesterton High Street and Pye Terrace to start by looking at Chesterton Tower. Or you can retrace your footsteps to the Riverside bridge, where you will pass St Andrew's church first. From the city centre, the easiest (if not most pleasant) is to cross the river using the Elizabeth Way bridge, and start with Logan's Meadow. These places are quite spaced out, so of course you can miss something out if you don't think it's worth the detour.

I am going to describe Chesterton Tower first. To see it, walk north along Church Street and look left. Ignore the locked gate called Chesterton Towers, this is a modern development. Further along there is a road leading to some garages. This is private land, but look along this road to see an old building called Chesterton Tower. This is Grade I listed. It dates back to the mid C14. According to St Andrews church website in 1217, Henry III presented an Italian Papal legate with the church and living of Chesterton. This house was built for the priest of the church.

Chesterton Tower

Carry on walking along Chapel Street to Chesterton High Street, turn left, then walk towards the Elizabeth Way / Chesterton Road roundabout. Chesterton Hall (listed Grade II) is early / mid C17. The roundabout is an unlovely location, but this is a lovely building. It was built by the Hobson family, and Thomas Hobson lived here. Click here for more information about Thomas Hobson.

Chesterton Hall (C17)

Walk back along Chesterton Road, then right along Church Street to St Andrew's. There are several churches called St Andrew's in Cambridge. St Andrew's the Greater is near the Lion Yard. Abbey church is St Andrew's the Less. This church is St Andrew's, Chesterton.

St Andrew's Church, Chesterton St Andrew's Church, Chesterton St Andrew's Church, Chesterton

In the churchyard, by the church entrance, there is a gravestone with a skeleton on it, holding an hour glass, and, I think, an arrow. This is a memento mori (reminder of death).

Outside the church, to the left of the entrance, there is a plaque to the daughter of Gustavus Vassa (see above). Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa was living in what is now Nigeria when he was captured from his village at the age of 11 and sold into slavery. He was taken to Virginia as a slave. He was eventually sold to a ship's captain and travelled widely. After 16 years as a slave he managed to save enough money to buy his freedom. He came to England and wrote a book about his experiences, called The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African, written by himself. It was published in 1789 and became a best-seller. It turned many people against slavery. The plaque says:

Near this Place lies Interred ANNA MARIA VASSA Daughter of GUSTAVUS VASSA, the African. She died July 21 1797 Aged 4 Years.

Should simple village rhymes attract thine eye,
Stranger, as thoughtfully thou passest by,
Know that there lies beside this humble stone
A child of colour haply not thine own.
Her father born of Afric's sun-burnt race,
Torn from his native field, ah foul disgrace:
Through various toils, at length to Britain came
Espoused, so Heaven ordain'd, an English dame,
And follow'd Christ; their hope two infants dear.
But one, a hapless orphan, slumbers here.
To bury her the village children came.
And dropp'd choice flowers, and lisp'd her early fame;
And some that lov'd her most, as if unblest,
Bedew'd with tears the white wreath on their breast;
But she is gone and dwells in that abode,
Where some of every clime shall joy in God.

Inside the church there is a well preserved medieval wall painting of the Last Judgement. These Doom Paintings were common in medieval churches, but they considered to be 'graven images' during the Reformation. This picture was painted over, which preserved it. While it is faded and incomplete, you can still make out saints and demons. On the left of the arch there is a picture of the new Jerusalem, with its towers and walls, and the souls of the righteous are rising to everlasting heaven. On the right of the arch a number of devils are pulling people from their graves (including kings, popes and monks) and dragging them off to punishment. There is even a picture of a devil wearing reading glasses and ticking off names on his list. Click here for more information and some more pictures.

St Andrew's Church, Chesterton St Andrew's Church, Chesterton St Andrew's Church, Chesterton

Carry on round the corner into St Andrew's Road. Turn left down Logan's Way to discover a nature reserve called Logan's Meadow. This nature reserve has paths round it, which lead around a couple of ponds, and also down to the river. There are mature willow trees. Also a lot of nettles! Click here for more information.

Logan's Meadow has been extended to include the more open area near Riverside bridge. This includes a "swift tower", which is both an artwork and a place for swifts to nest! Click here for more information.

Entrance to Logan's Meadow Logan's Meadow

Logan's Meadow sign Swift tower

Walk back along Logan's Way. Turn left along St Andrews Road. Finally cross the Elizabeth Way bridge to get you back to the starting point.

Elizabeth Way Bridge View from Elizabeth Way Bridge

The Elizabeth Way bridge is Cambridge's most recent road bridge and takes a lot of traffic. The bicyclists sensibly tend to stick to the pavement, so keep a look out! The bridge was built in 1971. I wouldn't chose the Elizabeth Way Bridge myself as a pleasant walk, but you do get a good view of the river from it (see right, above), and after all, it does get you back across the river, to the Elizabeth Way roundabout, your starting point.

If you want, you can continue with the next walk.

I have not marked this as part of the walk, but if you carry on past the Green Dragon, you will eventually to the railway bridge, and the footbridge for the Chisholm trail.

Chisholm Trail and railway bridges Chisholm Trail and railway bridges Chisholm Trail and railway bridges

In between the bridges, there is a WWII pill box.

WWII pill box