Walks index

River Cam - from Silver Street Bridge to Paradise

This river walk visits various green areas to the south-west of Cambridge.

Things worth looking at are marked in red. Click on them, or on the links, for descriptions and pictures.

Laundress Green Sheeps Green Lammas Land and Paradise Coe Fen
Silver Street Bridge
Laundress Lane
Laundress Green
Sheeps Green
Old mill
Crusoe bridge
Fen Causeway
Lammas Land
Paradise nature reserve
Footbridge to Coe Fen
Coe Fen
Botanic Garden
Peterhouse watergate
Silver Street Bridge Laundress Lane Weir Laundress Green Rollers Sheeps Green Sheeps Green Sheeps Green Old mill Crusoe bridge Fen Causeway Lammas Land Paradise nature reserve Footbridge to Coe Fen Coe Fen Coe Fen Botanic Gardens Peterhouse watergate

Map of River Cam from Silver Street Bridge to Paradise

This is a fairly linear walk, but see things in any order you want. There is a scale at the side 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.

This walk starts at Silver Street. You can combine it with the previous river walk if you wish.

Silver Street Bridge

Laundress Lane notice

From Silver Street bridge, walk towards the Anchor pub. Next to the pub, turn down a little lane called Laundress Lane, which will take you down to the river edge. At the end of the lane you can see a notice firmly restricting types of traffic!

You are now at the weir. This is an important part of the river, as it separates the central part from the upper river. This part of the river is often crowded with people waiting for punts, or meeting each other.

By the weir

The weir

There are punts galore here. You will see that they are in two groups, either side of the weir, those who will travel along the Backs, and those who will head for Grantchester. Cross over the weir.

There used to be a mill here (note the Mill pub), and the weir was the mill-race to drive a water wheel. There are two millstones set into the paving, either side of the weir.

Mill stone Mill stone

Remember that you've just come down Laundress Lane? Over the weir is a small patch of green called Laundress Green with grass and trees. You get a good view of it from Silver Street bridge but you are now in it. The laundresses for the colleges used to do their washing on this green.

Laundress Green

House seen from Laundress Green

If you walk across Laundress Green, you will see an interesting old house across the river. It's now part of Darwin College. There is an old stone window, and a watergate, or door leading straight into the river. It used to be owned by a river trader.

Return back to the weir, and walk along the river. This starts to get confusing, as the river split into two before the weir. You are now walking along the river where most of the punts are. There is rather an ugly sluice gate to your right, When you cross over this, you are leaving Laundress Green. But you are still on an island, since the river to your right (which you can't see from here) and the river to your left (which you can) will eventually meet again. This larger island is called Sheeps Green, since sheep used to graze here.


The rollers (for punts)

Just beyond the sluice gates, you will see the rollers. Punts from the Backs can't go past the weir. If they go the other side of Laundress Green, they can't get through. But if they go along the bit of river between Laundress Green and Sheep Green, they find these rollers. It's possible to drag a punt up them and get it onto the upper river. You must not do this with a hired punt. Hire one of the upper river punts instead, above the weir.

They used to graze sheep on Sheep's Green. Now sometimes they graze cows instead, so look out for cowpats! If you look carefully, you can see differences in level and dry channels running through the grass.

Sheeps Green

Bridges across dry channels

Take the path which crosses Sheep's Green to your right. There are bridges across the apparently dry channels. There are sometimes reeds growing in them, so they may be damp in winter. These channels date back to the times when there were mills on this site, grinding corn for Cambridge.

The building of one of these mills still exists, although it is now a restaurant. You can see the mill race coming out under the building.

Old mill

Old mill

This is the mill race going under the building, round the back of the mill.

Walk back to the main river. You may find that you need to keep to the paths, as there are drainage ditches around that do contain water. On the main river, there is a footbridge.

Crusoe bridge

Crusoe bridge

This bridge crosses a very thin island called Crusoe Island, and then continues on to the other side on the river. But don't cross this bridge (unless you want to take a photo of it). Stay on this side of the river.

Ahead is one of the main roads of Cambridge, Fen Causeway. A causeway is a raised road through a fen. Another causeway in Cambridge is Maids Causeway. Walk under Fen Causeway through the underpass.

Fen Causeway underpass

Crusoe bridge

If you look back, you can see Fen Causeway Bridge, opened in 1926. You are still on Sheeps Green, and still on an island, with the main river on your left, and a narrower channel on your right. As you carry on walking, you will head away from the river, and then find an area of neater looking green.

Cross the bridge to Lammas Land. This is a town park, with a small open air pool for children, a playground, toilets and refreshments.

Bridge to Lammas Land

Lammas Land

Lammas was August 1st, observed as a harvest festival in the early English church. Loaves of bread were consecrated, made from the first ripe corn. Areas of green were designated Lammas lands in law, that is they were common lands for 9 months of the year, but for the sole use of their owners for the remainder (Lammas Day being the day they changed ownership).

There is a carpark next to Lammas Land. Cross the carpark and you will see the entrance to the Paradise nature reserve.

Entrance to Paradise nature reserve

Entrance to Paradise nature reserve

This is one of the nature reserves of Cambridge. Click here for more information.

From Paradise nature reserve, you can see the end of the island that is Sheep's Green (see below). Now, turn round, walk back through the carpark again, and across the little bridge back to Sheeps Green.

End of Sheeps Green

Footbridge to Coe Fen

Continue on and cross the main river by the footbridge to Coe Fen.

The name of Coe Fen may come from 'Cow Fen', so sheep were grazed one side of the river and cows the other. Coe Fen is more open than Sheep Green. (There is another suggestion that it is a corruption of coo - middle English for Jackdaw.) There is a ditch running right along the length of Coe Fen, with only a couple of bridges across, so stick to the paths. Walk over this little bridge.

Coe Fen ditch with bridge over it

Path to the Botanic Gardens

You could turn left along Coe Fen, but if you want, there is a diversion first. Carry on walking forward along a pleasant path.

Eventually you will come out onto a patch of grass running alongside Trumpington Road. This is called New Bit Common.

Path to Botanic Garden

Original entrance to the Botanic Garden

If you cross this grass, you will see on the other side of the road the original entrance to the Botanic Garden. Unfortunately, this is no longer in use. Click here for information on the Botanic Gardens, including its entrances.

Retrace your footsteps back to Coe Fen, and turn right to walk on the path by the side of Coe Fen. As Coe Fen is more open, you get more of a feeling that you are in a piece of countryside in the middle of the city, as buildings appear in front of you. Carry on over Fen Causeway.

Coe Fen

Peterhouse watergate

In the final part of Coe Fen, there is a wall by the side of the common, and in it, there is an old gate. This is a watergate of Peterhouse.

Cows on Coe Fen

I am glad to say that cows are still being grazed on Coe Fen! But we didn't see any jackdaws.

The end of this path is by a hotel. Carry on walking and you will get back to the weir near the start of the walk, or you can turn right down Little St Mary's Lane, an attractive route back to the city centre.