Needingworth Nature Reserve to Bluntisham

It's hard to beat this walk for the variety of insect-filled leafy lanes and great riverside views. Throw in a hidden picnic site with observation seats over a peaceful lake and it's a winner.

Here's a chance to wander through the Ouse Fen, an attractive RSPB Nature Reserve nominated for the BBC's Countryfile Magazine 2013 'Britain's best nature reserve'. There's a high count of insect life, especially dragonflies and butterflies, plus wild grasses and flowers. Walk past the home of author Dorothy L Sayers and the doorway of Oliver Cromwell's home.

Note : The Prince of Wales has a lovely pub garden at the half way point, but when I last walked past there was no sign of life and it may be temporarily closed. If you intend to take a break there, do call them first on 01487 843630.

Good points of this 8 miles (17,600 steps) walk are easy walking of great variety along an award winning wetland RSPB nature reserve, field edges and riverside. Quiet places to sit and rest, with a great picnic spot. Plenty of wildlife, grasses and wildflowers. In winter some parts of the walk can be muddy.
Starting point
Park in the reserve car park. The main part of the walk goes through land prepared by the Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project, converting sand and gravel quarries into a vast wetland nature reserve. This walk follows some of the reserve's paths. If you'd like to revisit and walk around the reserve itself, there are walking maps available as you leave the car park or you can download one by clicking here.

Walk away from the car park along the path between two fields. In summer the field edges are filled with a variety of wild grasses. After 200 yards the route turns right and is lined by trees.

On the right is a bank full of wild flowers. When thistles are in flower, masses of bees and butterflies feed on their nectar. Through the trees to the left you'll see the first of the reed beds created by the Wetland Project.

Point 1
After about 400 yards there are two paths off to the left near a bench on your right. Ignore these and continue straight on for just over 300 yards.

Follow the path around to the left as it runs parallel to Overcote Lane. Continue along this route for about half a mile, until the path leads on to Overcote Lane itself.

Point 2
A further 100 yards along the lane and you'll see the grounds of The Pike and Eel and its marina. The inn dates from 1608, but modern additions have spoilt the appearance. If you're ready for early refreshments they have very attractive gardens to recline in overlooking the river Great Ouse, and a decent menu.

To continue the route, take the footpath to the left before you enter the grounds of the Pike and Eel. After about 200 yards you'll find yourself walking parallel to the river along the top of a bank that forms the flood defences, as shown below. There's a bench perfectly positioned to sit for a few minutes and admire the river view and abundant birdlife. A few yards further on you cross the Prime Meridian, marked by a stone slab.

Point 3
A mile further on you'll come to Brownshill Staunch. The original staunch, built almost 200 years ago, was constructed to maintain river levels and boats had to manoeuvre over it. It is now more of a lock and marks the normal tidal limit on the Great Ouse. Seals occasionally travel up the river from The Wash.

Continue walking along the bank. You may find cattle grazing on top of the bank, or congregating around the stile you'll arrive at after a further 500 yards. They'll normally move away at their own pace or can be skirted around.

After the stile there's a small wooded area for about 100 yards. At the end of this take the left hand fork to keep the hedge and lake to your left. You're now heading away from the river towards Bluntisham.

A further 400 yards and you'll pass over the quaintly named Wadsby's Folly, a small brook running between the fields. On a sunny day in summer the wild area to the left may be filled with strings of mating butterflies on the wing. Continue walking up towards Bluntisham.

Point 4
After turning right around the field top, the route heads left along the side of a huge back garden, the first Bluntisham property you meet. Squeeze by the side of a farm gate and on to Bluntisham High Street. Turn right and walk a couple of hundred yards, the High Street becoming Rectory Road.

Bluntisham is an ancient village. Neolithic and Roman artefacts have been found in the area, and there's firm evidence of settlement from 900AD onwards.

Point 5
You'll arrive at The Prince of Wales. Closed on Mondays, on other weekday lunchtimes the pub is very quiet and well worth a visit to sit in the peaceful garden at the back. There's a good choice of food and drinks and it gets a good rating on Trip Advisor.

To continue the walk, retrace your steps back along Rectory Road, passing a rather elegant house set back in its own grounds on the right. Formerly the rectory, Bluntisham House was build in 1720 and was the home of author Dorothy L Sayers. The splendid front doorway was taken from Old Slepe Hall in St Ives, where Oliver Cromwell lived.

Continue back along the route, retracing your steps along the field edges.

Point 6
When you again reach the small wooded area and stile, rather than continue along the top of the flood bank, take the footpath off to the right. After a further 200 yards take the path to the left. This skirts around a high bank protecting from view the current gravel extraction.

Point 7
After half a mile take the path off to the left. Thus runs for 500 yards, with lakes to the right, before turning right.

It's well worth slowing down along this part of the walk, shown above. In summer the area is full of wild flowers and grasses, with masses of butterflies and huge dragonflies buzzing around. Loads of blackberries to pick. The lakes also contain a wide selection of birds, particularly in winter.

Point 8
After 400 yards there are picnic tables off to the right amongst the trees, with observation seats giving a good view of one of the lakes.

To return to the starting point continue on past the picnic area. After a further 400 yards you'll come to the junction mentioned at point 1 above. Turn right and follow the path back to the reserve car park.

Click the 'Print Friendly' button below to print out this walk to take with you. Or for more walks click the 'Return Home' button at the foot of this page. Did you enjoy the walk? Notice anything unusual? Why not add a comment below to tell fellow amblers what you liked about it?


  1. Walked around part of the route on Monday 16 April 2014 and saw the following birds...

    Jays, long tailed tits, a yellowhammer, lapwings, terns, grebes, tufted ducks and golden eyed ducks.

  2. I walked part of this route yesterday and thought I should tell you that your route is misleading. The second para of the directions for waypoint 4 tells you to walk 600m along the back of the gardens (actually on the old railway bed) and turn left at the end. But here your route is blocked by a gate well hung with 'private no RoW please keep out' signs. You cannot legally get back to Rectory Rd without walking all the way back.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Barry. When I did the route last, I completed the section along the back of the houses and over a farm gate. But it was difficult, and given your new information I've changed the route and description to take walkers along the High Street & Rectory Road. Regards, John


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