Earith lakes

Mesmerising. That's the only way to describe seeing a distant horizon along the straight-as-a-die Old Bedford River. This short walk starts along the artificial watercourse constructed in 1636 to relieve flooding of the Fens. There are leafy lanes, peaceful lakes and field edges full of insects.

There's a good chance of seeing unusual bird life. Ever seen bullaces or bryony? A good recreation ground makes it a great ending for children. Why not take a picnic?

Good points of this 3.5 miles (7,700 steps) walk are the mix of waterside, woodlands and fields, with a lovely meadow to picnic. Included is plenty of wildlife and a pleasant village. In winter parts of the walk can be muddy. The route is shown below on the Ordnance Survey map. You can also zoom in on a satellite view of the walk at Google Maps.

Starting point
Driving from St Ives, head through Earith. Just after you pass Bridge End Stores on your right, turn left into the road call Bridge End. Turn almost immediately right into a small car park.

Walk to the far end of the car park and you'll find the start of a footpath amongst the trees. Head up this and on to the path along the Old Bedford River. Finished in 1636, this artificial river was created to divert water from the Great Ouse, thus avoiding the flooding of the Fens east of Earith. You can also see the New Bedford River (also called the Hundred Foot Drain) a few hundred yards to the east, finished in 1650 to enable even more effective drainage.

The area between the two is the Ouse Washes, an internationally important Special Protection Area for wildfowl. In winter you may be lucky and see Bewick's swans or whooper swans, or many other rarely seen birds breeding in spring.

Head up along the Old Bedford River. On a clear day it seems to go on forever, straight as a die disappearing into the distance.

Point 1
There's a great temptation to continue walking towards the horizon. Maybe one day. But for this walk, after half a mile take the path to the left, which leads down towards an industrial area. Just over 100 yards turn right and walk up the road.

Another couple of hundred yards and you'll be clear of the factory buildings on the right and walking up a leafy lane as shown below. In summer there are butterflies, bees and dragonflies. Listen for rare turtle doves, their call sounds like a cat purring. Good luck spotting one! Look in the lower branches of bushes or trees. You'll hear cuckoos in spring, or a greater spotted woodpecker.

Point 2
On the right is a trout farm, with serious fishers camping out overnight to catch the biggest fish, only to throw them back. Continue up the lane, past ponds of flowering lilies. You'll pass Bridge Farm on your right.

Point 3
The route bends in an arc to the left. Continue walking past further lakes and between fields. Along the first field hedge keep an eye out for bullaces. Thought to be a cross between plum and sloe, their attraction in medieval times was that they were one of the last fruits to ripen before winter.

Follow the field edges around to the left and then right. You'll arrive at a farm track. Turn left and walk down to the road, called Home Fen Drove. Drovers' roads are ancient routes that were used to move livestock between summer and winter pasture or to market. Turn left and walk along Home Fen Drove.

Point 4
After 350 yards take the footpath on the right. This ancient track ambles through a pleasant meadow as shown above, perfect for a picnic. Further on horse paddocks border the route. In spring the fields are awash with flowering buttercups. As you pass through a small copse, admire the gnarled trunks of ancient willows. Walk down a short lane towards Earith, keep an eye out for bryony in the hedge on your right. Hardly noticed because of how its pale green flowers blend in, it is highly poisonous.

At the end of the lane you'll find yourself back in Earith. Head down Cook's Drove, crossing the recreation ground into Bridge End and back to your car.

If you fancy refreshments or lunch, The Crown is a short distance away. Not been there, but it gets a high rating on Trip Advisor.

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 like about it?


  1. NOTE : The section along the Old Bedford River described under 'Starting Point' is closed whilst the height of the flood bank is raised. This work may continue into 2021. Adjust the route by initially walking the reverse way, crossing the recreation ground and heading up Cook's Drove. At the top turn right and walk along Meadow Drove, following it around to the left as you reach the industrial estate. Continue then from 'Point 1' above.

    1. NOTE: THE FOOTPATH IS NOW REOPENED. Ignore the above comment.

  2. Matthew7:56 pm

    19/4/21 walked there today and it is open, appears to have been finished for some time, saw 2 swallows

    1. Thanks Matthew. The work finished last year but the footpath only opened a few weeks ago to allow the reconstructed bank to bed down. I've added a comment to the original mention to make it clear all is now open. Regards, John


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