Swavesey to Church End

Starting from the site of an ancient market and dock, this walk ambles through the pretty village of Swavesey. Pass by the site of a motte and bailey castle and along ancient drovers' roads. Wander through Mow Fen, full of insect and bird life.

Along riverbanks and leafy lanes, amble past old orchards and over the Guided Busway. Pause awhile in a wildlife garden once the village constable's allotment. Walk amongst dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies. Keep an eye out for an agile hobby.

Good points of this 5 miles (11,000 steps) walk are an easy circular walk of great variety through fields, an attractive village and along riverside. Includes options to shorten the walk, or extend halfway by a mile for refreshments, with food also available at the end. High count of wildflowers, insect and bird life, and historical interest. If the Great Ouse is in flood parts of the walk may be impassible. Cattle may graze on part of the route, but there's plenty of room to give them a wide berth. 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
Park in Market Street, Swavesey. The village is Anglo Saxon in origin, the main road through the village running along a ridge of clay towards two gravel banks slightly higher than the surrounding fens at the north of the village, where the original settlement was formed. A thousand years ago there were docks in the village, one right in the middle of Market Street with a waterway connecting it to the Great Ouse. For a detailed history of Swavesey click here.

Walk back to the High Street, turn left and walk up Black Horse Lane on the opposite side of the road, following the lane as it turns right until it reaches Taylor's Lane. After a left and then right turn you'll come to an intersection, Mill Way heading off to the left, Mow Fen Drove (not signposted) on the right.

Look over the graveyard and allotments on your left. The area just over 100 yards away is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the site of a motte and bailey castle built a thousand years ago. Features are still visible in the castle mound as well as ditches and embankments in the area. To read more about the castle and see its location, click here.

On the opposite side from the allotments there's a wildlife garden worth sitting in for a few minutes. Called Constable's Rood, from 1734 to 1937 this patch of ground was an allotment for use by the village constable. It fell into disuse and was rescued just over ten years ago by a band of volunteers.

Walk up Mow Fen Drove, full of dragonfliesdamselflies and butterflies in summer. You'll encounter several drovers' roads on this walk. Most are at least mediaeval in origin, used to move livestock between summer and winter pasture or to market in pre-refrigeration days. Some of the distances travelled were considerable, moving several hundred livestock from Scotland and Wales, feeding them on route in a trip taking several weeks.

Cross over the Guided Busway and follow the drove round to the left.

Point 1
After just over 250 yards climb over the stile to the right. Take a few minutes to sit on the bench overlooking the lake on your right to take in the scenery and bird life.

Walk up the footpath, keeping the lake on your right. After almost 200 yards cross over the footbridge to your left, and turn right. This area is a haven for wildlife. If you're lucky you may see a hobby catching dragonflies on the wing. The large lake to the left is Ferry Lagoon. After 300 yards cross over the flood gates to the right.

Point 2
Follow the footpath along the top of the flood bank. You can shorten the walk by taking the footpath off to the right after about 400 yards. Called River Drove, this route will take you back to Swavesey.

To continue the walk, keep on the flood bank path, passing through several stiles. To the left are peaceful views of the Great Ouse, with cabin cruisers floating by as shown above. To the right are fields with varieties of bird life.

You may encounter cattle on or near this and the next section of the route. There's plenty of room to skirt around them if they're in the way.

Point 3
A mile along the flood bank and you'll come to Webb's Hole Pumping Station, built over the Swavesey Drain to control flooding. Pass through the barriers and turn right to walk along the top of the flood bank heading away from the Great Ouse.

The view is across open fields, with the area to the right usually filled with a variety of bird life. After about half a mile the path reaches a wooded area. Turn left where the footpath forms a T junction and follow the route through the trees, turning right after just over 250 yards up into Lowburyholme Road.

Point 4
At the top you'll reach Station Road. Here you have the option to walk into Church End to have food and drink at The Admiral Vernon. To do this cross Station Road and turn left. After almost 300 yards take the path on the right for about 250 yards. Continue straight into The Lanes for another 100 yards, then turn left and walk up The Cramp. Just over 200 yards will bring you to the High Street. Turn left and The Admiral Vernon is 50 yards on your left. It's a typical village pub with a good rating on Trip Advisor. The pub is named after Admiral Vernon, an English naval officer. You can also pick up an ice cream from the newsagents opposite the pub.

To continue the route, from the end of Lowburyholme Road turn right and walk down Station Road towards Swavesey. After about 300 yards turn left up New Road.

Point 5
A further 500 yards and you'll see a footpath off to the right. You'll find yourself ambling down a pleasant track that skirts old orchards on the right as shown above.

After crossing over a footbridge and passing along a short track you're back at the Guided Busway. Cross over and continue down Lairstall Drove (not signposted), another drove road full of wild flowers and insects.

Point 6
At the bottom turn right into Cow Fen Road, which returns you to Market Street and your start point.

Food is available at The Nook, small and cosy. If the few seats are occupied, buy a takeout and sit in the peaceful grassy area at the far end of Market Square. Food is also at The White Horse Inn, on the corner of Market Street. Get's very good reviews on Trip Advisor. It's not open Monday lunchtimes.

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. Anonymous6:40 pm

    I like your blog and hope you post more walks. Cambridgeshire is not obviously walking country, and certainly not dramatic or obviously picturesque, with a bit of research there are plenty of interesting walks with a surprisingly wide variety of scenery.

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback, Richard, although I have to take issue with 'not obviously walking country and certainly not dramatic or obviously picturesque'. And yes, there will be more walks posted over the next few months. Regards, John

  2. Dear John - can you say how dog-friendly this walk is? There seem to be a lot of styles and my dog is a bit heavy to lift over! Thanks a lot - Chris

    1. Hi Chris... Although there are a number of stiles, I think they allow easy access for a dog. The most problematic one might be at Webbs Hole Pumping Station, but I think that's a push-open version. I've noted the link to the pumping station site wasn't working and I've corrected it, so have a look yourself. Please note there are usually some cattle along the route. Regards, John

    2. Thanks a lot, John! The next sunny day Teddy and I will give it a go (we did the Fenstanton to Fen Drayton circular walk along the river and back through the RSPB Lakes last week and really enjoyed it, thanks for the route!) - Chris

    3. Hope you both enjoy the route, Chris. Please come back and add a comment if you find any difficulties, to let other walkers know. Regards, John

    4. Hi John! Teddy and I did this walk today - bright and cold, perfect for walking! There are no problems for dogs as all the stiles have been replaced by wide-opening gates, which is excellent. Plus, no cows in the winter so an obedient dog can be trusted off the lead except for through the nature reserve by the lakes at the start. A lovely walk, thanks for the route! Chris

    5. Really appreciate the feedback on the walk, Chris, and the positive feedback. Glad you both enjoyed the walk.


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