Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Linking Cottenham to Cambridge Research Park

East out of Cottenham is Landbeach Road.  It is a useful route, linking to Landbeach and Waterbeach where there are many shops, a train station connecting to Cambridge and London. From Landbeach is a cyclepath heading towards Milton, then into Cambridge. From Waterbeach is Wicken Fen, plus the River Cam, a popular riverside and traffic free cycle route into Cambridge.  There are plenty of reasons to want to link Cottenham and Landbeach and parish councils on both ends are keen to see a cycle path built.

There is no significant money on the table to achieve a cyclepath so I wondered if an offroad route was viable.  In September 2013 I met with David Jenkins and Council Officers to see what might be possible.

The first idea I proposed was linking existing tracks in the fields south of Landbeach Road.  This route was difficult to achieve, needing at least a bridge, and negotiation with a large number of landowners.

My second idea links Long Drove to Cambridge Research Park.  It's certainly not direct or ideal but might provide a recreational route, and summer commute route to the research park.  This is currently inaccessible by bike unless you are prepared to cycle on the A10 trunk road. Some Cottenham residents work there. Plus it has a small nature reserve.

The pictures below show the current state of the route.

Gravel Pit Drove links Long Drove (white road) to the south side of Cambridge Research Park lakes. Link to OSM.

Gravel Pit Drove (highlighted)

The first section of Gravel Pit Drove from Long Drove is a reasonably surfaced track.  This gets you half way to the lake entrance. This is facing south-east.

Gravel Pit Drove as seen from Long Drove. Facing SE.

The next picture looks back from the end of the track north-west facing back towards Long Drove.

Gravel Pit Drove looking SW towards Long Drove.
From the same location but looking east, you can see that there is a field, separated by two different crops.  The track used to continue along here.

Gravel Pit Drove currently ends here. Facing SE.

In the previous picture there are trees in the distance.  This is the start of the nature reserve with water.  The next picture shows from the tree line, facing south-east.

Alongside the nature reserve (ex gravel pit). Facing SE.

Following the edge of the nature reserve joins you to an existing bridleway.  Turning left (now facing north-east), there is gate, with a track on the other side leading to the nature reserve entrance and research park.

Bridleway from Beach Ditch to Cambridge Research Park. NE.

Beyond the gate is an interesting surface which is used on many tracks in the local area.  It has a concrete base (or very hard packed gravel) which rolls very fast and remains mud free during winter. It blends in well with its rural surroundings.

Hidden concrete surface.

The following picure is a screen shot from Where's The Path.  It is showing OpenStreetMap on the left, centred on Gravel Pit Drove, with an old out of copyright Ordnance Survey 1:25k map (~1950?). It shows that the track used to be much longer, at least to where the gravel pit was (now a water filled nature reserve).

Comparing OSM to old OS 1:25k

My proposal is to effectively reinstate Gravel Pit Drove to its former length, joining Long Drove to the bridleway at Beach Ditch. From the end of currently tracked Gravel Pit Drove to the bridleway is ~400 metres. The total length is ~700m and would be better if the whole length was improved but not entirely necessary. A concrete base as pictured above would be ideal for recreational purposes and some summer commutes.


  1. Many many years ago, when I still lived in Cambridge and was on the Camcycle committe, I went to a council meeting about moving the P&R in the North East of Cambridge to its current position adjacent to Butt Lane.

    The one thing that I hoped to get from this meeting was to get Mere Way upgraded. This leads from the back of Cambridge Regional College to Butt Lane (there's already a gap under the A14) and then onwards to Akeman Street and into Landbeach. A link to Cottenham would require a cycle-path alongside Cottenham Road from Landbeach. Of course it also nearly links to Cambridge Research Park.

    I thought that providing the simple link from the P&R to the College and Science Park should have been provided as part of the P&R rebuild because it was so obviously useful for people parking at the P&R carpark. However, various councillors had other ideas. One of them (name long forgotten) stood up, fuming, to make a little rant about how "Cyclists undermine the bus service". From this point onwards it was obvious that nothing good would be achieved for cycling at this meeting.

    Links like the one you propose are essential. It's the only way that people will be encouraged to ride. Small links like these should be easy to achieve, and it's a shame that this isn't the case due in large part to the personalities of those who oppose them.

  2. I'm a very occasional visitor to Cottenham parish council meetings, and have talked to other councillors at local events and can honestly say there is a really positive attitude towards cycling at a local level. Of course, parish councils have very little money to play, hence why I'm angling for an extremely cheap solution. Even just permission to travel over this land and flatten a smooth trail surface in the first instance.

    County level funding is where the money and politics is. But that's a whole other thread.

  3. Sounds like a useful link! An alternative route I sometimes used from Landbeach to Cottenham is on the southern side of Beach Rd. There is a path which starts at Cockfen Rd in Landbeach and goes straight towards Cottenham for a couple of miles and it is reasonably useable. There is then a short bit which is very overgrown/ edge of a field type path and then another reasonably good stretch and you come out on Hay Lane (in that sharp corner with the car parking bit on Beach Rd).

    I've never really explored it much but from Google Satellite it looks like it should be possible to link the Cockfen Rd path with the one coming off the B1049 to make a fairly straight connection, but yes you'll probably need a few footbridges to cross one or two ditches.

    Email Patrick at CCC cycling team - they might have the odd bits of money for minor schemes like this.

    Michael G. from Ely Cycling Campaign

    1. Yes, we discussed that very route but the council officers thought it would be too difficult to get permission from so many different landowners.

      The track at Cockfen Lane now has a very tall gate preventing access through Rectory Farm. There is a permissive footpath around this but its not so convenient.

      I spent some time updating OpenStreetMap in that area.

  4. Ah I see that's the bit you mentioned. A connection to the A10 definitively makes sense though esp in the long term I'm pretty sure they'll have to build a proper cycle path along the A10 at least from Waterbeach and the new development to Cambridge. So keep pestering the various councils and you might get lucky!

    Email us if you want some help with the campaigning - I still cycle through Cottenham 2-3x per week so I'd be happy to help!


  5. Hi , I have just seen this blog as I was looking to contact Julie Hubert about gritting . i too was a fairly well built indvidual until I took up cycling and running I'm a cottenham resident all my life. I work for spicers and 2 years ago we relocated to the research park. Currently I cycle the beach road everyday and turn left at junction then I go off road just before the chicane bridge thingy and take some bridal paths to back of site , currently though these are very water logged so I chance it going to work on the a10 if weather is good , but always come back the off road way. Now that landbeach to Milton has a cycle path why can't we ? The main issue I have with the beach road is in the winter it freezes and because it has a steep camber you just slide off it, hence trying to ask about gritting. I have to admit traffic although fast has always given me a good bearth. Would be interested in talking further though.

  6. Re the gritting

    Since the crashes on the Landbeach-Cottenham Road, Waterbeach Councillor James Hockney has said on Twitter that he was going to ask the County Council to add it to the higher priority gritting routes - it's a school bus route after all. See that tweet here

    It's worth keeping an eye out for our County Councillors report for more info - that's David Jenkins via the Libdems. See twitter or their website

    Re your route to work. Thanks for the info, I'll share with the local councillors. Getting any new route is a long a slow process so don't get your hopes up. But, both Parishes want a cyclepath between Cottenham and Landbeach, so the will is there but it takes money £££ and much patience.

  7. Thanks for your reply to my previous post ,(sorry took me so long to get back),
    I really hope we get a path between the two villages, they are building a load
    of offices and a couple of hotels on the cambridge research pack here in waterbeach so rumor has it they will be putting in a cycle path to continue the a10 one from where it stops past waterbeach , as currently the back fields are almost inpassable in the wet , so i must cycle the 200 yards down the A10 which i would rather not do to be honest.

    thanks for the information

  8. As a regular cyclist from Cottenham to Cambridge I can see why this link would be a good idea for people heading to/from Landbeach and beyond. But please don't forget the horse riders who are very poorly catered for. The circular bridleway must have been created at some cost and appears to be well maintained but only a handful of riders have access to it. In Cottenham lottery funding was offered for a new bridleway which was embraced by Rampton Parish Council but incredibly Cottenham Parish Council managed to put a spanner in the works and what was probably a one off opportunity to receive the funding was lost. If any proposal could include horse access from Long Drove to the bridleway it would receive huge support from the horse riders of Cottenham and help to keep the horses of the roads (which would probably be popular with all other road users).

  9. You are forgetting that Gravel Pit drove is private land, it was purchased in the early 1950's and remains in the same farming family today. It's all well and good to say wouldn't it be lovely to pop a path as the crow flies but I dare say its rather naive to cycle down a private access road, which you had no permission to do and think ohh a cycle path would be lovely here.

  10. I was just looking to see if I could cycle to the Cambridge Research Park from Cottenham and found this blog. I would agree that making Gravel Pit Drove continue to the Research Park for walking and cycling access would be great. Not sure I understand the comment that Gravel Pit Drove is private, but perhaps if it is some agreement can be sought to gain public access. Shame that no progress on this in the last 5 years.

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