An easy walk across an ancient meadow, along butterfly filled hedges and the peaceful River Ouse.
Since it only takes an hour, it’s the perfect walk for a sunny morning or afternoon, to be followed up with lunch or a coffee and cake at The Dolphin
Ideal for families.
Video of Hemingford Meadow, from The Dolphin, St Ives
Start the walk by parking in London Road, or in The Dolphin car park (free to use if you buy a meal or coffee).
There’s a footpath sign pointing at right angles to London Road. You access the meadow by walking under an arch which is part of The Dolphin’s accommodation block.
After passing through the stile gate there’s an information board giving some background to the meadow. Although you can walk more directly across the meadow, the best route in summer is to turn left and follow the path along the somewhat stagnant stream.
About half way along the southern edge of the meadow you may have noticed white posts occasionally along the edge of the meadow, with similar posts across the meadow towards The Ouse.
These posts mark the boundaries of meadow land for the owners, although animals freely graze across the meadow. Many owners lease their allocation of grazing to local farmers.
The meadow dates from before The Domesday Book of 1086. The original meadow bank you can see on the south side probably dates from the 13th century.
Each winter the meadow is enriched by silt from The Ouse as it floods across the whole area. Even in recent years, after a severe frost, the meadow becomes the biggest ice skating rink in England
At the far end of the southern edge there’s an option to extend the walk quite extensively by six miles by following the path out of the meadow and into Meadow Lane. This will take you to Hemingford Abbots, Houghton and back along the Thicket Path on the northern side of The Ouse back into St Ives.
To continue the current walk, follow the meadow edge around to the right to head towards The Ouse.
When you reach the river follow the path to the right so you’re heading back towards St Ives.
As you walk along The Ouse notice the colour of foliage in the trees on the opposite bank in The Thicket. There’s every colour from pale yellow and bright orange to acid greens and dark copper.
The river is full of wildlife. There’s a small sandy beach along the edge of the river.
Approach carefully if you can and you’ll see hundreds of small fish enjoying the warm shallows. If you look across the meadow it should be filled with the song of skylarks.
Just before you turn back towards the start you’ll pass Ingle Holt Island on the opposite side of The Ouse. If you haven’t visited this nature reserve, a trip there is highly recommended. Open at weekends, it’s one of the greatest attractions to relax in one of the sun drenched benches overlooking the meadow, watching boats glide by, with one of the special Italian ice creams from Vito’s stall by the museum. On weekdays you can get a key to the island gates from The Norris Museum by leaving a small deposit.
From this point you also get one of the most beautiful views of St Ives, with All Saints parish church to your left and St Ives bridge in front.
You can return to the start by following the path all around the edge of the meadow, or more directly return by the path heading diagonally across the remainder of the meadow.
Details of this walk were kindly provided by Cambridgeshire Walks Blog. OurStIves is very grateful to the author for allowing us to share these details. Please visit the Cambridgeshire Walks Blog for details of many other great from from St Ives.