Houghton Mill and Godmanchester walk, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Head off through a watery landscape in search of lost mills on this eight mile walk through the delightful landscape of the Ouse valley. Starting at Houghton, the last working mill on the Great Ouse, discover the sites of some of the lost historic mills in this part of Huntingdonshire. Visit the site of Godmanchester Steam Mill, Castle Hill and the remains of Huntingdon's Norman motte-and-bailey castle, demolished under the orders of King Henry II in 1174, Portholme Water Meadow the largest water meadow in England, and the site of the Old Mill at Godmanchester, demolished in 1927.
Suitable for active families. Not suitable for little feet...
Houghton Mill, grid ref: TL281720
Walk from Houghton Mill up Mill Street to the clock tower. From here take Huntingdon Road and turn right at Were Lane.
Houghton Mill is the only surviving working watermill on the River Great Ouse. When this picture was painted in 1906 there were over 100 mills on the river. The route that you will be walking today goes past the sites of 12 water, wind and steam mills in the local area
Cross the A1123 and follow the bridleway that runs straight ahead. The bridleway joins Ruddles Way, which continues until you come to a large hedge where you turn left and continue down to the road.
Turn right and walk along the road. Use the Crossing at Hartford marina and branch left to follow Houghton Road. Turn left at The Grove and follow the path until you reach Main Street.
Continue down Main Street until reaching the Barley Mow. Turn left down The Hollow to All Saints' church. Turn right and walk along the river around the churchyard and along Church Lane.
Continue along Church Lane until the road turns suddenly right. Here, take the path directly ahead, following the river all the way to the old bridge to Godmanchester.
Under the direction of Potto Brown, the Browns built steam mills at St Ives in 1854 and at Godmanchester in 1863. They introduced the latest steam-milling technology, using porcelain rollers, into their mills. The steam mill at Godmanchester (complete with a chapel for the spiritual benefit of its workforce) no longer stands, but you can still see the one at St Ives. In the 1970s it was the home of Sir Clive Sinclair's electronics firm, makers of the first pocket calculator. The mill that can still be seen at the Huntingdon-Godmanchester bridge was built in 1847 for the production of oil cake, a feed for cattle. It turned to hosiery manufacture between 1924 and 1972 before being converted into flats.
Cross the road at the crossing towards the Old Bridge hotel and continue beyond the hotel to Castle Hills. Follow the path past the hills and out on to Mill Common.
You can see the remains of Huntingdon's Norman motte-and-bailey castle, demolished under the orders of King Henry II in 1174 as it was occupied by rebels opposed to him. What remained was then used as the town's gaol. The spot was also fortified with a Parliamentarian gun emplacement during the English Civil Wars of the 1640s. The castle mound became the site for two windmills, as seen in Jefferys' 1768 map, which were both pulled down after 200 years service in 1875; the present pine trees mark the spot. Nearby, on St Mary's Street, Robert Margett established a steam mill in 1852; he also established the Corporation Mill at Huntingdon.
Turn left at Mill Common and down into Portholme water meadow. Take the path across the meadow to the Godmanchester lock.
Portholme water meadow
Portholme is famous as the largest water meadow in England. It is classed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This large site represents lowland hay meadows in eastern England and until 1887 was used as a horse racing track for a special three day event each August that rivaled the Derby as one of the country's most fashionable events. Later, in times of flood and harsh winters, it was used to play 'Bandy', the local form of ice hockey and also as an ideal take-off area for fledgling aeroplane flights. From 1910 it was used as an airfield and was known as RAF Portholme.
Follow the path over the lock and along the river, past the Chinese Bridge to the site of a former water mill.
The records show that a water mill on the site beside the car park was purchased in 1499 by John Stokes, with the provision that his wife should not visit the mill and interfere. One set of stones was set aside for the poor of the parish to use at no charge. The mill was demolished in 1927.
Turn right and walk along Mill Yard to Post Street. Cross the road and head into Church Place and into Saint Mary's churchyard. Walk straight ahead across the yard until you reach a gate. Turn left and follow the footpath as it bends to the left and then turn immediately right and follow the trail alongside the cricket ground and under the A14 bridge.
Follow the path around the lake and take the small footbridge to Westside Common. Walk along the boundary fence of Westside Common and turn right along the route of the old railway line until heading left over a bridge which leads around the lakes. After two stiles follow the path under an avenue of poplar trees. Cross a track and carry on until you meet a bridge after a weir.
Cross the bridge over the Fisher's Dyke backwater. Continue to follow the riverbank on your left until you reach the main river. Bear right still following the river and then divert to another bridge.
Fisher's Dyke is a backwater off the River Great Ouse, Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire.
Once over the bridge cross the meadow to another large bridge. Divert across a field to a sluice bridge and then continue to follow the riverbank to Houghton lock. Cross over the lock and follow the path to return to Houghton Mill.
Houghton Mill, grid ref: TL281720
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