“We moved to Fen Ditton in 1970 with two small children. The following summer my parents came down and ‘borrowed’ the kids for a weekend. That was an unexpected sudden release from responsibility. We had got to know the surrounding countryside and so headed to Honey Hill as a place for celebrating freedom and spending a warm, low-budget evening.
In those pre A14 days there was no bridge, just the dusty Low Fen Drove bending through the flat landscape with a perspective consisting of backdrops behind backdrops, avenues of trees, thick thorny hedges and rush fringed ditches.
When I was playing cricket for Quy, I would cycle that way, down High Ditch Road, along the drove way, up the old railway line and into the village past the Hall. Sometimes I remember taking my little boy and my cricket bag in the basket of an old butcher’s bike. The journey home after the match into the sunset, singing victoriously, was memorable – picking up a bottle of cider at The Blue Lion as we got back to Fen Ditton.
One sunny Christmas Day, at a time when we were looking after an old nag (which resembled an armchair) and an escapologist pony, we took the kids for a ride round Honey Hill. Our dog, an unruly mongrel, unsuccessfully chased a hare over two fields and a ditch.
That same dog used to accompany me on runs on slippery winter days down round the drove way to Biggin Abbey and back home. As he got older he was less inclined to do this until eventually, one afternoon, he turned his back on me and made his own way home the way we had come.
Another occasion involving the dog and the boy was when, due to adverse conditions, we adopted the procedure known as ‘walkies in the motor’ – so in a blizzard, headlamps on full beam, we tried to follow the mongrel from the comfort of the car. The old grey Renault slid sideways into a ditch near Snout’s Corner. It was difficult to persuade the AA that the location was accessible and the car retrievable.
After gales, I would sometimes search in the thickets up there for fallen boughs to scavenge as firewood. One day, Major Francis, from Quy Hall, confronted me, thinking I was a poacher or other reprobate. We later became good friends. Once, when we needed stakes for a village tree planting campaign, he invited us to make these from saplings cut from along the old railway line.
I used to think how important, socially, the network of paths linking the four villages must have been in the past. Maybe their development had been encouraged by the Bishops of Ely, in times gone by, to combat in-breeding in the communities. They must also have provided ways to work for that considerable number of farm workers which lived in each village.
When the Covid lockdowns started, early in 2020, we rediscovered these pathways and found them so attractive and benign that we mapped them as a guide for others. I suppose we trespassed a bit on these wanderings but I do remember a picnic lunch by a grass covered brick bridge not far off Low Fen Drove during which the spirit was definitely lifted well clear of those miserable times. Also picking blackberries at Snout’s Corner with the distant hum of traffic muffled by the sound of the wind in the trees strengthens one’s love for the place.
I offer these reminiscences to demonstrate what this area of simple countryside has meant to one person, living beside it for the best part of a lifetime. It’s the purpose of the Green Belt – to provide the city and its surrounding villages with a peaceful, pastoral, restorative resource. It is tragic to think that if this area comes to be dominated by a massive offensive and repulsive sewage plant, these types of life-affirming experiences, on our doorstep, will never be available again.”
Many thanks to David Yandell, long time resident of Fen Ditton and exponent of the importance of preserving this valuable local amenity.