St Ives
Cambridgeshire




Click Oliver Cromwell (who once lived here) to go to contents list.


A personal view
by Philip Grosset




More off the beaten track

Walk down Church Street, pass to the right of the parish church, and you reach a white bridge that takes you to Holt Island (on the right of the picture). Now a mini-nature reserve and a separate base for Sea Scouts - whose harbour is the site of the old outdoor swimming pool, seen in the photos below, that was opened in 1913. It was eventually closed down in 1949 because the river water was contaminated.

The photo on the right, taken some time between 1916 and 1918, shows the pool being used by girls from the Collegiate School for Young Ladies, that was at no. 7 Church Street. The owner/headmistress, Miss Pattrick, then an old lady, was superintending the girls in the pool, when she bent over to retrieve a handkerchief from the water and fell in. However, her voluminous skirts kept her afloat, and sustained, she said, by her faith as a committed Christian Scientist, she kept up her spirits until she was rescued. (She eventually died at the age of 96, and the school was closed in the 1950s, having been founded by her in 1880. It is now two private houses.)

A later photo of the pool, with All Saints Church in the background.

Holt Island is where the osier beds used to be. The willow was cut between November and March, and then soaked in troughs in the river before being taken to a warehouse and woven into baskets. The nature reserve on Holt Island is open to the public on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays between April and September from 10.30am to 5pm. There may not be all that much to see here as yet, but it makes an attractive stroll, they are now restoring some osier beds, and there's no charge for admission!

Nobles FieldPass the white bridge to Holt Island, and walk along the river bank away from the town along the Ouse Valley Way. Then, on your left, just after the Scouts HQ, is Noble's Field, given to the people of St Ives for their recreation. The entrance is shown in the photo on the right. The river is in the background as shown below.



There are attractive river views from here, especially in the evening - and it is a popular mooring place in the summer. Buried in this field are the remains of one of the last lighters (the barges that used to carry coal from the port of Kings Lynn).
From the entrance to the field, you can walk the two miles to the attractive village of Houghton along the Thicket Path.

Or you can cycle along the Thicket Path. This includes just one short stretch of railings, as seen here. These were erected after an accident in 1915 when a servant, cycling from Houghton to an interview in St Ives, swerved to avoid a group of boys from St Ives Grammar School. She skidded into the river. The master in charge of the boys jumped in to help her, but both he and she were drowned.
If you walk to Houghton, you can get a bus back to St Ives (but not on a Sunday!).



Two miles upstream towards Huntingdon, is Houghton Mill. This is a large, very picturesque, and much photographed timber-built old watermill, now owned by the National Trust. Much of the 19th century mill machinery is intact, and can be seen in operation (complete with a working waterwheel) on Sunday afternoons from April to the end of August.










Church windowOn the right is the millenium stained glass window that includes the mill. This is in the 13th century church of St Mary's Houghton and Wyton, that is well worth a visit. There are also interesting old houses in the pretty Houghton village.

The short riverside walk (also off my map) between Hemingford Grey and Hemingford Abbots is particularly attractive. As always in East Anglia, you are often very conscious of the sky.




ManorAs you walk along the towpath from Hemingford Grey, the Manor House is on your immediate left. It is the oldest (and, the owner says, probably the coldest) inhabited family home in the country, having been built in 1130. Lucy Boston (author of the Green Knowe children's books) lived here for many years and used it as the setting for her stories. Her daughter-in-law, Diana Boston, still lives there. You can visit the gardens on almost every day, but to see the house, tel 01480-463134. The charge varies according to the number of people on the tour. The house contains Lucy Boston's celebrated series of patchworks, and is full of atmosphere, particularly for those who have read the children's books. Well worth a visit.


Photo of thatched pub.A possible place to drop in during the walk: the 15th century Axe and Compass pub at Hemingford Abbots, with the church behind it. Good value pub food.


The CockThe Cock at Hemingford Grey has a much more up-market (and more expensive) restaurant. Their specialities include a wide variety of sausages (such as venison with port and mushrooms) that you then combine with a sauce of your choice (such as onion) and the type of mash you prefer! They offer a good conventional menu as well. Recommended - but be prepared to book your table at busy times. Sunday lunches can be very noisy.


See St Ives in the SUMMER


OR return to MAP of places off the beaten track



OPENING PAGE
BRIEF HISTORY
ANSWER TO RIDDLE
PLACES TO SEE
OLD PHOTOGRAPHS
MARKET DAY
SHOPS
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
ST IVES IN THE SUMMER
SUMMER CARNIVALS
ODDITIES OF ST IVES
UNUSUAL PHOTOS
EATING PLACES
FURTHER AFIELD
NEWS FROM ST IVES
CHRISTMAS MARKET
FLOODS
SNOW:JAN 2003
LOCAL WEBSITES
WHAT YOU SAY
MEMORIES OF ST IVES
MAP
AERIAL PHOTOS
ESTATE AGENTS
GUEST BOOK
CONTENTS LIST
SEARCH ENGINE