The valley of the River Great Ouse between Huntingdon and St Ives is a very desirable place to live with a handful of extremely attractive villages. Everything is civilised and prosperous, paths are well sign-posted and maintained, perhaps just a little too manicured in parts - come with me and have a look.
We'll start on the Quay in St Ives with its view of the old bridge which dates from 1425. The building in the middle of the bridge is a chapel which in its day had a spiritual as well as a practical purpose. Travellers could stop and say a prayer before their journey or give thanks for safe completion of their travels. And they could at the same time pay the toll for using the bridge. In medieval times many bridges were built and maintained by the monasteries, so a single monk installed in the chapel could both bless the traveller and relieve him of some of his money.
We then enter the huge Hemingford Meadow which stretches nearly a mile along the southern bank of the Ouse. It floods every winter and when the temperature drops sufficiently becomes the biggest ice-rink in the country.
Into Hemingford Grey with its very peculiar truncated church spire. The spire is said to have been blown into the river by a hurricane in 1741 - and they haven't got around to replacing it yet!
The Manor, which was built in the 1130s, is reckoned to be the oldest continuously inhabited building in England. Although it's been added to and repaired over the centuries a surprising amount of the original building still remains. It was used as the model for Greene Knowe by Lucy Boston in her series of children's books. She lived at the Manor for over 50 years and was responsible for developing the beautiful garden.
A path through more riverside meadows leads into the next village, Hemingford Abbots.
The centre of the village is a conservation area with many thatched and historic buildings, including the Axe & Compass pub. No we can't; it's too early!
Lets go into the church instead.
The elegant spire is a landmark for miles around and inside there are some interesting features too, including an old oaken roof with carved angels. They've all had their photos taken and some of them stand a good chance of appearing in this blog in the future. But for now we'll continue on our way.
Our path turns down a side street then crosses more meadows and a couple of strands of the river, which divides and forms several watercourses across the wide floodplain. We are making our way to Houghton Mill, an old watermill in the care of the National Trust. Unfortunately right now that care includes covering the whole structure with scaffolding as the building is in need of some gentle restoration.
If you want to see what the Mill should look like then you could do worse than to pop into Houghton church and look at the stained glass window that was installed to mark the millennium.
It's another quaint and fascinating collection of old buildings, every bit as picturesque as those in Hemingford Abbots, even if it doesn't have such a melodic name. From here we turn around and make our meandering way, along the north side of the river, back to St Ives.
A path leads all around Battcock's Island, a parcel of land completely surrounded by rivers and streams, and used as grazing land. The views back across the river towards the Hemingfords are as choice as any in lowland England. If John Constable had been born here rather than in Suffolk his pictures would have been much the same.
Meet three girls. Just part of the team who work so hard keeping the grass short and well fertilised.
There are peaceful little waterways hiding away shyly all over this landscape.
We have to leave the river now and take a lane known as the Thicket Path, a very minor road which can only be used for access. And as there's nothing much down here anyway that's very little traffic at all.
Then suddenly and unexpectedly we're back with our old friend, the River Great Ouse, sun glinting off its mirrored surface as it sidles quietly towards St Ives.
Back in St Ives, this slender bridge leads over the river to Holt Island, a tiny but well-maintained nature reserve. Just time to wander over to see if anything's about.
Almost immediately I spotted this little chap and, remarkably enough, he sat around long enough to pose for a photo. It's actually a Grey Squirrel, albeit a black one or a melanistic individual. This strain is becoming increasingly numerous throughout this area.
And that's the end of the walk for today.
Start: St Ives, Cambridgeshire 09:20
End: St Ives, Cambridgeshire 14:05
Distance walked: 8 miles (13 Km)
Notable birds: Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest.
Mammals: melanistic Grey Squirrel.
Farm animals: Sheep, Cows, Horses, Alpacas.
Churches: St Ives (locked), Hemingford Grey, Hemingford Abbots, Houghton.
People with dogs: 8
Dogs with people: 10
People just enjoying a walk: about 40 or so.
Horse riders: 1