New project provides more information about Great Ouse Valley Way

Ian Jackson at Meadow Lane in St Ives on the Ouse Valley Way.

Ian Jackson at Meadow Lane in St Ives on the Ouse Valley Way. - Credit: IAN JACKSON

The Great Ouse Valley footpath has received some ‘tender loving care’ with new information panels after a huge project involving several groups and volunteers.

In January, our chairman, Graham Campbell, announced our Trust had received funding from the Cambridgeshire County Council to provide the Ouse Valley Way with some support.

As a volunteer group passionate about the Great Ouse Valley – its beauty and all it has to offer, we were excited to get the go-ahead. It was a project where we could really show what we could do.

We had already been surveying the state of the path and encouraging parish councils to feed back their own suggestions. The new project was for new and replacement way-marker and finger-post signs and, most significantly, to recreate 12 information panels, and all by the end of March.

The Ouse Valley Way is one of the longest river valley walks (approximately 150 miles) in the country. It runs through Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

Last year, St Neots mayor, Cllr Stephen Ferguson, walked its entire length, mostly in the pouring rain, to raise funds for his charities. In August this year, Celia Woolley who won’t be in such a hurry as Stephen and who will make a blog of her journey, will take it on. The BRJ Run and Tri Club also hope they can complete the Ouse Valley Way Marathon again this year.

The original information panels were created by HDC when the path was first way-marked in 2004 and have stood the test of time fairly well. However, CCC decided that along with better signage and improvements to the path itself, a fresh look and update for the panels was needed.

One of the information boards being put in place in Meadow Lane.

One of the information boards being put in place in Meadow Lane. - Credit: IAN JACKSON

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The Highways England A14 Legacy Fund and the Great Ouse Valley Trust volunteers were chosen to provide the panels. 

Firstly we contacted the original designer-illustrator Coral Walton, of Coral Design Management. Thankfully she agreed to come on board and she still held all the original artwork. We decided to retain much of their original style and character but, make some changes. A new template was designed to reflect the GOVT logo. To add value to the information offered we included illustrated heritage topics about local buildings, archaeological discoveries and historic events.

We reviewed the flora and fauna artworks, created some additions and reallocated them as evenly as possible to the sections of the path covered by each panel. A new text was written and this now includes extra guidance on following the path and the circular walks.

These are clever diversions of varying length for those more casual walkers who simply want an interesting local ramble to lead them back to where they started. 

As work began, we received a request from Huntingdon Town Council for an additional panel to feature a new circular walk to encourage walkers to visit Hinchingbrooke Country Park, and the Cromwell Museum. This has been positioned in Bromholme Lane near Brampton Mill. We also decided to offer a new panel to St Ives Town Council, to be of interest to walkers entering the town on the path from Houghton and Wyton.

One of the fingerpost boards on the Ouse Valley Way.

One of the fingerpost boards on the Ouse Valley Way. - Credit: IAN JACKSON

So what next? We know the county council is keen to get on with the badly-needed physical improvements to the path, currently delayed by both the weather and Covid restrictions. The Trust is also keen to build on the new panels’ project by creating new detailed map leaflets for each section of the walk to include the circular walks.

These would be offered in a set of seven held in a wallet - the perfect companion for that stroll one afternoon, or for a more ambitious ramble. We are very proud of our Ouse Valley Way – we hope you too will soon be able to discover and enjoy its secrets.

The Numbers: 

26 miles covered by the panels

13 panels were put in place

11 circular walks along the way

185 illustrations.