Of Cock Horses and Cock-up Bridges

I took advantage of a warm, sunny Saturday to take a walk at Wicken Fen.  I have taken you around the boardwalk before, but this time I headed off on one of the longer trails (about 4 miles for this route), in search of wild ponies,  Highland cattle and an unusual bridge.

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There’s a large National Trust car park (toilets available) just outside Wicken Village.  Park here and turn left towards the Visitor Centre.  On the left just before the Visitor centre, be sure to stop and take a look at three Highland cattle who will soon join the main herd out on the fen.  They are big, black Bramble, her red calf Ennion and a black orphan calf Stan.

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Stan is very inquisitive as he has been hand reared, and he is oh so cute!

Walking on, you’ll pass the Visitor Centre on the right (toilets and cafe available).  Go straight ahead, keeping the water, Wicken Lode, to your right and you will soon come to a slight king to the left and a small footbridge, Norman’s Bridge.  Take this bridge across Monk’s Lode.  Turn left and you will now have the lode to your left and Baker’s fen to your right.  This is part of Cycle Route NCN11 – if you prefer wheels to feet, there is a cycle hire centre close to the Visitor Centre.

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Monk’s Lode

There may well be both cattle and horses out on this fenland.  In fact, I spotted a group of horses on the far side of the fen, close to Priory Farm.

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Continue for about ¾ mile, until the Cycle Route makes a sharp right.  Take this right turn and head towards the farm which is now straight ahead of you.  Pass over the cattle grids and walk past the farm.  The horses were now hiding behind the farm buildings and I couldn’t get close without doing battle with tall and ferocious stinging nettles!

a1_20150516_20150516__DSC7634_6000 x 4000Just past the farm, you’ll spy more water and a couple of bridges.  Our path actually turns to the right here but let’s make a short detour to see the old lifting bridge with the odd name: Cock-up Bridge.

Cock-up Bridge at Burwell Lode
Cock-up Bridge at Burwell Lode

This old bridge is no longer in use, but it would have provided a vital crossing point for those on horseback.  It gets its name from the cock horse of Banbury Cross fame.

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.
-traditional nursery rhyme

A cock horse is a trace horse, as would have been used for towing boats on the Lodes, or would have been hitched in front of a shaft horse to give an extra pull along the fen droves.  The cock-up bridge would have allowed them to cross the Lode.  There is a new pedestrian bridge just to the side of this old bridge, but there is no longer a convenient crossing point for animals or vehicles.  The National Trust is currently raising money to build a new crossing for their cattle and wild ponies.

Let’s continue our detour and head over the new bridge – there are cattle and ponies on Burwell Fen, just across the water.

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Konik pony
Highland Cattle
Highland Cattle

 Time to get back on track.  We go back over the bridge, back towards the farm and turn left on Harrison’s Drove.  After passing a hide to our right, we come to Moore’s Drove and turn right towards home.  At the end of this Drove, we turn left, then right over Norman’s Bridge and we are almost finished.

View from Norman's Bridge
View from Norman’s Bridge

Just in time for a cuppa and a slice of cake in the cafe!

Wicken Fen, Lode Lane, Wicken, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 5XP

Part of Jo’s Monday Walks.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 18 May 2015aDSC_0636_pp

24 thoughts on “Of Cock Horses and Cock-up Bridges

  1. What a beautiful walk Debbie – just love all the animal photos such expressive faces the cattle and ponies have and I’m very interested to learn about the background to “Ride A Cock Horse to Banbury Cross” fascinating! 🙂

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    1. I made the most of a brief respite from foreign travels to get into the english countryside. I never knew what the rhyme meant either!

      On Tue, May 19, 2015 at 6:02 AM, Travel with Intent wrote:

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  2. Oh, I wish I was there this morning, out of this drizzle! I have a friend who lives in Wisbech- not too far away from this spot?
    Lovely walk, Debs! Thank you- I really enjoyed it. Isn’t Stan a beauty, and who could resist a Cock Up bridge? Lots of good info so cheers for that, and the link.

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    1. Hi Jo It’s raining heavily here today too 😦 For once the forecast was accurate which is why I dashed to do the walk on Saturday.

      Wisbech is about an hour north of this village. Interestingly, it has a fenland museum, which I should visit one day.

      On Mon, May 18, 2015 at 9:28 AM, Travel with Intent wrote:

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