Direction NE – SW Distance: c.
Footpath 9 is a route from Park Lane, Footpath 8, to Gamlingay Cinques, sometimes written as Gamlingay Sinks. It starts (or finishes) at the junction of the farm track with Park Lane, by a stand of silver birch trees forming the edge of Old Plough Farm, a late-20th century bungalow on the Clopton Way (TL226526). A small yellow arrow on a fence post highlights the route.
Aerial photographs of the fields to the southwest, near New Barn Farm, show a ridge and furrow pattern, the medieval field system where peasants farmed a long, narrow strip of land earthed up into a ridge. The furrow was the dip between each strip (SMR 11394; TL 22155265) To the north, aerial photographs indicate some rectangular earthworks around an oval hollow, damaged by a sand pit on its northern boundary. Their date is unknown but they appear to be old field boundaries. (SMR 09969; TL 2265170) Thomas Langdon’s 1601 map describes this field as Comon behinde Wellefes. The word Wellefes is written over several fields to the east where Ashpole House is built.
A grassy path takes you northeast into Gamlingay Cinques, To the northwest you pass a number of smallholdings behind which is ARMFIBRE, a factory making reinforced plastic products for pollution control.
Extensive tree planting, pig rearing and market gardening following enclosure have altered the natural vegetation of Gamlingay Great Heath. The Wildlife Trusts have set up this nature reserve at Gamlingay Great Heath and are reintroducing heath land to help conserve some of the natural habitat. Sheep grazing is to be reintroduced. The reserve includes a pit dug for the Cambridgeshire Greensand needed in the construction industry. When the pits were first excavated is uncertain but thought to be after 1844 Enclosure Act. Other overgrown pits or hollows that dot the fields along the top of the Greensand Ridge in this area are remnants of this old industry. In wet weather, you can see pools of water where rainwater has not yet managed to drain into the Gault Clay beneath.
Naturalists have been attracted to these heath lands for centuries. John Ray, often referred to as the father of English natural history, described plants on Gamlingay Heath in his Catalogue of Cambridge Plants published in 1660. The reserve contains a variety of habitats unique to Cambridgeshire, from wetland plants in the damp hollows to heath and woodland on the dry acidic Greensand. Over the years, 22 different plant species have been found. When one is walking through the countryside one of the measures used to determine how old a path or trackway is, is to count the number of species and multiply by 100. This gives 2,200 years for Gamlingay Cinques, a reasonable date for when the trees might have started being cut down. On the wetter soils you can find St. John’s wort, cuckooflower, bent grass, sedges and rushes. On the drier soils there are heathers, heath bedstraw, harebell and heath grass. There is also gorse and areas of maturing woodland .including pollarded oaks, cut off at shoulder height to stimulate new straight growth above the heads of grazing cattle.
Once you reach the car park at the edge of the nature reserve you have a choice of routes. Following the road through the predominantly 19th century cottages takes you down Cinques Road, mostly along the pavement back into Gamlingay. An alternative route is to cross the eastern edge of the common towards the slate-roofed Victorian cottages where a farm track takes you back to Footpath 8.
The settlement of Gamlingay Cinques is old. A 17th century thatched cottage can be seen on the corner by the workshops and sheds of R. G. Hills and Sons Ltd, Potato Merchants and Hauliers.
White Horse Public House
Immediately past it is a kissing gate giving access to Cinques Common Nature reserve.
You can walk through the Nature Reserve back onto Drove Road and come back down Footpath 8 to the same spot.
Aerial photographs have revealed a medieval field system in the fields to the north with its ridges and furrows (SMR 11401)