The Devil's Dyke from Reach Walk
Devil's Dyke, The Fens, Cambridgeshire
Classification Easy walk
Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)
Typical duration 2hr 10min
Height gain 50m
Starting point Dyke's End pub car park in village of Reach
OS grid reference TL 568 661 (Explorer map 226)
Walk in a nutshell
This intriguing walk begins in the Cambridgeshire village of Reach, which lies in the triangle created by Cambridge, Newmarket and Ely. The main attraction is clear, as you climb straight up on to the ancient defensive structure known as Devil's Dyke - offering not only a real sense of distant history but also panoramic views across the countryside to Burwell and Swaffham Prior. After a couple of miles you drop down off the dyke (it stretches for 7½ miles in all) and cross fields to the picturesque village of Swaffham - easily identified because it has two windmills and two churches. From there you follow a country track back towards Reach, running along the edge of a newly planted wood.
Why it's so special
Devil's Dyke is one of the best surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon earthwork in Britain. It may be significantly shorter than the more famous Offa's Dyke, which runs (sporadically) from north to south Wales - but Devil's Dyke is actually higher (up to 10 metres from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the bank in places) and often better preserved. There's much of archaeological interest throughout the route, and the county council occasionally runs guided walks to highlight the archaeology of the the Dyke - there are also seven information boards dotted along it.
Keep your eyes peeled for
A huge amount of wildlife should be apparent on the open chalk landscape - including rare species of butterflies (Chalkhill Blues), flowers and birds.
But bear in mind
Don't expect a mighty forest: Reach Wood was planted by the Woodland Trust but is not yet established. The trees have struggled due to the poor drought-prone soil - however, progress is apparently being made.
Impress your companions
One local legend describes how the devil came uninvited to a wedding (perhaps at Reach church) and was, as a result, chased away by the unimpressed guests. In anger he stormed off and formed the groove of Devil's Dyke with his fiery tail.
Happily, the Dyke's End pub that is right next to the end of this walk comes highly recommended with its beautifuk beer garden and open fire, serving real ales, fine wines and delicious home cooked meals.
How to reach the Devil's Dyke
1. From the car park by Dyke's End pub in village of Reach (at north-west end of Devil's Dyke), walk through two sets of gates alongside recreation ground. Walk along base of dyke until you reach fence; climb to top of dyke and turn left. Ignoring paths to left and right, continue along top.
2. After 3/4 mile drop down on to abandoned railway, immediately climb dyke again on far side via track or steps. Continue along top of dyke - you will have panoramic views to Burwell and Swaffham Prior. Carefully cross B1102 and continue for one mile.
3. Now look for well-disguised steps down to meadow on right-hand side of dyke. Go down and walk across to stile on far side of meadow. Now trail goes straight across a number of farmed fields and two more stiles, directly towards village of Swaffham Prior with its two churches, two windmills and water tower.
4. At end of this part of trail, walk down steps and turn right, crossing B1102 again before walking down Cage Hill into Swaffham Prior.
5-6. At bottom of Cage Hill turn right. Walk through village of Swaffham Prior; just on outskirts is a country track on left-hand side of road, clearly marked as public footpath and Devil's Dyke Walk. Turn down here.
7. Turn right on to public footpath just after track rejoins small country road.
8. Then turn left on to path along edge of field. This soon turns into definite track running along edge of not-yet-established Reach Woods on right.
9. Ignore paths to right and left; continue down country track into village of Reach. You enter village directly opposite Dyke's End pub. Car park and Devil's Dyke are to right of pub.