The Leper Chapel and Coldham's Common
Best done on foot although it can be biked easily enough. A circular walk of about 3.5 miles.
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Start in the Greyhound pub (currently closed) car park just past the railway bridge on
Coldham's Lane, nearly opposite the Cromwell Road junction. Walk away from the bridge and turn left almost immediately
taking the path onto Coldham's Common. You are now on
the south-north path that starts just in from the small patch
of green half way up the map (pictured left) on its furthest left edge.
Map thanks to Cambridge Univ. Orienteering Club.
Follow the left hand path north, passing under the railway line. Keep straight on until you cross a bridge over a ditch. The path soon closes in on and follows Coldham's Brook. Soon you pass the unsurpassed Abbey Stadium - home of the mighty U U's, otherwise known as Cambridge United - and well described in Nick Hornby's book 'Fever Pitch'. Note that I am ignoring any recent namby-pamby stadium name changes. Control your excitement and go through a metal gate to Newmarket Road.
Cross the road (notice the unusual Round House) and turn left. Below you to your right is the delightful 12th Century Leper Chapel and to your left a lake at this end of the Common. Turn down the lane on the right just past the chapel: notice the old railway gate and the converted station towards the end of the lane - this was Barnwell Junction station. You can collect the key to the Chapel from the old station. Make your way to the Chapel and wander around.
The Leper Chapel. Photo © var, (Es)senses of Place
It was the chapel of a leper hospital that earned much of its income from running a huge fair on Stourbridge Common - permission first granted by King John circa 1200. See the Riverside walk. An information board tells you when services are held there. If refreshment is required try the Wrestlers pub: good beer and authentic Thai food can be enjoyed. It's a 5 minute walk down the busy Newmarket Road towards town - not strictly on our route, but well worth a visit.
Back across Newmarket Road and through the wide entrance that takes you down to the fishing lake. Walk round this pleasant site - you have to exit the way you came in. Turn right onto the pavement and then right again back onto Coldham's Common. Make your way back to the small bridge over the ditch past the Abbey Stadium, but take the narrow path to the left immediately before the ditch. Soon you pass a playground on your left and then cross a small bridge. Left onto the tarmac drive and past the Abbey indoor swimming pool. At the far edge of the pool building turn left onto a small road and over the first of two bridges. Turn immediately into the first car park on the right and find a footpath emerging out of the far end (slightly to the left). Follow this through trees and scrub between 2 ditches. Gardens can be seen beyond the left ditch. Eventually you cross a bridge by school playing fields. Continue on a path between lines of trees and wild undergrowth with a ditch on your left - ignore the path bearing off right towards more open land. Make your way through this unfrequented scrub - good blackberrying. You'll meet a wide track that ends at a barrier just past your ditch. On your right hidden in deep undergrowth is a very steep mound. Apparantly it was a rifle butts used for military training and is known locally as Chalk Hill. Turn left down the track and emerge onto Barnwell Road. Cross the road and turn right, coming to a gate on your left. Go through this into Barnwell Nature Reserve and explore as the fancy takes you. Don't miss the pond on the left.
Find your way back to the road and retrace your steps back up the track to Coldham's Common. At the end of the track take the path straight ahead across the middle of the Common, across a white stile. Now head straight across the sports field (if it's in use keep to the left) making for the stepped bridge that you can just make out in the trees. It will lead you over the railway line and back, bearing right, to where you first got onto the Common.