Harcamlow Way

Or, the Cambridge Eight circuit

In the 1970s and 1980s, Fred Matthews and Harry Bitten, two stalwart members of the west Essex Ramblers’ Association, put down several long-distance paths in and around Essex that will be a lasting memorial to them. The longest at 140 miles, the Harcamlow Way runs in a figure of eight from Harlow to Cambridge and back. It takes in much unspoilt countryside and many pleasant villages, such as Manuden and Arkesden.

Perhaps the least attractive feature of the walk is its awkward portmanteau name. It conveys the route but without charm. What about an unofficial renaming as the Cambridge Eight – a sporting allusion, the one city on the route, and a plan of the route all in one. Indeed, it would be quite practical to walk the whole route in eight days while staying in Cambridge, so good are the transport links from the city to key points throughout. See below for a guide on how to do it.

Harry Bitten

Harry Bitten, pictured in 2012

Matthews and Bitten self-published route guides to all their paths. The style however is over-precise, with detailed directions of the ‘turn left through two wicket gates close together ignoring gate on right’ style. OS Landranger and Pathfinder maps show the route, and I would choose to work directly from the Pathfinders. The Matthews and Bitten guide is out of print now, but tourist information centres in the area may have them. You will need the OS maps anyway in the Stansted area owing to significant diversions due to the new A120 road.

The Cambridge 8 in eight days from Cambridge

This is how it could be done. No slacking now! Both trains and buses need to be checked in advance, especially on Sundays.

day

finish

miles

return to Cambridge

1 Melbourn 23 bus 26 hourly, not Sundays
2 Newport 14 train hourly
3 Stansted Airport * 17 train hourly
4 Harlow Town 14 train twice hourly
5 Standon 16 varies: use traveline.info
6 Newport 17 train hourly
7 Horseheath 17 bus 13/13A half-hourly
8 Cambridge 23 n/a

* Access Stansted Airport station from the road just before Takeley church, at 559220, just under one mile from path (included in the distances shown)

Time and distance logs for the Harcamlow Way

When I first walked the Harcamlow Way in the late 1990s, I made notes of when I set off and passed key points on the way, and later checked these against distances. These logs help to give an idea of how long each section might take, though be warned, I’m a fairly quick walker. Also since then, there have been detail changes in the Takeley area due to the new A120, and alas pubs should always be checked before arrival in case of closure.

Click here to view the Harcamlow Way logs

PDF file, Acrobat Reader required