Walks round March,
A word of caution: West End is a path shared by walkers and cyclists but people with riverside properties have vehicular access.
2. Riverside walk, ½ mile from Town Bridge, allow 20 minutes to ½ hour.
From the City Road car park walk through to the High Street and turn left to reach Town Bridge.
The river, the old course of the Nene, is the hub of the town and the reason for the town's development.
In the 16th century March was a minor port with 8 vessels. Until the mid 19th century the river was the highway; all goods came in and out by barge. There were many public houses and businesses along its route including a tannery, lime works, brewery and mill.
An artificial channel, 12 km long cut through a narrow neck of land at March, probably by the Romans, divided the island on which we stand into two and connected it to the Old Croft River at Upwell; over the centuries it has been widened and deepened by man allowing more sophisticated transport to be used.
The whole fen basin is drained by pumps operated by The Middle Level Commissioners at Wiggenhall St German's near King's Lynn. When the pumps are at full power the flow of water under bridge from west to east is considerable. When the pumps are turned off, after sufficient water has been sent out to sea, the water will recoil and the river will appear to flow in the opposite direction.
(20) March Bridge was built in 1851 on oak beams, hence the weight restriction. It is said to be the last remaining arched bridge in Cambridgeshire. If you want to see this view turn left into the narrow path alongside the bridge and walk down to the triangular garden.
To the east of the bridge, in Nene Parade, is the beautifully thatched Ship Inn.
(21) During the mid 1800s the Railwayman, another ale house, was situated alongside the Ship Inn and a connecting door allowed the locals to quickly move from one establishment to the other if there was an official visit by the local constable.Extensive renovation during the 1930s revealed exquisitely carved beams which were subsequently dated to around 1500. The timbers ran parallel to Nene parade and were all cut off at the point where they met the newer White Hart buildings situated on the corner of Broad Street and Nene Parade indicating that the building was once much larger and possibly part of the old White Hart public house itself. The White Hart is reputed to have been the very first house ever to have been built in March.
(22) Look down Broad Street, formerly Bridge Street and originally the ‘village green'. This open space was overlooked by large houses on both the north and east sides. A brewery was on the western side. A cut from the river (where the public toilets are now) allowed movement of goods by barge to and from the brewery.
(23) The War Memorial was first dedicated on the 19th June 1921 to commemorate the dead of the First World War. The obelisk is 18 feet high and cut from Cornish granite. Storr Barbar carved the figure of the soldier from a single block of Italian Carrara marble. It was later moved about 10 yards northwards to allow for the increase in traffic and was raised on the plinth. On 27th July 1952 it was rededicated after all the names of the dead of the Second World War had been added to the tablet.
(24)The Fountain at the northern end of Broad Street commemorates the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. It was originally a drinking fountain flanked by both horse and dog troughs. Made by Walter MacFarlane of Saracen Foundry, Possilpark, Glasgow it cost £181 18s 6d (£181.92½p) fully fitted with gas and water supplies. In 2002 it was dismantled and taken back to the same works, then called Heritage Engineering, to be refurbished at the cost of £38,500.
Turn left along the riverside beside Barclays Bank and you will soon come to Grays Lane.
(25) Grays Lane was named after Owen Gray who owned the brewery in Broad Street and was the captain of the Doddington and Hamlets Cavalry. It was his bankruptcy in 1839 and the subsequent selling of his property, which saw the development of the town centre as we see it today.
Go between the bollards & into West End where Bank House is immediately on your right.
(26) Bank House was the home of Owen Gray and was once called the manor house. It was bought and renovated in the Jacobean style in the 1840s by the National Provincial Bank. A new stone facade and elaborate chimney heads were added it then became the town’s first official bank. The older building had much smaller windows and a steeply pitched thatched roof and may be one of the oldest buildings in March. The present owner is diligently restoring the building but it is a very long job.
During WWII Bank House became a British Restaurant where one could get a meal for 1s 6d (7½p) without a ration book..
Next door is Portland House, a fine Georgian building built by a Mr Golden who was described as a gentleman farmer. During the mid twentieth century it was owned by Walter F S Russell (who established the Co-operative Wholesale Society Estate at Coldham in the 1920s). His daughter Renee Eggitt had a private school in the house which she began in what is now 1 Regent Avenue. Portland House is now divided into flats.
(27) Continue along West End passing several old cottages, some were once shops. Can you spot the Barnack Stone in some of the foundations, perhaps purloined from passing barges when Thorney Abbey was destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII?
West End is like another world where life seems to move at a slower pace and people will stop and chat to total strangers.
(28) Rookswood House, on the corner of Rookswood Road, is now the British Legion Club. The building dates from the 17th century and was originally a tithe barn owned by the Shepheard family and converted to a residence in the Georgian period. By the 19th century it was called Lewin House and around 1830 became the first March Grammar School.l.
Just before you reach Marylebone Road, next door to the new health centre, is Craspen Cottage.
(29) Craspen Cottage, 1626, is the town's oldest known dated house. It is Elizabethan style with a Georgian extension. Inside it has elaborately carved woodwork in a 'Tree of Life ' design and a room called the Great Hall.
Turn left and cross Marylebone footbridge.
To continue into West End for a longer walk click on the spot and go to
Back from the Riverside Nature Trail - start here.
The bridge leads to West End Park where a lot of town events take place including summer festival events, concerts and various exhibitions. On summer Sundays there are often afternoon band concerts in or outside the bandstand according to the number of performers.There is also a children's playground, a skateboard park and The George Campbell Swimming pool and Leisure Centre are beside the park.
Take the path alongside the river where you will have good views of the buildings in West End. Note the places beside the river for fishermen.
The River Nene through March is free fishing, between 16th June and 16th March you only need an Environment Agency fishing licence, available from Post Offices, to fish.
As you go pass the swimming pool the trees almost meet above your head and the river is all but invisible. The Nene is an important wildlife corridor through the town and is kept as such. On your right you will see March library..
(30) March Library built in 2000. In front of the building is the wave garden which is best appreciated from half way along the front of the library.
This area was the site of Acre Mill and wharf once owned by Owen Gray. The old granary was regularly supplied with corn by a fleet of barges. In 1840 John Smith of Nottingham purchased the granary for his son Joseph who demolished it before erecting new buildings. When the railway came to March in 1847 he built the town's first steam mill. The railways brought in the coal for the steam boilers and took away the ground flour..
Walk to the bollards beside The Acre Public House and walk into Acre Road.
(31) Some days, when Acre Attic is open, this road is full of life but when the shops are closed it all looks very sad. There is a lot of local support to get this last bit of old March restored.
Acre Road was part of High Dyke, the original main street; look to your left and see how narrow Acre Road is at its junction with High Street and the 'Acre Road' sign on the side of the building.
Follow Acre Road round the left hand bend and appreciate the fine view of the town hall before you reach High Street and turn right. Walk along to where the path opens out to the right where you will see the route back to the car park..