Walks round March,
Riverside Nature Trail
3. Riverside nature trail, 1½ miles from Marylebone Bridge, allow 1¼ to 2¼ hours. The time taken for this walk is infinitely variable.
If you go on the nature trail side of the river from mid-July onwards make sure you take a plastic bag or two as there can be plentiful wild plums or blackberries ripe for picking.
Note that this walk cannot be completed as a circular walk by wheelchairs, buggies or people with walking difficulties because of the difficulty in accessing the by-pass bridge.
The walk is described from Marylebone Road along West End to the by-pass bridge and back on the nature trail. Going there and back on either bank of the river is equally enjoyable.
For the numbers on this map refer to the Riverside Walk
Continue along West End passing Marylebone Bridge on your left.
(A)White Horse, former public house, is the second building on the right. It has been recently re-thatched and additional timbers have been inserted to support the old roof. Some of the old timbers are just pieces of tree trunks or branches complete with bark and some are blackened with soot suggesting that, at one time, the building had an open hearth.
Many of the houses along the rest of West end are on the right (north) side of the road and have riverside gardens.
(B) Number 52 West End was once two cottages and is known as the Brew House and number 55, also two buildings at one time, was once a shop. These cottages are remnants of a once common local building style with dormer windows raised level into the roof. Look carefully at the gable end of number 55 and notice the intricate pattern of brickwork. This type of gable end will be seen again more easily on 125 West End later in the walk.
Continue into a quite narrow area with a high wall on the right and a thick hedge on the left. At the end of the high part of the wall you will find Oaktree House standing back on the right.
(C) Oaktree House is now divided into flats. This was the house built by Joseph Smith of the Acre Mill. One of his children, Samuel Smith married a rich widow and became the famous Wisbech photographer.
In 1938 Bertram Mills Circus was held behind this Oaktree House on the land now occupied by Oaktree Close. The big top seated over 4,000 and the demand was so high that people were turned away from every performance. A divine service was held on Sunday 1st May 1938 when over 5,000 people attended with more than 1,000 turned away.
A little farther on the left, through the hedge, is a wooden building that appears boarded up, it was the girl guide hut until the 1970s. It is now the Middle Level Watermen's Club Sutton Staithe, named after Grenville Sutton a former Commodore, and looks much nicer from the other side of the river.
Soon you will come to a large hump across the road and including the houses on each side. This was once the east bank of a tributary that used to join the main river. The water course is now culvetted and the houses built on top. It is a noticeable dip beside these new houses then the road climbs the other bank.
(D) Immediately, in a garden on the left, is the Old Shoe (the one of the old woman with too many children) that used to be in the riverside garden of the former White Horse public house for children to play on.
Continue for about 5 minutes and on to the last map.
(E) Yardy Allotments. Jack Yardy was a local character who died in March 1986 leaving these allotments to March Town Council to be retained as allotments in perpetuity. Mr Yardy used to live in 125 West End.
As you approach number 125 your view ahead will be dominated by the end wall of the house with an excellent view of the interesting brickwork in the gable end as seen on number 55.
(F) This house has 1691 over the front door and Mr Yardy chose to be buried in his garden beside the river opposite his former home. Behind the house was a tannery; quite smelly in its heyday.
(G)The former Three Fishes public house is a few doors along and has been modernised considerably and is not easily recognised as the active hostelry it once was..
In a short distance you will come to some terraced houses. If you have any difficulty walking or have a wheelchair or buggy this is the place to turn back. There are alternative return routes but walking back the way you came is the most enjoyable..
The signpost of cycle path 63 points through a wooden fence chicane and then down steps under the by-pass, there is a turning to the right from this path and leading up to the crash barrier on the side of the by-pass. This is a reasonable path but the crash barrier is not easy to cross. The alternative is to turn right on a narrow path through the trees as the cycle path goes straight to the river. This track leads around the end of the crash barrier but it is a much steeper climb to the road side.
Once you are on the by-pass take great care as the cars go very fast in both directions. On the other side of the by-pass is Fox's boatyard where narrow boats are hired to cruise the Fenland Waterways.
Walk to the south side of the river bridge and ignore the footpath sign that gives you another chance to climb over the crash barrier, a short walk to the end of the crash barrier will take you to a much easier route to the nature trail.
The path back to the town centre is more or less straight, it begins as a grass path, after about 200 yards the path is made of limestone chippings. From the western edge of West End Park the path is wide and made of compressed limestone chippings, later it is tarmac. Shady areas are muddy after rain.
As you start the walk back the field to the right has many weed covered heaps of soil covered in assorted weeds. This is the result of archaeological excavations prior to new housing in Gaul Road and a roundabout on the by-pass. Not all of the land is for building a wetland area is to be left between the new houses and the by-pass.
125 West End can be seen across the river on the left after a short distance.
It is not far before you come to a very wide section of the river, this is a 'winding point' where the very long narrow boats can turn round.
From this side of the river Middle Level Watermen's Club Sutton Staithe looks very different from the boarded up building seen from West End.
Rejoin the Riverside Walk at Marylebone footbridge.