Broughton & the Riptons
Introduction: The walk starts and ends at the Crown, Broughton, makes visits to the villages of Kings Ripton and Abbots Ripton, and allows for a possible break in a pub along the way.
In the 12th century Broughton Castle was where the Abbots of Ramsay held their Courts of Justice. The castle was demolished at the time of the Reformation, and now only a moat remains.
Kings Ripton was mentioned in the Doomsday book, and has a 13th century church.
Abbots Ripton was also mentioned in Doomsday. In the 14th century the village was controlled by the Bishop of Ely who had hunting rights and a manor house in the area.
This walk is also a tale of three village pubs:
The Crown, Broughton was a Watney-Mann pub. Fifteen year ago they sold it to pub company Blezards, part of Control Securities plc, who took over Scottish brewery Belhaven in 1988. The pub chain became Ascot Holdings and when the Crown closed in 2000 it was part of Mayfair Taverns, who bought the Ascot chain in 1996.. Following a well-supported public meeting, around 40 village residents joined together to raise the £180,000 necessary to purchase, revamp and renovate the pub after it had been put up for sale. There were 200 shares each valued at £1000 and a board of five directors. Their bid was the only one that offered to keep the pub as a licensed premise, and thankfully succeeded. The pub reopened in March 2001, and is still run by a tenant, leased from the company Interaspect, owned by village residents. The pub had begun to evolve from being a pub into a restaurant, but new tenants have recently reversed that process (see Pub News).
The Unicorn, Kings Ripton - once a free house, with a single bar, and in the early 90's was extensively renovated and with a separate restaurant area. It sold real ales Greene King IPA and Abbot for some years before being closed in 1992. The building remained unused for sometime, and was then converted into a private house. Kings Ripton has no village pub.
The Three Horseshoes, Abbots Ripton was a Watney-Manns pub and later operated by Inntrepreneur and then owned by Nomura from 1997 until 1999, when it was closed. Since that time the pub has remained closed but some months ago, some "development" activity was observed. Initially it was not clear if the work would lead to conversion to a private dwelling, or reopening of the pub. When a large car park was laid out, the plans of the new owners become clearer. At the time when this pub walk was being researched in late October, a new pub sign had been erected, declaring that the Three Horseshoes was to be a "free house". We do not know who the owner or the operator of this pub is - pubs like the Three Horseshoes have been played with much like pawns in a chess game since the break up of the old national breweries, but the important thing is that like Broughton, the residents of Abbots Ripton will have a pub again. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Kings Ripton. [Note: This was the case when this walk was researched. The Three Horseshoes was subsequently redeveloped as a popular food oriented pub and renamed Abbot's Elm]
This tale of three village pubs highlights some important messages. Firstly, the residents of any village must understand that their pub will always be under threat from closure unless the pub receives local support - the phrase "use it or lose it!" is very relevant. Secondly, however, in small villages the trade from residents alone will rarely be sufficient to keep the pub economically viable, and the promise of food trade from outside the village may cause the village to lose a pub and gain a restaurant, as nearly happened at Broughton.
Distance:12 km (7.5 miles).
How to get there:From Huntingdon take the A141 towards Chatteris and after passing the Wyton Airfield on your right, take a left turn signposted Broughton. The Crown is in the centre of the village, opposite the church.
Parking:The Crown has a large car park (next to an equally large garden) at the side of the pub.
This walk starts by following the Pathfinders long distance walkalong the line of a stream to Kings Ripton. The route continues along the tree lined stream to Abbots Ripton, then climbs to higher ground with good views, and skirts old woods before returning to Broughton.
Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.
The Walk: From the pub car park, cross the road and go down School Lane opposite, beside the 11th century church. School Lane contains many old and interesting buildings, including the old rectory (an Elizabethan building) and the old library.
After 200m, turn left on to the well-marked public footpath - part of the Pathfinder walk. Passing between houses, traverse the field next to a playing field and negotiate an unusual double stile. Crossing the centre of the next field and two more stiles, you'll reach another stile with a way-marker at the corner of the field. Follow the left edge of the field, which winds past a hedgerow of hawthorn and sloe, and leads to a ditch with a way marked bridge.
Turn left and follow the field edge, turning right at the field corner, then following a broad winding stream. Soon you will see Kings Ripton church in the distance - our first destination. Continue past a concrete bridge over the stream, and pass between a hedge gap. Ignore the way-marked bridge and continue alongside the stream to the road.
Our route will later continue over the road, by the road bridge, and over the footbridge, but take the opportunity to explore Kings Ripton. Passing over the bridge and keeping to the left side of the road, you first pass St Peters church, which dates from the 13th century, with 19th century restoration. Further on the same side of the road is Unicorn House, once a village pub.
Continue back over the bridge and alongside the stream, which is initially lined with a fine range of poplar trees. Later the path passes through an avenue of oak, ash and maple.
Where the way markers offer a choice, continue straight, over the wooden footbridge.
Follow the way mark, through the tree line, over a footbridge across the stream and along the right edge of the field. At the road, turn right, and follow the road past Abbots Ripton Hall on your right. Beyond Grove Farm and the garage sign, turn right on to the side road (Rookes Close) and, after passing some cottages and entering a wood, turn left to cross a pair of wooden footbridges. Traverse the field on the right hand side and, at the field corner, pass through a wooden gate and turn left into Moat Lane.
At the end of Moat Lane you will find the Three Horseshoes and, turning right and climbing the hill, the rest of Abbots Ripton, which is well worth exploring for the fine collection of thatched cottages and the 13th century St Andrews church.
Retrace your steps down Moat Lane, across the field and footbridges, and continue through a way marked gate across the lane. Follow the path that leads through a wood. Passing though another gate, turn left and follow the edge of a paddock, turning right at the corner, and continue to a drive, which you cross and pass through another way-marked gate. Cross the field to another gate and follow a path to the Abbots Ripton Hall drive. The 18th century Abbots Ripton Hall is the home of Lord and Lady De Ramsey, and has very fine gardens. Turn left pass the hall and the green gate and follow the tree-lined drive. Continue past Hall Farm on the right and go straight towards the distant woods, taking the left fork after 200m. Approaching the woods, the drive has another green gate. At the way markers, go straight on with the woods on your left. Passing farm buildings, cross the field to your right, and follow the path, leaving the wood behind and heading towards farm buildings. The path joins a track, and then a drive. At this point continue along the tree-lined drive past the farm on your right and on towards the road. At the road, turn right. Follow the road across the crossroads, and continue to the village of Broughton.
Crown Inn, Broughton
Other publications: CAMRA's Good Beer Guide, for more details of other pubs in this area serving excellent real ale. The Good Beer Guide can be purchased on-line at www.camra.org.uk, or by mail order (call 01727 867201).