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Rare wildlife, rich history and heavenly hiking — Hereward Way

Martin Pettitt (CC BY 2.0)

Rare wildlife, rich history and heavenly hiking — Hereward Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

7-15

days

3-6 h

/ day

116 mi

1,950 ft

2,250 ft

The Hereward Way is a wonderfully-diverse long-distance trail that is packed with history, beauty, intrigue and opportunities to spot rare wildlife. The county-hopping hike steps into Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk on its journey through the east of England.

Starting from Oakham, the trail heads east through Stamford, Peterborough, March, Ely, Brandon and Thetford Forest. It links two other long-distance footpaths: the Viking Way in the west and Peddars Way in the east (links below). The official route is 110 miles (177 km). However, with a few worthy detours, this Collection totals 116 miles (187 km).

The trail is named after Hereward the Wake, the 11th-century leader who fought against William the Conqueror. It is said that Hereward and his men, who were based on the Isle of Ely, held strong for more than eight years before the Conqueror finally forged a way through the marshes.

Highlights along the Way are plentiful. They include: Rutland Water, the largest man made lake in England; Longthorpe Tower, which houses one of the most important sets of 14th-century domestic wall paintings; Peterborough Cathedral, a striking 12th-century place of worship; Ouse Washes, an internationally-important wetland habitat; Ely Cathedral, which boasts monumental size Romanesque design; Lakenheath Fen, a reedbed habitat for rare birds; East Wretham Heath, home to many scarce species; and the spectacular ruins of St Andrew's Church in Roudham.

In this Collection, I have divided the route into eight stages of between 11-19 miles (18-31 km). Each Tour finishes close to accommodation and somewhere for food and drink, with the exception of stage 6, where I have given travel instructions. However, places to stay are not always abundant so be sure to plan ahead and book in advance.

Of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with. It is also possible to walk individual stages. Public transport can be sparse in some areas but the majority of the trail is relatively well-served.

As the Hereward Way explores the east of England, known as the ‘flat lands’, there is little in the way of elevation on the route. As such, it is leisurely throughout and suitable for all abilities. It follows well-maintained paths, trails and country lanes.

For the most part, you are never too far away from civilisation. However, the trail gets very remote at times as you head east. As such, ensure you have enough water and snacks to keep you sustained. Sturdy footwear and waterproofs are essential. Be sure to pack sunscreen in the summer months.

You can hike this route at any time of year and each season offers a unique perspective on the scenery. The standard way to walk the route is as shown here. There is nothing stopping you hiking it the other direction, though.

As the trail starts and finishes at railway stations, Oakham and Harling Road respectively, it is easy to reach via public transport.

To see a Collection on the Viking Way, click here: komoot.com/collection/1253289.
To see a Collection on the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, click here: komoot.com/collection/991.

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Hereward Way

111 mi

1,875 ft

2,175 ft

Last updated: January 26, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Oakham to Stamford — Hereward Way

    Difficult
    06:40
    15.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    550 ft
    825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 1 explores the historic town of Oakham, heads alongside the wildlife-rich Rutland Water and then winds through pretty countryside to Stamford.

    

    Right at the start, take some time to experience the rich history of All Saints Church and Oakham Castle. Next, head east out of town and join the path

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    06:08
    14.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    350 ft
    375 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Steam locomotives chugging through rolling countryside, a grandiose country estate, plus one of the most important sets of 14th-century domestic wall paintings in northern Europe — stage 2 has plenty to pique your interest.

    

    From Stamford, head south to Jacob’s Ladder and then hike east along Ermine Street

    by Dan Hobson

    View
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  • Intermediate
    04:25
    10.9 mi
    2.5 mph
    75 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This predominantly riverside ramble explores the cathedral city of Peterborough and ends in the vibrant market town of Whittlesey. The shortest stage in the Collection, this hike is level and leisurely throughout.

    

    From Longthorpe, the Way heads south to the River Nene and follows it through Thorpe Meadows

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:18
    13.1 mi
    2.5 mph
    75 ft
    100 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 4 winds through the pretty patchwork landscape of Cambridge. Expect big skies, level walking, abundant wildlife and plentiful peace and quiet.

    

    The hike starts with a short detour to Whittlesey’s other listed church, St Andrew’s, before leaving the town to the east. At Turningtree Bridge, you join

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    07:40
    18.9 mi
    2.5 mph
    200 ft
    150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Internationally-important wetland habitats, peaceful nature reserves, pretty villages and endless countryside all combine on stage 5. While the ‘flat lands’ affords its characteristically level walking, this lengthy hike will test your mettle.

    

    From March, the Way follows the River Nene (old course) northeast

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:01
    12.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    150 ft
    225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This Tour explores the charming city of Ely, home to a magnificent 11th-century cathedral, and the picturesque Cambridgeshire countryside that surrounds it.

    

    From Little Downham, head south along Hurst Lane track and then left along West Fen Road into the heart of Ely. Be sure to spend some time admiring

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:44
    14.1 mi
    2.5 mph
    150 ft
    125 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The penultimate stage steps over the country boundary from Cambridgeshire into Suffolk. It explores a thriving reedbed habitat that is home to some exceptionally rare birdlife, as well as endless picturesque countryside.

    

    If you time it right, the hike starts by catching the one train per day that serves

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    06:44
    16.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stunning nature, epic ruins and a lake with seemingly magical capabilities all combine on the final stage.

    

    From Brandon, join the Little Ouse River as it flows east along the Suffolk/Norfolk county boundary, between the Brecks and Thetford Forest. At Santon Downham Stanch, you cross the river and step

    by Dan Hobson

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    8
  • Distance
    116 mi
  • Duration
    47:40 h
  • Elevation
    1,950 ft2,250 ft

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