The Chisholm Trail is coming!

This article was published in 2019, in Magazine 144.

Visualisation of the Abbey-Chesterton bridge (Greater Cambridge Partnership), signage about the jetty closure, and a Chisholm Trail artwork.
Image as described adjacent

After over two decades of campaigning for the Chisholm Trail, it’s been exciting to see so much progress on the ground recently. The new walking and cycling route will connect up the city’s two rail stations and the north and south sections of the Busway cycleway, providing a direct, mostly off-road route across the city. The Trail will introduce a new link across the river between East Chesterton and Abbey wards, as well as improved access to green spaces such as Ditton Meadows and Coldham’s Common.

It’s a popular project and one that Camcycle is frequently asked about. One visitor to our stall at the Chesterton Festival said the Chisholm Trail would make her route to work simpler, easier and safer and would provide a lovely new route for her morning dog-walk. She wanted it to be ready as soon as possible!

Phase One including the Abbey-Chesterton bridge

On 12 August, access to the wooden jetty under the railway bridge between Stourbridge Common and Ditton Meadows was closed. The diversion for this cycleway (part of NCN route 51) takes users via Garlic Row, the shared-use pavement on Newmarket Road past the Leper Chapel, and Ditton Walk. We are unhappy with the external contractor’s diversion signs which advise cyclists to dismount on Garlic Row and Ditton Walk. We have been advised these have been installed because the route is less protected that the original; however, both streets are parts of the city’s cycle network on the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Cambridge Cycling Map and cyclists are of course perfectly entitled to use the carriageway. At the time of writing, there is also a sign advising cyclists to dismount on the shared-use, protected cycleway along Wadloes Road! We’ll continue to work to try to improve the signage around the diversion, along with similar issues around other diversions and street works across the city.

The diversion is expected to last until ‘Summer 2020’ which seems to mean at least nine months. This may seem a lengthy closure considering the bridge has already been constructed off-site, but managing the combination of works near a river, rail line, residents and sensitive wildlife such as water voles is quite complicated. For example, works near railways usually happen at night but those by local housing would usually take place in the daytime. So it’s a delicate balance between efficiency and minimal disruption. The work itself also involves complex engineering to create the base for the bridge including piling, creating embankments and removing and replacing the jetty. We were told recently that the removal involves divers with saws cutting off the jetty underwater!

Once the works here are complete, with the Abbey-Chesterton bridge installed in 2020, the complete ‘Phase One’ of the Trail from Cambridge North to Coldham’s Common is expected to open in 2021. This will include a new underpass beneath Newmarket Road, step-free access to the Leper Chapel and eventually, adjacent to Barnwell Lake, a cafĂ© (granted planning permission in November 2018) which will make a good meeting point.

Chisholm Trail tales

As part of the Chisholm Trail project, the Greater Cambridge Partnership is working with Historyworks to develop a Chisholm Trail Heritage and Arts project to engage the local community and explore local memories of those who live and travel around the Trail area. Find out more about the project at the Stourbridge Medieval Fair from noon to 4.30pm on 7 September, when Historyworks will be sharing some of the poetry and song they have co-created with children’s poet Michael Rosen, launching a new geocaching history trail around the Chisholm Trail route and offering craft activities with artists Hilary Cox Condron and Jill Fordham.

Find out more about the Chisholm Trail at camcycle.org.uk/chisholmtrail
Follow latest news of the works on Camcycle’s social media feeds and at Cyclescape thread 832
Find details of the Stourbridge Fair at tinyurl.com/stourbridgefair