Car-free adventures aroundPeterboroughCambridgeshire

book trains

Peterborough’s cathedral is more than 900 years old and the countryside nearby has Roman roads and villas buried under its green miles. The city's centuries of history are not immediately evident around the railway station, but head for the museum, just south of the nearby bus station, and you’ll begin to get a sense of the local heritage, which includes nearly four millennia of human habitation and marine fossils that date back 150 million years. Nearby, you can stroll beside the river, ride a steam train through the Nene Valley or take a boat trip on the lake.

  • County: Cambridgeshire
  • Great for: birds | boat trips | history | literary connections | markets | Shopping | walking |
  • Refreshments: Brewery tap near bus station, Becket's tea room in cathedral and lots more
  • Please note: researched/updated November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Nene Valley by steam

    The fields and paths on either side of the River Nene pass old mills, Roman sites and the vintage Nene Valley Railway. The countryside around Peterborough is packed with history and you can explore on foot or on the steam railway, which runs most weekends to Wansford Station and Ferry Meadows station.

    • The Nene Valley Railway runs a varied timetable of events, including a fish and chip supper on board. The Peterborough end of the line is just across the river, ten minutes’ signed walk south of the bus station.
    • The Railworld Wildlife Haven is next door and has miniature trains, old locos – even a hovercraft. There is also a model railway running past ponds and mini waterfalls.
    • Nostalgic Wansford Station, overlooking the River Nene, is the NVR headquarters and home of Thomas the Tank Engine. There’s a retro cafe, station book shop, viewing gallery and more.
    • Cross the river on the pedestrian path beside the railway bridge to pick up the Nene Way, which starts by running alongside the railway embankment and offers an optional detour through a Roman site to the north.
  1. 4. Angels by Train in March

    The ancient towns of Whittlesey and March are short train rides away through the wide-skied fenlands. One highlight of a visit to March is medieval St Wendreda’s Church, with its double hammer-beam roof and hundreds of carved, wooden angels with open wings. John Betjeman said the angel roof was “worth cycling forty miles into a head wind to see”.

    • A walking trail of the town and guided riverside stroll beside the Old River Nene take you past the major sights.
    • Heading from station, you’ll first pass a colourful fountain, at one end of Broad Street, which celebrates George V’s coronation.
    • A little further on, the town’s war memorial includes a six-metre obelisk of Cornish granite and a soldier carved from Italian marble.
    • To explore the riverside, turn right at the war memorial and, as the lane swings right, keep on through bollards onto West End, lined with cottages and riverside gardens.
    • It takes about half an hour to walk along the High Street, past the March museum to St Wendreda’s church. Or you can hop straight on bus 33 from Elm Road outside the railway station. It takes a winding route through the houses and drops you at the Avenue, about five minutes from the church.
  1. 5. A Poet’s Cottage

    The poet John Clare, lived not far from Peterborough, in a thatched cottage in the village of Helpston. Born here in 1793, his poems are full of natural images and many of them described this village and the countryside around: “A little lane, the brook runs close beside/ And spangles in the sunshine while the fish glide swiftly by/ And hedges leafing with the green spring tide…”

    • The cottage is full of evocative rooms, information and poetry. It’s currently open on Mondays and Thursdays (check the website) from 10am to 3pm (last entry is 2pm). There’s a fabulous café too so you can eat homemade soup or freshly-baked scones in John Clare’s beautiful garden.
    • How to get to John Clare’s cottage without a car: Bus 201 leaves Peterborough bus station regularly, Monday to Saturday.
    • It takes 20 minutes to get to Helpston by bus and the cottage is a couple of minutes’ walk from the bus stop. Get off near the church at Helpston Cross and turn left down Woodgate, past the Bluebell pub. The museum also has a walking tour of the village, passing sites with John Clare links.
    • John Clare is buried in St. Botolph’s churchyard. Nearby, just next to the bus stop, there is an impressive memorial dedicated to the poet. The John Clare Society even organises a festival every summer in Helpston.
  • Thomas the tank engine - Peterborough car-free adventures
  • River boat - Peterborough car-free adventures
  • Church roof with angels - Peterborough car-free adventures
  • biking by river - Peterborough car-free adventures