Car-free adventures aroundPeterboroughCambridgeshire

Peterborough’s cathedral celebrates its 900th birthday in 2018. 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 by 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 March 2018. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Nene Valley by steam

    Explore the Nene Valley by bus, foot, or steam railway. 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. The number 9 bus runs from Peterborough bus station (passing Longthorpe Tower) to Wansford every hour, Monday to Saturday, and you could walk back along the Nene Way (about 10 miles). Or you could ride the Nene Valley steam railway most weekends to Wansford Station, making a 6-mile walk back to Ferry Meadows station, that might be great for kids.

    • 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 walks south of the bus station.
    • The Railworld Museum is next door and has miniature trains, old locos – even a hovercraft. If you arrive by steam train on a family day tourer ticket, the whole family gets in for £5. Across the river is a wildlife haven with waterfalls and ponds and the whole site is committed to Peterborough’s sustainability plan.
    • 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. Some of them could well be describing this village: “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…”

    • Bus 201 leaves Peterborough bus station every hour on the hour, Monday to Saturday.
    • It takes 20 minutes to get to Helpston. Get off near the church at Helpston Cross and turn left down Woodgate, past the Bluebell pub.
    • The cottage is open Friday, Saturday and Monday from 11am to 3pm (last entry is 2pm) and costs £4.95.


Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount