As most Burnside allotments plotholders know, particularly those who use the Burnside gate, Cherry Hinton Brook runs along the north side of the allotments, alongside Snakey Path and Burnside itself. The brook rises in Cherry Hinton at Giant’s Grave, just across from the Robin Hood pub, and flows through Cherry Hinton Hall, where it has been formed into a lake, and then proceeds to join up with Coldham’s Brook on Coldham’s Common, and eventually disperses into Ditton Fields. Much of the water is lost en route into various drainage ditches so there is no direct outflow into the Cam as there would once have been.
Nevertheless it is, essentially, a healthy chalk stream, a very rare habitat, and it is extremely rich in wildlife: water voles (a species that is very threatened in most parts of England); fish (stickleback, bullheads, perch and roach); and birds, ranging from the aquatic (mallard duck, moorhen, and indeed the occasional swan and egret) to the more aerial – kingfishers are often seen darting along the surface and little egrets visit in the winter months.
It is also popular with people. Passers-by are frequently seen lingering, photographing and/or feeding the ducks. The brook provides a “green corridor” from the countryside into the site and, all in all, it can be considered an important local asset.
Taking on a safe-keeping role for the brook are the Friends of Cherry Hinton Brook (FCHB), a local group with members coming from the surrounding area. The group’s activities, mainly carried out by volunteers, include:
FCHB works closely with Cambridge City Council, Rivercare (a programme run by Keep Britain Tidy to maintain waterways in East Anglia) and the Cambridge Natural History Society. FCHB is always keen on making contact with anyone interested in the brook and its environment, and gives a warm welcome to anyone wishing to become a member or who would like to receive the regular newsletter. The website is: http://www.friendsofcherryhintonbrook.org.uk/
By the way, the Burnside and Vinery Road Allotments already has an affiliation of sorts with FCHB as its brook-cleaning equipment is kept in the Burnside store.
John McGill, Burnside