Fleam Dyke

Fleam Dyke is a linear earthwork between Fulbourn and Balsham in Cambridgeshire. It is now a Scheduled Monument[2] and a 7.8 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest.[1][3] It formed a boundary of the late Anglo-Saxon, pre-Norman administrative division of Flendish Hundred.

Fleam Dyke
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Fleam Dyke approaching Mutlow Hill - geograph.org.uk - 182255
Fleam Dyke approaching Mutlow Hill
Area of SearchCambridgeshire
Grid referenceTL 551 539 [1]
Area7.8 hectares[1]
Location mapMagic Map


The dyke is a seven-metre-high linear bank and ditch which ran from Fulbourn to Balsham. Most of it survives and is now a footpath. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Anglo-Saxon weapons and burials were found, and the dyke was thought to have been built in the seventh century as a defence of the Kingdom of East Anglia in its wars with Mercia.

An excavation in 1991 established that it had been built in several phases, the first between 330 and 510, and the last between 450 and 620. It is now believed most likely to have been built by early Anglo-Saxon settlers in the fifth century as a defence against Romano-British attempts to recover their territory.

At Mutlow Hill the dyke runs through a Bronze Age barrow, which was reused in the Roman period as a temple.[4]


Construction of Fleam Dyke
Construction of Fleam Dyke

Fleam Dyke is one of four substantial earthworks, each a high bank with a ditch on its southwest side, running across the chalk downland ridge that carries the Icknield Way (and the Roman road Street Way) across south Cambridgeshire. The others are Devil's Dyke, Brent Ditch and Bran Ditch.

Icknield Way was of huge historical importance. It is certainly a pre-Roman path often claimed as the oldest in England and was later named one of the "Four Highways" of medieval England on which travellers had royal protection. To that extent, Fleam Dyke, Flendish Hundred and Fulbourn have their place in history.

5th Saxon defence barriers along Street Way and Icknield Way
5th Century Anglo-Saxon defences along Street Way and Icknield Way


Fleam Dyke is one of 286 sites selected by Charles Rothschild in 1912 to 1915 as wildlife sites "worthy of preservation" in Britain and Ireland.[5][6] The steep banks of the earthwork have species-rich chalk grassland, a rare habitat in the county. The dyke, which is maintained by grass cutting, is the only Cambridgeshire site for the common juniper.[7]

The Harcamlow Way long distance footpath runs through the site.


  1. ^ a b c d "Designated Sites View: Fleam Dyke". Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Fleam Dyke: List entry Number 1006931". Historic England. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Map of Fleam Dyke". Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  4. ^ Malim, Tim. "Fleam Dyke". Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  5. ^ "The Rothschild Reserves: About the Archive". The Wildlife Trusts. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  6. ^ "The Rothschild Reserves: Fleam Dyke". The Wildlife Trusts. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Fleam Dyke citation" (PDF). Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 6 December 2016.

Coordinates: 52°09′36″N 0°15′58″E / 52.16°N 0.266°E

External links

Black Ditches, Cavenham

Black Ditches is an earthwork close to the village of Cavenham of Suffolk, and part of it is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The earthwork is 4.5 miles long between the River Lark at Lackford and the Icknield Way. It is described by Historic England as probably of post-Roman date, and "a typical Dark Ages boundary earthwork placed astride the Icknield Way". Two sections of ditch remain visible, one to the north-east of the village and one to the south-east, covering a total of 4.5 miles (7.2 km). An 730 yards (670 m) stretch south of Cavenham is designated as an SSSI.

Bran Ditch

Bran Ditch or Heydon Ditch is generally assumed to be an Anglo-Saxon earthwork in southern Cambridgeshire, England.

Most of the ditch has been lost to agriculture over time, but its line its marked throughout by both hedgerow and the route of the Harcomlow Way and Icknield Way paths. It would have consisted of an earth bank and ditch running for approximately 5 km (~3 miles) north-west from higher land at Heydon through what is now the golf course at Heydon Grange, crossing the A505 road and to Black Peak at the southernmost tip of Fowlmere RSPB reserve. At this northern terminus of the ditch is an iron-age enclosure. This whole length of the ditch, and the enclosure, is classified as a scheduled ancient monument. Beginning on the fringes of Heydon Village, the ditch's course quickly descends from the higher ground (120m) to the flatter agricultural landscape below (55m). On the hill the earthworks are lightly wooded and it is at this higher point at which the dyke's course and workings are best viewed. Its line to the north can be seen through gaps in the trees in the fields below and what remains of its banks are best preserved there. For a short distance the workings are several metres high as the footpath descends the hill through the ditch and onto the flatter ground below. Down here only a slightly raised straight path and a hedgerow line are clues to former glories.

Brent Ditch

Brent Ditch is generally assumed to be an Anglo-Saxon earthwork in Southern Cambridgeshire, England built around the 6th and 7th Centuries . However most of its structure has been lost over time. The site is scheduled as an ancient monument by Historic England.2 km (~1mile) in length it runs from Pampisford Hall in the North-West to Abington in the South-East. For most of its length it is wooded and it is on private land and so difficult to access. It was built as a defensive structure to control the flow of trade along ancient routes.

In modern times it is bisected by the routes of the old and new A11. It is from the old single carriageway road (grid reference TL514474) that the structure is best viewed as a low ditch in a wooded area besides the road. The earth works at this point are 2 to 3 m high.

The dyke is one of the smaller earthworks of several in south Cambridgeshire designed to control movement along the ancient Roman roads. The others are Devil's Dyke, Fleam Dyke and Bran Ditch.

Black Ditches, Cavenham is a fifth earthwork guarding the ancient Icknield Way and can be found in Suffolk north west of Bury St Edmunds

Cambridgeshire (historic)

Cambridgeshire, archaically known as the County of Cambridge, is one of ninety-two historic counties of the United Kingdom. It corresponds approximately to the eastern half of the present administrative county of Cambridgeshire.

The southern part of the county contains the city of Cambridge, seat of the University of Cambridge. The northern part is known as the Isle of Ely, a Liberty around the cathedral and city of Ely, controlled by the Abbot of Ely and later by the Crown, with its own Quarter Sessions.

The Cambridge is the seat of the University of Cambridge and a great deal of high-tech industry has developed in and around the city for that reason, and growing residential suburbs also. The county's other city is Ely; a small country town dominated by its mediaeval cathedral. The only other town of any size in the county is Wisbech in the far north.

Devil's Dyke, Cambridgeshire

Devil's Dyke or Devil's Ditch is a linear earthen barrier, thought to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, in eastern Cambridgeshire. It is now also a 98 acre (39.8 hectare) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. It runs in an almost straight line from Woodditton south of Newmarket to Reach north-west of Newmarket. It is also a Special Area of Conservation and a Scheduled Monument.

Fen Ditton

Fen Ditton is a village on the northeast edge of Cambridge in Cambridgeshire, England. The parish covers an area of 5.99 square kilometres (2 sq mi).

Fen Ditton lies on the east bank of the River Cam, on the road from Cambridge to Clayhithe, and close to junction 34 of the A14. The nearest railway station is Cambridge North; Waterbeach station is several kilometres north of the village.

Flendish Hundred

Flendish Hundred (more commonly Flendish) is a pre-Norman administrative division of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. The Hundreds of England were intermediate administrative divisions, larger than villages and smaller than shires, that survived until the 19th century. It was likely created in the early 10th century .

Flendish was first recorded in the Domesday Book and has had many names. In the 11th century Flendish hundred contained four vills, later divided into five parishes: Fulbourn, Teversham, Hinton, and Horningsea (today, Fen Ditton and Horningsea).

Fleam Dyke was probably the base from which the forces of King Edward the Elder began to ravage the lands of the East Anglian Danes in 903. These campaigns ended by 920 with his subjugation of the southern Danelaw. [Ref. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ed. D. Whitelock (1961), p. 59]

Today its name lives on as Fleam Dyke


Fulbourn is a village in Cambridgeshire, England with evidence of settlement dating back to Neolithic times. The village was probably established under its current name by 1200 at the latest. The waterfowl-frequented stream after which it was named lies in the east, close to the division between arable and fenland.

Great Wilbraham

Great Wilbraham is a small village situated in a rural area some seven miles (11 km) to the east of Cambridge, between the edge of an area of low-lying drained fens to the west and north, and higher ground beyond the A11 to the east.

The administrative authorities are Cambridgeshire County Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, and Great Wilbraham Parish Council.

List of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire is a county in eastern England, with an area of 339,746 hectares (1,312 sq mi) and a population as of mid-2015 of 841,218. It is crossed by the Nene and the Great Ouse rivers. The University of Cambridge, which was founded in the thirteenth century, made the county one of the country's most important intellectual centres. A large part of the county is in The Fens, and drainage of this habitat, which probably commenced in the Roman period and was largely completed by the seventeenth century, considerably increased the area available for agriculture.The administrative county was formed in 1974, incorporating most of the historic county of Huntingdonshire. Local government is divided between Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, which is a separate unitary authority. Under the county council, there are five district councils, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Huntingdonshire District Council and Fenland District Council.In England, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are designated by Natural England, which is responsible for protecting England's natural environment. Designation as an SSSI gives legal protection to the most important wildlife and geological sites. As of March 2017, there are 99 sites designated in the county. There are eighty-eight sites listed for their biological interest, ten for their geological interest, and one for both interests.

The largest site is Ouse Washes at 2,513.6 hectares (6,211 acres), which is partly in Norfolk. It is internationally important for its wintering and breeding waterfowl and waders, such as teal, pintail and wigeon. The smallest is Delph Bridge Drain at 0.1 hectares (0.25 acres), a short stretch of ditch which was designated because it was found to have a population of fen ragwort, which was believed to have been extinct in Britain since 1857. The only site designated for both biological and geological interests is Ely Pits and Meadows, which has nationally important numbers of bitterns, and has yielded sauropod dinosaurs and pliosaur marine reptiles dating to the Jurassic period.

Roman Road, Cambridgeshire

Roman Road is a 12.4 hectare linear biological Site of Special Scientific Interest stretching from south-east of Cambridge to north of Linton in Cambridgeshire. It is also a Scheduled Monument, and is maintained by Cambridgeshire County Council.This green lane has calcareous grassland, thick hedges and small copses, which provide a valuable habitat for invertebrates. There are grasses such as sheep’s-fescue and quaking-grass, while herbs include wild carrot and purple milk-vetch.The date of the road is uncertain, but archaeological excavation has confirmed that it is Roman, and probably constructed later than the first century. It was a local road connecting Cambridge to the Icknield Way.The road is a public footpath.

Stow cum Quy

Stow-cum-Quy , commonly referred to as Quy, is a parish in Cambridgeshire, England. Situated around 4 miles (6.4 km) north east of Cambridge lying between the Burwell Road (B1102) and the medieval Cambridge to Newmarket road (B1303, formerly A14), it covers an area of 764 hectares (1,890 acres).

West Wratting

West Wratting is a village and civil parish 10 miles southeast of Cambridge in Cambridgeshire. At 390 feet (120 m) above sea level, it can claim to be the highest village in Cambridgeshire.

The parish covers 3,543 acres in south east Cambridge, a thin strip, less than two miles wide, stretching from the London to Newmarket road to the border with Suffolk. Much of its western border follows the Fleam Dyke. It is bordered by Weston Colville to the north and east, and by Balsham and West Wickham to the south.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.