The May Manea mania

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The nature of the May Manea mania

The May Manea mania is the small sister of the March March march. As a general rule (there was an exception in 2005), you first catch the train to Manea, and this is the difficult bit because there is only one train and it seems to be earlier each year. It is said that MANEA stands for Many Are Not Even Awake. Nevertheless, there have been seventeen May Manea manias. Then you walk to Cambridge, or somewhere, by one of several routes, after which you have become a Maneac.

The history of the May Manea mania

There have been May Manea manias in 1981, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

All May Manea manias so far have been on a Saturday.

1. May 23rd 1981. Ian Farquharson, David Goto, David Jackson, Jonathan Partington; David Seal to Wilburton. Train 11.27 a.m. A long lunch in the Ship Inn, Manea. Visited 3 pubs in Cottenham and 1 in Histon. Home at 12. (5 participants)

2. May 18th 1985. Ian Farquharson, David Goto, David Jackson, Fenella Jackson, Jonathan Partington, Robert Wilson. Train 9.54 a.m. Lunch at the Ship Inn, Manea. Warm and sunny early on. Pub in Cottenham, fish and chips, and 9.15 p.m. bus home since it was beginning to rain. (6 participants)

3. May 6th 1989. Roy Badami, Bob Dowling, Fenella Jackson, Helene Partington, Jonathan Partington, Alex Perry, Paul Roberts; Martin Barlow, David Jackson to Histon; Jon Peatfield to Cottenham. Train 8.23 a.m. A very hot day. Lunch at the 3 Kings, Haddenham. Dinner in Histon (2 pubs, 1 with food). Back about 8.45 p.m. (10 participants)

4. May 12th 1990. Helene Partington, Jonathan Partington, John Sherwood; David Jackson to Haddenham and from Twenty Pence; Ian Farquharson carrying 2-year old son William from Welches Dam to Haddenham and from Twenty Pence; Jon Peatfield to Wilburton; Fenella Jackson and Mark Wainwright to Haddenham (the latter via a ditch full of water.) Train 8.52 a.m. Dark clouds a.m. but no rain, some sun p.m. Coffee at the wildlife sanctuary 10.45 a.m. Lunch at Sutton (fish and chip shop and The Chequers). The walk ended at the Brook, Histon, with dinner about 6.30 p.m. Back up support from Ann Gustard and Mr Jackson senior. (9 participants)

5. May 4th 1991. Ian Farquharson, Michael Greene, David Jackson, Timothy Luffingham, Helen Partington, Jonathan Partington, John Sherwood, Mark Wainwright; Luke Reader to Haddenham and from Histon; Fenella Jackson, Virginia Knight to Haddenham; Emma Body, Gareth McCaughan, Anna Zwicky to Mepal. Weather dull, cloudy and windy but generally dry. Train 9.48 a.m. An alternative route, via Haddenham, Aldreth, Rampton and Histon, was used for the first time. Coffee at the nature reserve, Lunch at the Three Pickerels, Mepal, 1 p.m. and Dinner at the Rose and Crown, Histon, 7.30 p.m. Back-up support from Ann Gustard (and Martin Barlow at Histon). (14 participants)

6. May 9th 1992. Karl Ewald, Alex Jones, Virginia Knight, Jonathan Partington, Luke Reader, George Russell, Gregory Sankaran; Martin Hardcastle, Gábor Megyesi, Mike Roe, Aldabra Stoddart, Huw Walters to Witcham; Martin Barlow, Ian Farquharson, Mark Wainwright to Sutton (and then a lift to Witcham); Chris Partington and Debbie Savage from Sutton to Witcham. Weather horrible -- rain lasting almost all day. Train 07.57 to Ely then special British Rail bus to Manea (with just Simon Norton for company). Coffee at the Welches Dam vistors centre, hindered by extensive construction operations on the Bedford river banks, lunch at White Horse, Witcham 1.30ish having found none in Sutton (visited Brook House). The survivors continued to Histon via a new route: Wentworth, Wilburton, Twenty Pence, Cottenham Lode etc. Back-up support from Ann Gustard, and later Martin Barlow and David and Fenella Jackson. Three people broke their glasses. (15 participants)

7. May 1st 1993. Colin Bell, Karl Ewald, David Goto, Alex Jones, Virginia Knight, Jonathan Partington, Luke Reader, Gregory Sankaran, Alex Selby. Weather dry and mostly quite sunny, misty early on. Train 07.22 to Manea. A card showing a hedgehog was sent to DPMMS. Lunch at White Horse, Witcham 12-2.15. On to Histon (dinner in the Rose and Crown 7.25) by the same route as 1992, with stops in Wilburton and Cottenham. Back-up support from Brian Kelk at Histon, though some walked on to Cambridge. (9 participants)

8. May 21st 1994. Ian Farquharson, Virginia Knight, Jonathan Partington, Gregory Sankaran. Weather dry and misty until lunchtime, then rainy most of the time. Train 07.25 to Manea, running half an hour late. Lunch at the 3 Kings, Haddenham. Continued via Aldreth, Rampton, and Cottenham (a new route). Arrived in Cambridge about 6.15. (4 participants)

9. May 27th 1995. Colin Bell, Ian Farquharson, Michael Fryers, Virginia Knight, Jonathan Partington, Luke Reader, George Russell, Gregory Sankaran, Aldabra Stoddart; Emma McCaughan and Gareth McCaughan from Twenty Pence Inn. Weather rainy in the morning, sunny later on. Train 06.45 to Manea (05.00 from Leeds in one case). A new route from Haddenham to Wilburton continuing on the disused railway line. Lunch at the Twenty Pence Inn, arriving 12.30-ish and staying 2 hours. Arrived in Cambridge about 6.30. Back-up support from Martin Hardcastle at Twenty Pence. (11 participants)

10. May 3rd 1997. Colin Bell, Ian Farquharson, Virginia Knight, Timothy Luffingham, Jonathan Partington, George Russell, Harriet Snape, James Yardley. Weather mist and sun a.m., duller p.m., turning to rain at the end. Train 06.46 to Manea. A new western route from Haddenham to Histon, narrowly missing Aldreth. DIY refreshments at the bird sanctuary. Lunch at the Cherry Tree, Haddenham, from 11.45-ish. Reached Histon about 5 p.m. (8 participants)

11. May 16th 1998. Tim Barnard, Ian Farquharson, Jonathan Partington, Luke Reader, George Russell, Harriet Snape, James Yardley; Chris Partington and Harvey (dog) from Twenty Pence halfway along Cottenham Lode and back. Weather warm and sunny all day. Train 06.46 to Manea (and, in one case, 05.05 from Leeds to Peterborough followed by a taxi when the connecting train didn't turn up). DIY refreshments at the bird sanctuary. After Haddenham the route cut across to the Great Ouse and then along it to the Twenty Pence Inn for lunch at 1.30 p.m. Then along Cottenham Lode, swinging west of Cottenham, and into Histon by 5.30 p.m. (7 participants)

12. May 15th 1999. Colin Bell, Ian Farquharson, Timothy Luffingham, Jonathan Partington, Luke Reader, Gregory Sankaran, James Yardley. Weather dry and cloudy. Train 06.48 to Manea. Via Sutton, then footpaths and small roads to Wilburton, main road to Twenty Pence, an eastern byroad to Cottenham, and finally to Histon. DIY refreshments at the bird sanctuary. Lunch at the King's Head, Wilburton, from 12.05. Reached Histon about 4.45 p.m. (7 participants)

13. May 6th 2000. Colin Bell, Ian Farquharson, Luke Reader; Gregory Sankaran to Cottenham; Robert Pearce from Fair View Farm to Twenty Pence. Weather dry and sunny, hot later. Train 06.26 to Manea. The promised welcoming party from the locals didn't materialise. A card was sent to Jonathan Partington, signed in the names of unsuccessful London Mayoral candidates. No refreshments at bird sanctuary (it hadn't opened when we arrived). Route as 1999 to the Twenty Pence for lunch 12.15-1.45, then via Cottenham Lode to Cottenham and Histon, 4pm. (4 participants)

14. May 25th 2002. Virginia Knight, James Yardley. Weather mostly sunny and mostly dry. Train 06.24 to Manea, using WHSmith travel voucher. Inadvertent wrong turn taken in Manea village. Coffee at the bird sanctuary. Route thereafter more westerly than traditional, in view of the failure of the year's March March march: along Old Bedford River via Mepal Bridge to Sutton Gault, then via boardwalk over the washes to New Bedford River (100-foot Drain) and thence to Earith Bridge. On down the Old West River to Flat Bridge, farm track to Milking Hills Corner and bridleway to outskirts of Willingham, following the off-road route pioneered by James Yardley on the 2000 March March March. Lunch at The Three Tuns, Willingham, then bus to Cambridge at 14.10, via Over and Bar Hill. Back-up support from Gregory, Naomi and Alban Sankaran at Willingham. (2 participants)

15. May 10th 2003. Colin Bell, John Clarke, Ian Farquharson, Jonathan Partington, James Yardley. Weather cloudless and sunny at 7 a.m., cloudy later, but dry except for a few spots of rain before lunch and a shower at the very end. Train 06.24 to Manea. Bird sanctuary 8 a.m., and then DIY coffee. Route via Mepal, Witcham, Wentworth, Wilburton, Snoots Common, to Lazy Otter pub for lunch 13.15. On via Chittering and North Fen (skirting the Varsity Mink Farm), to Waterbeach at 16.30, in time for one bus and one train southwards, and one train northwards. (5 participants)

16. May 21st 2005. Ian Farquharson, Jonathan Partington, Harriet Snape, James Yardley. Weather bright and sunny at first; from mid-morning there was mostly rain, sometimes quite heavy, with occasional dry intervals in the afternoon. Since there were no morning trains to Manea, the route was highly non-standard. Train 09.32 to Downham Market (other participants arrived by train and car from points North and West). Walking began around 10.30. Severe navigational problems at Denver Sluice, where numerous rivers and canals converge. The walk continued up the New Bedford River past the Wildfowl Refuge, and reached the Lamb and Flag at Welney 13.30. Back into the rain at 14.30, via Tipps End and a ploughed footpath at Turf Lot Drove, reaching Manea station at 16.30. This was "run" by One Railway who provided a station helpline connecting to someone who knew nothing whatsoever about any trains serving Manea; the opportunity was taken to escape on the unique afternoon (Central) trains that did stop: the 17.42 train to Ely and Cambridge, and the 18.18 to Peterborough. (4 participants)

17. May 19th 2007. Diana Galletly, Adam Tolfree, James Yardley. Weather bright and sunny at first; fair-weather cloud increased from mid-morning, but the forecast light showers failed to materialise. A brisk south-westerly breeze. Train 05.51 to Manea, except for Adam who lives in Manea. Postcard showing four Manea scenes bought from Manea Post Office. We took a new route to Purl's Bridge via Biggins, Witcham and Boon's Farms, using footpaths and farm tracks. Coffee and doughnuts at the bird sanctuary 07.50-08.30, thence to Fortrey's Hall pumping station 09.45, Mepal Bridge 10.00 and via southern bank of Hundred Foot Drain to Gault Hole (10.20), Sutton Gault (10.50) and Earith Bridge (12.00). On the final stretch we were assailed by windburn and provoked a spectacular cattle stampede. Onward via the Old West River to Flat Bridge (12.50), Milking Hills Corner (13.15) and Wilford Furlong to Willingham (13.40). Lunch at the Duke of Wellington, Willingham, then bus to Cambridge at 14.45 (except for Adam). Numerous photographs taken en route to be submitted as geographs as route passed through 13 virgin squares. (3 participants)

18. May 29th 2021. Elliot Baptist, Colin Bell, Daniel Charlton, Marino Krstulović, Alex Lee, Rob Lowther-Adamson (né Adamson), Susannah Pearce, Sahanika Ratnayake, David Wheeler. A replacement for the lack of a March this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Dry, some cloud in the morning but otherwise sunny. Train for most 0820, arriving 0909 (change at Ely). Via Mepal Bridge (1145-1200), Mepal, Sutton with lunch at the Three Kings, Haddenham (1345-1515) – no pub in Sutton, Mepal or Witcham was open! Then via Aldreth Causeway, footpaths west of Rampton to Histon guided bus stop (1900). Most departed by bus; two stumbled into Cambridge around 2230 following extensive drinks in the Railway Vue. (9 participants)

19. May 21st 2022. James Buttress, Rob Lowther-Adamson, Jade Taylor-Salazar, Sebastian Taylor-Salazar, David Wheeler. Mostly sunny all day, some cloud, but generally pleasant. Train for most 0820, arriving 0909 (change at Ely), one by taxi from Ely to central Manea due to a broken-down train. Route as 2021. Fears that the Mepal bridge would be closed for pedestrians were thankfully wrong. Lunch at Three Kings, Haddenham from 1400, stop at Aldreth at 1545, arriving Railway Vue, Histon at 1850. (5 participants)

20. May 27st 2023. Colin Bell, Rob Lowther-Adamson, David Wheeler. Warm, cloudless from mid-morning, still. Official train 0833, arriving 0911, one by car, one (the same as last year) by taxi from Peterborough due to a train failure. Depart 0920, Mepal Bridge 1145, Cherry Tree Haddenham 1345-1435 (much improved from our last visit), arriving Railway Vue, Histon at 1815 for drinks but not venturing onto the bouncy castle. Route as previous year. (3 participants)

The route of the May Manea mania

The route is less standardised that that of the March March march and tends to vary each year.

Train to Manea (we are usually the only people getting off), then walk through Manea to the Bedford River, and then South West past the bird sanctuary to rejoin the road at Mepal. On via Sutton, across country to Haddenham (or via Witcham and Wentworth), then by road to Wilburton, Twenty Pence, Cottenham, Histon (or alternatively via Aldreth and Rampton to Histon). There is no canonical lunching place, but Mepal, Witcham, Haddenham or Wilburton are all possible, and Histon is a good place for dinner. This walk is rather shorter and normally much warmer than the March March march. Its endpoint is also variable: you are generally considered to have finished if you reach Histon, but one Mania ended at Cottenham and another at Willingham, and others have gone all the way to Cambridge. The distance to Histon is about twenty miles. It is said that MANEA stands for Miles Away, No Escape Available.


Twelve people have completed a May Manea mania but have never done the March March march: Elliot Baptist, Tim Barnard, James Buttress, John Clarke, Diana Galletly, Alex Jones, Marino Krstulović, Susannah Pearce, Sahanika Ratnayake, Paul Roberts, Alex Selby and Adam Tolfree. Martin Barlow reached Histon but got no further: it is therefore arguable that he has done neither the March March march nor the May Manea mania, or one, or the other, or both. If you want to argue any or all of these things, please do it in your bath rather than by emailing us. With these exceptions, all other Maneacs are also Marchers.
Enquiries about future Manias should be addressed to: