The soil lies upon gault near the river and chalk on the south-east; the bedrock is overlaid with alluvium beside the Rhee, and elsewhere with valley gravels, except along the south-eastern boundary and just north of the village.

The land is mostly nearly flat, rising very gently from under 15 metres by the river to over 20 metres in the south-east. There it slopes sharply up to over 30 metres at St. Margaret’s Mount in the east, and over 45 metres at Rowley’s Hill to the south-east. The former is topped by an obelisk erected in memory of Gregory Wale (d. 1739). 

The belt of conifers around that hilltop and a few scattered 19th-century plantations form the only woodland recorded in historical times. Harston lay in open fields under a triennial rotation until 1800, and remained devoted to arable farming until the 20th century.

The village is very linear but with green spaces and rural spacings with farms and historical green space that we feel is important to keep.

We would like to explore whether the air quality can be measured.

Green Belt

You can see a map of the Green Belt land in Harston.

There is a key to the map here.

Protected Views

Important Countryside Frontages are areas defined by South Cambridgeshire District Council as “land with a strong countryside character that either penetrates or sweeps into the built-up area providing a significant connection between the street scene and the surrounding rural area or provides an important rural break between two nearby but detached parts of a development framework”. Planning permission for development will be refused if it would compromise these purposes.

There are four such Frontages in Harston – select an image below for a larger scale map.


One of the special aspects of Harston are the many and varied mature trees which line the streets, most notably the High Street.

Tree varieties include Horse Chestnut, Weeping Willow, Walnut, Yew, Sycamore, Common Lime, Ash, Copper Beech and Pine.

Many of the oldest and largest trees are protected by Tree Protection Orders (TPO), this means that the trees cannot be pruned or cut down without the permission of the Council – details of which can be found here.

One of our aims as a group is to identify important trees which do not currently have Tree Protection Orders and apply to have them protected. To this end we recently completed a review of the trees in the village and have listed some trees which we think are worthy of protection.

The criteria we looked at was if the tree was inherent to the village landscape and would merit protection from being felled should new development take place.

If there’s a particular tree – or group of trees or a hedgerow – you’d like to protect, find out how to make a TPO. You don’t need to own the land the tree(s) is on to make one!

The River

The river flows along the western boundary of the village, dividing it from the neighbouring village of Haslingfield. It enters the village by the Harston Mill site (which now houses a number of technology firms), passing along the back of the Parish Church and then continues parallel to Button End before skirting the edge of Haslingfield.

A tributary of the River Cam, the river through Harston is sometimes referred to as the Cam or as the Rhee, the latter being an old Saxon word for “water course or river”.

The naming of the River Cam and its various stages is not clear cut as the names vary over time and according to location, with some of the names being used synonymously. Just south of Grantchester, the confluence of the Rhee and the Granta (another major tributary of the Cam) mark the beginning of the main River Cam through the city of Cambridge.

The river in Harston is liable to flood in winter and as a result the soil around the area of the river is clay, in contrast to the chalky soil in the eastern parts of the village.


A popular walk off the High Street to the east is the Drift – a wide track bounded by trees with views into the surrounding fields. The surface is generally good but can become a little muddy in winter. At the end this crosses the railway line where a footpath will take you to the road and you can turn left back into Harston. Note: there is no footpath by the road over the bridge.

To avoid the busier roads you can cut back through Queen’s Close and Manor Close to the High Street. Should you want a longer walk you can turn right on the road towards Newton – there is now a sandy path by the grass verge/road. From Newton to Harston there is no footpath but a wide grass verge.

Another popular walk is towards Haslingfield which can be reached by The Footpath opposite the Surgery. This opens out onto pastures and meets Button End. At the end of Button End you can take the footpath across the fields directly to Haslingfield or you can follow the winding permissive footpath along the river for more interesting scenery. See map here.

For a longer circular walk you can take the track east/right passing Rectory Farm on a slight rise and down to the A10 almost opposite the Hauxton Junction. (From the rise at Rectory farm you can get a good view west towards the chalk ridge above Barrington and Haslingfield.) To avoid the A10 you can detour further through Hauxton and turn into The Lane which will take you back to London Road in Harston. The Lane can also get a little muddy in winter. From the Lane you can get a good view south east to St Margaret’s Mount with the Obelisk. The whole circular walk is about 5 miles. For walks around Haslingfield you can download their walk leaflet here.

Beyond the church and bridge on the Haslingfield road is a footpath following the river south which leads to Barrington. Some areas on this route are prone to flooding. 

For a short stroll you can cut through the passageway by the shop into the Limes and round to the Recreation ground and the Orchard, which you can stroll around. Some residents would like footpath links to be considered from the Rec to the Drift and possibly further to Queens Close and from the Rec to the school to avoid walking by the A10 and to also link the Harston Community together. Footpath links might also be considered with any new development to link them to the existing Harston community and to include more ways to access the surrounding countryside.

We would love to have your contribution to this page.  Send us your ideas.