Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Spying on Cambridge

We’ve recently spent some time in Cambridge. We originally intended to stay for ten days or so – just enough time to check out the town, meet up with some old friends and watch the Superbowl. The ten days were turned by bad weather and a bad cold into three weeks.

We were at the Cherry Hinton Caravan Club site – a quirky little spot carved out of an old chalk quarry, with small areas of half-a-dozen pitches or so, set on different levels and joined together by short but steep ramps. The ramps are what kept us there so long. Having spent a year in the trailer and having only seen a paltry sprinkling of snow in all that time, the Snow Fairy decided to visit the UK in general, and Cambridgeshire in particular, big-time. Three inches of snow followed by several days and nights of thaw-freeze-thaw-freeze meant that even with the Landover, we were never going to make it up that steep ramp towing the trailer. And just when we thought it was over, it snowed again. So we stayed longer.

The snow meant that the local birdlife was struggling to eat, so we picked up a bird feeder. I never realized what fun can be had from watching birds! It all started when (before the snow) we had a green woodpecker drinking from a puddle right in front of the trailer. Never seen one up close. Brilliant. Since we began watching, we’ve seen blue tits, coal tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, chaffinches, greenfinches, goldcrest and treecreepers. Get one! I’ve even seen (though not, I hasten to add, at the feeder) three barn owls!

The trailer, by the way, despite it getting down to –7 at night (sorry – I don’t know what that is in old money) was toasty warm, though we did have to run the heating on gas – the 2kW electric heater just couldn’t keep the internal temperature high enough for comfort. And an Airstream looks just as good on a grey, snowy day as it does in the sun.

Cambridge is, of course, dripping with old stuff.

There’s more twiddly architecture than you can shake a punting pole at.
There are the colleges (this is the gatehouse and chapel of King’s).

There is the site of the oldest bookshop in England (not the original building, but they’ve been selling books here since 1581).

There are at least half-a-dozen bridges and loads of churches...

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of only four round churches in England.
Museums abound, and here is Tracey standing in for one of them while it took a lunch break.

Cambridge is also a Cycling Demonstration Town. This doesn’t mean, sadly, that there are helpful chaps wandering around showing people how not to fall off a bike. It means that the local planners have spent a lot of money and even more time devising every possible way of interfacing cars, bikes and pedestrians. There are cycle paths four and a half feet long. There are cycle paths going the wrong way around roundabouts. There are cycle paths on pavements EVERYWHERE. My personal favourite was at a pelican crossing where the cycle path (which was happily running along by the side of the road) is diverted up onto the pavement and through the spot where pedestrians would be waiting to cross. To improve things more, the design includes barriers to prevent pedestrians from jumping out of the way of the bikes. What could possibly go wrong? To be honest it was good to see the effort being made to integrate bikes into the transport system, though it was terrifying to see so many cyclists going around at night, wearing black and not having any lights. It reminded me that Darwin’s (an old Cambridge scholar) 200th birthday was celebrated while we were there – natural selection weeding out the dumbest cyclists.

As soon as the snow cleared, we were off. It wasn’t a long journey North to Sandringham. The moment we arrived, however, it started snowing again and we had to set up camp in a blizzard…



Chris said...

Bird feeders:- your now officially a twitcher!

Site them right outside your bedroom window as close as you can, it makes a real difference to the fun if you relax on the bed and watch them come and go, especially if your Lovestreaming!

Watch out for Nuthatches visiting also, beautiful!

Jane said...

Just come to your blog thanks to Marie Claire. I am loving your journey.