19 November 2009


HA! So this blog comes over a month after the fact, but I’m sure the three people who read this blog will still be interested. Maybe! Some of this was written or drafted at the time, other bits I’ve just tried to remember. You can see all the pictures from this jaunt here.

Tuesday 6th October 2009

On holiday again!!! We got a lift from M to the station, then rode the packed tube to Kings Cross. We were there nice and early so after we picked up our tickets we went to find Platform 9 ¾, where they allegedly have a trolley stuck in the wall. Alas, they are putting a new platform in, and because of all the works we couldn’t see it. SADFACE. The train to Cambridge was speedy and smooth (in fact I think it took less time to get from Kings Cross to Cambridge than it did to get from home to Kings Cross).

looking for platform 9 3/4?

Our first port of call was the Botanic Gardens, and we spent almost two hours there. First we wandered through the light rain smelling herbs and admiring the autumn colours. When the rain got heavier we escaped into the glasshouses where we saw things ranging from tropical rainforests with vines of lush flowers to a room of carnivorous plants (DON’T FEED THE PLANTS, said the sign), an Australian and African comparison, and a rock garden where we sat and drank a cup of tea from our thermos. It was fabulous!

d & j in cambridge bot. garden

autumn path

crimson lantern in the chronological bed

inside the glasshouse

tiny cactus with fingertip for scale!

flypaper plant in the glasshouse

Then it was into the centre of town to meet S & S (from the internet, as I so often say about the folk I catch up with on our travels). I liked Cambridge immediately, though I’m not sure I could cope with tourist season! It was fairly low key, full of students on bicycles, and not quite as picturesque/pretentious as Oxford. (That’s the extent of my weighing in to the rivalry!) S took us to the top of the tower at Great St Mary’s (the University church), where she pointed out various landmarks and S&S discussed the pros and cons of climbing the turrets and walls.

the bells of great st mary's

clare college? from great st mary's

AND THEN WE WENT PUNTING! We walked around the Backs, looked at bridges, laughed at fail!punters – though no punters were failier than the ones we saw using a guitar as a paddle! Once on the river, we glided past swans, ducks, geese and moorhens . . . until it was time for us to punt, and then we turned around in circles (me) and zigzagged across the river (DB). S & S were excellent punters, though, and we had an ace time.

reflections and punts on the cam

Punting: S punts, J watches (2)

Punting: Don't fall in!

Punting: Almost Amazonian! <3

Punting: King's College and arguing swans

We parted ways after a few hours, and we hopped on a bus to St Ives (which went through the rather drab and unfunny town of Lolworth) and then another to Hemingford Grey. The bus drivers were jovial and got us to our destination with no fuss and a lot of loud friendliness and complaints about their working conditions. Upon arrival we walked what seemed like a long way down the street til we arrived at the gorgeous little B&B, checked in, then went for dinner next door at the pub called The Cock. It was expensive but delicious. Mmm, cheese platter!

the window of willow guest house

cheese platter at the cock (1)

Wednesday 7th October


First of all, you need to understand that I (J) read all the Green Knowe books when I was a kid, and I loved them! Last year a friend (I) told me that the house in the books was real and that you could go and look around the gardens and book a tour of the house itself. That’s why we decided to stay in Hemingford Grey.

Walk to St Ives (once St Ivo’s) via church with its harvest festival stuff and through Hemingford Meadow. As we left the meadow, we stopped to talk to a woman who we discovered had written a booklet on the history and seasonal nature of the meadow. That was pretty cool!

the churchyard, hemingford grey

no fishing from the churchyard

hemingford meadow, sky

st ives from hemingford meadow

We strolled through St Ives and stopped off at the Norris Museum. They had a fantastic collection, from locally found dinosaur bones to old axe heads, from Roman vessels and tiles to 19th century lace, several maps showing settlements and historic events and artwork depicting local scenes. At the end was a display of ice skates showing their evolution, paired with photos and silent 1920s or 30s film footage of races on the fens (with a gorgeous moment where a police officer in his helmet falls flat on his bum and his colleague laughs at him).

We got talking to the woman behind the desk about the area and about the Manor House and Lucy Boston. She was very excited to tell us that the ‘Bishops Seat’ we had seen outside was actually one of the ‘seats’ from The Stones of Green Knowe! Outside, there was also a display of a centuries-old fire pump, and a little herb garden beside the river with a display outlining what all the herbs were used for in medieval times.

"bishops chair"

From there, we walked up the River Great Ouse (what an odd order to have the words), through St Ives Thicket, and to the outskirts of Houghton. The National Trust has a mill there, but it wasn’t open. Instead we sat near the lock and drank hot chocolate (yay for our thermos!) and watched a narrowboat go through the lock. We were also terrorised by a teenage swan that strutted over and hissed at and pecked D’s backpack. We think it was because the backpack on the ground looked roughly the same size as a small animal or even the body of a small black swan.

d in st ives thicket (i think!)

duck and drake

In Hemingford Abbots we stopped at the Axe and Compass pub for lunch, which was nice and low-key. The cider was less low-key. In fact, it was quite alcoholic. I was rather cheerful when we left!

d & j through the looking glass



To anyone who hasn’t loved the books, it’s pointless to outline how awesome it was. The gardens were lovely anyway, but we saw the old moat, the bamboo, the green deer, chess pieces, St Christopher, Green Noah (ARGH!), chooks, herb garden, a man with a gun, the gravel path. The man with a gun returned sans gun and offered to give us a tour of the house. I gleefully accepted!

topiary, green knowe

st christopher, green knowe

the deer at green knowe

THE HOUSE. sa;dlfkja;sdlfkz;sldkfj;alskdjf!!! Photography wasn’t allowed, but there was the mirror, the little figures in the rafters (one with birds nest) and Feste’s board, the fireplace, the human hair, the other mirror (creeeeeeepy!), Tolly’s room, the rocking horse, the dogs, the beds, the birdcage, the toy chest (Toby’s sword, Linnet’s doll and book, Alexander’s flute OMG! Susan’s shells) with the key . . . THE MOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Knight’s Hall was the Music Room in Lucy Boston’s time, and she used to invite the airforce men over to listen to music on the huge gramophone. The trumpet was made of papier mache, and the needle was bamboo. We got to see the needle trimmed, and listened to a minute or so of an old record. AMAZING. We also saw the quilts Lucy made, the original manuscript of The Children of Green Knowe, Peter’s original paintings that are the covers of the books (and the artworks of Lucy’s ‘lifelong friend’ Elizabeth). It was great!

The guy was really friendly and lovely. Apparently they’ve made a movie which is going to be shown on Australian TV before/around Christmas. It wasn’t shot there (logistically that would be ridiculously hard to do), but they’ve used some of the things from the house as props and the current owner is in it for a second or two. I think it’s the story from Chimneys. It has Maggie Smith and Timothy Spall in it!

I can’t remember what we did after that! I think we went back to the B&B and collapsed for the evening. Possibly we watched TV.

Thursday 8th October

Since the B&B operators let us borrow their OS map of the area, we decided to go on a nice leisurely all-day walk. We started in the morning, wandered past the lakes (old quarries) on the outskirts of Hemingford Grey, attempted a possible shortcut which was very lovely but necessitated a loop back to where we began.

j & d: before

lakes and lines (2)

We wandered to Fenstanton and checked out the church on the way – it’s where Capability Brown is buried. Only his name was actually LANCELOT. Excellent.

lancelot 'capability' brown, fenstanton church

We were thinking of having an early lunch at Fen Drayton (we didn’t have a packed lunch), but the pub wasn’t open yet, so instead we headed up to the Fen Drayton Lakes Nature Reserve (I think that’s the name!) and had a cup of tea while watching the abundant birdlife. The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway goes along the route of the old railway line, through the Nature Reserve. We walked alongside it for a while before turning off and heading into Swavesey, where we had lunch at a pub the kind of which I didn’t think existed outside of TV shows set in the English countryside. It was totally a local, with an old man addressed as ‘Major’ hobbling in for his lunch (soup and ‘the usual’), and it was excellent even as it was a bit of a culture shock (and reminded me of my days working in a country pub in Australia).

d on the guided busway

the fen lakes near the river great ouse

sky mountain, lake mountain

From Swavesey, we cut across to the river and followed it as close as we could back to St Ives. The fens are huge and flat, and it was quite pleasant and easy walking. At one point we had to make a detour because the police had fenced off a section of path (this also explained the helicopter we'd decided was stalking us!). Policeman Chaz asked us if we’d seen a Land Rover parked anywhere (or was it a Range Rover), and we felt a bit as if we were in an episode of Midsomer Murders, but we were of no help. We hoped it was a drugs investigation and not a murder. We arrived in St Ives in time to have a stroll around the square and then pick up a pizza, which we ate in Hemingford Meadow (much to the disgust of the 2378937 local joggers who trotted past). We walked back to Hemingford Grey in the company of a fluffy-tailed young cat, admiring the sunset.

police helicopter

hemingford cat, reclining

sunset, hemingford grey (1)

Afterwards, we thought we’d walked maybe 17 or 18 kilometres, but on mapping it out we discovered we’d actually walked 23km. It certainly didn’t feel like the 23km days we’d done on the Southwest Coast Path, but I guess we were sporting very light packs, and the Cambridgeshire/Huntingdonshire landscape is quite spectacularly flat!

Friday 9th October

We packed and checked out hastily after breakfast because one of our fellow B&B-ers kindly offered to give us a lift into Cambridge. He told us a bit about where he lived, his job (a non-members golf course, which he was very proud of: “As soon as someone is a member of something they want to keep everyone else out”). He also took us on a detour past Madingley to see the American Cemetery, although it was closed in the morning. In the end he dropped us off outside Kings College, right where we wanted to be! We had a coffee and read our books for a little while before heading over to have a look in the Cathedral.

braille & 3d map of cambridge

actually, it is the best.

It was a fantastic place to visit – the fan vaulting on the roof is just as impressive as people say, and there are also interesting historic exhibits in the side rooms. Someone was tuning the organ when we were there, and it was fine until they started blasting the high notes. I was not the only one with fingers in ears!

fan vaulting, kings college chapel

After that, we’d had enough of touristing, so we looked in the CUP bookshop (there’s been a bookshop there for something like 4830 million years) walked through the city centre and back up to the train. (We were in London in under an hour, and it definitely took us longer to get from Kings Cross to M & A’s house!) I noticed once again that I started feeling grumpy almost as soon as we were in London. I don’t know what it is, but despite all the excellent things in it, that city gives me the shits!

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