Visit Cambridge; Grantchester Meadows

Saturday, August 4, 2018

I've never been to Cambridge before and as we hop off the train and meander through the streets everything was pretty much as I was expecting: impressive old buildings, cobbled streets and an air of old fashioned, concrete and brick glamour.
This isn't our destination however and we implement the use of Google maps to point ourselves in the right direction. As we slowly make our way out of the city I find myself increasingly taken by surprise. This was not what I was expecting: everything is green and grassy and we walk down dappled sunny paths overlooked by scruffy waving trees. Then we come out by the river and it's like a scene from Wind in the Willows with perfect grassy banks and arm-like fronds of green draping in to the lazy river.

The river Cam is slow moving in the summer months.
It's a hot day and this has brought the locals out in full force. There are groups of teenagers, students and whole extended families swimming and playing in the river. Punts are gliding by loaded up with tourists and day trippers. A little further and we walk past a boat full of ladies parked under a willow tree, sipping wine and giggling in the shade.
We choose a spot and snigger as a group of fully grown lads erupt in to shrieks as they tiptoe in to the water. When it's our turn to get in I feel a bit ashamed of myself as we snootily glide on by them with an air of 'oh it's cold? I hadn't noticed'. In all honesty though, the water is cool and silky and very welcome after our hot walk from the station.

Bit of a struggle getting out!
Further on we find a rope swing and amuse ourselves for a while competing with the local children to see who can swing the furthest in to the river. They win of course.
"Would you like to borrow our kayaks?" one of the Mums asks me. I stare at her in shock; I am a Londoner (by location) and I'm not sure I could find somebody who would lend me a pair of arm bands down my local lido.

But that's what makes this spot great. It's all rope swings, sandwiches, shrieking kids and flasks of tea; a cute riverside community where Cambridge folks have been swimming for hundreds of years and hopefully will for many more.

The only downside was when we finally left, all swimmed-out, a biffa vans worth of rubbish had been dumped on the side of the river bank. Horrified we picked up as much as we could carry but there was still plenty more that we had to leave behind. Fun spot but pick up your rubbish folks!

Month: June
Temperature: 20 degrees
Overall mark: 7/10
Mud factor: 6/10
Weed factor: 5/10 (must get quite weedy later in the summer though)
Atmosphere: Busy
Good for: Longer swims, rope swing, diving from banks (test water depth first), cycling, walking, picnics, boats.
Top tips: If you are prepared and don't mind dodging the punts, it is possible to swim for a long stretch up or down stream. Alternatively hire a punt and paddle up river to find a spot that's not quite so busy.
Getting Here: Train to Cambridge station and walk, bike or punt along the river. Alternatively change for Grantchester station. Alternatively about 1 - 2 hours drive from London with easy parking around Grantchester.

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