It was our final day in Cambridge but as our train home wasn’t until 5.00 p.m. we still had ample time to explore. After gathering our belongings together we left our bags at the hotel for safekeeping and then wandered down the now familiar Hills Road into the city centre for some breakfast.
As it was a Sunday morning the city was still quiet so we then had a peaceful walk through the grounds of Downham College. This college, founded in 1800, is set in 20 acres of parkland which was looking beautiful with autumnal tints as the leaves were starting to fall off the trees. Downham’s buildings are of neo-classical style in a rich, cream coloured stone. I was impressed to see that the Maitland Robinson library which only opened in 1993 had been designed in a similar style to blend in with the existing buildings. There was little sign of life around the college apart from a few students playing tennis on one of the courts in the far corner of the grounds.
Continuing our walk, we made our way to the river along Silver Street and watched the punting activity from the bridge. Several Chinese tour groups were enjoying punting tours and they had left one of their party on the bridge to take their photos.
Wondering what to do next, we were inspired by a black signpost pointing the way for pedestrians and cyclists to the village of Grantchester, a distance of two miles. As it was such a beautiful morning we set off along the path which took us through meadows, alongside the River Cam and over several small bridges. The route was reasonably well signposted and apart from a small section along a road, was very picturesque. It was an easy walk as the area is almost entirely flat and even stopping for photos and not walking too quickly, we reached Grantchester in 45 minutes.
The footpath conveniently led us to two pubs, The Green Man and the Red Lion so we chose the latter with its thatched roof and settled down for a little rest in their cosy bar with refreshing glasses of lager. The pub seemed a popular choice for Sunday lunch as soon after we arrived it became quite busy.
We then strolled through the village which looked just like a scene from a chocolate box lid with its quaint thatched cottages with their country gardens. Grantchester’s old vicarage was home to the Edwardian poet Rupert Brooke and is now owned by the Cambridge scientist Mary Archer and her novelist and former politician husband, Jeffrey.
To add a little variety to our walk we took a slightly different route back to Cambridge which was equally attractive passing through meadows and woods and taking a similar amount of time. As it was now early afternoon there was more activity on the river with canoeists, stand up paddle boarders and punts all in action. It was very relaxing and peaceful walking along this upper stretch of the river with wildlife and a herd of brown cows for company.
Nearing the end of the footpath, we passed the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel where we could see a wedding party taking place on its riverside lawns. Waiting patiently on the river, a flower adorned chauffeured wedding punt was ready to take the newly married couple from the reception. Considering it was late October they couldn’t have wished for a better day, so unlike the previous weekend’s wet and windy conditions.
Back in the city centre we rewarded ourselves with tea and cakes after our lovely walk. There was then just enough time for a little more shopping in the attractive stores and on our way back to the hotel we wandered onto Parker’s Piece which is an area of open common.
This open parkland covers 25 acres and seemed popular with families enjoying picnics and playing ball games. The park’s unusual name is derived from Edward Parker, a cook who held the original lease to the land.
After collecting our luggage from the hotel we walked the short distance to the railway station stopping briefly to buy some sandwiches for the lengthy journey home. It was fortunate that we had arrived at the station slightly early as rail replacement buses were ferrying passengers to Royston due to engineering works. There had been no mention of this when we had purchased our tickets and we had to join a lengthy queue snaking around the side of the station to wait for a bus. Thankfully, the queue moved swiftly and we arrived in Royston with just five minutes to spare before the train I’d originally booked on was due to depart. This took me to Stevenage from where I joined the LNER service north towards my home.
We had such a lovely weekend in Cambridge finding so many nice things to see and do. Ely was an excellent day out, being a complete contrast to bustling Cambridge and visiting its magnificent cathedral was a memorable experience.
I would like to thank Visit Cambridge, Visit Ely and their attractions for helping to make this trip possible.