Sunday, 10 August 2014

Cambridge and Putney

Just a quick three days in Cambridge the week before last, Monday to Wednesday. I like these short trips because it means I can squash everything I want in a vanity case with a shoulder strap and carry it with me if there's nowhere to leave it.
We've been having a run of warm weather in the UK so I spent most of the trip outside, hired a bicycle and cycled as far as Bittlesham, walked round the backs and over bridges and along the river, took a punt tour.

I had ambitions to cycle to Ely, there's a marked route (51 or 11 or both) but realised I was being a bit ambitious after the first 6 miles. I used to cycle all the time when I went back to do my a levels in 1998 - I'd learnt very recently, courtesy of my then boyfriend. (I nearly ran him over the first time I managed more than 10 yards, then I moved in with him in a bedsit with 2 dogs and no windows, with one wall which reached as far as the ceiling tiles but not as far as the actual ceiling, and where the only heating was the two ring gas cooker in the tiny kitchen, and when we left that on the ceiling fan melted. The whole thing was, as they say, an experience for us both.)

It was a fixed gear bike, which was fine because the whole area - the Fens - are very flat. I had known that, courtesy of Michael Portillo and Philippa Pearce (Tom's Midnight Garden being one reason I wanted to go to Ely and climb the Cathedral) but I hadn't realised Cambridge was in the Fens, and that Edmund Crispin's Oxford don/detective being called Gervase Fen is clearly intended as a joke.

Anyway it took me a little while to master cycling again, and then proved more tiring than I remembered, probably because I hadn't used those muscles since over 2 years ago in the New Forest. By the end though I was dodging cows (there are surprising amounts of cows and cattle grids around Cambridge) and tourists (backing unexpectedly into the road to take photographs in a way they never do in London) almost instinctively. Like playing the piano, it helps not to over-think.

I did still do some of the tourist things though. I went round the Fitzwilliam and Kings College Chapel. Tried to draw the organ with less success than I would have hoped (another thing I'm out of practice at), took this picture:

and this:

which may or may not also be part of Kings, as it was taken outside and round the back. 

I also took a detailed shot of a Tudor Rose, which I think compares quite nicely with another picture taken Putney/Parsons Green way last week:

The motto means 'for the citizens and the city', which shows that this was taken north of the river in Fulham after I'd crossed the bridge. I mostly went back to Putney to do that because the bridge is closed to road traffic (open this week for the cycle race though) and I wanted to see how much difference it makes. A lot, to be honest, and very pleasant to walk round although I imagine local shopkeepers are suffering through lack of sales. 

The tide was out and I went for a quick stroll on the strand at the Putney side before crossing. It's quite possible to walk some distance when the tide's out, although it can be treacherous where boats are moored or smaller rivers and drains empty in and the sand is disrupted. I once got myself muddied up to my thighs up near Battersea Park, and then had to emerge by climbing a ladder because I couldn't get past what I thought was one of those small tributaries (in fact I've since realised it was Ransome's dock). I found myself, irritatingly, inside an office complex with CCTV, but luckily the first person I ran into was from British Waterways, actually there because the business that ran the offices had shut off the lock that allowed the dock access to the Thames. 
He advised me to get a pair of waders. 

This is over 20 years ago though, that part of the river is all flats and Thames Path now, and if you google Ransome's dock you get restaurant reviews. Time flees.  

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