Yes, we both went to Cambridge
Cambridge is a city with the feeling of a large country village but with the benefits of both. There are lots of green open spaces and a lack of traffic that give a country feeling to the centre of the city but there are all the shopping, cultural and entertainment options that are expected in any large city.
One of the large green areas is Midsummer Common on which Red Poll cattle graze, these are there to improve the quality of the land, but they also increase the sales revenue of one of the stalls in the central market where their meat is eventually sold.
The centre of Cambridge has many streets that are lined with old cottages, most of these streets are car free due to the restrictions that apply. There are also strong conservation rules in place giving a timeless feel to these streets with their original style doors, windows and English cottage style gardens.
The neighbours of Eden Street, where we are pet sitting, have Friday night drinks under a tree at the end of the street. We met John, a neighbour, who moved to Cambridge from the country at age 70, “you’ve got to plan 5 years ahead” he said “we didn’t want to be out in the country at 75, we want to be close to things”. Cambridge is definitely on our radar as a future place to live, it’s a small city but with such a lot to see and do.
City of bikes
The city is the most bike friendly city that we have seen in England, many of the streets are car free and lots of people can be seen cycling to and from work and around the city, including parents who are dropping their children off at school rather than in the usual big 4WR vehicles that can be seen in other cities.
The streets even have bike counters showing the number of bikes that have passed that day and year to date. The counter we passed showed nearly 3,000 cycles on that day and over 500,000 year to date, that’s a huge saving in vehicle journeys and the associated traffic.
Outside most of the homes in the city it’s more likely to see a bike parked up rather than a car. Some of the bikes have boxes attached to the front of them in which children or pets sit and ride. There are bike parking stations throughout the centre of Cambridge and every railing or lamp post makes an ideal parking location.
Our four legged friend
On this pet sit we are looking after Nelson, a very playful, pup like, 14 month old cockapoo. Nelson loves going for a walk and there are lots of places to choose near to where he lives. For some reason he loves to press his nose against a bit of human flesh! We’ve had a few experiences at road crossings where he’s caused some people to shriek as he has pressed his cold wet nose against their bare leg!
It’s all under control
As a pet sitter it’s important to follow the owners instructions and to be seen as the master, whether this is being in control of the lead or getting the best seat on the sofa in front of the TV, it’s good for the pets to know who is in charge. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple! Nelson loves to tug on his lead, especially his very long extendable one, and he loves prime position on the sofa, but it’s all part of the fun of looking after him.
With all the green areas within few minutes from Nelson’s home it’ s really easy and pleasant to take him for a walk through the park, the common or along the River Cam. He loves to play ball and to meet up with other dogs, although he’s not too keen on the cows on Midsummer Common where he’s been known to bark at them, with little reaction from the cows.
We find that one of the things that makes a pet sit enjoyable is the walkability of the location. Cambridge, for us, is the best place we have been to date for its walkability, within minutes of Nelson’s home there are numerous parks and commons plus there’s the whole city to walk, which is very easy due to it being a bicycle friendly city with fewer vehicles.
On one of our walks we met Banjo the Spaniel, he made instant friends with Nelson and they had a few mad moments together running in circles in the park. It’s also quite amazing how when we walk with a dog other dog owners start to talk to us! If you want to make new friends and meet people, get a dog!
Punting on the Cam
Nelson had the adventure of his life when we took him punting on the Cam. The River Cam runs through Cambridge and it is famous for the flat bottom boats that are propelled along the river by a large pole that is controlled by the person who stands at one end of the boat. The journey is through the main Cambridge Colleges including King’s, Trinity and Clare. Here Nelson could observe the beautiful historic buildings and bridges along the ride but he seemed to prefer the ducks and Canadian geese.
Cambridge food festival
We took Nelson to the Cambridge food festival, there were almost as many pet food stalls as human food! Nelson didn’t complain, especially when he got special attention from the stall holders like Tales.com where he was given tastings and also Barking Heads who gave him some free samples to take home, including a bag of “Pooched Salmon” and one of “Bowl Lickin’ Chicken”! Yum!
The benefits of travel
We have always loved travelling and exploring new places and pet sitting is enabling us to do this full time. The hard bit is living from two suitcases, but this minimal lifestyle is countered with maximum new travel adventures. The benefit of looking after a home and a pet is that we get to live like a local. We are also getting to spend longer periods of time in locations that are of interest to us. This leads to us being able to experience, enjoy and learn more about our chosen destination.
There is so much to see, do and learn about Cambridge, here are some of our favourite things and stories of the city and its surrounds:
King Henry VI laid the foundation stone of Kings’s College in 1446 he also gave land to the colleges so that they could generate rental income, the university still owns huge amounts of land around the country today. We are now very proud to be able to tell anyone who asks, that “yes, we both went to King’s College Cambridge.”
Fitzbillies has been a Cambridge instituation since 1922. It’s a cafe and bakery that is famous for its Chelsea Buns, these are sticky cinnamon flavoured fruit filled buns that are baked in big trays then served individually. On average, over 700 are sold every day of the week. In 2011 the business went into liquidation and Stephen Fry Tweeted how terrible this was, with him being a big fan. Luckily for us, his Tweet was read by a couple who then bought business and saved it from closure.
Where’s the loo?
King street is famous for its pubs, in 1955 a competition was established with the aim of each competitor having a pint of beer at each of the seven pubs along the street and a final eighth pint back at the first pub, the winner being the last person to empty their bladder! The Horse and Groom pub was renamed the King Street Run in honour of this endurance test and has a street sign to celebrate the competition.
Hobson’s Conduit are deep channels that were built in the 17th century to bring fresh water into Cambridge. The original fountain that provided water to the market place has now been moved to Trumpington Road. Thomas Hobson was a wealthy entrepreneur who kept stables, he would lend out the horse closed to the stable doors, this became known as Hobson’s Choice, meaning no choice at all. The reason for this was that the horse nearest the door was the most rested so both the horse and rider benefited.
Captain James Cook was a naval explorer who discovered unknown lands including Australia, NZ, Tahiti and Hawaii. Elizabeth Cook not only survived her husband by 56 years but also all of their children. In St Andrew The Great church a plaque records the finite history of the whole family as none of the children had children of their own.
Jim and Helen Ede bought several small cottages in Cambridge which they converted into a home in which they lived between 1958 and 1973. Jim was the curator of the Tate Gallery in the 1920’s and 1930’s. They retired to Edinburgh and donated the house to Cambridge University leaving the rooms as they were when they lived there. It’s a beautiful space to visit and walk around to view the art, furniture and style of the home.
Twenty minutes drive from Cambridge is the impressive Wimpole Estate. The last owner, Elsie Bambridge, lived here for 38 years until 1976, most of them alone after her husbands death in 1943. She was the daughter of Rudyard Kipling and used her inheritance to buy and maintain the property. She had no children and so left the property to the National Trust. Nelson loved his visit to the property.
Goodbye for now
We have really loved our time in Cambridge, it really is a beautiful walkable city, we hardly used our car while we were here. With the mix of history and culture there really is a lot to see and do here. We will definitely be back, and maybe to live full time at some point!