19/5/89

CAMBRIDGE

We had told Eddie and Pauline that we would be taking today off and had planned a trip to Cambridge.  

Our adventures started early.  We got up at 6 a.m. and showered, packed up some stuff and got out the bikes. The distant rumble of thunder told the story of what we were in for and as we cycled along the lanes towards Wormley, the air was full of the sweet, damp smell of approaching rain and bolts of lightning flashed across the sky.  Thunder crashed overhead and we were getting a bit nervous of being out with such a storm going on. We were halfway between Wormley and Broxbourne when the downpour hit us and soaked us to the skin. But, despite the rain we carried on and caught the 7 a.m. train.

The trip to Cambridge took one hour, the train stopping at every station as it travelled past canals and tree-lined fields then through the rolling grain growing area of Hertfordshire.

By the time we got to Cambridge the sun was out and we biked into the centre of town and had breakfast at a little café. We banked our wages and wandered around the market which has been held on the same spot for 1000 years. We decided that the best way to see as much of Cambridge as possible was to get a ticket on a sightseeing bus that would enable us to get on and off when we wanted to. So, we caught the first bus of the morning and sat up on the top in the open air and listened to the commentary telling the long and fascinating story of Cambridge.  The town was founded in 44AD by the Romans (the High Street still follows the exact path of the Roman road). They were there for 360 years until the fall of the Roman Empire and then in the 5th century the Saxons came and ousted the Danes (Vikings) who has established a fine inland port. The Cam River is navigable from the sea right up to Cambridge.

The university was founded in 1209 by scholars who had fled from rioting in Oxford. The first College was Peterhouse and was founded in 1284. The newest College is Robinson which was founded in 1977 and there is now a total of 31 colleges:  24 undergraduate, 6 postgraduate and one teacher training. The names of the colleges include Kings, Sidney Sussex, St Johns, Christ’s, Jesus and Trinity. The latter is the largest and richest of the colleges and is the largest landowner in Britain after the queen and the Church of England. Most of its land was bestowed on it by Henry the 8th after it’d been taken from the monasteries and it is said that it is possible to walk from Cambridge to Oxford without leaving Trinity Land.

Some of the other sites we were to visit were the American War Memorial and Cemetery where more than 3300 white crosses bear witness to some of the American servicemen killed in Europe in World War 2. Included on the wall of remembrance are Glenn Miller and Joseph Kennedy.  We visited the round Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built in 1138 and one of only 5 round churches in existence, and drove past the College Library which contains over 4 million books on 86 miles of shelves.

Around midday, we got off the bus and hired a punt and spent an hour on the calm and peaceful waters of the Cam, along behind the colleges – this area is known as The Backs. After a lazy hour of punting we had a shandy in a nearby pub then caught the bus for another 2 hours of getting on and off looking at the hundreds of lovely old buildings.

We got off for the last time outside St Mary’s Church and climbed to the top of the tower where we had an impressive view out over the old university town. Then we wandered down a back alley to get to St John’s Chapel.  What a wonderful building. We were both or struck by the beauty of it – a huge rectangular gallery with the only partition being a wooden bridge halfway along where the huge organ was mounted. The sunlight streamed through the huge stained glass window on the western end of the chapel and the huge columns rose up to fan-shaped vaults 80 feet above.  The acoustics were perfect.

From there we wandered the streets and bought a pizza for tea which we ate after having to move from one park to another after being accosted of by drunken, foul-mouthed beggars.

After our feast of pizza, garlic bread and Coke we cycled round nearly empty streets back to the river, where we bought a drink each at the pub and sat outside on the banks of the river and watched the punts and ducks drift slowly by as the sun set lower and lower behind the skyline.

Our day in Cambridge was at an end and we biked back to the station and caught the train back to Broxbourne.  It was cold and dark when we arrived so we left our bikes at the station and got a taxi home.

Here are a few interesting bits from the history of East Anglia.

  • BURY ST-EDMONDS AND MAGNA CARTA.  Bury St Edmunds is named after King Edmund of Anglia who was martyred in 870 by the Danes for his Christian beliefs.  The 15th of June 1215 is rightly regarded as one of the most notable dates in the history of the world. Those who gathered at the high altar in the great Abbey church in November of the previous year could hardly of known the consequences that were to flow from their proceedings. The granting of Magna Carta at Runnymede marked the road to individual freedom,  parliamentary democracy and the supremacy of the law.

          The principles of Magna Carta which had their foundation at Bury St Edmunds and           have been developed over the centuries by the common law,  are the Heritage not               only of those who live in these Islands, but of countless millions of races and Creeds           throughout the world.

  • CROMWELL (LORD PROTECTOR OF ENGLAND) Oliver Cromwell was born of middle-class parents on April 25th 1599 in the last year’s of the reign of Elizabeth the First.  Born in Huntingdon, where he went to the free Grammar School ( along with Samuel Pepys) Oliver afterwards spent a year at Cambridge University (1616 Sydney Sussex College)  before completing his education at the Inns of Court, London.

         General Ireton,  although born in Nottinghamshire,  when the Civil War broke out,            raised a troop of horse and in 1643 served with Cromwell in East Anglia.  One of the          most famous quotes from Cromwell was “it is an odd thing Mr Ireton, that every               man who wages war believes God is on his side. I’ll warrant God must often wonder         who is on his!”

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