Midsummers. 21st June

Clayhithe Moorings to Fort St George Moorings, Cambridge

Clear clear water

The river was so clear this morning, all the reeds and plants intermingled with the fish below us. The sun was out again with the temperatures requiring shorts and shady hats.

We pootled our way in towards Cambridge, much of the journey we were surrounded by trees offering us some shelter. Baits Bite was to be our second lock of the week. Accompanied by a Lock Keepers hut and behind that a rather shy thatched cottage hiding behind high fencing.

Okay then

By The Plough Pub in Fen Ditton there are signs asking you to keep left, this means passing boats on the wrong side. A rowing boat came round the bend ahead of us, a touch too close to the bank and old man in the pub garden shouted across to them about a painting of the Bumps at this location.

Maybe this is the one he was on about. The bend here is known as The Gut, keeping to the left is because of the difficulty in steering a 60ft rowing VIII, as the boat ahead of us had just found out.

Wonder if these cows have better manors than those at Lechlade?

We’d been surviving on what water we had left since filling up at Prickwillow so we gladly stopped in between the moored boats along Stourbridge Common. Here cows graze right up to the river, leaving their calling cards on the banks. Thankfully today any cowpats were dried out making stepping off to tie up easier than it would have been otherwise.

Whilst the tank filled up I had a shower hoping we still had far enough to go to heat up another tank full for Mick later on. Some bins were found nearby, including recycling which was a relief as our rubbish mountain was getting close to engulfing us.

Under Riverside Bridge where two lanes cross the river, one for pedestrians the other bikes. Past Cambridge Museum of Technology with it’s high brick chimney. Terraced houses were soon replaced with boat houses, one for each college, the river narrower than the Thames through Oxford, but still full of boats.

College Boat Houses

We kept our eyes peeled for spaces, the first one too close to a bridge and right outside a pub. Midsummer Fair was set up on Midsummer Common ready to draw in the crowds later this week, maybe we’d be better further in. Then a space with some wonderful shade, we couldn’t let that go to someone else!

Only a few poles to tie to meant the spikes came out. Mick bashed them into the ground, on the final hit the hammer flew out of his hand and straight into the river! A mental note was taken to it’s location and the Sea Searcher magnet earnt it’s keep assisted by the river clearing a touch and the handle of the hammer being bright yellow!

Despite Tilly’s protestations the doors remained shut for her. The amount of foot fall, bikes, scooters and proximity of a busy road means that sadly she won’t be exploring Cambridge.

First port of call was a visit to Heffers. Heffers was established 140 years ago and was the equivalent to Blackwells in Oxford, the university bookshop. In 1999 Blackwells bought the shop, it still retains it’s name. In a previous life I was a book and map seller at Blackwells in York, so time to have a browse was on the cards. With aircon and some birthday presents to purchase I was going to be kept busy for a while. Mick browsed from a chair near the front doors whilst I headed off to find the Crime Section. One title I was after was easy to find, another however wasn’t there. A friendly chap asked if he could help, the other title was currently being considered for reprint. He then suggested various authors that might be suitable, this was a man who knew his stock inside and out. In fact he turns out to have worked in bookselling for 40 years, 38 of them for Heffers and he is also a judge for the Golden Dagger Awards for thrillers. So I purchased a wild card paperback suggested by him, hope Andrew will enjoy it.

Kings College on the left

A couple of hours had us bimbling around the city along with many thousands of tourists. We did have a couple of aims.

Mathematical Bridge

The Mathematical Bridge which crosses the River Cam at Queens College. The bridge was designed by William Etheredge in 1748 and built by John Essex in1749. It spans the 50ft wide river using short lengths of timber. These short lengths of timber are held in a state of compression by the action of gravity on the whole structure, based on a voussoir bridge requiring strong abutments to balance the compressive forces created by the spring of the arch. The triangulation in the structure makes it very strong. Since it was first built it was repaired in 1866 and then rebuilt to the same design in 1904.

Below on the river the punts were in use, several with experienced guides gliding the punts along with ease showing up those having their first attempt. Just beyond Silver Street Bridge is the limit of navigation, although it is only possible to bring powered craft into The Backs between October and March with permission from the Cam Conservators, between March and October the furthest we can go is to below Jesus Lock. Today we weren’t tempted to have a go on a punt.

At weekends they have a second shop elsewhere in the city

Walking back through the city we headed up Bene’t Street. As soon as we’d turned the corner I could see the queue, at least thirty people standing in line. Slow decisions at the head of the queue very necessary. Jack’s Gelato will be visited before we leave, but I didn’t really want to stand around for half an hour today, so we even refrained from looking at todays flavours as that would have been torture.

The Fair

The walk back to Oleanna passed numerous other University buildings and colleges, the bus station (possibly handy for tomorrow) and then across Christ’s Pieces a park filled with trees offering walkers wonderful shade. Then along and across Midsummer Common which one end was almost totally taken over by the fair, we’ll see how noisy it gets tomorrow when it opens.

1 lock, 4.96 miles, 1 full water tank, 2 clean boaters, 1 miffed cat, 1 big splash, 1 handy magnet, 1 first perusal of Cambridge, 2 long a queue, 1 list, 1 joint membership, 3 options, 1st to read the letter, 2 presents, 1 vat of bolognaise sauce.