Saturday, 26 November 2011

Further Necessary Steps...

....if we're ever going to finish this mile of English road. And if you've heard that the rolling English roads were made by rolling English drunkards then you're in for an inebriated experience, for the rest of our journey one right-angle bend follows another in rapid succession, as we descend slowly to the bridge over the river.

Next to the White Cottage stand a row of brick cottages and opposite that a house which is now the vicarage, but was formerly the church warden's house and was known as Cresswell's after one of the past inhabitants.

The vicarage is conveniently close to the church, which wasn't the case with the two former vicarages - more of one of those later. Faithful readers of this blog may remember that I wrote about the church here.

Crossing the road again, (on one of those dangerous bends mentioned earlier - the risks I take to bring you this stuff!) we come to two more cottages in the care of the Cottage Improvement Society which stand next to the footpath which can be followed through the Meadows and right into Cambridge. Students from the University used to call it "the Grantchester grind" which shows that they must have been a) very unfit; it's only 2 miles of level walking, and b) totally oblivious to the beauty around them.

Back over the road again (more risks!) there's a tiny little house which was once the gatekeeper's lodge for Manor Farm. Friends of mine lived there for a while and found that, unlike the Tardis, it's even smaller inside than it looks from outside. It was also not a good place for people who disliked the sound of church bells. Or tractors.

Manor Farmhouse itself can be seen by looking over an ancient brick wall. It's an intriguing building with gable ends facing in all directions, huge chimney stacks in unlikely places and a variety of different architectural styles. You might as well ask a Hollywood actress her age as enquire about the age of this building! Parts of it are thought to be very old but a number of facelifts and reconstructions have taken place through the centuries. An old story states that there is a tunnel leading from the house to Kings College in Cambridge and believe it or not the start of a tunnel has been discovered. However it's probably just an old sewer leading down to the river. One can imagine that someone might have escaped down such a tunnel, possibly at a time of religious intolerance, and turned up in the college having travelled down the river, giving rise to the story.

Dodging back across the road again we find Spring Lane leading down to Parson's Meadow, where in days of yore the vicar kept his horse.

Next to the lane is a small gate leading into The Orchard Tea Gardens. In summer this is very much on the tourist trail from its association with the poet Rupert Brooke who lodged at The Old Vicarage which stands next door to the Tea Gardens. It's going to take us a little while to get there as we're following the road around.

Dove Cottage may be familiar to some of you as I wrote about it in an earlier post. It was once used for keeping pigeons but is now the house of the farm manager. In the garden is a pond which was once part of Manor Farm's moat. It was common for farm houses to have such a feature in the past, partly for reasons of status and partly to provide fish to supplement the diet in the winter months.

Running up next to the moat is a hidden footpath which was once a road used for bringing grain to the water mill. Like many old tracks its legal status as a right of way has been maintained despite its falling into disuse as a road.

Yew Garth is a rather fine old dwelling which was once the home of Professor Willmer who published his sketchbook "Old Grantchester" back in the 70s. Much of what I know about the village I found in those pages and it also inspired me to find out more about my local area. The central portion of the house dates back to the 17th century at least.

Then it's past Ivydene, which I always think of as Mr Clamp's house. He still lives in the village and can still be seen out walking on fine days despite being over 100 years young. Then it's past Lyndewood and Riversdale, past the main entrance to The Orchard to arrive at the Old Vicarage, seen above. The odd-looking chimneys are to be seen on several houses in the village. This is where Rupert Brooke once lodged though I'm led to believe that he wasn't particularly punctual paying his rent and often wrote the lady of the house a few lines of poetry in lieu of cash! The present occupants are Lord and Lady Archer, aka Jeffrey Archer and Dr Mary Archer.

Another footpath leads around to the Millpond where in teenage years I would come on the punt which my friends and I had restored, having found it wrecked in the river. The local policeman said "If nobody claims it you boys can keep it". The mill burned down in 1929 but the house survived and still stands on the mill bridge. I wrote about the mill here. Just for a change here's a photograph of the back of the building.

And that concludes our mile of English road. As you can see it's packed with history and there's probably even more that I've left out because of lack of space and lack of knowledge; much more remains to be discovered. Lets finish with the words of Rupert Brooke, as he sat in a cafe in Berlin, dreaming of home:

Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

Take care.


  1. John, your posts are always informative as well as visually gratifying. I was surprised that once housing was provided the church warden. Our little parish can't even provide housing for the vicar, and the senior warden is pretty much expected to reach into his/her own pocket for most minor church expenses. Jim

  2. Thank you for that lovely walk John. I don't suppose I shall ever get there to see it for myself so I relaly appreciated it.

  3. The stretch of water meadows round there is very beautiful too. I may have walked that English road in he past.

    There is a Cresswell House here at Valley's End, I wonder if they are the same family.

  4. It reminds me of the Mr Man village. I can imagine Arthur Lowe giving running commentary.

  5. Ah, swooning with delight here... both at your photos and those so interesting snippets of info, and generally at the lovely Englishness of it all. When I holiday in your area (which I am now determined to do) I shall print all out these blogposts to be my guidebook.

  6. Known Canadian history is so short compared to England's. It always amazes me to see how many buildings have lasted through the centuries because so many her get torn down and replaced by newer ones.

  7. I've sat here taking your English Mile all in one piece--a fine journey and one I would like to walk in person.
    It may be redundant to tell you again that your photos are beautiful [but they are!] and the accompanying text delights me.
    Thank You

  8. Your posts are fantastic John! I appreciate the danger you put yourself in, to bring us these enlightening miles of English road. A walk with you would be fun... your photography posts are the next best thing :^)

  9. Beautiful reflections in the Mill pond John and thanks for sharing your rowing memories! A delightful walk down you English country road.

  10. Although I know I'll never get on a jet and fly over the ocean, you certaintly made me feel like I was walking right there with you, John. I'm totally in love with England through your eyes. Thanks for such a great post!!!


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