Sunday, 24 June 2012
Follow The River On Down
Think of the River Cam in Cambridge and you probably have an image of the river flowing slowly past Kings' College Chapel, willows sweeping the water and tourists passing on punts. The picturesque Backs end at Magdalene Bridge. Magdalene College seems to turn its back on the river and with good reason; the opposite bank used to be built up with warehouses as it was the end of the navigable waterway for most of the cargo boats that brought supplies into the town.
Beyond Magdalene Bridge the river takes on a subtly different character. Lets go and take a look. And it's easy to take a look too as there's a riverside path all the way; it was once the towpath for horses that pulled the barges. Incidentally a few boats did go further upstream to King's Mill and Newnham Mill but because the land on either side of the water had been grabbed by the colleges the poor old horses had to walk in the river on a specially constructed path. You used to be able to find parts of it with your puntpole, I remember.
The old warehouses have been converted to luxury apartments and riverside restaurants. Soon we're walking through riverside parks. First of all through Jesus Green where there's the uncommon sight in this part of the world - lock gates.
The path makes its way past the open air swimming pool and The Fort St George pub which once gloried in its full name of The Fort St George In Olde England, but even then we always called it the Fort. It used to be the place to meet up with friends in the days before text messaging, Facebook and Twitter meant that every young person knows what their peers are doing at every moment of the day.
As you travel on to Midsummer Common there are more and more boats with people living on them. There's another kind of boat which often makes an appearance on this stretch of river....
....this is the home of the various rowing clubs, both from the colleges and the town. Boathouses line the northern bank of the river and eights shoot by at astonishing speed leaving quietly rippling water in their wake.
Further along the skyline is dominated by the chimney of the old town gasworks which was made redundant when gas was discovered beneath the North Sea. The old works now house an industrial museum.
Much of this part of Cambridge is being redeveloped and there is a spectacular footbridge and cycle bridge connecting developments on opposite sides of the river.
We may well explore the river further downstream in the next few weeks, probably by bicycle - you can ride on my crossbar if you like - but before that I'd like to show you some photos of details from the many houseboats along the river. Their inhabitants seem to inhabit some kind of parallel world to the dwellers in bricks and mortar as you shall see. But lets end with a lone rower on a peaceful part of the river...