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 sewage pumping station. 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...

Take care.


  1. What a delightful day you had to go taking photos by the river. It looks like a lovely place for friends to have time out and relax some. If it's not going to be raining when you go next time; I'll risk it on the cross-bars :); but you take care!

  2. You're a great tour guide. I've just had an interesting visit by the River Cam. Looks like lots of people are enjoying themselves.
    The Rideau River joins Ottawa with the St. Lawrence River, and, because of the significant drop in level, there are a number of locks along the way. Always fun to watch them at work.
    I look forward to the houseboats.

  3. Terrific tour with fantastic images, all evocative and causing me to want to visit. I like the contrast of new and old... the foot bridge is fascinating with its graceful curve. Yes, a spot on your handle bar would be a delightful way to see the scenery!

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed the walk John, can't wait to see the houseboats and their occupants.

  5. I went down the Cam on a boat when I was about fourteen. I have never forgotten it because the scenery was so beautiful. I love your photographic tours John.

  6. Another wonderful walk. I am feeling inspired!

    When my daughter lived in London, she had fantasies of living in a house boat. Fortunately, her very tall fiancee talked her out of it.

  7. Most interesting, but the lone rower and the willows are perfect.

  8. It was only just over a month ago that we were walking over that bridge and gazing at the river. I'd love to explore further along as you have done and so look forward to more posts as you cycle along by the river:)

  9. I enjoyed strolling along the waterfront with your photos. Old and new, men and critters, seem to coexist there. The scenes become more attractive with reflections on the water. Especially the last shot is terrific!


  10. I've been on the punting round the backs bit - punted by an informed young undergrad rather than punting. It's good to see some of the rest of the river.

  11. A lovely post John! The images make one feel that summer is just around the corner...well should be. :-)

  12. The redevelopment looks well done. I like that the old warehouses are being renovated and turned into housing.

  13. Thanks for bringing us with you along the Cam, John. It's all so civilized and genteel. I enjoy every one of your walks and cycles.


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