OS Explorer map 225, Huntingdon & St Ives: Graffham Water – I own this map, but had not visited it before starting this blog. First visited 25th June 2018.
This post is a little unusual. So far, every entry on this blog has been posted in chronological order, that is, with the events narrated in each post taking place after those of the previous one. However, here I’m describing a map area I first visited back in June 2018, well after I started this blog, but never posted about.
To explain why, let me take you back to June 2018, when I and my friends Erithacus and Vesper had just finished our university degrees, and were looking for a house to live in together for the next year. The second house we viewed was in Histon, a little to the north of Cambridge, and when we went to view it on the 25th June, that was my first visit to this map area. However, I didn’t even take any pictures, so that would’ve made a very boring blog post, and we decided to take the house, so I’d be living in the map area soon so would have plenty to describe. For that reason, as I mentioned in my following post – about the neigbouring map area #266, covering Milton and Ely – I decided to postpone this blog post, to write about in a few months once I’d have something more interesting to write about.
Fast forward, uh, four years, and not only do I no longer live in that map area, but have lived in three different houses since then, and am only just now finally getting to this post. This is because, after a long period of being months or even years behind on posting about new map areas I visit, I’m now finally caught up – but more on that in the special entry I’ll be posting next!
So Vesper, Erithacus and I lived in our house in Histon for a year, and a very good year it was too! After six years of living in student accommodation, it was nice being able to set up our own space, have our own living room and kitchen, choose all of our furniture and so on. My posts about St Neots and Whittlesey, written shortly after we moved in, tell of a couple of trips to pick up furniture and other items for the house. We ordered some blue sofas early on, which we’re still using now, but as a temporary measure before they arrived we used a questionable pink chaise-longue/sofabed that we acquired on Freecycle.
Histon was a nice place to live; probably my favourite of the areas in and around Cambridge I’ve lived in so far. It’s only about three miles north of the centre of Cambridge, and is, just about, a continuous built-up area with it. However, it has a distinct villagey feel to it: there’s a very pretty village centre, with a good number of shops, a village green, some pretty thatched cottages and so on; the village newsletters were always full of local clubs and interest groups. Cherry Hinton, where we lived the next year, loosk pretty similar to this on paper, but in practice felt a lot more like an extension of Cambridge: somehow the housing estates felt a lot more soulless than the newer areas of Histon, and the high street was pretty nondescript. There are also a few nice public footpaths radiating out from Histon – one towards Girton, one to Oakington, and one all the way up to Rampton – and it sits on the guided busway, which could be convenient with its frequent, fast buses, but the stop was a twenty-minute walk from our house so we usually used the #8 city bus instead.
Though I lived in this map area for a year, I didn’t do very much exploring into the main bulk of the area, over towards St Ives and Huntingdon. Histon is right in the southeastern corner of the map area, and I’d mostly travel out into Cambridge, or east past Milton – I worked in the village of Lode, out in that direction, at the time.
However, there was one notable trip within this map area that I’ll narrate, namely on the early May bank holiday in 2019, when I decided to go out for a walk. I got the #8 bus in the opposite direction to my usual, going out to the village of Cottenham, and from there walked through pancake-flat fenland over to Rampton, which was a very pretty quiet village. Unfortunately its 500 people have only a once-a-day bus service, which is pretty pathetic. I had a wonder around Rampton’s church, which has some medieval wall-paintings.
From Rampton, I walked westwards to the guided busway, hoping to get a peek through to the ongoing construction work on the other side, where the new town of Northstowe was under construction, and still will be for many years. Some homes at the north end of the new town were already constructed and occupied – and many more are now – but what will be the town centre is still a fair time away.
I’ve been following Northstowe with interest as I find the town planning aspect of it really interesting – I’ve enjoyed reading the various planning applications as they were put in. The town is going to have its own branch off the guided busway going through the very centre, and is very much built on a public-transport- and active-travel-first approach. They’ve also done some fun heritage things: they’re including a lake on the exact footprint and shape of the old aircraft runway, the site having been a military airfield previously, and at one point where archaeological surveys show a Romano-British village once sat, the new streets are going to follow the ancient street plan, thousands of years after those buildings disappeared!
There wasn’t much to see in terms of construction other than some distant cranes, however I did find an overgrown old second-world-war pillbox by the side of the busway, which I was able to get inside after climbing some temporary fencing.
After gawking at Northstowe through the fencing, I walked up to the next stop on the busway, and caught a bus up to St Ives, which is a cheerful market town. I enjoyed exploring the market – it was nicely non-fancy: lots of standard fruit and veg, second-hand clothes and the like, unlikely Cambridge’s market which is much more of an artisan food, weird jewellery and so on kind of place. I like both for different things, but St Ives was a nice change. After wandering the market and an antique shop, I had lunch in a Greggs, then had a look at the town’s medieval bridge, which is interesting for having a surviving chapel on it.
I bought a couple of towels in the market, since we needed some, and then came home. A nice day out!