Some time ago I went on my first cycling trip in the area surrounding Cambridge. I cycled to St Ives (no, not the one in Cornwall, the one in Cambridgeshire 😉 ), a town northwest of Cambridge, and came across some great sights on the way. I took some nice pictures that I would like to share with you.
A very typical sight in the English countryside surrounding Cambridge are these massive seas of what I’m assuming are rapeseed flowers. It’s a really pretty sight and typical for spring, as the flowers tend to drop off around June.
A less typical British sight is this windmill that I stumbled across. 😛
This church is what remains of Swavesey Priory. Swavesey was founded by the Saxons who built a minster, of which the foundations lie underneath the church. The pagan Anglo-Saxons migrated to East-Britain around 400 A.D. and initially drove out Christianity, which had reached Britain via the Romans. However, the area kept being exposed to Christianity via trade, and thus eventually converted back to it. In the 11th century, the Norman conquest of England took place during which William the Conqueror (as he would later be known) came from Normandy and invaded and conquered England. He would later be King William I and the first Norman king of England. After the conquest, Swavesey became a large estate held by Count Alan of Brittany, a relative and friend of William the Conqueror.
The priory was given to Benedictine Abbey of St Sergius and St Bacchus in France who administered it as an alien priory. The priory church is now the parish church of St Andrew, which you can see in the picture, and was mostly built in the 13th century. There is however, still some Saxon stone work visible in the nave and chancel. I went up to the church to get a closer look at the building, and I have to say its surroundings really had the atmosphere of a creepy cemetery: there were crows absolutely everywhere and most of the grave stones stood crooked in the earth and looked quite old. However, from the inside the church looked like any other village church you might find in the UK: homely, with knitted church kneelers and even a kid’s corner. Cute, but I’d hoped to find something fitting the creepy graveyard surrounding it :P.
The highlight of my trip was without a doubt my visit to the Fen Drayton Lakes, a complex of lakes and wetlands next to the River Great Ouse. The view of the lakes is absolutely amazing, and the weather was perfect as well, so I took a break to dip my feet in one of the lakes, which was phenomenally relaxing. To make the whole thing even more like a Center Parks ad, a dog that was randomly wandering around gave me a surprise slobberingly wet kiss. It was all quite fabulous :P.
So the area I visited is mostly fenland, and interestingly, a Dutch engineer directed the draining of these fens in the 1650s: Cornelius Vermuyden. Vermuyden was even knighted for his work in 1629 and during my trip I came across a street named after him. I never knew the Dutch were exporting water management techniques so early on :).
I finally arrived in St Ives after having enjoyed all these sights. The first interesting place you come across when entering this town is the statue of Oliver Cromwell, who was Lord Protector from 1653-1658, and was born in nearby Huntingdon, which I might also visit at some point. This statue is one of four statues of Cromwell on public display in the UK. Apparently there is quite some controversy over whether it should be on display at all, since Cromwell brought so much devastation and turmoil to the country.
Another interesting place is the Ives Bridge, crossing the River Great Ouse. As you can see from the picture below, there is a small building on the middle part of the bridge: this is a chapel, and one of only four examples of such an architectural design in England. You can also see that the arches furthest away on the picture are round, while the two at the front are pointed. This is because the southern part (the part with the round arches) was blown up during the Civil War by Oliver Cromwell’s troops to hold off King Charles I’s troops. This part of the bridge was only rebuilt in 1716 and with differently shaped arches.
St Ives has historically been an important market town, and still has large markets. Unfortunately, there are no markets on a Sunday, but it might be worth another visit on a weekday!
I want to leave you with this refreshing yet perhaps to some slightly controversial Ted talk by Meg Jay about why your 20s are not a throwaway decade and twentysomethings need to claim their adulthood (no pressure :P). A lot of people comment that she is pressuring young people into a particular lifestyle and that it’s important for young people to explore, make their own mistakes and learn from it. However, I think the speaker’s whole point is that twentysomethings aren’t exploring at all, they’re just taking life as it is without making intentional thought-through decision that can significantly improve their future. I’m not saying that’s the way I live my life, but I think it’s a valid point to consider. 🙂 I especially like her explanation of being responsible for building up your own identity capital as a solution to ‘identity crises’. Anyway, whatever your view on this is, it is an interesting point for discussion and I’d love to hear your thoughts.