Cambridge

Cambridge University is one of the most prestigious and oldest in the world and fortunately for me, it isn’t too far from London so I recently decided to visit for the day. As I’d never been to Cambridge and seeing as it is steeped in so much history I decided to join a tour. Cambridge University, unlike other institutions is made up of lots of individual colleges, and the tour was made up of visiting the main ones.

Most of the college buildings were made of distinctive yellow limestone, and the detail of the embellishment was amazing. I could tell that this was a wealthy university due to just how much detail and grandeur the buildings held.

Along the tour it was really interesting hearing the story of the discovery of DNA and about some of the now famous people that studied at the university. We walked past the River Cam and people punting (boating to you and me) which Cambridge is also known for. As I watched, a friendly duck came up to me to make my acquaintance.

Most of the colleges were off limits to the public as it was exam period for the students but I did manage to poke my head through some doors to admire the courtyards. Among the most famous colleges on the tour was Trinity College which was founded by King Henry VIII which is why it has his statue on the entrance.

One of the things I was fascinated to see was the tree (supposedly) that Isaac Newton saw an apple fall from and that inspired his theory of gravity (although I think it’s actually a descendent of that tree). I was inspired to be in a place where so many influential, intelligent people studied.

Once the tour was over I was free to do what I wanted so I took more time to look around a couple of the open courtyards and gardens and just re-visited some of the colleges to look at some of the intricate details more closely. On the way back to the station I also popped into Fitzwilliam Museum for a quick look around.

My favourite view of the day was the back of Kings College, with it tall spires reaching high and the enormous grounds that it was sitting on.

I would like to come back one day, to try the punting, take more time to see the museum and botanical gardens and maybe if I was lucky enough to have a look inside the colleges to try and get a sense of what it must be like to study at such a reputable and famous university.

Hatfield House

A few weeks ago I went to Hatfield House, situated just outside London, which is a Jacobean styled country house that was Elizabeth I’s childhood home. The site was huge with beautiful gardens, grounds and a farm along with the main building. The house itself was grand looking and had an unusual looking, moving fountain in front of it.

The rooms inside were stunning, and as I walked from room to room and through the corridors I could see the level of detail that went into the embellishment and upkeep of the place. The ceilings were one of my favourite features with each room having a particular style, each beautiful in their own way. The hallways were covered with intricately woven tapestries and the elegant furnishings were stunning, like this green velvet chair.

My absolute favourite room was the Armoury. The pretty cut out panels contrasting with the masculine figures wearing amour made the room both modern and historical at the same time. The other rooms that really stood out to me were the Long Gallery with its distinctive golden ceiling and the Library which would be my dream room with all the amazing books.

Once I’d looked around the grand house I made my way to the gardens. There were several garden each with a different style and character. The one that I liked the best was West Garden with the fountain centrepiece and pretty flowers. The others were just as lovely, one had a large sundial while the others had long walkways and primped hedges.

Heading further out were the Woodland Gardens, and I was happy that I was in time to see the carpet of bluebells that had bloomed. Beyond, were the grounds, which were magnificent. I was able to look in all directions at the wonderful green landscape without seeing the borders. One interesting landmark that I came across was a tree with a plaque, stating that this was the spot that Queen Elizabeth I was standing in when she was told she would be queen.

After walking through part of the enormous grounds I headed back towards the entrance, stopping to visit the gift and toy shop.

Spending the day at Hatfield House was relaxing, informative and beautiful. The House had stunning rooms that were without doubt fit for a Queen, and the gardens were amazing with pretty flowers, fountains and greenery as far as the eye could see. It’s no wonder that such a place has been used so frequently in films and holds such appeal with the public.

Spring has sprung

Spring has well and truly sprung in London so I took a walk into one of my favourite local parks to see how the turn of the season has made itself known.

There was lots of colour on display such as this bright, yellow daffodil ‘runway’ which made me really smile. It made me want to run down the middle of it too (but I didn’t). There were also beautiful pink and white magnolia flowers and cerise Primroses reaching out for the sun.

The water in lake was sparkling, and was alive with graceful swans and paddling ducks. The row boats were sat on the side, not yet in use, but I’m sure it won’t be long before they’re in demand by eager rowers.

As I walked along the path I was watched keenly by a squirrel that was trying to be brave and not run away from me and my camera. Nearing the exit I saw the pretty white blossoms filling the trees, making me feel that the new season will be filled with hope, beauty and new opportunities.

Sky Garden

I heard about the Sky Garden in London last summer and was finally able to go with a friend. I wasn’t too sure what to expect as I’d heard mixed reviews, but I kept an open mind and stayed optimistic as it sounded like quite an usual place. On arrival there was a thorough security search before we were ushered into the lift which took us up to the 25th floor. Walking into the Sky Garden reminded me of a giant greenhouse, and despite the grey skies of the morning it felt light and airy. The room had lots of greenery as a backing to the room, and as guides to different levels.

On each level there was a café or restaurant giving you the chance to stop for a drink or snack and to enjoy the great view of the various landmarks across the city.

As the rain cleared we were allowed out onto the outdoor viewing platform, with a view to the River Thames below and the Shard in front.

London landmarks

We took our time walking around the various levels, taking photographs and just enjoying the greenery and view without feeling rushed. It’s place that I would definitely visit again (maybe on a sunnier day) as it’s free and although there were plenty of people around it didn’t feel noisy or too busy.

Light-seeing in London

My niece has been asking me to take her to London to see the Christmas lights and yesterday I thought I’d show her around. We started at Trafalgar Square to see the fountains, lions, Nelson’s Column and the huge festive tree. After a walk around we went to Leicester Square where there was a Christmas market and we treated ourselves to some sweet mini pancakes.

We then walked towards Oxford Street to see the lights there and maybe take a peek at the sales in a few shops, before stopping for a much needed lunch. Carnaby Street was next on out destination, which has some interesting artworks and displays.

As it got darker and the lights began to shine we went on to St Christopher’s Place, another little place that’s hidden away.

We finished at Marble Arch after a fun but tiring day. My niece said I sounded like a tour guide pointing out landmarks, so hopefully I did a good job.

Hungry birds

Cherry tree and thrushes

I was happily relaxing one afternoon when suddenly I heard a loud chirping and trilling, so I jumped up to investigate. I followed the noise to the kitchen and looking out into the garden I saw dozens of birds flying in and out of the neighbour’s big cherry tree. The birds (If you look closely you can see a dozen or so which I think are thrushes), were swooping down pecking off big, red, ripe cherries. I raced upstairs to have a better look and capture the moment. It was amazing to see so many birds in one place and I was surprised by just how much noise they could create in their excitement. I hope they enjoyed their delicious lunch!