Escape the bubble: Winter strolls

Alex Nicol-Harper 15 January 2015

A mere 15-minute walk from the centre of Cambridge, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a haven of peace and tranquility. Since it is tucked away in a corner of the city little visited by students, an hour set aside to stroll in the Gardens feels like a real break in a way that pacing the Backs does not. Better still, University cardholders get in free – so you can treat yourself to a cake in the cafe! A nice route is to turn right onto West Walk, follow the perimeter to the Scented Garden at the back and then return via the Glasshouses and lake. The Winter Garden and Fen display off the Bateson Walk are particularly good at this time of year.

If you have a little longer and fancy a more natural setting, turn off Trumpington Street onto the Fen Causeway and left into the unnamed parcel of land between Coe Fen and Lammas Land. Later in the year, when the former is full of picnickers and the latter divided up between ball games, this midsection remains a quiet spot to take a break from revision. The footpaths only follow the water courses to lead you to Lammas Land or onto the Driftway; if you want to wander at will amongst the cow parsley, it's probably best to go after a dry spell, as the whole area can get pretty soggy. Alternatively, from the Lammas Land car park you can enter Paradise Local Nature Reserve, which, with its grazing sheep and calling birds, feels a million miles from the city centre.   

Further southwest lies Grantchester Meadows: the classic escape from the Cambridge Bubble. While most popular in the heady days of sunshine following exams, the Meadows offer lovely walks at any time of year. The best way to get there is to weave through the residential streets from Lammas Land to Pembroke Pitches; then simply follow the footpath along the Cam as far as you like – look out for The Orchard Tea Room. If you don't have a couple of hours spare for the round trip, you can cheat by driving out to a pub in Grantchester and grabbing a breath of fresh air in the Meadows after lunch. In bleak midwinter, the big skies and wind on your face will leave you energised and ready to face another week in the library. As spring progresses, a walk in the Meadows reminds you that freedom is not so far away. And when you get that first baking hot day of summer, there's nowhere better to spend a day doing absolutely nothing!