Cambridge: Gardens, Churches and the Beer Festival

I’ve made an effort to see a few things that I didn’t do when I lived in Cambridge. So before I get into the Beer Festival here’s a couple of things I did when I wasn’t taking advantage of Andrew’s washing machine, tv and couch.

Kings College Chapel

Despite the fact that this is one of Cambridge’s most iconic buildings I didn’t even consider going in until one of my co-workers, Tim, came here a few years ago and I saw pictures of the inside.

It’s £9 to have a wander around. There are side rooms with informative displays but the main attraction is the long room and it’s astonishing fan ceiling.

The big dark thing in the middle of the first photo is an oak room divider that was donated by Henry VIII. I think it’s awful but my opinion seems to be in the minority. It houses the pipe organ and keeps the riff raff in the back half of the chapel out of sight.

When visiting these kinds of edifices it always pays to look for amusement in the small details.

I don’t know what led up to this scene, but this guy’s thinking ‘I have made a terrible mistake.’

This guy looks like the textbook definition of ‘chief executor’. Or possibly ‘grand vizier’ .

The Cambridge University Botanical Gardens

I wandered down here before our first Beer Festival session. Beautiful.

The gardens were much bigger than I expected and full of students, draped like cats over every available sunny bench and table.

The gardens have lots of ‘rooms’, as well as actual rooms in glasshouses. All are well-labeled and interesting.

The chronological bed was a concept I’d never seen in any other gardens.

I had two favourite parts to the gardens. The first was the lovely scented garden, which is a bit hard to share on a blog page.

The second was the way that grass/meadow plants had been left to grow into islands and borders around perfectly manicured lawns. The contrast of soft meadow and smooth green was delightful. Also difficult to really convey in photos but you’ll just have to trust me.

I sat for a while and read my book – Great Expectations. If anyone had told me how funny Charles Dickens was I would’ve read it years ago. Although perhaps I wouldn’t have appreciated it then? Who knows.

The 45th Annual Cambridge Beer Festival

One of the longest-running beer festivals in the UK (and probably the world.. outside Germany maybe?) it is put on by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale society, who are a group that works hard to promote small scale brewers and keep traditional English Pubs out of the hands of criminals who gut the insides and replace all the dark wood with IKEA pine board or worse – turn them into offices.

The Cambridge Beer Festival is no small deal. It runs for six days, two sessions a day (12-3 then 5-11) and costs £3 to get in (per session), unless you’re a CAMRA member, which costs £20 per year and gives free entry to all their events.

I attenedd the festival with Andrew, who is thrilled to have my company.

This year we’re here on Tuesday evening and then both sessions Wednesday as I’m off to Belfast on Thursday.

I decided to approach my cider and perry choices this year (beer is revolting) in the same way I choose horses at the races – amusing names.

So far I’ve had ciders called ‘Virgin on the Ridiculous’, ‘Weasel’s Wevenge’ and ‘Monk and Disorderly’. I also tried one called ‘Ghandi’s Flip Flop’ but it was revolting.

Of course it’s not all about drinking. There’s an outstanding cheese counter too.

And don’t forget the pork pies. There’s also terrific curries, roasts and fish and chips.

Could anything be more British?

We were even first in line on Wednesday – and what a line it was.

If you’re ever in Cambridge at the end of May, and particularly when the sun is shining, I highly recommend going, it’s a great day (or six) out.

7 thoughts on “Cambridge: Gardens, Churches and the Beer Festival

  1. Wow, that cathedral roof looks amazing! Very fractal-like. And that long grass that forms the border for the manicured lawns – you’re right, there’s just something about it that is aesthetically pleasing. 🙂

  2. When is the scratch and sniff blog upgrade happening?

    I am still scarred by Great Expectations, but I think it has more to do with my yr 11/12 English teacher, who was truly awful. There were six of us in the class and she still couldn’t remember our names. One time she called one of the girls ‘Pip’ (her name was Brooke) and this was not while we were reading Great Expectations.

    • Also I think books like Great Expectations are not best appreciated by teenagers… I don’t know why people think it’s even vaguely appropriate. There’s plenty of things in it I don’t understand even with decades of reading stories set in the same period. I feel scarred by Of Mice and Men and 1984 and they are nowhere near as dense as Dickens. Maybe high school English teachers are just sadistic:-)

  3. That oak thing is ridiculous. Altho it houses music so that’s a plus. My piano accordion case is ugly but even you appreciate the beauty that comes from within 😂

    Mmmmmm scented garden!!! Come on technology! Get with the times!

    Totally a picture of Jafar!

    And Rotf all the cider names are great!! Ghandi’s flip flop – ewwwwww! 😂, they couldn’t have made it taste good!

    Ps I miss you! More videos! 😘

  4. I’ve only been to Cambridge once and that was a very, very long time ago. This all looks rather marvellous. Maybe I’ll find time for a visit. I love Great Expectations, but totally agree – some books, poets etc foisted on 16 year old are totally inappropriate. I was lucky, we did ‘Cider with Rosie’ although I don’t remember that any of the Ciders had punning names.

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