Once again and with no thought for their own safety, Barford’s brave band of outriders have headed on up the trail to scout for watering holes, identify battle grounds and pacify hostile natives. Chief Scout Mike Ireland has composed the following missive, which should provide an invaluable guide for when the main caravan sets off to Cambridge in June 2019.
Take a Punt on Cambridge
A cold, dreich December day saw The Cambridge Five (it was actually four after Richard had to drop out at the last minute, but that ruins the spy pun) head towards East Anglia to, once again, selflessly give up their time and energy to provide the club with a report on the forthcoming tour venue.
Peter Fisher stepped up to the newly vacant role of navigator and guided us with the skill and cunning that was always lacking from his bowling, avoiding roadworks at Huntington, ensuring we arrived at Dry Drayton by late morning. This is the base of St. Giles, our Sunday hosts, and is accessed by a single track alley (that we missed on the first fly-by) that leads to a lovely ground behind some very large houses. Unfortunately we were too early to check out The Black Horse where the team drink, but I imagine they’ll serve myself and Erdsey during the afternoon.
Next stop Grantchester, home of the James Norton/Robson Green TV series and inspiration for a Pink Floyd song. This ground really is a gem with the field bordering the River Cam, sliding unseen beneath the trees, laughing as it passes through the endless summer, making for the sea. One thing that did stand out was the absence of any obvious changing facilities, however the staff at the adjoining tea rooms informed us that marquees are erected on match days to protect the modesty of the players.
Fitzwilliam College is where the nomadic Philanderers will host us on the Friday. The open, multi sports field is close to the hotel and according to the plaque on the pavilion has been in operation since 1927, which coincidentally was when Sandy first represented the club as a young lad.
Lunch was now beckoning and we headed for The Maypole on the recommendation of our club hosts, also endorsed by the affable young receptionist at the hotel. Sixteen real ales and good, basic food fit the needs of any touring side and I suggest taking a walk across Jesus Green to sample for yourselves (although my coffee and vanilla porter wasn’t to everyone’s taste).
A short walk away was The Champion of The Thames, a quirky, cosy ale house with some very friendly staff, even when the chairman included the ‘C’ word in our drinks order. The next proposed port of call, St. Radegund, was closed (possibly after a tip off that Campari drinkers were in town) and the rain was now falling with greater enthusiasm so we opted to return to the hotel and check in. Be warned: Cambridge is full of cyclists who have no regard for pedestrians-if you don’t get out of their way you are fair game!
Back at Arundel House the helpful young man on reception had been replaced by a dour, unfriendly woman who insisted that none of us had bookings. After much keyboard tapping she finally conceded that we were bona fide guests and allocated us rooms. The hotel is beautifully situated, overlooking The Cam and our rooms were good, despite the heating being cranked up to sauna level.
The refusal of the rain to abate meant we abandoned the plan to return to the other side of town and explore all the pubs on our list, so after reducing the barman’s stock of The Macallan we headed to closer venues. I can see why The Punter didn’t make it onto the list despite being the closest as it obviously caters for hipsters (even though Sandy had his flat cap on, he wasn’t ‘ironic’ enough). I also saw a young lady wearing a Mod parka with a target on the back which I haven’t seen since the Mod revival swept across Bishop Bright Comprehensive in 1979 – plus c’est la même chose! The Castle was a pleasant surprise, with a full range of Adnams and even Warwickshire’s Purity as its guest ale.
Hunger was now setting in but the seemingly easy task of finding a restaurant on a Wednesday night without a booking proved anything but-I don’t know if we hit the early Christmas party season or if this is a reflection of Cambridge’s affluence but we had four knockbacks until The Galleria, overlooking the river, managed to provide some room at the inn. After a good meal we headed home to raid our friendly barman’s replenished stock of The Macallan (at least the others did) and called it a night. Breakfast on our inclusive tariff is continental, all very good quality produce, but if you’re after the full English then you’ll have to pay extra.
Cambridge isn’t cheap but the quality of what is on offer, along with the grounds and the friendliness of the opposition contacts I’ve dealt with, suggest this could be one of the best tours in recent years-I hope you’ll join us.
Big thanks to TT for all his driving duties and to Steve Wilson, Phillip Harvey and Pete Ames for all their local knowledge and help.