If you’ve never been to Cambridge, even you will know one thing the city is famous for… that’s right, the University. For those who don’t know, or didn’t guess, the University of Cambridge is a pretty big deal in the city. In their 800-year history, they have amassed an incredible wealth and a huge amount of land and property.
Last Sunday, the team at The Royal Cambridge Hotel were lucky enough to venture on the annual Bridge The Gap charity walk, courtesy of The Arthur Rank Hospice. This year was their 16th annual event, and arguably their most impressive yet as it embarked upon the grounds of the incredible University of Cambridge colleges.
With some of these buildings more than 600 years old and, given the wealth of the University, you can imagine how impressive some of the colleges are. The University itself is made up of 31 colleges, of which we visited just seven in our two-hour walk, each of which stunning in its own right.
The walk started at Parker’s Piece – famously named after a cook at Trinity College and also considered the birthplace of the modern rules of football – where we were joined by hundreds of fellow hikers.
Many of the colleges don’t open their grounds to the public, so we were all extremely privileged to have the opportunity to see them. Especially as none of us quite got the grades to actually study there… ahem!
Armed with a bottle of water, a banana and a detailed programme – all provided as part of our donation – our first college was the youngest on the route. Downing College was formed founded in 1800 – a youthful 217 years old, but impressive nonetheless. The only building on our journey that was designed and built as a whole, whereas the rest have all been added to over time. We’ll let you judge for yourself from the picture below, but it was clear already that we’re in for a treat of hidden gems.
From the youngest to the oldest. Next stop, Corpus Christie College, or to give it its full name ‘The College of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary’. Founded in 1352, the architecture was something to behold. Equally as impressive, there’s a 400-year-old tree that’s still standing in the grounds – 400 years old!
One thing that was apparent as we visited the next college, St Catharine’s College, was the age differences of the buildings attached to each other. Different bricks and stones might have looked out of place in another situation. Here, however, they were completely complimentary. Don’t take our word for it:
While we didn’t actually go in the grounds of arguably Cambridge’s most famous college, King’s College, our path circumnavigated this incredible building. Check out this iconic view from the banks of the River Cam. If you’re ever in Cambridge, a punt down the river is a must, just for this view alone.
After a very pleasant stroll through the countryside – fortunately the weather was kind to us – we marched towards our next college, St John’s. There are so many pictures of this college and they say pictures speak a thousand words… don’t worry we’re not going to bore you with a thousand words, so let’s just leave a picture here for you.
All the colleges vary in size and until the late 19th century, Jesus College was one of the smallest and poorest. Now it’s one of the largest, sitting on 33 acres of land. Other than the safety barriers in the photo below, which somewhat distort its impression, the place is immaculately kept, as with all the colleges.
You know you’re somewhere special from the moment you walk into the next college we visited. First established in 1437 and originally named God’s House, Christ’s College was where a certain Charles Darwin studied. His ‘Theory of Evolution’ coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ and it’s a good job we were nearing the end of our 5km walk as it’s fair to say that some of the less fit members of our team were in danger of not making Darwin’s cut for ‘natural selection’…
So last, but by no means least, we entered Emmanuel College. We were greeted by the superb Waterbeach Brass Band in yet another stunning garden, filled with rare trees, ponds and lawns that put some Premier League football grounds to shame.
And with that desire to get take our jumpers off and kick around a bag of wind, it was probably best that we returned to our start-finish point at Parker’s Piece.
In just over two hours, we had joined more than 2,000 fellow ramblers in exploring some of Cambridge’s most hidden gems. We thank the University of Cambridge for making this possible, but also Arthur Rank Hospice and fellow charities and sponsors.
The Arthur Rank Hospice supports people in Cambridge who live with a life-limiting illness and they deliver care services free of charge. Sunday’s event raised more than £33,000 and takes the total to £480,000 since the first Bridge the Gap walk back in 2002. The team at The Royal Cambridge Hotel are already looking forward to next year to try and help take the fundraising figure above the half million mark.
For more information about the Arthur Rank Hospice, visit arhc.org.uk.