Why I’m obsessed with wandering around Cambridge
Probably yet another form of procrastination
Whether it’s 3am post Cindies, an 8am attempt to wake myself up, or just a mid-afternoon wander, I’m always ready to go for a walk.
It’s very easy to slip into routines in Cambridge. Walks to and from the library, to and from the laundry, let alone Sainsbury’s become second nature. Sights that once made you excited to study here fade into the background. Instead of looking around at the view from the Bridge of Sighs as you walk over it for the twentieth time on a Tuesday, you navigate your way through a cluster of tourists with annoyance.
If you’re at a central college, your perception of where is near and far also becomes very easily warped. At home, my sixth-form college was a 40-minute walk from door to door and I never questioned it; in Cambridge sometimes I’ll decide to work in my room because I just can’t be bothered to make the “trek” to the UL from John’s.
But now that I’m somehow in my third and final year, I’ve become scarily nostalgic about making the most of Cambridge and not taking everything I see every day for granted.
At first I just found myself wandering aimlessly around the familiar streets that make up about a ten-minute radius from town. I found that you can make a lot of decisions when you’re walking, or even just wake up your brain after being stuck in the library for hours.
When I feel restless – especially in these winter months when it gets dark at 4.05pm and I go into the library or a supervision in bright daylight, and come out completely confused as to what time/day/year it is – it’s good to just walk and feel present again.
Now I actively choose to go on walks (maybe about three a day at this point), and to drag unwilling friends along with me. It’s a good way to talk to someone without needing to arrange something specific in a set location. It also means you have to be more actively there – I don’t know about you but I can’t talk, walk, drink tea/coffee/Lemsip and also scroll mindlessly down my Facebook timeline.
I’m amazed by how many reasons there are to walk: I’ve had mid-essay crisis walks in the middle of the night (made all the more amusing if you go in the early hours of Monday morning and meet the drunk stragglers coming back from Sunday Life), successful post-argument walks where any tension just leaves and you can bond over shared acknowledgement of the rain/freezing cold/wind, post-Cindies walks (my first trip up Castle Mound happened as one of these), early-morning walks, sunset walks (Cambridge is highly Instagrammable).
The weather doesn’t really matter either. Don’t get me wrong, wandering in the warm light evenings in Easter term is lovely, but Cambridge is equally beautiful in the strange mist or the pouring rain. You can attempt to shelter in a hollowed out tree (one actually exists go search), or you can embrace the frizzy hair and the soaking clothes if you forgot an umbrella, and that’s equally freeing (/freezing).
You find that you discover places you haven’t seen before or rediscover places you haven’t been in a while, and make judgements about your favourite parts of the city. I know that my favourite bridge to walk over is Orgasm bridge, and the best routes that mean I can get my favourite coffee on the way. You can choose an empty walk along the Backs or a people-watching opportunity through town. While it can be easy to become more-and-more absorbed in your own life and work during term, it’s nice to get some perspective and watch other people go about their own daily routines. Plus being inside the Cambridge bubble means you’ll inevitably bump into at least three people you know per 10 minutes walking.
Cambridge is a rare place to explore because it doesn’t change as rapidly as somewhere like London or other obviously expanding cities. It’s always still and reassuring in its sameness, which can be calming amongst all the stress and isolation of term.
In Michaelmas I notice more and more (along with the cold), how all the colleges start covered in leaves, and how they slowly disappear. In Lent you see Spring slowly happen – crocuses start sprouting along the Backs – and sometimes it’s even not raining. Easter is probably the most important time really to appreciate walking in Cambridge because exams make it so easy just to ignore the outside world. Make the most of those long, sunny evenings and you might even find yourself less stressed.
It’s so easy to spend so much of your actual time at university inside dark libraries or in your room, but there is so much that you probably haven’t seen. Drag a reluctant friend outside (turns out a 35p chocolate truffle from Caffé Nero usually does the trick), tell them to stop complaining about the cold, and start exploring.