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Cambridge City Trail

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Cambridge City Trail
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 06 Jun 2012 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Cambridge City Trail - walking guidestar1 Cambridge City Trail - walking guidestar1 Cambridge City Trail - walking guidestar1 Cambridge City Trail - walking guidestar0 Cambridge City Trail - walking guide
Cambridgeshire, Cambridge
Walk Type: Town or city
Cambridge City Trail
Length: 4 miles,  Difficulty: boot Cambridge City Trail - walking guide
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A 4 mile circular trail around the university city of Cambridge. You’ll have chance to enjoy many of the famous parks and open spaces including Jesus Green and Parker’s Piece, see the beautiful architecture of many of the famous university colleges and also see the range of bridges that cross over the River Cam throughout the city.

The walk is almost entirely flat, with just one steady hill at the start. There are no stiles or gates and only a few steps. The walk follows well made tarmac paths making it suitable for pushchairs. There are public toilets available on Jesus Green, Midsummer Common (on Victoria Avenue) and Parker’s Piece. Approximate time 2 hours (plus extra time if you wish to visit any museums/attractions).

The walk starts from Castle Street in Cambridge. Parking is available in the long stay Castle Hill pay and display car park, which is accessed via Castle Street. Approximate post code CB3 0AJ. Cambridge rail station is a little way out of the city centre, but if you come by train you can walk along Station Road and then Hills Road to join the walk mid way between waypoints four and five.

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Walk Sections

Castle Hill to Saxon Pole
Castle Hill to Saxon Pole

Start point: 52.2142 lat, 0.1119 long
End point: 52.2109 lat, 0.1151 long

Leave the Castle Hill car park via the vehicle entrance, passing Allways and Titan House on the right hand side. At the crossroads turn right and then turn left onto Castle Street, with the Sir Isaac Newton pub on the left.

Castle Street is the highest point in Cambridge and also the site of the one of the earliest settlements in the city. There is archaeological evidence from the Iron Age that a Belgic tribe settled on Castle Hill in the 1st century BC.

Go ahead past Shire Hall, the County Council offices, on the left and continue downhill past the Castle Inn. On the right you’ll pass the Methodist Church and then, on the left, the much more imposing St Giles’ Church.

You will reach a crossroads with traffic lights. Ahead on the left you will see a tall pole which is a monument to a Saxon graveyard that was found on this site.

Saxon Pole to Jesus Green Bridge
Saxon Pole to Jesus Green Bridge

Start point: 52.2109 lat, 0.1151 long
End point: 52.2131 lat, 0.1205 long

Turn left onto Chesterton Road. On the left you’ll pass Cripps Court, a set of student accommodation. Immediately afterwards cross over to the right hand side of the road via the pedestrian island, and continue along Chesterton Lane in the same direction.

As the buildings on the right end, you’ll get your first glimpse of the River Cam over the railings to your right. Continue ahead on the pavement until you reach the bridge over the river to Jesus Green, a black wrought iron footbridge. Turn right to cross the bridge over the River Cam.

The River Cam is a tributary of the River Great Ouse. In earlier times the Cam was named the Granta, but after the name of the Anglo-Saxon town of Grantebrycge had been modified to Cambridge, the river was renamed to match.

Jesus Green Bridge to Victoria Avenue
Jesus Green Bridge to Victoria Avenue

Start point: 52.2131 lat, 0.1205 long
End point: 52.2108 lat, 0.1269 long

After crossing the bridge, take the path diagonally to the left which is lined with beautiful old plane trees.

Jesus Green is one of the many parks within the city of Cambridge. The Jesus Green swimming pool is a lido on the northern edge of the green next to the River Cam. It is one of the few remaining examples of the lidos built across the country in the 1920s and at 91 metres in length it is among the longest outdoor swimming pools in Europe. The Cambridge Beer Festival is held on Jesus Green every May.

The tree lined avenue emerges out onto Victoria Avenue.

Victoria Avenue to Parker's Piece
Victoria Avenue to Parker's Piece

Start point: 52.2108 lat, 0.1269 long
End point: 52.2041 lat, 0.1274 long

Turn right and follow the pavement alongside Victoria Avenue. To the right are the grounds of Jesus College and to the left is Midsummer Common. Continue past the gated entrance to Jesus College on the right.

The University of Cambridge is a collegiate university comprising 31 individual colleges. Take time to look at the Jesus College crest. The college was founded in 1496 on the site of a Benedictine nunnery by John Alcock, the then Bishop of Ely. The college crest includes a black cockerel, which was Bishop Alcock’s emblem taken from his surname. Jesus College is thought to be the third wealthiest of the university colleges. College alumni include Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II.

Continue ahead and you will reach a roundabout. Cross the two minor roads coming in from the right to go straight ahead into Short Street. On your right is the Wesley Methodist Chapel, an unusually ornate Methodist church. A few paces later turn left into New Square via the zebra crossing.

After about 100 yards and before you reach the shopping centre ahead, turn right to go diagonally across the green, heading for the terraced houses on the opposite side. At the far corner turn right down Jesus Terrace. Continue ahead down the road which becomes Clarendon Street until you reach the cross roads with traffic lights, with the large green known as Parkers’ Piece, ahead to the left.

Parker's Piece to Hobson's Conduit Fountain
Parker's Piece to Hobson's Conduit Fountain

Start point: 52.2041 lat, 0.1274 long
End point: 52.198 lat, 0.1225 long

Turn left along Parkside and after just a short distance cross over using the pelican crossing. Continue a few paces further and then turn right onto the tarmac path crossing diagonally across the centre of Parker’s Piece.

Parker's Piece is a 25-acre flat and roughly square green common. In 1838 it hosted a feast for 15,000 guests to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria. As a cricket ground, Parker's Piece was used for first-class matches from 1817 to 1864. Parker's Piece has a special place in the history of modern football, as it was here that the Cambridge Rules of 1848 were first put into practice. They were very influential in the creation of the modern rules of the game drawn up by The Football Association in 1863. A plaque has been mounted at Parker's Piece to commemorate this fact.

Emerge past the public toilets to meet a T-junction with the main road. Turn right onto Gonville Place for a short distance to meet a major crossroads. Use the pedestrian crossings left and then right to reach the corner directly outside Our Lady and the English Martyrs Catholic Church.

With the church on your left, go straight ahead along Lensfield Road. On the left you’ll pass the Polar Museum, part of the Scott Polar Research Institute, opened to commemorate the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his companions achieving the South Pole in 1912. Further along on the left you’ll pass the Chemistry Department of the University of Cambridge.

Continue to the end of Lensfield Road where it reaches a mini-roundabout at a T-junction with Trumpington Street.

Hobson's Conduit Fountain to Fitzwilliam Museum
Hobson's Conduit Fountain to Fitzwilliam Museum

Start point: 52.198 lat, 0.1225 long
End point: 52.2003 lat, 0.12 long

On the left here you will see Hobson’s Conduit Fountain. Hobson's Conduit is a watercourse that was built from 1610 to 1614 by Thomas Hobson to bring fresh water into the city from springs at Nine Wells (a Local Nature Reserve) to improve sanitation. The octagonal monument to Hobson which you see here, once formed part of the market square fountain, and was moved to this location in 1856, after a fire.

Cross over the roads to turn right onto Trumpington Street, following the pavement to the left of the road. On the left you’ll pass the entrance to the Department of Engineering. On your right in the road edge you’ll see Hobson’s Conduit, part of the 1610 sanitation system.

Continue ahead and you’ll come to the Fitzwilliam Museum on your left.

The museum was founded in 1816 and is the university’s arts and antiquities museum. Entrance is free and the collections are very diverse and extensive. The museum holds a collection of more than 30 paintings by Turner, plus paintings by Gainsborough, Constable, Renoir and Monet. The museum also looks after more than 16,000 Egyptian artefacts plus stones, pottery, glassware and sculptures from the Neolithic period to the Roman era and beyond.

Fitzwilliam Museum to Mathematical Bridge
Fitzwilliam Museum to Mathematical Bridge

Start point: 52.2003 lat, 0.12 long
End point: 52.2018 lat, 0.1155 long

A little further along on the left you’ll pass the courtyard entrance of Peterhouse College. Peterhouse is the oldest college of the university, founded in 1284, and is also the smallest with just 273 undergraduates.

Further ahead, turn left into Silver Street. On the corner here is Ede and Ravenscroft Robemakers, the suppliers of the traditional college attire including the colourful college scarves and the formal gowns worn for formal dinners and occasions.

Go ahead along Silver Street passing The Anchor pub on the left. A few paces later you’ll cross a large road bridge over the River Cam. Over to the left you’ll see a large collection of punts for hire, and to the right you’ll see the famous Mathematical Bridge, a wooden footbridge over the river.

Mathematical Bridge to King's College Chapel
Mathematical Bridge to King's College Chapel

Start point: 52.2018 lat, 0.1155 long
End point: 52.2035 lat, 0.1121 long

A popular fable is that the Mathematical Bridge was designed and built by Sir Isaac Newton without the use of nuts or bolts. Various stories relate how at some point in the past either students or fellows of the University attempted to take the bridge apart and put it back together, but were unable to work out how to hold the structure together, and were obliged to resort to adding nuts and bolts. In reality, bolts are an inherent part of the design and when it was first built, iron spikes were driven into the joints from the outer side, where they could not be seen from the inside of the parapets. This may explain why bolts were thought to be an addition to the original. The bridge was actually designed by William Etheridge, and built by James Essex in 1749, 22 years after Newton died. It has been rebuilt on two occasions, in 1866 and in 1905, but has kept the same overall design.

When you’ve finished enjoying the views of the river, continue ahead for a few paces and cross over to the right hand side of the road using the zebra crossing. Continue down Silver Street and the buildings to your right are those of Queen’s College.

Fork right to follow the wide gravel/sand path as it curves to the right with an area of green to the left. Keep right on the narrowing path passing through the green behind Queen’s College. Skirt left along a short section of pavement to pass the gated rear entrance to King’s College. Keep right to continue again on the wide stone track across the green. Over to the right you will have magnificent views of King’s College Chapel, from this section of ‘The Backs’, running along the back of the central colleges.

King's College Chapel to Garret Hostel Bridge
King's College Chapel to Garret Hostel Bridge

Start point: 52.2035 lat, 0.1121 long
End point: 52.2058 lat, 0.1139 long

King’s College was founded by King Henry VI in 1441. The civil war disrupted the plans and funding and meant that completion was delayed. The building of the college's chapel, begun in 1446, was finally finished in 1544 during the reign of King Henry VIII. The chapel is regarded as one of the greatest examples of late Gothic English architecture. It has the world's largest fan-vault, and the chapel's stained-glass windows and wooden chancel screen are considered some of the finest from their era. The chapel is probably best known for the ‘Carols from Kings’ service which, every year on Christmas Eve, is broadcast from the chapel to millions of listeners worldwide.

Continue ahead on the path along The Backs. Pass the rear entrance to Clare College on the right. Soon afterwards the path reaches a T-junction with a narrow tarmac lane. Turn right here heading towards the river.

Continue up the short steep slope to reach the brow of Garret Hostel Bridge. In the summer you are almost certain to see people punting up and down this stretch of the river. Punts were originally built as cargo boats or platforms for fowling (wildfowl catching) and angling, but in modern times their use is almost exclusively confined to pleasure trips.

Garret Hostel Bridge to St John's College
Garret Hostel Bridge to St John's College

Start point: 52.2058 lat, 0.1139 long
End point: 52.2073 lat, 0.1182 long

Continue over the bridge and along the street. At the T-junction turn left, and then follow this road as it bends sharp right. At the next T-junction, turn left onto St John Street. (You can turn right here if you want to explore the centre of the city before you continue).

On the right you’ll pass Heffer’s Bookstore, the great Cambridge bookseller since 1876. Just a few paces later on the left you’ll come to the main classical pale sandstone entrance to Trinity College.

With around 700 undergraduates and 430 graduates, Trinity College is the largest college in Cambridge and, with landholdings worth more than £800million, it is also the richest. Alumni of Trinity include Sir Isaac Netwon, Alfred Lord Tennyson and HRH Prince Charles. A statue of the college founder, Henry VIII, stands in a niche above the doorway. In his hand he holds a table leg instead of the original sword and myths abound as to how the switch was carried out and by whom. The apple tree in the front courtyard is said to have been grown from a seed of THE apple that Newton saw falling which inspired his theories on gravity.

Continue ahead again for just a few paces and on the left you will reach the more unusual architecture of St John’s College with its red brick towers.

St John's College to End
St John's College to End

Start point: 52.2073 lat, 0.1182 long
End point: 52.213 lat, 0.1127 long

Follow the road past the college entrance and continue as it bends right. At the crossroads turn left onto Bridge Street. Notice the small copper flowers set into the paving stones of the pavement here.

Continue past a number of small shops and cafes to reach the final bridge for today’s walk, known historically as the Great Bridge.

Cross over and continue ahead now heading gradually uphill (an unusual sensation in Cambridge!) to meet the crossroads you passed earlier. Go straight ahead onto Castle Street. Follow the road uphill to reach the car park on the right.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2012 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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