When you think of Cambridge one of the first things that springs to mind has to be bikes! Cambridge has the highest level of cycling in the country with one in three trips in the town being made by bike. The dry weather and flat landscapes making it ideal. We have always enjoyed accessing the city and surrounding villages on two wheels but must admit to finding the slight hill on the way back increasingly challenging! So while we were keen for guests to enjoy exploring like a local, we didn’t want you put-off forever halfway up Castle Hill!

The obvious answer was to offer electric bikes to our guests, so that you can enjoy a comfortable ride using as much (or little) leg power as you choose.

After trialling a few models, we are delighted with our pair of Pendleton E Somerby bikes. They offer a lovely upright riding style, comfy saddle and intuitive controls. The ‘assist’ from the motor has 3 levels and offers a consistent and reassuring push. When I first tried them it took me right back to when my dad would put his hand on my back and help me up the hills when I was flagging!

We have a bit of a habit of naming all our vehicles and machines at Crafts Hill Barn, so this handsome pair had to be christened too. They are wonderfully ‘proper’ and determined, and when you cycle into Cambridge from here you pass by the beautiful Girton College, so I thought we could honour some alumni (and hope that it wouldn’t offend anyone!)

 

An obvious candidate is Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond. The first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, famous for her brooches, was at Girton in the sixties. She finished top of her class as one of only 6 female undergraduates studying law and would have cycled up and down Huntingdon Road many times as it is said she liked a party!

Dorothy Hodgkin was also a student at Girton (reading Chemistry in the 1930s) and is the only female British scientist to be awarded a Nobel prize (so far!) recognising her work with X-ray Crystallography.

Therefore our very splendid and highly intelligent cycles will be affectionately known as Brenda and Dorothy in tribute to these pioneering women who excelled in their field.

We will of course let men ride them too. We have one 19” frame and one 17”, so the saddles can be adjusted to a comfortable height for everybody. I am busy compiling suggested rides both into Cambridge and around local villages. We have helmets and locks to keep you and the bikes safe, so do get in touch to reserve them for a day during your stay, it’s a fabulous way to see our lovely city and surroundings.

 

e-Bike Hire details

 

 

 

We have been welcoming guests to CHB for over 5 years and our environmental impact has always been at the forefront of our minds. There is always more to be done but we are proud of what we have implemented so far to reduce the impact of our business.

When our outbuildings were first converted, as well as lots of insulation we added a large array of solar panels and this has powered many a wash, iron and even EV car charges! We are total advocates for owning an electric car (we are on our second already) and all of our business miles are done in our trusty Nissan Leaf!

In furnishing the spaces we have upcycled and repurposed much of the furniture. Jo loves a project and having pieces in the rooms with some history just adds to their appeal. The chunky kitchen table in The Pigsty was the first piece of furniture we bought together and has had many reincarnations in the last 25 years! New mattresses are regularly purchased for the beds, but the used ones sold on Gumtree to save the landfill. I have just ordered new cushions for the sofa in the Pigsty too, a great way to breathe new life into an older sofa.

We are delighted that last year a large number of guests arrived by train and taxi or bike. We are looking into having bikes for hire for guests, as Cambridge and its surroundings are such a joy to pedal around! We have maps and timetables to encourage guests to walk and use public transport as well as recommendations of pubs and restaurants which are nearby. Our ‘Walks from the Door’ laminated sheets are used daily by guests to explore the locality.

The consumables associated with a B&B can be very wasteful, but with toiletries now refilled by Boxworth Botanicals (handmade locally in Cambridgeshire, using the highest quality essential oils in all natural bases) you can enjoy luxurious but environmentally conscious products during your stay. We use recycled toilet roll, refillable eco cleaning products and washable e-cloths (which are excellent!) so have managed to reduce this unnecessary waste substantially.

The food waste is kept to an extremely low level because food is pre ordered and top ups requested as needed. Anything left is soon used in baking or gobbled up by the Hens! We refill glass bottles and jars to reduce the amount of plastic and our daily home baked bread is kept fresh in paper bags. We recycle and compost everything we can and recently introduced biodegradable teabags and mini compost bins into our spaces. The search for good compostable coffee pods continues with feedback from guests proving very helpful (we have trialled 4 types now – do let me know if you have found a good source!).

Our food is sourced locally wherever possible, eggs from our own free-range hens and meat from our local farmshop (Longhorn). This year we would like to use more local fruits in our breakfast provisions and have been making seasonal fruit salads and compotes.

Our laundry is done in house and line dried wherever possible, luckily East Anglia has many good drying days! The investment into linen bedding in the Cabin and Wagon has reduced the ironing pile significantly while adding a touch of natural luxury and comfort.

All our firewood is sustainably sourced kiln dried which is a carbon neutral fuel and the low moisture levels reduce the pollutants released on burning, making it more pleasant for you to gather around and for our neighbours. Charcoal is restaurant grade lumpwood charcoal, sourced from licensed felled hardwood and is fully sustainable.

The gardens and land at CHB are gently, organically tamed rather than intensively gardened, we like to let things go wild and have planted many native trees and wildflowers. The wildlife certainly love it here, we have grass snakes, a kingfisher, badgers, foxes and plenty of rabbits! Our bore hole keeps the pond topped up, fills the outdoor bath and waters the plants. Our paddock is grazed by a few orphan lambs each year to keep it under control and this spring we will be sowing more meadow seed to create a pollinator friendly strip between our garden and the pond area. The fresh flower posies provided in our spaces are all grown here in our gardens and this year a new greenhouse and cutting garden will be created in February.

 

Walks from the door

Although only 5 miles from Cambridge city centre, we are situated in a spot where it is possible to walk from the door all day without seeing another soul! Of course in Cambridgeshire you don’t need to worry about hills either!

In each of our spaces there are laminated walking guides for you to take along or snap a photo of on your phone.  Ranging from 2.5 to 5 miles, they take in neighbouring villages and sometimes a pub. Guests sometimes like to drop off the car and head off on their arrival day or after checking out but before heading home. I have had some feedback that the time estimates are a little optimistic; clearly I walk very fast while being dragged along by Ashley Dog!

 

A little further afield

Once you’ve done those, or if you want to incorporate a pub lunch, these three are all a 15minute drive away and highly recommended:

FEN DRAYTON LAKES

Parking address: RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes, Holywell Ferry Road, Cambridge, CB24 4RB.

Café/pub: The Three Tuns at nearby Fen Drayton is a thatched roofed Tudor restaurant/pub.

If you want to get a taste of those famous Fenland skies, Fen Drayton Lakes is a short drive from here. It is a collection of lakes, ponds, lagoons, stemming from the River Ouse. The RSPB Bird Sanctuary is located between Fen Drayton, Swavesey and Holywell. There are three trails to follow from 1-3 miles, you may need waterproof boots if it’s been wet.

Fen Drayton Trail Guide

HOUGHTON MILL AND THE HEMINGFORDS LOOP

Parking address: Houghton Mill, Mill St, Houghton, Huntingdon, Cambs PE28 2AZ

Length/Duration: 5 miles / 2.5 hours

Café/pub: River Terrace Cafe, The Cock (Hemingford Grey), The Axe and Compass (Hemingford Abbots) or Tom’s cakes (St Ives)

Starting in Houghton Mill (A National Trust property), this walk takes you across the water meadows, through the lovely market town of St Ives and back through the picturesque Hemingford villages.

St Ives and the Hemingfords Walk

 

GRANCHESTER TO CAMBRIDGE ALONG THE RIVER CAM

Café/pub: The Red Lion and The Rupert Brooke are both good in Granchester

Granchester is not far from Cambridge at all. You can do a short walk around the village, out to Byron’s Pool or along the River Cam, through the pretty Granchester Meadows and towards the famous Cambridge Backs.

The famous Orchard tearooms serves light lunches and cream teas, and there are a couple of good pubs and a gin distillery too!

Orchard Tea Garden walks

 

RSPB FOWLMERE AND HOT NUMBERS ROASTERY

A recent discovery of mine – this one came about from wanting to visit the ‘Mothership’ of two of Cambridge’s best coffee shops and looking for a walk nearby! It was a delightful stroll and even incorporated a trip to Waitrose on the way home for some treats for supper.

RSPB Fowlmere

Hot Numbers Coffee Roastery

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you’re looking to potter about or get active, there is a great range of places to visit and things to do around Cambridge. Here are some of our favourites when we are pretending to be on holiday!

 

For the garden lover

We are blessed with two beautiful National Trust properties within 20min drive. Anglesey Abbey is Jacobean-style house with gardens and a working watermill. The 114 acre garden has something to see every season and is famous for its snowdrops.

Wimpole is a working estate with an impressive mansion, parkland, gardens and Home Farm

Although in Cambridge, the Botanic garden deserves a trip of its own. I would recommend parking in Lammas Land car park or on the side streets of Newnham (free after 2pm) and crossing the river and along Vicar’s brook to the Bateman St entrance.

Madingley Hall was built in the 16th century and was the home of Queen Victoria’s eldest son Edward while he studied at Cambridge in 1861. The gardens were created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1756 and are open during daylight hours. There is a little café and it is a pleasant walk from Crafts Hill Barn across the fields.

 

For the adventure lover

Liquid skillz is an exciting new activity spot just north of us at Lake Ashmore in Hemingford Grey. With 35acres of water to explore on SUPs, Wakeboards or wild swimming it’s also a beautiful place to hang out. The café is good too!

If a SUP appeals you can also hire them in Granchester meadows with SupTheRiver

Grafham water is near Huntingdon and is a huge reservoir that you can walk or hire bikes (or ebikes!) to cycle around. You can also hire a sailing dingy or windsurf.

Thetford forest is half an hour away and a huge space to explore on hired bikes or segways or from the tree tops at a GoApe trail.

If that all sounds like hard work how about hiring a motorboat for the day to explore some of our beautiful waterways? The Fish and Duck Marina offers day hire for £150 and from there you can explore Ely and some lovely pubs enroute. Lazy days boat hire is based near Huntingdon and also does day hire and half days. Electric River boat in St Ives also hires by the hour

 

For the history lover

Duxford Imperial War Museum is 30mins away and is Europe’s largest air museum and served as the base for many of the Spitfire and Hurricane pilots during the Second World War. We often get our own displays flying over Crafts Hill Barn so listen out for the tale tale sound!

The Cambridge American Cemetery is situated in Madingley (a pleasant walk from here) and has an excellent visitor centre about the campaigns that contributed to the Allied victory.

The market town of St Ives is a hidden gem just north of us. With a bustling market on Monday’s and Fridays and delightful cafes by the river (try The River Terrace in Bridge street or Tom’s cakes in Market Hill). There are riverboat cruises up to Hemingford Grey Lock which makes for a pleasant stroll to Houghton Mill and then back to town. There’s also a cute museum (Norris Museum) and a nature reserve (Holt Island)

Ely has a magnificent cathedral which can be seen for miles around and is known as ‘Ship of the Fens’ and is famous for its unique octagon tower. The city was once home to Oliver Cromwell and you can visit the family’s former house. There is also a beautiful waterside area with cafes and an antique centre. The market in Ely is thriving and I have to recommend a bagel from the Ely Bagel Bar

For the drinks lover

Cambridge Distillery Showroom in Granchester is a window onto the most innovative distillery in the world. You can visit the shop or book a masterclass at weekends (you may need a cab home!)

Chilford Hall Vineyard planted its first vines in 1972, making it one of the oldest vineyards in England. You can take a tour and sample some of their wines and enjoy lunch or an afternoon tea.

Elgoods brewery in Wisbech was built in 1795 and offers tours and tastings on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 2pm which include tastings and access to the lovely gardens.

 

For the nature lover

Wicken fen Nature Reserve is the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve with boardwalks through the beautiful fens. You can take a boat trip or hire bikes too.

Paxton Pits, Fen Drayton Lakes, The RSPB Lodge and The Wildlife Trust’s Overhall Grove, Waresley and Gamlingay Wood are all within half an hour and offer wildlife aplenty!

 

Hope that gives you a taster of some days out around Cambridge, do ask if you need any information or advice on places to go!

 

 

 

 

With lockdown restrictions gently easing we can all look forward to meals cooked by someone else! Eating out is such an important part of any staycation or short break I thought a round up of our local favourites serving outside would be useful to all you lovely peeps who’ve booked a stay this spring and summer. Many guests arrive and don’t really want to go anywhere – not to worry, from platters to pizza ovens or takeaways we’ve got you covered too!

First up our own village pub, The Black Horse has served us with takeaways through out lockdown and we love to support them. Just around the corner (or across the field!) with seating at the front and in the rear garden. We think their chicken burger is the best we’ve ever had. All the food is cooked to order so enjoy a couple of pints while you’re waiting and be sure to book a table.

In our neighbouring village of Madingley we are lucky to have a pub that is part of the excellent Cambscuisine group. The Three Horseshoes is a beautiful thatched building with pretty garden including large gazebo and cool dining pods. The food is lovely and a step up from pub grub. It is a nice walk to Madingley, though we do not advise walking back after dark so book for early evening or get a cab back. You can always return for the car the next day!

The Three Horseshoes at Madingley

In the same village Madingley Hall (part of Cambridge University) has a pop up cafe from 9am-4pm each day and has recently opened up their Terrace Bar Restaurant for outdoor dining from 5pm to 10pm on Thursday to Saturday evenings.

Hall From The Gardens

Another favourite is The Boot in Histon (a 10min drive). This is part of the White Brasserie group and has a lovely heated tented area outside.

In Girton The Old Crown has a large garden and their sister pub, The Plough in Coton also has a lovely terrace (both are a 10 minute drive from us).

The Punter is a lovely pub near us on the edge of Cambridge with easy parking nearby and a quaint courtyard. 

Don’t worry if all of that seems a bit too much effort, just book a platter, pizza station or firepit pack (Cabin and Wagon) and snuggle up in your room with a few glasses of wine!

 

 

Cambridge boasts stunning architecture, wonderful museums and galleries, great shopping and places to eat. This little walking tour takes in some of the best bits but you really have to get in a punt to see the special parts, so do make time for that if possible.

Like many older cities, parking can be pricey and traffic difficult to negotiate. The Park and Ride from Madingley Rd is a good option but the buses back stop at about 8:30pm. I think a better option is to drive down Huntingdon road and park at Castle Hill car park (or on street parking on Pound Hill), walk down the hill and take a stroll up onto Castle Mound to see the view of the city.

Continuing down the hill I might pop into Kettles Yard gallery to see an exhibition or have a tour of the beautiful house. The café is a lovely spot for a coffee too!

Or for a flavour of Cambridge’s past a visit to The Museum of Cambridge would be good start.

Passing over Magdalen Bridge (the original ‘Cam – bridge’) I would clock the punting tours for a sit down later perhaps. If in need of refreshment a stop in Café Foy or Bridges would hit the spot.Bridge Street connection - Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge Traveller Reviews - Tripadvisor

At the end of Bridge street, I might call into the Round church (dating back to 1130) before continuing to the right along St Johns Street, past St Johns College, Trinity and Gonville and Caius. At the corner I’d admire the view of Senate House on the right and Kings College ahead. The University Church (Great St Mary’s) to the left has a tower you can climb for an even better view!What to Know Before Starting at the University of Cambridge

 

After a potter around the market I’d head to Bene’t Street where there are lots of tasty lunch options (like Smokeworks, Bread and Meat or Steak and Honour), followed by a delicious ice cream from Aromi or Jack’s Gelato. If liquid refreshment is more your thing, The Eagle Pub on this street is where the structure of DNA was discovered in 1953. On the corner you’ll see the rather unusual Corpus clock on Corpus Christi College.

For some culture I might head to Fitzwilliam museum, Museum of Zoology, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences or the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Polar Museum is also very cool but for shopping I’d go to Grand Arcade!

On my way past I’d grab a world-famous Chelsea bun from Fitzbillies (Trumpington Street), they’ve been made here since 1921.

Now for that long earned sit down…I’d head to the punting stations at Mill lane or back up to Quayside and either self-hire (fun but hard work!) or a chauffeured punt. Alternatively, I’d continue south and take in the Botanic Gardens (though maybe that’s best saved for another day!) or walk back along The Backs to admire King College chapel.

Great British breaks: Cambridge | The Sunday Times

 

If I was passing by at 5pm, I might join the queue for Evensong (Mon-Sat) in the chapel (the best way to see this stunning building (for free!).

If it was a pleasant evening a sundowner on the rooftop bar at Varsity Hotel (Thompsons Lane) would be the perfect way to end the day, followed by an evening meal at The Punter, The Ivy Brasserie, Cambridge Chop House or The Pint Shop to name a few. Otherwise I’d pop into Cambridge Wine Merchants (Bridge Street) and get a bottle of something nice to have back at Crafts Hill Barn!

 

Hope that gives you a taster of the delights of Cambridge, do ask if you need any information or advice on places to go!

 

natural swimming pond

 

 

We are so delighted with the creation of our swimming pond at Crafts Hill Barn. It was used extensively by ourselves during the spring last year and then by guests once we were open in July. It would not be an exaggeration to say it was our salvation during that first lockdown when the weather was so wonderful and we could not explore further; it felt like our own little piece of paradise surrounded by dragonflies and waterlilies.

Once the temperature started to drop, I realised I didn’t want to waste the resource so vowed to try and swim once a week through the winter. After some inspirational research I found the benefits of cold-water swimming were extensive and with proper precautions taken, a safe way to push myself and invigorate the body and mind.
The benefits certainly sound enticing:

  • Increased metabolism (much needed by those of us in middle age!)
  • Better circulation
  • Reduction of stress and enhanced mood
  • Better sleep
  • Boosted immune system (we all want one of those at the moment!)
  • Protecting the brain from degenerative diseases like dementia (researchers from Cambridge University have recently discovered)

While the benefits were enticing, there are risks to be aware of with cold-water swimming and it is important to know your limits. The following precautions are generally recommended:

  • Always swim with a buddy
  • Don’t swim after drinking
  • Keep your extremities warm with neoprene gloves and booties and a bobble hat!
  • Enter the water slowly to avoid cold water shock (we have steps and a ‘beach’ so no need to jump/dive in)
  • Limit the time you spend exposed – undress and get dry layers back on quickly afterwards
  • I have read that one minute in the water per degree Celsius is about right (so 5mins when its 5 °c)
  • Have a warm drink and sugary snack afterwards (great excuse for a chocolate hobnob or two!)
  • Warm up naturally afterwards (hugging the radiator can cause chilblains)

I must say the days I have managed it I have felt invincible and very calm, I will definitely be looking forward to bobbing about on a float in the sunshine later in the year though too! I hope many more of your can give the pond a go in 2021, it may not be the Med but it is a pretty special place.