How we built our Natural Swimming Pond

We are often asked how we created the swimming pond at CHB and love to help others thinking of doing something similar. Whilst we are no experts, we have learnt many lessons the hard way and accumulated quite a wealth of knowledge in the 5 years since we began work. If you’re considering giving it a go, do book in for a stay to try out a swim and we’ll happily talk through the process in as much detail as you like!

There had always been a pond here at CHB. Farmer Searle dug horse ponds to store water for livestock. With Cambridgeshire getting so little rainfall it would dry up each summer and in winter was a stagnant swamp! After eyewatering quotes from swimming pond installers, we did a great deal of research and we came up with a plan to do it ourselves. We needed 5 things:

Water

The old pond had become devoid of life as it dried up every summer so the plants died. When it did rain, the run off from surrounding land was full of nutrients so created algal bloom. The first thing we needed was a good source of water and so a bore hole was installed which pumps water up from 18m below our land. 

If this isn’t an option, it is possible to collect all rainwater and divert it into your pond. 

Lining

Most information on natural swimming ponds assumes you will install an expensive pond liner (essentially a huge piece of plastic) and while this would have made our life easier at the construction stage, we were keen to try and use the fact that we are on blue clay to our advantage and reduce the expense and environmental impact. A huge digger and dumper were used to sculpt the pure clay into a deep swim zone and a shallower regeneration zone to plant into. Once ‘puddled’ this became a watertight natural lining to our pond into which we could plant.

 

Circulation

It is important to keep the water moving and for the beneficial plants and bacteria on their roots to be able to access the nutrients in the water. Not wanting to use expensive and energy hungry pumps we looked for an alternative solution. Following advice from David Pagan Butler we built some of his amazingly simple ‘bubble pumps’. With an air compressor you create columns of bubbles from aquarium air bricks which gently bring the water with them.

Plants

These do all the hard work for you! Native water plants in shallower area of shingle, under which are perforated pipes leading to the bubble pumps. The water is drawn through their roots and the beneficial bacteria that live in the gravel. They keep the nutrient level of the water to a minimum and provide a safe habitat for all the incredible wildlife that find the pond within hours of filling it! 

With those 5 elements in place it should now be a question of simple maintenance. At the end of the summer the vegetation is cut back and removed (it’s great for the compost heap). In the autumn all leaves need skimming off and in spring it’s the blossom petals! 

That said, we are still learning and there are plenty of things we wish we’d done differently. Once the pond is full it is quite difficult to make changes and we are often donning a snorkel to carry out work under water! Each year is also so different, the huge amount of rain we had this April caused problems so we are still working to reduce the nutrients and scooping out algae and weeds. I’m going to try adding some (perfectly safe) dye to the water this week as it will prevent the light getting to the weeds and plants under the water (but not impact the marginal plants). We will see if that might help!

Every time we think we’ve got it sussed something else crops up, but working with nature is always going to be unpredictable but incredibly rewarding!

 

Retreats for the Soul


Two of our spaces have been featured in a gorgeous new book published by Ryland Peters & Small.  Featuring sustainable and stylish hideaways, Sara Bird and Dan Duchars (of The Contented Nest) reveal the essential elements of a soulful hideaway with stunning photography and practical tips to inspire you to create your own retreat using natural materials and vintage finds. Each of the 15 unique havens is accompanied by the story of their creation and I thought you might like to read some snippets from ours!

The book is available to browse (along with the others in the series: Homes for the Soul and Gardens for the Soul) while you’re here or you can purchase at all good bookshops.

Wildflower Wagon

Dragonfly Cabin

Journey’s End – Wildflower Wagon


“Time had not been kind to the old wagon, which stood in a paddock on the edge of the farmland that surrounds Jo and Tim’s family home. It had been there since the 1960s, when the local train line was decommissioned, and was used for many years as a shelter for orphan lambs.

With the help of a local restoration company, the old wagon was lifted out and taken away. Jo and Tim then spent three months clearing the area, sowing wildflower seeds, preparing the services and laying railway sleepers for the replacement carriage to sit on. They even built a new lamb shelter using reclaimed timber.

The ‘new’ wagon, supplied by the restoration company, is a similar vintage to the previous one: a 12-tonne covered fruit wagon from the 1930s, still with its original barrel-vaulted roof timbers and oak flooring. Jo loves to imagine all the things it has carried and the places it has been over the vears. With no concrete used in the installation process, the entire structure can be lifted away in the future and no one would know it had been there.

Jo’s family history has influenced the decoration just as much as the wagon’s own heritage. Her maternal grandfather William, who moved from Wales to London as a young man, worked for Great Western Railway’s catering department. Jo was born in London, but she and her mother spent their holidays in William’s home town of Tenby in Pembrokeshire and they later moved there when Jo was seven. As a result, she spent much of her youth travelling by train with the perk of free rail travel thanks to William’s job. The comfort and charm of carriage life made an enduring mark on her and she has furnished the wagon with an assortment of family owned vintage pieces that hark back to the period. The dark-wood furniture and vintage tablecloths of her childhood appear alongside found and reclaimed pieces from secondhand stores and jumble trails. Racks and overhead shelving made of reclaimed timber resemble the original neat luggage racks, while a king-size storage bunk from Ikea brings modern-day space-saving benefits to the sleeper-train setting.

Outdoors, visitors are encouraged to enjoy the peace and stillness, which is ironic considering the carriage’s previous life. There is a rocking chair nearby and a dining table is sited just outside with a firepit for evening warmth. Up in the adjoining woods is an alfresco bathtub and shower. Beneath the walnut tree with its station signage, a pair of hanging chairs looks out over the field. In dappled sunlight it is the perfect spot for quiet contemplation.

The Wildflower Wagon’s namesake blooms provide a steady season of change for pollinators and guests alike. With something new popping up each week, there is no need to venture far. The whole set-up looks back to the simpler times of Jo’s childhood and encourages winding down. The many railway trinkets and treasures rekindle cherished memories, allowing guests to embark on a new quieter and calmer journey into the past.”

Natural Tonic – Dragonfly Cabin


“Reimagining the crumbling structure and tackling the stagnant pond was not for the faint-hearted. However, Jo and Tim,, could see the benefits of having a nature reserve on their doorstep and were keen to embrace the joys of being in and around the water.

Beginning with the pond, the couple sought online help from natural pool expert David Pagan Butler. Following his advice, they cleared vast amounts of sludge and replaced it with gravel and sand. They then installed an air pump system and added lots of native water plants for filtration. Within eight months, the transformation was complete. With no need for cleaning chemicals, the pond is now brimming with waterlilies, newts and dragonflies, and is visited by all kinds of birds. A soothing swim among all this wildlife is a natural antidote to fast-paced modern living.

The second stage of the project was initiated by the collapse of the pondside hide during the pandemic. As lockdown kicked in and shortages of materials and labour took hold, building a new structure became a team effort for Jo, Tim and their teenagers. It gave them a connection to nature during a stressful period and a place to escape for some alone time when 24/7 family life at the main house became too much.

Jo paid particular attention to potential views from the cabin and even lay down on the dusty floor during the build to ensure that the bed would have the perfect pool vista. This view is now a firm favourite thanks to a huge picture window, which offers an expansive panorama of the natural elements from a place of safety.

This is an architectural principle known as ‘prospect-refuge’ – a similar technique was used by the American designer Frank Lloyd Wright, who was particularly well known for his organic architecture. Here, the water reflects light into the cabin as well as bringing in all the soothing sounds and colours of nature. No matter what the time or season, the water creates magical reflections across the whitewashed ceiling.

The idea to renovate the pond and create this waterside retreat was initially devised for the benefit of guests, but in reality it has become something of a salvation for all the family to enjoy. It is a place where they can swim outdoors whatever the season, absorb the benefits of being in nature and experience a habitual and harmonious exchange with the wild.”

 

We have always provided a little welcome treat for guest to enjoy on arrival with a cuppa in their room. Because we like to make everyone welcome, it was important to find a recipe that could be enjoyed by all guests. Many a batch has been mixed, baked and trialled to find the perfect combination of chewy and crunchy, tasty and wholesome. I think this one is the best yet, but we are always learning. so give it a try and let me know your thoughts and any adaptations.

Ingredients

  • 350 g Gluten Free porridge oats
  • 50g Gluten Free porridge oats whizzed in the food processor 
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 50 g mixed seeds 
  • 200 g dairy free butter or coconut oil
  • 175 g golden syrup
  • 200 g light brown soft sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract and/or 3 crushed cardamom pods

You will need a food processor or blender and  a 20 x30cm baking tray

  1. Melt the fat, syrup and sugar on a low heat (if it boils they will be chewy)
  2.  Stir the dry ingredients together in a bowl 
  3.  Pour the warm syrup mix over and thoroughly combine
  4.  Press firmly into the tin lined with baking parchment (I use a flat bottomed glass to press down and into corners) 
  5.  Bake at 160c for 20-30mins
  6.  Take it out and press it down again
  7.  Let it cool completely before cutting into bitesize squares
  8. Pop the kettle on and enjoy

 

The perfect summer’s day treat, pop it in a flask for a picnic or enjoy a long glass after a wild swim in our pond. 

SO much easier and less wasteful than juicing lemons, in this recipe you blend the whole fruit!

Ingredients

4 unwaxed* lemons (chopped roughly)

150g golden caster sugar

2 x 500ml water

Ice and slices of lemon

*Because you’re going to use the whole lemons it is important they are unwaxed. If you can’t get hold of them it is possible to buy normal ones and scrub off the wax with very hot water and washing liquid.

You will need a food processor or blender and a sieve

  1. Put the lemons, sugar and 500ml of water into the processor and whizz them up.
  2. Strain this through a sieve, reserving the liquid.
  3. Put the strained pulp back into the processor with another 500ml of water.
  4. Strain this again, add the liquid to the first batch and discard the pulp.
  5. Add plenty of ice and a slice and serve pondside for the ultimate refreshing post dip drink!

I have added mint and lime for a mojito style drink (you could even go as far as rum!)

Also a few raspberries creates a delicious pink lemonade!

Let me know if you give it a try

 

 

With summer days approaching most of our guests will enjoy a trip on a punt down the Cam during their stay. Going along the river is the only way you’ll be able to see many parts of our majestic city (unless you’re a Cambridge student). It is a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon, hopefully this guide will help you get the most from your trip (and avoid getting ripped off!).

Punting refers to riding on a flat-bottom boat, a punt, pushed by a person, a punter. The punter pushes the boat along the river using a long wooden pole, whilst standing on the back of the punt.

Punts originally had the purpose of carrying goods along rivers that were too shallow for traditional boats. When river trade subsided at the beginning of the 20th century, this change paved the way for the recreational use of punt boats. In 1903 Maurice “Jack” Scudamore built the first punt in Cambridge at Chesterton Boatyard during his boat-building apprenticeship. Jack’s pioneering introduced the pleasure punt to the Cambridge College Backs and the company is still one of the biggest in the city.

Not only did it become a luxurious past-time, but a new tradition of touting and so-called “punt wars” also developed, with punting companies employing touts to bring in customers. It got so bad that in 2016 it became illegal to tout for business in the city centre (other than near to the punting stations), so it is now possible to walk along Kings Parade without getting mobbed by young men with clipboards! They still hang about the river though, and if you look remotely like a tourist you’re likely to be asked countless amounts of times if you want to go on the boats. The easiest way to shake them off is to say you’ve already been! 

St John’s college recently published a manual on punting which included the necessary lessons of how to start, lift the pole, steer, and not fall in! It warns against punting with Arts students, advocating that you “ask an engineer” and, most importantly, instructing against standing at the front of the boat as they do in Oxford!

When to go

Most Punting companies operate all year round. You are provided with blankets, umbrellas and hot water bottles in the colder months! Only a thunder storm stops play (because they use metal poles!) The Spring and Autumn are particularly beautiful as you see college gardens in bloom or with autumn colours. A summer’s day is the quintessential time to go but it can be busy, especially at weekends, when you can expect a ton of punts cruising on the river, crashing into each other and people falling overboard!

The busiest time of day is 12-4pm, so if you can get out early or save it for the end of the day it will be a bit more peaceful. An evening tour is lovely with a bottle of bubbly, especially during the Colleges’ ‘May Balls’ when Cambridge skies are filled with fireworks!

DIY or guided punt?

If you decide to rent a punt without a punter, it can be cheaper, you are free to glide at your own leisurely pace, but it’s not as easy as it looks especially if the river is crowded. On a busy day, you WILL be crashed into and crash into other things. It can be tiring and you won’t have any of the history that you’ll be told on a tour. Although, you can always tail behind one of the many chauffeured boats and listen in! You pay by the hour (about £11-30 an hour for the whole punt) so can make a whole afternoon or day of it if you head up the Upper River.

Some people have a natural knack for it, while others fail miserably and we have had guests fall in the water! So, if you don’t feel too confident about being a punter, it’s probably better to leave it to the professionals. 

In a chauffeured punt you’ll get to sit back and relax while hearing about the rich history of Cambridge and punting from your guide. You can take along drinks, snacks or a picnic. These tours typically last for about 45-60 minutes, and they are usually done on boats with 12 seats. The price can vary depending on where and when you buy your tickets (as well as with seasons) but a shared chauffeur tour is about £25-£35 per person. If you book a stay with us we will give you a discount code for Let’s Go Punting to book online.

For unique punting experiences, Rutherford’s Punting offer picnics, champagne punting and Gin o’clock cocktail punting.

Lower Versus Upper River

Punting in Cambridge is divided into two separate sections of the River Cam. One tour glides along the upper river, while the other covers the lower part. They are quite different experiences: 

The lower part of the River Cam is a more popular option. It is a short stretch of river running straight through the heart of Cambridge University and its world-famous buildings, including Trinity College, Bridge of Sighs and Kings College Chapel.  You will see 7 colleges (dating back to 1350) and 8 bridges in a 50 minute tour! This part of the river can get incredibly crowded, especially on weekends during the summer. It is the best way to see all the grounds and iconic buildings otherwise only accessible to students and staff.

The upper River Cam is a wider and lengthier stretch that runs through the idyllic Cambridge countryside and is much more peaceful compared to the lower river. You will head south towards Granchester, famous for the TV series and for The Orchard tearooms. This is a good option for anyone who wants to try punting without embarrassing themselves in front of crowds. There are also fewer bridges to negotiate and you will find plenty of beautiful scenic spots for a picnic break!

Lower River: Quayside and Jesus Green

 

Quayside is a beautiful area along the lower river with lots of bars and restaurants overlooking the water. It is the most northerly point of the river so closest to us. A number of Cambridge punting companies have stations and touts situated here. We would recommend booking online in advance but if you fancy your hand at haggling you can usually negotiate the touts down a bit (as they work on commission). Try saying you’ve been before and going at an off peak time, first thing in the morning or in bad weather! Always walk away if it’s too high and they’ll probably drop the price!

Further along the boardwalk you’ll reach Jesus Green where it is a little less crowded and that is where Let’s Go operate from.

We would recommend using the Madingley Road Park and ride (the buses stop on Bridge Street). It is a short walk from there to Quayside and along a boardwalk towards Jesus Green where you’ll find the punt station in front of La Mimosa Restaurant.

Alternatively Castle Hill Car Park (CB3 0AT) is a good option or on street parking on Chesterton Road (CB4 3AN). This is limited to a 2 hour maximum stay however.

Upper River: Mill Pond

Punting here goes at a slower pace with fewer companies operating in the area. It’s a very beautiful part of Cambridge with pubs spilling onto the waterfront and a large green busy with picnickers or summer drinkers when the sun is out. This is a good place for first-time self-hires as there’s a large area of open water close to where the boats leave you can use for practice. Scudamore’s have stations on both the upper and lower rivers here.

 

Our preferred punting company is Let’s Go who operate from outside La Mimosa Restaurant. If you book a stay with us we will share a discount code to book online with them.

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!