Rewind to last summer: searing heat, endless sunny days (a stark contrast to the grey days and downpours this year). Sun’s out, bikes out. Destination: St. Ives. Cripes, that’s a long way, I hear you say. Fear not: I’m talking about St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, here, which is only 20-odd kilometres away from Cambridge on the world’s longest guided busway. (Yes, that is St. Ives’ claim to fame.)
Early to rise, for the roads are quieter first thing. We cut across Cambridge towards the River Cam. Past Stourbridge Common, over Green Dragon Bridge (named after the pub of the same name). Outside the Green Dragon, stacks of free books: fiction, non-fiction, hardback, paperback, all sorts of genres. We took a couple, then carried on to Cambridge North where we joined the guided busway.
Flocks of geese waddled through farmers’ fields, lambs frolicked in the sunshine. Past Swavesey, a prosperous market town in medieval times with a large estate, castle and priory; today, it’s a small commuter village. Further along the busway, RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes. Home to a host of feathery residents, it counts common terns, great crested grebes and lapwings amongst its star species.
Up ahead: St. Ives, its bank holiday market already in full swing. We locked up the bikes and scouted out a snack (sausage roll for Laurence, garlic naan for yours truly) before wandering round the town.
Tucked away on The Broadway, is the Norris Museum, founded by Herbert Norris. Norris died in 1931, leaving his vast collection of Huntingdonshire curios (St. Ives was historically part of Huntingdonshire, and only became part of Cambridgeshire in 1974) to the people of St. Ives. The result is a verifiable treasure trove of local history and culture, and one of the nicest local museums I’ve ever visited.
We pottered along by the River Great Ouse, stumbling upon the chapel on St. Ives Bridge on our way back towards the market square. Although St. Ives isn’t brimming with things to do, it makes for a pleasant day out from Cambridge – and not having to contend with maniacal drivers to get there is a major plus.
- If you’re travelling by public transport, catch a train to Cambridge or Huntingdon followed by a bus. Check the bus route and times here.
- For those pedalling over to St. Ives, take care not to get too close to the buses. They speed along, and accidents have been known to happen. The guided busway is pretty exposed, so slather yourself in sunblock before setting off if the sun is shining.