Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cambridge Revisited

Another morning in Cambridge. As we wanted to go on to RSPB Fowlmere later we drove and parked in the Trumpington Park & Ride. But parked and walked. It's only 3 miles into town. The route, generally rather dull and trafficky, get's more interesting nearer the city centre. It takes you past the historic Hobson's Conduit or New River, which runs parallel to Trumpington Road.

Just before the Cambridge Botanic Gardens, the quaint Brookland's Cottage sits right next to the conduit...

...along which many wildflowers thrive, including yellow loosestrife, gipsywort, pendulous sedge and teasel.
Hobson's Conduit was built in the 17th century. Thomas Hobson, the Cambridge carrier, of 'Hobson's Choice' ('This one or none') fame was a benefactor of the scheme. It brought fresh water straight into the heart of the city from the springs near Great Shelford. Below is the monument to Hobson on the corner of Lensfield Road.
Hobson Street, named after this local beneficiary, is just behind Sidney Street a few minutes walk away.
The conduit runs under Lensfield Road then appears as drains down the sides of Trumpington Street, running into town. The east side drain is called Pem (it runs to Pembroke College) and the west side, Pot (which runs to Peterhouse). As I was heading north into town, I am assuming this is the drain called Pem. 
It provided me with my first conker of the year. 
Just round the corner in Benet Street is a famous old coaching inn, The Eagle. Sadly no time for a beer this morning :-(
It was in this old pub, in 1953, that James Watson and Francis Crick announced their discovery of DNA to the world. Wow!
Their pivotal paper published in Nature on 25th April 1953 contains this delightfully simple statement; 'It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material'. Only a few words but a momentous moment for science. 

After business in town was complete, it was time for first lunch. Sandwiches partaken in the company of feathered friends in the botanic gardens was jolly pleasant. This little mallard duckling was most endearing.
The moorhens stole the show though. 
I've never taken the time to notice what stunningly handsome birds they are. Clearly it takes time to keep those sleek black feathers in top-notch condition. I hadn't noticed either that birds often close/half-close their eyes when preening. I must have had my eyes shut for years.
The red bill is startlingly red and the adults have red garters at the top of their yellow legs. 
The immature birds are brown and just as assiduous as their parents about personal grooming. 
Moorhens used to be called water hens; a far more appropriate name for these agile lily trotters.

There was a decidedly criminal element in the moorhen community though. I was mugged during lunch. I'd be interested in any leads as to the identity of this particular criminal, who snuck up and stole a potato from under my very nose. As my camera was on full zoom at the time the mugshot is annoyingly blurry.
Just as we were about to leave, this little guy popped out of the water lily leaves. 
Interesting that he/she has the red and yellow bill of the adults, which seems to be lost in the juvenile birds. And...he/she has HUGE feet!
I was entranced watching this fluffy moorhen equivalent of Sasquatch going for a walk.
We saw the water lily bloom...
...but no webs, mirrors or helmets were in evidence, only a rather natty plumed rear-end of this moorhen on the way back to Trumpington Park & Ride. 
Next stop, Fowlmere....

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