Cambridge and the Tarka Line to Georgeham

The only downside to Housesitting is when we have to leave and say goodbye. After a couple of weeks, or longer, it can be a bit of a wrench to walk away from the lovely little dogs that we’ve been caring for.

Not so Happy leaving North Pickenham

After a wonderful evening in North Pickenham we had to say goodbye to Diane, James, Reuben and of course ‘Happy’ the spaniel. They made us so welcome that we left feeling like old friends. Diane generously dropped us at Brandon station for a short train ride down to Cambridge where we’d planned to spend some time sightseeing before heading off the following day.

Cambridge: Polar Exploration

A quick check-in to the salubrious Travelodge next to Cambridge station and we were ready to get out and do some exploring. Everyone’s been to Cambridge of course, including us several times, so we thought we’d try and get somewhere that’s not so well known and off the beaten track.

Jo has always been interested in Captain Scott and Shackleton and the heroic stories of Polar exploration so the little known Scott Polar Research Institute was an obvious place to head. Although it’s a University research centre there is a fabulous little museum that’s free to visit.

The stories are obviously very well known but the number of original artifacts on display were amazing. Things such as Captain Oakes’ sleeping bag, all of Scotts teams final letters, and so much more. It was a miracle that I got Jo out of there in just a couple of hours! Great place though and well worth a visit next time you go.

Cambridge: University Central

If you’ve never visited Cambridge it’s a city full of history with virtually every building being centuries old. The University has 31 different colleges with each having the most amazing chapels and courtyards. Most are open to the public so are wonderful to wander quietly around soaking up the history and the atmosphere. A few college-based facts that we learnt as we explored.

  • The oldest college is Peterhouse which was founded in 1284, over 700 years old!
  • Trinity college was the setting for ‘Chariots of Fire’ where the students raced around the courtyard in the Great Court Run. Still contested every year.
  • Murray Edwards, Newnham, and Lucy Cavendish colleges only accept female students. There are no all-male colleges.
  • Infamous spies Philby, Maclean, Burgess and Blunt all attended Trinity college.
  • Fourteen Prime Ministers attended Cambridge.
  • The head of Oliver Cromwell is buried in a secret location somewhere in Cambridge.
  • The River Cam was actually named after the town rather than the usual other-way round.
  • So many famous people have attended Cambridge that it’s impossible to pick just a few out. There’s a whole list of Famous Alumni that were Cambridge students.
Jon and Charles Darwin waiting for something or other.

So a wonderful afternoon of wandering through picturesque courtyards and quaint twisty-turny streets was capped by some Premier League people-watching on one of the bridges behind Trinity College over the River Cam. Seeing all of the amateur punters attempting to control their boats was just so entertaining. Unfortunately no-one fell in even though we were both willing them to. Shame.

A nice little meal of fish finger sandwiches and beer finished the day off nicely before an early night in the luxurious Travelodge. Actually, although they may seem a little low-brow the beds in Travelodges are second to none and their mattresses are probably the most comfortable we’ve slept in in the past two years. See how interesting we’ve become?

Eight Counties to Barnstaple

Our onward journey the next day took us via London to Exeter initially. That’s Eight counties if you wanted to know! Which ones did I hear you ask? Okay then. Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, London, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, and Devon. Cool huh?

The Tarka Line

So no big problems jumping from train to train and getting down to Exeter, all very smooth and on time. However it was at Exeter that something odd happened. We appeared to go back in time to the Victorian era as we boarded the two carriage train to travel along the Tarka Line to Barnstaple on the North Devon coast. A lot of the line is single track which means multiple one-train only sections. The train was packed so we stood for the hour and a quarter journey but it was so entertaining that the time flew by. Great station names such as Newton St Cyres, Yeoford, Morchard Bishop, Kings Nympton, and Tawstock helped the time pass.

At one stage the train stopped, the driver appeared as if by magic through a little door, climbed out, marched 50 yards up the track, and proceeded to kick the points until they changed. On his return he just said the signal was wrong so a size nine points-change was required. Then a few minutes later the train stopped again as the driver leaned out to pull a toilet-like chain by the trackside. Apparently that closed the level-crossing gates ahead. And ten minutes later he again jumped out to pickup a huge Victorian key which had something to do with single track running. All most entertaining.

Georgeham and Mortehoe

We’re down in sunny Devon to spend a few days with  Jo’s brother Jon and his wife Julie who live in the tiny little village of Georgeham. They kindly invited us to stay for a few days between housesits so being confirmed travellers we took them up on their invite. Georgeham is a few miles inland from both Croyde and Saunton Sands and we’re looking forward to a few long coastal walks in the next week. Oh and we’ll tell you all about Pedro……..

17/04 – 19/04/2017


  1. I had such a fleeting visit of Cambridge when I was passing through for a job interview nearby as a new grad. Your photos make me wish I’d hung around to explore it more. As an Antarctic obsessive I would have loved to visit the Polar Institute had I known about it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s one of those hidden treasures I think, hardly anyone seems to know its there. Fascinating too. You can never learn enough about polar adventures.


  2. I missed Cambridge when I visited England a few years ago. Looks like I missed a lot based on yout article. Well, the next time I’m in England, I’ll make sure to visit Cambridge. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve never been to Cambridge and I’ve never really thought about going. Looks like it might have to go on the list. I’d love that museum as the bravery of those guys is fascinating. Is it just my imagination or is Darwin making a rather inappropriate gesture behind your back Jon? Enjoy Devon.

    Liked by 2 people

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