The Tasting Room Cambridge

Now I’ll be honest, I don’t have many vices and I’m not a big drinker but a long cold gin and tonic is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures in life.  And thanks to the recent rise of the craft gin movement, there’s a gin for every palate and every mood, whether it’s pink (from local firm Pinkster, accessorised with raspberry and mint), light and floral (my G&T at a restaurant last weekend was adorned with flower petals), herby (with a charred rosemary twig, that’s The Botanist G&T at the Cambridge Union Bar) or lavishly garlanded with enough fruit to give Carmen Miranda a run for her money (that was just absurd, from a hotel bar on the Suffolk coast).

The Tasting Room Cambridge

So when a friend told me there’s a new gin in town, I scurried down to Hope Street Yard, off Mill Road, to meet John Saul, General Manager at English Spirit Distillery, who have just opened their first tiny but beautiful bricks and mortar shop in this pretty, eclectic enclave.

The Tasting Room Cambridge

While we sipped a gin and tonic, John told me the story of how the business came into being nine years ago.  Founder, Dr John Walters, is a biochemist from Oxford.  Listening to a Radio 4 programme, he heard an “expert” say that it’s impossible to make eau de vie in this country.  Spurred on by the challenge, John built a still and made an eau de vie that was really good.  Better, in fact, than the expensive eau de vie sitting in his drinks cabinet.

The Tasting Room CambridgeToday, English Spirit Distillery’s range includes gins, for which they make their own vodka base from sugar beet, to be assured of quality and provenance.  There’s a Cucumber Spirit which contains no juniper and a digestif Sambuca, which is distilled three times.  John tells me it’s too fine to do the coffee bean/flame thing!  Rum is distilled from sugar cane molasses while 1.2 tonnes of apples from the Sandringham Estate make just 90 bottles of apple brandy.  A single malt spirit is flavoured in the still and distilled five times, making it super smooth with layers of flavour.  Gin based fruit liqueurs are distilled and also macerated with fruit while their top seller, Toffee Vodka liqueur, is best enjoyed over ice or ice cream.

The Tasting Room Cambridge

John has lived around Mill Road with his wife, Eloise, and their family for many years.  They love the area with its sense of community and will be holding informal, laid back acoustic mic nights in Hope Street Yard with future plans for gigs, craft markets and food trucks.  The Tasting Room is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  At the moment you can have a free tasting and buy bottles while they wait for a bar licence to come through.

The Tasting Room Cambridge

But back to the gin … we sat in the sunshine outside the shop, chatting to John and Eloise and sipping the limited edition Hope Gin, which is distilled especially for this new Cambridge venture.  It’s an aromatic London Dry gin, flavoured with bergamot oil, orange zest, rose petals, coriander, bay leaf and juniper and it’s just delicious.  I reckon Earl Grey himself would have approved!

http://www.englishspirit.uk

Unit 1, Hope Street Yard, Cambridge CB1 3NA

 

Riverside Tea Garden at Cambridge Museum of Technology

There’s a massive chimney that dominates the skyline down at Riverside.  It’s in amongst a cluster of Victorian buildings that make up the Museum of Technology and I’ve walked past it dozens of times but never really knew what it was all about.  When I heard that there’s going to be a pop up Riverside Tea Garden there this summer, I decided to find out more and met with Assistant Curator, Morgan Bell.

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Built in 1894, the 53 metre tall chimney is part of a Victorian sewage pumping station which is now the Museum.  Here they burned the city’s household rubbish to create steam to fuel engines that pumped the city’s sewage out to a treatment plant in Milton.  Prior to this, sewage had discharged into the River Cam, causing cholera outbreaks so this wonderful Victorian engineering transformed public health in Cambridge.  The pumping station was decommissioned in 1968, at which point a group of local campaigners saved it from demolition and turned the buildings into a museum.

Hathorn Davey pumping machine Cambridge

Owned independently and funded by admission fees and donations, the Museum houses the last Hathorn Davey pumping engines in the world that still work.  It has also built up a collection of telecoms equipment, televisions and radios from Pye and historic scientific instruments from Cambridge Instrument Company.

Hathorn Davey pumping machine Cambridge

The Museum is currently closed as there’s a major redevelopment under way, thanks to money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Restoration of the old buildings is complicated and painstaking as they are a Scheduled Ancient Monument and permission is needed even to paint in there!  There are plans for a new building to house exhibition and learning space plus a cafe building with views over the river.  The boiler is being repaired so it can once again supply steam to run the pumping engines and they’re hoping to be open by mid 2019.

Boiler at Cambridge Museum of Technology

This redevelopment is about preserving heritage of course but it’s also about inspiring a generation of future engineers and innovators.  Jinx St. Leger, the Education Officer, tells me about the outreach programme with primary and secondary schools, encouraging students to look at STEM subjects in a new light.  “It’s teaching engineering by stealth,” she smiles.  “We make stomp rockets, create origami, make print blocks and masks and use a morse code machine to send and decode messages.”  Jinx will be running four craft based and four engineering based events over the summer at the Museum of Cambridge (check out http://www.museumofcambridge.org.uk/events for more details).

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Now back to the tea and cake … on Sunday afternoons between 15 July and 5 August, you’ll be able to enjoy drinks and cream teas at the Riverside Tea Garden in idyllic surroundings on the Museum’s lawn overlooking the river.  There’ll be stalls selling treasures, crafts, books, clothes, baked goods and produce.  And I’ve booked my ticket for The Floating Museum, a boat trip happening on various dates through the summer, during which you’ll discover more about the city’s industrial heritage along the river.  All profits from these ventures go back to the Museum to help fund the restoration.  Full details, plus a booking facility for The Floating Museum, are on the website.

http://www.museumoftechnology.com

The Old Pumping Station, Cheddars Lane, Cambridge CB5 8LD

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

Dr David Crilly describes himself to me as “a musician from Liverpool”.  His first brush with The Bard was as a post graduate student of musicology at Oxford University when a friend asked him to be Musical Director for a student production of “The Taming of the Shrew”.  While David was happy with the incidental music he composed, he was distinctly underwhelmed by the production and reckoned that he could definitely do better himself!  Without further ado, bolstered by the insouciance of youth and undaunted by his lack of experience in the producing/directing department, he appointed himself Artistic Director, put an advertisement in “The Stage” newspaper and set about casting “Macbeth”.  And so it began ….

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival Macbeth

…. Now in its 31st year, the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival holds 4th position in The Independent’s Top 50 UK Arts Festivals and attracts upwards of 25,000 visitors a year, from all over the world.

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival A Midsummer Night's DreamThis summer, the Festival runs from 9 July to 25 August, bringing its open air productions to the stunning and intimate surroundings of private College gardens which the public can’t normally access.  Heck, even the College students can’t access some of these!  Think the Fellows’ Gardens at King’s College and Trinity College and the Scholar’s Garden at St John’s, all of them hidden gems.  This year’s programme includes crowd pleasers “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Macbeth” alongside plays such as “Cymbeline” and “Pericles” which are perhaps less well known.

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival The Taming of the ShrewThe actors perform in full period costume and there is live Elizabethan music.  This is Shakespeare without gimmicks … in the magical atmosphere of the gardens, with the light changing as the sun goes down, David creates productions that everybody can enjoy whether they’re familiar with Shakespeare or not.

Festival prep begins in February as David starts to audition professional actors to build a company.  Each actor appears in two plays so the rehearsal period during June is intense with 12 hour days.  And once July’s plays are under way, the cast rehearses the August plays during the day.  Inevitably, the company (who lodge in College accommodation) becomes a very tight unit.  Along the way this has led, rather romantically, to 11 marriages!

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival The Comedy of Errors

It’s over thirty years since David appointed himself Artistic Director and founded this Festival.  Since then, he’s developed a linked programme of educational events for students of all ages.  He composes and conducts, writes and publishes, researches and lectures here and overseas.

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival Pericles

Each of the 8 plays in this year’s programme holds one charity matinee performance at 2pm, raising funds for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices and St John’s Hospice on the Wirral, in memory of David’s sister.  Tickets are only available on the door for these performances and you need to pay with cash as every penny raised goes to the charities.  Funds raised over the years come to £89,650 so far and David hopes to hit £100,000 this year.

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival Twelfth Night

All performances start at 7.30pm but you can arrive in the beautiful College grounds to enjoy your picnic from 6.30pm.  Mulled wine is served in the interval and children of all ages are welcome.  You can buy tickets and season tickets in advance through the Festival website but there are always tickets for sale for every performance on the door too.

http://www.cambridgeshakespeare.com

These productions take place at multiple venues across the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer in the City 2

Cambridge is a city of bicycles and there’s no better way to get around, so buying a bike was top of my list when we moved here three years ago.  There are plenty of bike shops around and a cycle repair stall in the market most days.  My local cycle shop, Townsends on Chesterton Road, is fourth generation family owned and they kitted me out with a bike from their own range of The Light Blue cycles plus a strong lock, lights, a helmet and a wicker basket, then waved me off on my rather wobbly way!

The Orchard Tea Garden GrantchesterA favourite cycle ride is an easy one of about twenty five minutes, mostly on paths and through lush green meadows, out to Grantchester.  This very pretty, tranquil village was once home to poet Rupert Brooke who wrote of it nostalgically, “And is there honey still for tea?”  Well, The Orchard Tea Garden in Mill Way has been serving honey for tea since 1897 not only to Brooke but, back in the day, to luminaries like Virginia Woolf, Maynard Keynes and Alan Turing.  There’s nothing nicer than sitting in a deckchair in dappled sunlight under an apple tree here, enjoying tea and cake.  They also serve breakfast, lunch, scones and full cream teas and there’s plenty of indoor seating for cooler days.

Cambridge DistilleryAnother excellent pitstop in Grantchester is Cambridge Distillery on the High Street.  Master Distiller William Lowe creates award winning gins using freshly foraged local botanicals.  Lemon balm, blackcurrant leaf, magnolia and local honey all feature in the Spring/Summer 2018 seasonal gin which you can sample along with the rest of the range.  Maybe pre-book a Masterclass to boost your gin know-how or even create your own bespoke spirit at a private Gin Tailoring session.  The Distillery also offers four very special coffees which they can blend to your individual taste and has a beautiful city centre shop, Cambridge Gin Laboratory, on Green Street.

www.townsends-lb.co.uk

www.theorchardteagarden.co.uk

www.cambridgedistillery.co.uk

And don’t miss …..

Cambridge Open Studios, held over four weekends in July.  A unique chance to meet artists, craftspeople and designer-makers in their studios and workshops in and around the city.  Enjoy a feast of painting, ceramics, sculpture, handmade jewellery, glass, photography and much more.  You’ll find free printed guides for this event in shops, galleries and libraries and there’s an App to download too.

www.camopenstudios.co.uk

The Summer Night Market with open air cinema screening on 20 July.  Market Square will be buzzing with many of the regular market traders plying their wares alongside street food vendors, pop up bars and restaurants.  The family-friendly film “Paddington” will be screened at 6.30pm, followed by “Grease” at 8.30pm.  This free event is always popular so the advice is to get there early and maybe bring your own portable chair!

www.cambridgebid.co.uk/events

Cambridge Summer Music Festival, running from 23 June to 4 August.  In its 40th anniversary year, it brings a programme of different music genres to venues across the city and showcases young upcoming talent as well as established artistes.  A particular favourite of mine is “Sounds Green”, held at the stunning Cambridge University Botanic Garden on Wednesday evenings at 6.15pm.  It’s perfect for all ages … just take a rug and a picnic, sit back, get up and dance if you like and enjoy the music, be it tunes from local ensemble Prime Brass or Afro-Brazilian jazz, samba and bossa nova from four piece band Afrosamba.

www.cambridgesummermusic.com

The Big Weekend on Parker’s Piece from 13-15 July.  It’s all going on here with live music, a silent disco, fireworks, food stalls, sports and science activities, a children’s entertainment area and more.  Sunday 14 July features the Cambridge Mela, celebrating Asian culture.

www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk/city-events/events/big-weekend

Cambridge Comedy Festival, returning to Cambridge Junction from 18 – 21 July with four performance venues, a covered “Moonshine Brewery” beer garden and street food vendors.  This is a great chance to see big name headliner comedians at Jesterlarf Comedy Club and Edinburgh preview shows as well as emerging comedic talent plus there are three family shows on Saturday 21 July.  Just like going to the Edinburgh Fringe without going all the way to Edinburgh!

www.cambridgecomedyfestival.com

 

This post is “The Cambridge Scene” column which I write for Eastlife Magazine.  To read more of the July edition, take a look on http://www.eastlife.co.uk

 

What’s on in July

Here’s the What’s On listing for July!  It’s an eclectic mix of all sorts of events that come to my attention and I’ll update it through the the month so do check back when you can.

Telephone boxes Cambridge
Telephone boxes at Great St Mary’s Church

1st    1pm  The Choir of Trinity College.  Lunchtime concert, a recital of music from the forthcoming tour to Germany.  Trinity College Chapel.  Free admission.

1st    3 – 5pm  Jazz on Jesus Green.  Cambridge Youth Jazz Band and Cambrideshire Youth Jazz Orchestra.  Free entry.  http://www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk/city-events

2nd – 15th    12 noon – 8pm  Strawberries and Screen.  Wimbledon coverage from the BBC on an outdoor big screen next to The Tamburlaine Hotel, CB1

2nd    6pm  Lord Smith: The State of the Arts.  Pre-festival event from Cambridge Summer Music.  Old Library, Pembroke College.  http://www.cambridgesummermusic.co.uk

4th    6.15pm  Sounds Green – Prime Brass.  Cambridge University Botanic Garden.  Open air live music.  http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk

5th – 21st    Cambridge Summer Music Festival.  http://www.cambridgesummermusic.co.uk

7th    9.30am  Cambridge Festival of Creative Writing.  University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education, Madingley Hall.  Talks, seminars, panel discussions and workshops.  Tickets from http://www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk

7th    4.30 and 7.30pm  Music for a Summer’s Evening.  Fairhaven Singers.  Dove, Brahms and Parry.  Queens’ College Chapel.  http://www.fairhavensingers.org.uk

7 – 8th    11am – 6pm  Cambridge Open Studios.  http://www.camopenstudios.co.uk

8th    11am Cancer Research 5K and 10K Race for Life.  Jesus Green.  http://www.raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org

8th    4pm  O How Glorious.  A celebration of English choral music from Purcell to Finzi and beyond.  New Cambridge Singers.  Jesus College Chapel. http://www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk

9th onwards    Cambridge Shakespeare Festival.  Open air Shakespeare plays in college gardens.  http://www.cambridgeshakespeare.com

10th – 14th    7.30pm  Sweet Charity.  Cambridge Theatre Company.  Great Hall at The Leys School.  http://www.camtheatrecompany.co.uk

11th    6.15pm  Sounds Green – She’Koyokh.  Cambridge University Botanic Garden.  Open air live music.  http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk

13th – 15th    The Big Weekend on Parker’s Piece.  Firework display 10pm Friday 13th.  http://www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk/city-events

13th    8pm  The Gesualdo Six.  Pre tour concert.  Unaccompanied choral music from the renaissance to the present day.  The Round Church. Tickets on the door or from http://www.thegesualdosix.co.uk

14 – 15th    11am – 6pm  Cambridge Open Studios.  http://www.camopenstudios.co.uk

14th    5.30pm  Summer Choral Concert.  Choir of King’s College.  Elgar, Bernstein, Vaughan Williams and Dvorak.  King’s College Chapel.  Tickets from King’s College Visitor Centre.

14th    7.30pm  Viva la Musica!  Music from Spain with Cambridge Concert Orchestra and Chesterton Choral Society.  St George’s Church, Chesterfield Road, CB4.  Tickets from ccol@mentha.com

15th    Cambridge Mela.  A celebration of Asian culture and a market.  Parker’s Piece.  http://www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk/city-events

18th    6.15pm  Sounds Green – T G Collective.  Cambridge University Botanic Garden.  Open air live music.  http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk

18th – 21st    Cambridge Comedy Festival.  Cambridge Junction.  http://www.cambridgecomedyfestival.com

20th    6.30 – 10pm  Summer Night Market and outdoor cinema (Paddington 1 and Grease).  Market Square.  http://www.cambridgebid.co.uk/events

21st    12 – 5pm  Castle Hill Open Day.  http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/events/castle-hill-2018

21 – 22nd    11am – 6pm  Cambridge Open Studios.  http://www.camopenstudios.co.uk

25th onwards    Summer at the Museums.  Fun family days out for all ages.  Making and creating, hands-on history and interactive science.  Low cost or free.  http://www.museums.cam.ac.uk

25th    6.15pm  Sounds Green – Afrosamba.  Cambridge University Botanic Garden.  Open air live music.  http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk

26th    6pm  Cambridge SEO MeetUp.  Network while learning more about SEO.  The Bradfield Centre, 184 Cambridge Science Park, Milton Road, CB4.  Free but you must book through the website at https://optimisey.com

28 – 29th    11am – 6pm  Cambridge Open Studios.  http://www.camopenstudios.co.uk

Flowers at Cambridge Market
Summer flowers at Cambridge Market

 

Cambridge Open Studios

The annual Cambridge Open Studios event returns as the workshops and studios of 350 artists, craftspeople and designer-makers across Cambridgeshire open their doors over four weekends in July to showcase painting, ceramics, sculpture, handmade jewellery, glass, photography and much more.

Cambridge Open Studios logo 2018
Image credit: Cambridge Open Studios

This is a great opportunity to see artists at work, to discuss their techniques and inspiration and to browse, buy or even commission their work, although there is no pressure to buy.  Entry to all studios is free.  Last week, I caught up with a couple of participants who are getting ready for Open Studios.

Sara Rawlinson library
Image credit: Sara Rawlinson

Sara RawlinsonRegular readers of this blog may remember photographer, Sara Rawlinson, who I first met last September when I wrote about her journey from seismology to photography and her exhibition at Michaelhouse, “Illuminating Cambridge Libraries”.  Over these past months, Sara has continued with her project, taking stunning photographs of more college libraries.  She has plans for another exhibition and is also branching out into flower photography, particularly looking at tiny details, the texture of petals and frosty grasses in monochrome.

Sara Rawlinson flower
Image credit: Sara Rawlinson

Sara is looking forward to opening her home studio in Beche Road for the first time and will be welcoming visitors on all four weekends.  Find out more about Sara and her work on http://www.sararawlinson.com

Rowan Humberstone Cambridge

Over at Rowan in Humberstone Road, the student artists are hard at work creating beautiful pieces in their studios.  Rowan is an arts centre for people with learning disabilities and there’s truly a family atmosphere here.  The student artists are supported to be autonomous, encouraged to learn and try new things and to enjoy being together in the light, airy social spaces that run through the building.

Rowan Humberstone Cambridge woodcarvingRowan Humberstone Cambridge woodwork

The work spaces were a hive of activity when I dropped in last week, with gorgeous cards being produced in the Print Studio, wooden phone stands, lamps and candlesticks coming from the Woodwork Studio and bright felted wool scarves hanging up to dry in the Textiles Studio.

Rowan Humberstone Cambridge textiles

The Ceramic and Mixed Media studios were equally busy and the Rowan team, who are old hands at the Cambridge Open Studios event, are looking forward to welcoming visitors on the weekend of 7 and 8 July.  Proceeds from the sale of the student artists’ work go straight back into the charity to enable their remarkable work to continue.  Rowan also takes commissions for one off pieces.  You’ll find more on http://www.rowanhumberstone.co.uk

Rowan Humberstone Cambridge vase
Image credit: Rowan

In a new initiative, Cambridge Open Studios has joined forces with ofo bikes this year, with the dual aim of helping visitors travel between city centre studios easily whilst reducing the environmental impact of the event.  You can locate ofo bikes using the free ofo Smartphone app, available from the App Store or Google Play.  Then just use a code printed in the Open Studios yellow guidebook to claim five free one hour ofo bike rides and get pedalling!

ofo bicycle Cambridge
Image credit: ofo

Studios will be open to visitors from 11am to 6pm on July 7/8, 14/15, 21/22 and 28/29 and entry is free.  Do bear in mind that not every artist will exhibit every weekend.  You’ll find printed guides for this event in shops, galleries and libraries.  You can also go to the website to download the 2018 COS App which gives full details of the Open Studios together with an interactive map to help you with planning your day and navigation.

http://www.camopenstudios.co.uk

This event takes place at multiple locations in and around the city.

 

 

Cam Sight Cambridge

Cam Sight is a wonderful Cambridge charity that I’ve been meaning to write about for some time now.  From its Cambridge HQ in Chesterton and its Wisbech outreach centre, its staff and a band of around 350 dedicated volunteers work to ensure that clients with low vision and blindness can access the support and advice they need to live the life they choose.

Camsight logo
Image credit: Cam Sight

I met with Nick Burr, Cam Sight’s Fundraising and Promotions Officer, and his beautiful assistance dog Amber, to find out more about this remarkable organisation which began life as the Cambridge Society for the Blind in 1912 and which today works with around 1800 clients across Cambridgeshire.

Camsight client
Image credit: Cam Sight

The services that Cam Sight offers are extensive.  On the practical side of life, there’s help with choosing of and training on the many technologies available.  There’s a weekly magnification and lighting clinic and they sell a wide range of equipment to help with carrying out day to day tasks, from talking clocks to canes, kitchen safety aids and large button telephones.  In one-to-one sessions, a (re)habilitation specialist can help with mobility, orientation and daily living skills while the community team visits clients at home, to help and advise with welfare and housing benefits application as well as adaptations to the home.

 

Cam Sight befriender
Image credit: Cam Sight

 

Cam Sight group
Image credit: Cam Sight

The emotional side of life is, of course, just as important as the practical.  Cam Sight organises outings and social activities while volunteer befrienders give support and companionship in many different ways.  And in a peer support initiative, there are monthly gatherings held across Cambridgeshire for clients, their carers and family members.  Cam Sight also offers emotional support and counselling sessions.

“We run three groups for children,” Nick tells me, “for preschool and 4 – 11 year olds, then the teenage group is a lot of fun, whether they’re playing pool and eating pizza, enjoying an activity day or a trip to a theme park.”

Cam Sight Tandem Team
Image credit: Cam Sight

Cam Sight also supports clients to return to sport or indeed to try a new sport.  Tandem cycling is an option, with a trained sighted pilot and a low vision stoker.  They own seven tandems and on 1 July, several pairs will be cycling in the annual London to Cambridge bike ride (yes, that is 63 miles!) to raise money for Cam Sight.  So they’re busy training and if you’d like to sponsor them, please get in touch at nick@camsight.org.uk

Cam Sight Tandem
Image credit: Cam Sight

Another fundraiser coming up is Cam Sight’s first Golf Day on 20 July at Cambridge Meridian Golf Club.  You can enter individually or get a team of four together.  There’ll be 18 holes of golf plus breakfast, a barbecue, prizes, a raffle and an auction, all for a suggested donation of £60 per person.  To sign up for the Golf Day, just contact nick@camsight.org.uk

On 17 July at 7.30pm, there’s a talk “John Henslow and the Education of Charles Darwin” given by Professor John Parker, former Director of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, at the Sainsburys Laboratory Auditorium.  Tickets are £15, include canapes and drinks and are available from Cam Sight on 01223 420033.  Fundraising activities are also organised by the Friends of Cam Sight, a group who run their own events in support of the charity’s work.

Cam Sight befriender
Image credit: Cam Sight

If you’d be interested in volunteering with Cam Sight, there are many roles available from driving to befriending, helping with bucket collections at external events and riding as a pilot on a tandem.  Joy Hallifax, the volunteer team leader, would be delighted to hear from you.  Just email her on joy@camsight.org.uk  All volunteers receive an induction with full training and ongoing support.

www.camsight.org.uk

167 Green End Road, Cambridge CB4 1RW

14 Chapel Road, Wisbech PE13 1RF