Thursday, 21 April 2011

Cambourne

We have now been in our house in Cambourne for two months, long enough to form some impressions of the place.

Cambourne is a village situated about eight miles directly west of Cambridge, situated on the road to St Neots. Construction on the village started in 1998, and my vague connections with the place began the next year when a couple of friends bought some of the early houses - indeed, I think that they were the second and third houses (aside from show homes) built.

At that time it was very much a construction site with no facilities.

There was a certain amount of negativity about Cambourne when it was first mooted, and with good reason.The last attempt to build a village to cater for Cambridge's growing population was Bar Hill, situated by the A14 to the northwest of the city. Built for 4,000 people, construction started in 1967 and it rapidly gained a reputation of being a soulless place, made worse by the presence of a massive Tesco hyperstore. Its problems lay mainly in the lack of facilities.

Fortunately the developers of Cambourne appear to have learnt the lessons of Bar Hill. The facilities may have taken time to arrive, but they are indeed arriving. As well as the obligatory supermarket (a well-stocked Morrisons), there is a pub, coffee shop, doctors' surgery, a hotel, several schools and many other shops. Indeed, the schools are necessary as the influx of middle-aged professionals means that at times the village feels like it is filled with babies and young children.

So what is it like to live in? We have not been here long, but so far the experience feels positive. There is a palpable sense of community, with various campaigns and groups echoing through the population - one such campaign has meant that the village is going to be one of the five to benefit from BT's Infinity broadband scheme.

The Morrisons supermarket is well-stocked, and the spread of other shops is good, if not yet comprehensive. There is scarcely a straight line to be seen in the street plan, the curves of the roads keeping traffic speeds down whilst giving the illusion of space. Indeed, from a first-floor window in our town house in Great Cambourne (a newer and more cramped part of the village), I can count forty-three separate roofs, yet it still feels curiously spacious.

There are also plenty of green areas - indeed, there are lots of paths ┼×encan's workplace is in the business park near the main road, a fifteen minute walk away from our home. One day we took another route into work that took double the time but was totally off road, with only two roads to be crossed on the way. This traffic-free route uses just some of the bridleways and footpaths that have been constructed along with the town. I have also managed a three-mile walk using the paths around the edge of the complex that scarcely encountered any roads.

True, the village does not yet have the character of (say) nearby St Ives, or Romsey that we have recently left. That is to be expected: the character of a settlement is often granted by its history, and Cambourne is still in its infancy. Yet the varied style of houses bestows some character, excepting a couple of terribly-executed faux-Georgian buildings.

So all in all I am happy.

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