With trips to Minehead and then Leeds this week, I stayed closer to home today in the gorgeous Autumn weather. It was a mistake.
The area of Cambridgeshire south-west of the city down to Royston, is generally thought of as an ideal place to live, and scores highly in those irritating surveys by the BBC and the Halifax. This largely reflects the continued growth in the Cambridge economy, proximity to the Addenbrooke’s mega-site, and the quality of schools, all of which push house prices ever upward. It doesn’t reflect any particular beauty in the featureless landscape. At least new local MP Heidi Allen has shown some character of late.
The big issue in the area, apart from housing, is the formula (“weighted capitation”) that funds local Government services on the basis of assumed needs, with wealthy and healthy South Cambridgeshire assumed to need about 70% of the budget for health care that, say, North Manchester does, with similarly problematic disparities in education funding.
I’ve just walked 10 miles between the two Eversdens, Comberton and Toft, four typical rural villages close to the M11 and close to the top of the tree in terms of house prices. I’ve tried very hard to capture features of interest, but apart from a couple of dozen attractive old houses (think £2 million +), there is nothing much to report. The walks are flat and without features, with only the inevitable golf courses and stables to break the monotony. Neighbouring Huntingdonshire’s villages off the notorious A14 are much better.
What really strikes me is the lack of facilities, the odd Post Office/Stores apart, for an overall population close to 4,000 across these villages. One good village pub, the Three Horseshoes in Comberton, and even that is shut on a sunny Half-Term Monday lunchtime. Looking back at the local CAMRA Guide from 1994, there were 4 pubs in these villages, with two now restaurants (Indian and Chinese), and one converted to residential use. It’s a fair walk from here to anywhere else with facilities (and the next pub is now primarily an Italian restaurant), so these do feel like dormitory villages.
Next week I’m going to reassess Jaywick, about as big a contrast with this bit of Cambridgeshire as you can get.