I’ve had some less than glowing things to say about South Cambridgeshire recently, but I’m going to give it every chance this year.
Shelford, Great and Little, is the first rail stop out of Cambridge, and therefore one of the main commuter villages in both directions.
It’s also on the doorsteps of the Addenbrookes Hospital/Biomedical Campus, and appropriately Shelford gives its name to the informal grouping of leading teaching hospitals. The ever present cranes around the Campus dominate the Shelford skyline.
Away from that view, all is picture postcard English loveliness.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you it’s worth an average £620k to buy a house here (and it’s not all half-timbered), it also has a rugby club AND a garden centre.
What it doesn’t have is much in the way of public footpaths, and particularly one that will take you to the nearby Queen’s Head in Newton without resorting to busy roads. You could walk to Wandlebury Country Park, Cambridge’s one stretch of hills.
Highlights are the church and the odd phone box man.
Three pubs left here, with three closures over recent years, none of them troubling the Beer Guide. Great Shelford’s Plough is the most pubby, but closed, as increasingly is the lunchtime norm.
A few yards down the Square & Compasses is managing to balance the good-looking lunchtime food and drinking well, and there’s a friendly atmosphere I like more than a poor Greene King IPA. I can’t diagnose why, but the photo may help.
Regular blog commentator py has remarked on the lower quality of beer found in Cambridge’s Greene King houses, which tend to serve a smaller number of beers (e.g. here). Free Press apart, I’d agree with him, though I do think the ubiquitous IPA is a decent beer in many pubs, particularly in Essex’s Guide entries.
Little Shelford is virtually contiguous with it’s big brother, and has a long-standing pub-with-Thai operation in the Navigator. Most locals would regard it as a restaurant, but it is a genuinely comfortable place to enjoy a beer.
The only conversation I heard seemed to about a son’s bonus exceeding his salary, which probably says a lot about the cheerful retiree custom.
A decent half of Adnams (NBSS 2.5) was served flat, after which the sparkler was added back. This pub offer four beers that 20 years ago would have been considered exotic by CAMRA (Doom Bar, Tribute and Deuchars the others); nowadays I read of Branch trips spying that line-up and walking straight out of the pub.
I, and I suspect the 10% of diners choosing real ale, would probably be happy with a choice between two of those four, any of which are decent if well kept.
By far the busiest place serving food and drinks was the Garden Centre, seemingly a place my parents will drive half an hour just to eat cake at. In Sussex I’m sure I passed more of those places than I did roadside pubs.