In and around Cambridge

The day before the Student Conference on Conservation Science began, conference participants were taken on a walk around Sheep’s Green and Coe Fen by the River Cam in Cambridge.

Sheep’s Green and Coe Fen formed part of the commercial area of the town where up to three watermills once stood. The land between the artificially raised banks of the watercourses was prone to flooding and was therefore only really suitable for grazing – sheep on Sheep’s Green (west of River Cam) and cows on Coe (cow) Fen (east of River Cam). By the 19th century, the Fen was mire and it was partly drained to avoid disease in the town. The land remains today as a semi-natural space and is an important part of the setting of the core area.

Cambridge City Council Official Website

Much of the area is cattle-grazed medieval flood meadow, criss-crossed by streams and drainage ditches, with scattered trees, especially willows. Ms. Monica Frisch, a member of Cambridge Natural History Society (CNHS) which carried out an extensive survey of the area, led the walk and pointed out things of natural history interest.

A walk in the park

A walk in the park

It was quite an interesting way to “discover” Cambridge, though I was pretty sure the majority of the conference participants were either getting to know each other, or fighting jet lag, LOL. Nevertheless, Ms. Monica Frisch must be commended for her time and for sharing her knowledge of the area with us :D

After the walk, a few of us joined a punting tour offered by Scudamore Punting Company (it kinda reminded me of this backwater cruise that I joined in Fort Cochin, India). Our punter, I forgot to ask for his name, was a Kiwi, and he gave quite an elaborate description of the history of the city and some buildings that we saw along the river. He even sang us a song under a bridge! :D

Our Kiwi punter, nice chap

Now, you won’t be able to take really good pictures of the buildings (mostly churches and colleges) because you’d be sitting in a boat in the river, so if you’d rather see the buildings up close and take pictures, the punting tour might not be your best option.

Mathematical Bridge in River Cam

I paid £10, and I thought that it was quite pricey for a river tour. But if you must go punting in Cambridge, I’d recommend Scudamore’s :D And because you’d be sitting in a boat for about an hour, and listening to your punter, I suggest you pick one whose accent you could understand easily.

Crisis in Cambridge

My first impression of Cambridge, even before arriving, is that it is a safe place. In fact, one of the ever-helpful conference organizers insisted that it would be perfectly safe for me to walk 10 minutes from the college where I’d be picking up my room key, to the college that I’d be staying at throughout the duration of the conference. Even if it means walking by myself in the middle of the night. With a 15 kg luggage. In the cold.

As luck would have it, my luggage wheels were broken upon arrival at Stansted International Airport, and I had to drag the 15 kg bag from the airport to the train station, which was quite a distance away. The broken wheels, combined with friction, made the 15 kg bag felt like 40 kg! My sister later commented that I have always had (bad) luck with my luggage whenever I travel, and frighteningly enough, she was right. But we’ll talk about that another day.

So anyway, I arrived at St. Catharine’s College, where I was supposed to pick up my room key, at about 11:30 pm and by the time I walked to St. Chad’s College, where I would be staying, it was past midnight (remember I had a broken bag?). And since I had been traveling in the past 25 hours, I had no problems falling asleep :D

St. Catharine's College
St. Catharine’s College, where I had breakfast for 5 days.

So the next day was spent looking for a luggage that wouldn’t cost a limb (because I can’t be lugging the 40 kg bag when I go to London in a few days’ time!) and I am eternally grateful I met Angel. Angel arrived a few days before the conference began and she had had time to check out the town and she knew where the malls were located. When I told her I had to hunt for a new luggage, she offered to show me a few places where I could buy a one at a bargain, and within about 2-3 hours, I found myself a new luggage!

Pretty flowers!
Pretty flowers at the market

Thank you, Angel! *hugs*

Ma, I’m going to England!

So, my conference poster is printed and sitting nicely in the poster tube. I am very happy with the final version of the poster, and that’s very important :D I need to feel good about it so that my audience could feel good reading it, LOL.

My clothes are pretty much packed. I still have a few long-sleeved tees drying in the sun (what sun?!) but apart from those, I’ve gotten the clothes I needed into the luggage.

My name cards have arrived. This is the first time in my entire working life that my name cards are professionally made. To cut costs, I have always printed the cards on art paper, made copies of them and cut them myself, but that had proven to be too time-consuming (and unprofessional).

My name cards

I also got myself a Lonely Planet England a while ago because Lonely Planet was having a sale :D But of course, given my workload, I haven’t had time to read up and decide which of the many tourist attractions to visit. And since the in-flight entertainment unit isn’t available on the 14-hour flight from KL to Stansted, guess what I’d be reading in the plane? :D

Guidebook

Dr. Gerald Kuchling, an expert in freshwater turtle reproduction, gave me this Visitors’ Map. This is a very comprehensive map with (a lot of) information on the location of all tourist attractions in London, entrance fees, how to get there and lots more. I tried to get a bearing on what’s where but I was too overwhelmed by it, LOL.

Visitors' map

The necessary documents and maps have been printed (for peace of mind) and tucked away in my hand-carry, and the same goes to my receipts which I would need for reimbursement purposes.

What’s left now is to copy some addresses and phone numbers into a little notebook, and then I’m ready to go.

Ma, I can’t believe I’m going to England! :D