Cambridge: It’s hard to resist the serenity of the botanic garden
March 19, 2008
CAMBRIDGE — Despite concerns in England about green space, or lack thereof, most folks living in American military communities here have all the green space they can handle.
Take a look at the land surrounding RAFs Mildenhall, Croughton or any of the other bases here. The space may not always be technically green, but it sure is natural.
Then again, the fen can be no fun. If it’s not fen wetlands, the land right outside the fence is often farmland or nondescript fields. Not much there to stimulate the senses.
But tucked right into nearby Cambridge is the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, 40 acres of serenely natural beauty that’s got something for every botany enthusiast.
The garden is situated right in the city, a five-minute walk from the train station or a 10-minute stroll from the city center.
It was established as a teaching and research hub for the university in 1846 by Prof. John Stevens Henslow, a mentor and teacher of Charles Darwin.
While surrounded on all sides by a bustling city, the cacophony of the street steadily gives way to the chirping of birds and the tranquility of an undisturbed natural setting as a visitor makes his way further in.
The beautiful and expansive grounds take visitors through a variety of plant worlds, from the rock garden, full of alpine plants that are normally found on mountains, to a tropical rainforest in a greenhouse that is lush all year round, no matter the weather outside.
There are beautiful wooded areas, and glasshouses that feature desert settings, carnivorous plants and a whole lot of orchids.
Even in these waning winter days, the garden’s got something to offer. The winter garden blooms when nothing else will, bursting with wintry berries and other foliage that thrive in the colder temperatures.
The location and diversity make this garden unique, said Martine Gregory-Jones, an official with the garden.
“We are so central to the town,” she said. “You’ve got 40 acres of green space right in the middle of town.”
It’s never the same garden twice, she said, as different plants flourish with the changing seasons.
Gregory-Jones said she has a hard time picking out her favorite attraction because the environs are always morphing with the seasons.
“It just changes so much,” she said. “At this time of year before everything else is coming into bud, you’ve got the winter garden. You’ve got all that color and scent.”
The garden does occasionally fall victim to the whimsy of Mother Nature, she said, but thankfully the fierce winds last week didn’t cause any severe damage to the sanctuary.
“It’s a wee bit dodgy when the wind blows,” she said.
Forty acres of diverse and lush plant life, from forest to greenhouses, make up the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, all situated smack-dab in the middle of Cambridge.
Location: Bateman Street, Cambridge, CB2 1JF. Access points are at Bateman Street and Station Road, but only at Bateman on the weekends.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., February, March and October; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April to September; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November to January.
Cost: 4 pounds for adults, free for youths 16 and younger.
For more information, call 01223 336265 or log on to www.botanic.cam.ac.uk.