Wednesday, 22 June 2016

30 Days Wild days 5 and 6- A weekend in Cambridge

I seem to be doing a huge amount of travelling this June. This has combined brilliantly with 30 Days Wild; I'm getting to spend time enjoying nature in new and different places. This weekend I was in Cambridge for my boyfriend's 21st birthday. I always enjoy visiting Cambridge, but this was the first time I've had the chance to spend a weekend there in the summer. This made a really noticeable difference to the atmosphere; the parks and river banks were full of people. 

Deciding to make the most of the good weather, we took inspiration from the #30DaysWild app and headed to a nearby park for a picnic. Like a lot of people I know, I have a tendency to get slightly overexcited at the prospect of picnics. I'm not sure how much of it is the influence of too many Enid Blyton books and how much is nostalgia for family days out in long school summer holidays. Either way, I don't really need much of an excuse. 

After dinner we went for a walk by the river. The long evenings of this time of year are one of my favourite things about early summer; I love the way it seems to take hours for the sun to set, until that golden dusk, full of long shadows and stillness, seems to last for hours. Insects were rising up from the river in spirals as they hatched, and there were swifts shrieking overhead, making the most of the bounty.

The insect encounters got even better the next day. The mayflies were obviously hatching as well as the midges, because one landed on me the next morning as we were walking through town. It stayed clinging to my dress for a surprisingly long time; long enough to take a few photos and appreciate just how bizarre and prehistoric they look. 

Later on in the day, we caught up with some slightly older wildlife. Despite the fact that it was his birthday, I got the decision about what we would spend the day doing. It wasn't difficult. I've been wanting to visit some of the university museums in Cambridge for years. Sadly, the zoology museum is currently being refurbished and won't be opening until next summer, so we visited the Sedgwick Museum instead. It's a fantastic old-fashioned geology museum, with endless wooden cabinets and typewritten labels of latin names. 

I'm a big fan of dinosaurs. They're such a brilliant introduction to biology; I still have vivid memories of visiting the Natural History Museum in London when I was little and being completely overawed by the fossils and reconstructions there. I'm sure I'm not the only one. The Sedgewick museum is small, but it has plenty of exciting fossils. You're greeted on entering with a huge T. rex skull and a massive, upright Iguanadon. It's the kind of place where there is such an embarassment of riches that you end up with a beautifully mounted small raptor above the entrance to the toilets. 

One of the things I enjoyed the most about the museum was the way you could see where everything had come from. Lots of the older casts were gifts between European heads of state in the 19th Century, and many of the fossils were found locally. 

I think it's so fascinating to think about the ways our landscape and climate has changed over geological time. This mammoth, whose jaw was found in Norfolk, would probably have lived in a warmer climate, where what is now coastal sand and salt marsh was a region of mixed deciduous forest. It's a wonderful exercise in imagination to consider that, at one point, you could have seen mammoths instead of seals there. 

After the museum and dinner, we went back into the sunshine for another walk by the river. It was incredibly peaceful, only disturbed by the odd jarring calls of moorhens. A lovely end to a lovely weekend.

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