CAMBRIDGE The line beyond here goes to King’s Lynn. For villages close to stations on the Kings Cross to King’s Lynn line via Cambridge and Ely see the appropriate section.
The property market in Cambridge has a mind of its own, being heavily influenced by the constant comings and goings of university academics and the staff of the high-tech industries that have thrived in the university’s shadow. During the Eighties the explosion of scientific, medical and agricultural companies based on university research became known as the Cambridge Phenomenon – and predictably it delivered an upward thrust to local house prices. People continue to pour into the area to work and so tight is the greenbelt girth of this beautiful but tiny city, that an entirely new settlement called Cambourne has been built to the west. Prairie fields have been turned into 3,000 houses, with a 50-acre business park, two primary schools and a heavy environmental spin (ponds, trees and walks are high on the agenda). Plans have been submitted for an additional 950 homes. Small three-bedroom houses sell at £190,000; five-bedroom executive homes start at £400,000.
To the north of Cambridge lie the Science Park, with more than 90 high-tech companies, and the stark flat landscape of the Fens. It is the south that most people prefer to live. The station is here, and so are the better schools, including The Perse co-educational private school. Planning applications have been submitted to modernise the station itself and redevelop the immediate area to provide student accommodation and 330 new dwellings. The area near the station, around Tenison Road, is popular with professional couples; two-bedroom Victorian terraces here cost £250,000. On the other side of the tracks they cost £230,000. Larger four-bedroom Victorian houses in the station area will cost around £600,000. Alternatively, to the west there is Newnham, an old-established residential area where a typical bay-fronted three-bedroom Victorian house would cost £350,000. The higher prices in Cambridge are around the £1m mark.
The most expensive, exclusive and attractive village in the area has to be Grantchester, two miles to the south. Rupert Brooke lived here as a student at the Old Vicarage, now occupied by Jeffrey Archer. Brooke’s best-remembered lines, ‘Stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?’, are a reference to his time in Grantchester. The village’s many attractions include walks along the Cam, the old tea-rooms, which students punt to, and pretty cottages that sell for enormous sums. You could possibly get a small two-bedroom Victorian terrace for £275,000; but a favoured four-bedroom house with a large garden is likely to fetch £625,000 and upwards.
To the west of Cambridge is Comberton. This is a good village for families since it contains one of the highly-regarded Cambridge Village Colleges. A handful of these were built to embody the ideas of Henry Morris, chief education officer at Cambridge from 1922 to 1954. He believed that secondary schools could be run like small colleges, serving several villages while at the same time fulfilling their cultural needs and providing adult education. Property and prices in the villages (excluding Grantchester) tend to be more family-friendly than in Cambridge itself.
Due west of Cambridge is Madingley – worth looking at because of the stunning views to the spires and towers of Cambridge, seen against the backdrop of the Gog Magog hills. Much of the village is owned by the university, and the hall is now a hostel for graduates. Prices are probably up to 10 per cent lower than in Grantchester.
The countryside to the north looks markedly less friendly but lower prices attract those who want big roomy houses. Histon, previously the base of the Chivers jam-making enterprise, is almost a small town now, with shops, sub-branches of banks, building societies and garages. Its main attraction is its proximity to Impington, which has a Village College designed in the early Thirties by Walter Gropius and Max Fry. It is also close to Girton, home not only of Girton College but also of Girton Golf Club. A two-bedroom house here will cost £190,000.
To the east, on the edge of the Fens, which can sometimes look like the edge of the world, are Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior. They are eight miles from Cambridge, but worth considering if you want to escape the academic atmosphere affecting some of the other villages. Both are remarkably unspoiled and have some charming period cottages. At Swaffham Prior (where the poet Edwin Muir once lived) you could buy a two-bedroom terraced cottage for £180,000; a four-bedroom property with stables and grazing for £550,000.
The A14 is an important dividing line in the east. Anything to the south of it, where the countryside starts to ripple again, will command a higher price. Fulbourn serves as a Cambridge suburb, with new developments encroaching on the older houses and thatched cottages, though proposals for additional housing being vigorously opposed by the parish council. There is a primary school, a post office and a range of shops, including a butcher, greengrocer and flower shop. Two pubs remain of the original 20-plus that once served coach travellers en route to Newmarket. A three-bedroom semi on a new estate will cost £225,000; an older style three-bedroom semi around £295,000; a detached house around £300,000.