A few of my favourite things

One of my favourite events of the year is the Cambridge Open Studios in July, where local artists of every genre open up their studios for the public to visit and see their work. Open Studios members also host other events throughout the year and the website contains details of several local artists – so you can contact them directly all year round.

I have visited a number of the artists’ studios over the years and there are plenty of others I am yet to see. But with Christmas (sorry!) not too far away and people thinking about gifts for their loved ones, I thought I would share some of my favourites…

 

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Selection of contemporary bangles, by Birgitte Bruun.

 

Birgitte Bruun is a Danish born jeweller who makes some beautiful pieces using a range of stones, metals and techniques. Her jewellery has a really contemporary feel and I particularly like her bangles, including the beautiful opal cuff in the picture below – the perfect gift for someone with an October birthday (though I’m probably better suited to an Aquamarine gemstone myself…) . I visited her studio a couple of months ago when buying a birthday present for a friend and all her pieces were so lovely it took a long time to decide what to buy. If you’d like to see some of Birgitte’s jewellery you can arrange a visit to her studio via her website, or you can catch her on 2nd December at Mill Road Winter Fair – where she will be hosting a pop-up stall at the Makers Gallery in Hope Street Yard.

 

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Opal cuff, by Birgitte Bruun.

 

Agnes Asselin uses textiles to create pictures as well as jewellery and other accessories. These are colourful pieces and mostly African inspired, with designs including people and a range of animals. Last year I visited her studio and bought the giraffe in the photo below – I think he’s going to need a friend at some point so will no doubt be paying another visit to the studio soon. Agnes will be opening her studio (just a three-minute walk from Mill Road) on 2nd December for Mill Road Winter Fair.

 

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Giraffe by Agnes Asselin.

 

Sarah Went makes beautiful ceramics. I’m yet to visit her studio myself, but her designs look like they are just what I want in my kitchen. I bought a handmade ceramic butter dish – which I adore – at an independent craft fair a couple of years ago, but having seen pictures of Sarah’s I have now decided that you can never have too many butter dishes… If you too would like to see some of Sarah’s ceramics, she will be opening her studio as part of Mill Road Winter Fair.

There are Christmas Open Studios events on throughout December, with Birgitte, Agnes and Sarah all displaying their work on 2nd December (at the Mill Road Winter Fair and nearby studios) as well as many other local artists and creators whose designs are well worth a look during the month; and if you can’t quite find what you’re looking for, it’s worth noting that most artists will take commissions. If Mr Mill Road happens upon this blog post then he could well save himself a lot of time and stress when it comes to choosing Christmas presents. ūüėČ

 

Mill Road Winter Fair

shoplocalsmallbusiness satToday is Small Business Saturday, Shop Local Saturday and also of course the busiest and best day in the Mill Road calendar – Mill Road Winter Fair! The event, which began in 2005 and is now held on the first Saturday of each December, has been in the planning for many months and will see residents, shops and the local community coming together to celebrate the area and all that it has to offer.

The Fair is well known for its musical delights and this year looks set to be no exception. If you were on the bridge at last years Fair you may well have felt the earth move whilst watching The Brass Funkeys – there were reports that the bridge was, quite literally, shaking as people danced and enjoyed themselves! This year you can find the band hosting ‘The Brass Funkeys presents…’ outside Code Hairdressers on Mill Road, as part of Code’s Christmas Cracker. The band will be playing at around 3pm and during the day you can also catch Wil Buchanon, Thudbox, Live and Let Funk and Balkanoes on the stage. Code will also be serving mulled wine and cider and there’ll be lots of other activities including vintage hairdos and facepainting.

MRWFJC 3All along Mill Road there will be lots of other performers and musicians throughout the day, including the Jackson Creek Band at 2pm by the Avenue of Limes whilst at the same time The Scissors are playing at Ditchburn Gardens and The Centimes will be at Gwydir Street Car park. Argyle Street Housing Co-operative will also be hosting their much loved Winter Fair stage, with music from 11am – including the Arco Iris Samba Band at 13:40, Dave Crow Barr at 15:00, Jam Band Caravan at 16:00 and Fara Fiddle at 17:00. This will culmiate in an ASH Co-op Jam on the stage around 18:30. As well as music, ASH Co-op car park will of course also be playing host to a range of stalls selling festive gifts and goodies, second hand goods and plenty of books.

Other activities include a Craft Market at the drama studio on Covent Garden, where you can find The Map Project team and lots of art and craft stalls. There will also be a Winter Wardrobe Fashion Show at the Salisbury Club on Mill Road, the Cambridge Lindy Hoppers dancing in the streets of Romsey and the Carnival Parade – which will be setting off from the town end of Mill Road around 12:15 before making its way down to Coleridge Road.

MRWF JC 2One of the great things about Mill Road Winter Fair is being able to wander between all the different shops, many of whom are offering homemade food and drink on stalls outside. There will also be a number of food stalls at Gwydir Street Car Park, including Mr Cake – he’s the chap that made the papers last year when he left his job by icing his resignation letter onto a cake!

With so much going on, there’s bound to be something to suit just about everyone. Hope everyone has a great Fair! :o)

Cambridge’s favourite indie!

Kingston ArmsMill Road is well known for its independent shops and businesses, so it’s no surprise that the area has done so well in the Discovering Cambridge competition. Discovering Cambridge was set up by local MP Julian Huppert in January of this year to celebrate the City’s independent traders and encourage people to visit their local shops, businesses, cafes, restaurants and pubs. People have been able to vote for their favourite in a different category each month and the winners from the Mill Road area have included the following:

LimoncelloAn overall winner will be announced at the Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday 7th December, and now’s your chance to vote for your favourite – just make sure you fill in a voting form while there’s still time. It great to see the traders and businesses around Mill Road doing so well, the best way to show your support for them is to use them – and of course vote!

Your favourite High Street

The Telegraph newspaper are running a campaign called Reinventing the High Street, aiming to put the heart back into the country’s traditional high streets. People are asked to nominate their favourite simply¬†by emailing highstreet@telegraph.co.uk.

Mill Road BridgeI don’t know about you, but I think there’s something pretty special about Mill Road and I think it deserves a place among the best that the UK has to offer. Not only is¬†the Mill Road area¬†home to Cambridge’s best independent pub, coffee house, home & garden shop, specialist food shop and record shop (all awarded this year in the Discovering Cambridge awards) and home to the Independent Drinks Retailer of The Year (as voted at the UK Drinks Retailing Awards 2013) but it’s also the location of CAMRA‘s Cambridge¬†City Locale Pub Of The Year 2013. There’s a range of events on throughout the year – including the Romsey Art Festival,¬†several street parties, various beer festivals¬†and of course the forthcoming Mill Road Winter Fair – as well as regular music nights at lots of different venues; and next week sees the first ever Romsey Calling music festival on Mill Road.

Mill Road has even been used as a location for music videos (like Mikill Pane’s ‘Good Feeling‘),¬†films (Neil Morrissey was here last month filming a new movie, Caffiend), TV programmes (including Antiques Road Trip)¬†and has had residents such as¬†Douglas Adams,¬†Dave Gilmour, Syd Barrett, Angela Hartnett¬†and Amy Williams over the years. It¬†even has its own blog and its own radio show – ‘Our Mill Road‘! There’s lots more I could say about Mill Road, but too much for one blog post (hence the whole blog!) but suffice to say it’s full of community-spirited¬†individuals and groups¬†and has lots of people¬†living, working and socialising in the area and keeping Mill Road the coolest street in Cambridge.

All you need to do to nominate Mill Road is to email highstreet@telegraph.co.uk and let them know! You know what they say – there’s something about Mill Road… .

‘Five a day’ cake

Not that I need an excuse to bake, but yesterday was World Baking Day and I decided that it was about time I got more adventurous with my cakes. With my staples already purchased, I went to Hilary’s on Mill Road to get some fruit – a lemon, some large oranges, blueberries, strawberries and cherries (my bargain tip is the strawberries – just ¬£1.25 a punnet!). I wasn’t sure yet quite what I was going to create, but all the fruit looked colourful and I was determined to use all of it in some way or another.

After looking at various sponge cake recipes I decided to base mine on this one, as it was for moist sponge cake – my last cake turned out a little drier than I had hoped. Instead of the vanilla extract I used fresh lemon juice.

Ingredients for '5-a-day' cakeIngredients
225g butter
400g fairtrade granulated sugar
4 eggs
310g self-raising flour
250ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Oranges & a lemon
Strawberries
Blueberries
Cherries

I preheated the oven to gas mark 4 and although the recipe says it’s for making three layers, I decided to hold off on greasing and lining my cake tins until I had made the mixture. I mixed the butter and sugar together thoroughly before¬†beating in¬†my eggs (one at a time). I then mixed the milk with some juice from the lemon (about a tablespoon), and added this liquid to my mixture – alternating between adding a little liquid then a little flour. Although I have an electric whisk, I didn’t use it and instead just beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon – there were a few tiny lumps of flour in the mixture, but I vaguely remembered that Mary Berry had said (during the Great British Bake Off) something about this being fine and in fact making the recipe better.

I had three cake tins but none were the same size and even though I borrowed a couple from neighbours¬†I still couldn’t find¬†two to match, so I used two similar ones – there was quite a bit of mixture, but not enough to comfortably fill three cake tins. I lined and greased the tins adding half of the mixture to each before putting in the oven. The recipe had said that they would take about 20 minutes to bake, though it was about 40 minutes before they looked ready (I guess it may have baked quicker if I’d used three tins). I did the skewer test (inserting a skewer into the¬†cake, it comes out clean if the cake is ready) and although a little sticky¬†I decided that it was fine as the cake was a lovely golden brown and in any case I wanted a moist cake. I removed the sides of the cake tins, though not the bases and then set aside to cool for about twenty minutes.

Homemade orange marmaladeThis gave me time to make some orange marmalade. I grated the zest of the orange into a separate bowl first (as I would need this later for the buttercream icing) and then cut the orange in half and scooped out the fruit from inside (turning each orange half inside out seemed a good way to do this). I then cut the fruit finely and discarded any large white bits. I¬†heated my finely cut fruit in a small saucepan, adding a couple of tablespoons of water and after about ten minutes of simmering I added about 200g of sugar¬†– I didn’t measure the fruit or sugar, but the general rule for jams seems to be using equal amounts of suagr and fruit. I simmered this on a high heat for¬†another ten minutes – stirring regularly – and then¬†put a teaspoonful on a plate in the fridge. After a couple of minutes it wrinkled when prodded, so I knew the marmalade was ready.

I carefully removed the cakes from their¬†bases using a fish slice and spread a layer of marmalade over each. I mixed up some buttercream icing¬†by combining¬†250g of butter¬†with¬†550g of icing sugar¬†before adding the orange zest I’d set aside earlier. I smeared some over the marmaladed bottom layer of my cake before placing the other layer of cake on top. I then spent a good twenty minutes smearing the rest of the buttercream icing all over the cake, making sure the sides and top were covered. This looked delicious, but not particularly healthy! So I added the remaining fruit – strawberries, blueberries and cherries – as decoration.

Five a day cakeI had never made anything as visually pleasing before and have to admit I was rather proud of my creation. I had planned to take some round to my neighbours, however all but¬†three slices didn’t even make it out of my kitchen as word began to spread that a cake was being made. A friend said I should call it a ‘Five a day’ cake as it contains five different fruits – though you’d probably need to eat more than a whole cake to actually get your official five a day, so I’d advise against relying on it for dietary RDA’s (!).¬†It tasted delicious and the sponge was lovely and lemony as well as perfectly moist. I will probably use the same sponge cake recipe next time, perhaps with about 40-50g more flour, though I’m definitely a few steps closer to creating my own signature sponge base – and once I’ve got that perfected, I can really have fun with the decoration!

Billy’s

Giant avocadosIf you’ve been following me on Twitter you may have seen me tweeting about the giant avocados at my local shop¬†and¬†if you live in the¬†Mill Road area then¬†you may¬†well already be¬†a customer at Billy’s Mini Market. I met up with Billy for a coffee at Otto’s,¬†to find out more about the man behind the Mini Market…

BillyGiven Billy’s¬†interest in¬†food, it was no surprise that the¬† conversation¬†quickly¬†got on¬†to cooking. Most of the¬†dishes he makes at home¬†are a fusion of¬†Turkish, Spanish and Indian influences and it’s clear he is passionate about his food as he excitedly tells me about¬†the fresh dough he made for his pizzas¬†every day – he ran a successful pizza restaurant in Littleport for four and a half years. He says it’s hard to¬†choose a favourite pizza himself, but that it would probably be a combination of feta, onion, mushrooms, black olives and cherry tomatoes, with a little spinach and of course herbs and spices… I asked Billy if he¬†would consider¬†setting up another pizza restaurant in Cambridge, but he told me it’s not part of his plans at the moment.

SquashWhen Billy¬†moved to England from Turkey in the 1990’s his first job was running a food and drink shop¬†at Shoreditch’s popular Hoxton Market. He has fond memories of the bustling marketplace and his first experiences of living and working in London. Eventually he moved away from the area¬†before going¬†on to¬†open his pizza restaurant. Many of the restaurant’s customers came from Littleport’s surrounding towns and villages and the nearby RAF Lakenheath and Mildenhall bases; and although a successful¬†business¬†Billy had been thinking of opening a shop in the Cambridge area for some time, so when the Mill Road premises (which had previously been home to Balv’s Superette) became available last year it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Billy's Mini MarketBilly stocks a range of fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs & spices, rices, pulses and¬†chilled foods at his shop, not to mention household essentials. But what the shop may be less well known¬†for is¬†its selection of fish – including Tilapia, Red Mullet, Red Snapper, Kingfish, Saltfish¬†and Broom Headlesses – which are kept in a frozen section.¬†As Mill Road doesn’t have a fishmongers as such, I think this is a very welcome addition to the area. Billy’s also stocks a huge range of drinks – both soft drinks and alcoholic – and¬†has saved the day when I’ve needed a good bottle of wine or¬†some¬†Havana Club Anejo Blanco¬†for my daiquiri cocktails!

Billy'sI’ve been a regular visitor to Billy’s Mini Market since¬†it opened in April 2012. The shop is very much part of the community and I usually end up coming away with much more than the usual pint of milk I went in for –¬†just in the last few weeks I’ve debated the current care system, local politics and Mill Road art, all with other customers I didn’t know before; as well as found out about local events. I also usually bump into a couple of my neighbours¬†when I’m in there, so it’s a good place to catch up with people and put the world to rights. Customers from as far away as London regularly visit the shop and one of Billy’s products even got a mention by T’Pau‘s Carol Decker – she had made a Twitter request asking¬†shoppers to post pictures of unusually named products, so she was quick to respond when she received a copy of¬†the above photo.

PotatoesBilly seems to have settled in very well to life on Mill Road, he likes the local community spirit and enjoys being on first name terms with most of his customers.¬†This week Billy is celebrating his first year of trading on Mill Road – which as he himself admits, has flown by very quickly indeed – so if you haven’t visited the shop before now’s a good a time as any to pop in and say hello.

Billy’s Mini Market – 158 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 3LP
Open seven days a week: Monday to Saturday 9am-11pm, Sunday 11am-10:30pm

To veg or not to veg…

Following on from my recent post mentioning the UN’s¬†revelation that we all need to move towards meat free and dairy free diets if we¬†are to save¬†the planet (gulp!), I‚Äôve been thinking about how easy¬†it¬†would be¬†to¬†become vegetarian or vegan…

PaellaIt can certainly seem like a big challenge¬†– for a start you‚Äôre giving up something that probably appears in most if not all of your meals, and of course there’s¬†the task¬†of making your food taste delicious too. I’m not vegetarian at the moment, but I was a ‘veggie’ for a good few years. I had wondered at first¬†if I would miss the meat element of my diet, but I was surprised by¬†just how quickly I began to feel healthier by cutting it out. I started creating my own sauces (rather than opting for shop bought ones) such as pesto and I found that¬†a lot of¬†other sauces were pretty easy to make once I’d perfected the art of¬†the roux. I also re-discovered some ingredients that I had previously dismissed – such as olives, capers¬†and sundried tomatoes – and also began to season/flavour my food more¬†with herbs and spices (paprika became a firm favourite around this time). My friend Mike, who lives in the Mill Road area, recently took on the challenge of becoming vegetarian for a month (or Veguary as it was known)¬†and the photo above is¬†of one of his delicious creations,¬†vegetarian paella.

Butternut SquashIf you’re thinking of¬†going vegetarian and considering using meat substitutes to help¬†you ease into it, I would highly recommend paying a visit to Al Amin. They have an extensive frozen section at the back of the shop with all manner of pies, sausages, chicken and beef substitutes. If you’d prefer not¬†to use meat substitutes then I’d suggest making friends with the butternut squash (and indeed other squashes), they are delicious and great for adding texture to curries, stews and casseroles.

There are¬†a number of¬†shops and eateries¬†on Mill Road that are good to know if you’re planning on¬†becoming vegetarian (or vegan), and with National Vegetarian Week coming up in a few¬†weeks time¬†(20th – 26th May)¬†I’ll be returning to this subject soon¬†with some more of my tips for making it that little bit easier.

Thank you

There's something about Mill RoadEarlier this week I spotted that this blog has had over seven thousand visits which is brilliant; and I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read any of my articles and posts. As you may know, there’s also a Twitter account associated with this blog and there are now over 500 followers on it – by the way, if you aren’t signed up to Twitter you can still see my tweets though you do need to sign up if you want to respond to any of them; and there is of course also a Facebook page.

Mill Road is such a great area to live and shop in, and this blog is my way of celebrating that and making sure that people know about lots of the wonderful things we have going on locally. I recently asked for people’s suggestions for blog posts, tweets and the forthcoming website – thank you to all those that have responded. The website content is just about ready and I am now just working through the technical side of things, so the website will be launched at some point in March (I’ll give a date nearer the time).

As you may know, books have been quite a theme for me recently and I’ve met with a number of the authors we have living locally to gather info for my articles (more book posts coming soon, I promise!). This got me thinking that we should actually have a book about Mill Road and I have spent¬†quite a bit of¬†time looking into this – it would be great to celebrate our lovely neighbourhood and all the things we have to offer, including our projects, independent traders and the people who make the area what it is. I will be putting a proper call out for information and contributions¬†soon, but in the mean time if you have any suggestions then do let me know – you can email theressomethingaboutmillroad@hotmail.co.uk.

A big thank you to all of you who have taken an interest in things Mill Road!

The life (and potential death) cycle…

I’ve read an interesting blog post that talks about a recent cycle journey the writer (the Cottenham Cyclist) did along Mill Road and the various safety issues this highlighted to them. This, coupled with a cyclist/car collision I heard about on the corner of Argyle Street/Mill Road a couple of weeks ago, has got me thinking about just how safe it is (or indeed isn’t) to cycle in Cambridge…

BicycleEven though I have lived in Cambridge for many years, I don‚Äôt own a bike and certainly wouldn‚Äôt call myself a cyclist. But this is not because I can’t or don‚Äôt want to cycle – it‚Äôs because I daren‚Äôt.¬†I love cycling (or at least I used to) but¬†I’ve seen all manner of near misses on our roads and feel that cycling is not safe enough for me to consider as a transport option in Cambridge. I have been on several buses and in taxis over the years where the drivers are right behind a cyclist – if¬†the cyclist doesn’t keep up their pace¬†even for just¬†a second, the vehicle behind could end up crushing them. There have been¬†incidents where the bus driver has driven off after hitting a cyclist and I was even witness to one of these myself. This may sound like I am blaming taxi drivers and bus drivers for our cycle-safety woes –¬†but I should point out that the majority are (thankfully) considerate road users, and in any case it’s all types of road/pavement user¬†that I feel¬†need to look at their behaviour.

I have seen cyclists turn into Argyle Street from near Mill Road bridge, only to be confronted by a car driver going the wrong way. I have also seen drivers turn into the same street, only to be confronted with a cyclist going the wrong way. Some years ago I did¬†suggest clearer signage on Argyle Street to show that it is indeed one-way, but was told that other residents had complained that there was already too much signage locally. I think Mill Road itself would be safer if the 20 mph speed limit was enforced, although I have to admit the existing¬†signage isn’t very clear at all – I have lived around Mill Road for many years but only became aware¬†of the¬†new¬†limit when a local¬†¬† councillor pointed it out to me (many months after it had been implemented!). The 20 mph signs are small in diameter and even though they ‘technically’¬†fit with legal requirements, I feel they are not big enough. Also, some of the signs are at the wrong angle and so it is not clear which road/bit of road they apply to. If it’s confusing for me as a local resident, it will no doubt be confusing for visitors and those that don’t use Mill Road very often. I would actually like to see a designated cycle lane on Mill Road and think this would enable many more people to use bikes (instead of cars).

Thinking about it, I realise that not being able to cycle safely in Cambridge has had a notable effect on my social life. For example, the Portland Arms is a great gig venue (quite possibly Cambridge‚Äôs best, especially after the sad demise of the Boat Race…) and I like to go along when I can. However, I do not want to be walking back late across town and even though I do occasionally get taxis or buses, the costs can soon mount up. If I felt that cycling on the roads was safe I would probably go to more events there (and the lovely landlord and landlady¬†would no doubt be happy to receive more of my amiable Guinness-drinking custom!).

Cambridge City CentreThe same is also true of shopping. Luckily I can get just about anything I want or need on or around Mill Road, though there are times when¬†I want to pop into town for something¬†yet I end up not going. Of course the walk is healthy, but¬†sometimes I am short for time and just want to do a quick visit – however, I know a walk into town will be at least an hours round trip. Parking charges are prohibitively expensive and in any case¬†driving into town just doesn’t feel very environmentally aware, and buses are too unreliable and also expensive. I remember one occasion where I was just about to walk into town when a friend arrived on my doorstep. When the friend suggested I take their bike into town whilst they put the kettle on,¬†I¬†duly set off. However, after just a few metres I found myself walking on the pavement with the bike (cycling on the pavement is illegal if you‚Äôre¬†over 15¬†– unless you‚Äôre accompanying a child) as I was too scared to cycle on the road. The round trip to town took an hour and a quarter with the cumbersome and¬†unridable bike, and that was the last time I cycled in this country.

It’s also worth noting that not being able to cycle safely in Cambridge has had an effect on the local jobs market –¬†driving by car in rush hour is seemingly pointless (not to mention not very green), buses are too unreliable (I used to work in Histon, but this would take up to an hour and a half each way, as buses were regularly late/cancelled) and cycling is too much of a hazard. In fact I have even discounted some fantastic jobs simply because I couldn’t get there safely and within a reasonable amount of time each day. In a city that’s now seemingly expected to spearhead the UK’s economic recovery, this is worrying.

I know there are many others who are scared to cycle in Cambridge, and if it’s stopping me from visiting shops and businesses in the centre and on the other side of town then it is more than likely stopping others from visiting Mill Road too. In fact I mentioned on Twitter that I would be writing a blog post about local cycling and some people responded to say that they too avoid certain shops and areas (including Mill Road)specifically because they are not cycle-friendly.

BicyclesI¬†know I am not the only one who is too scared to cycle (a quick poll of friends and neighbours¬†suggests there’s many)¬†¬† and I think the issue is one that needs to be recognised. The fact that we are (rightly)¬†trying to reduce people‚Äôs reliance on the car and encourage greener travel makes it all the more important that we do something now. I note that Graham Bright (the new Cambridgeshire Police & Crime Commissioner) is putting cycling at the top of his priority list. Whilst this is admirable and we certainly need to take action on those that break the law, I feel that¬†the necessary long term behavioural changes that we need¬†will come from a more¬†strategic view of cycling; and strategy is the responsibility of¬†Cambridgeshire County Council (who¬†are responsible¬†for our highways, transport and streets). The County Council’s strategy and plans certainly include cycling and it seems that safety¬†is now¬†on the agenda – which is good.¬†There is also a voluntary group called¬†Camcycle, who¬†are already doing some very admirable work¬†on improving cycling accessibility¬†and who are proposing a designated cycle route called the Chisholm Trail. I think the trail is a¬†fantastic idea (though admittedly the finer details of its exact path¬†may need¬†a little work, as a not-to-scale map I recently saw appeared to¬†route it through my house…) and I think this could actually get me cycling again, though it is likely to be some years yet¬†before we see this come to fruition.¬†A joined up approach to improving¬†cycling safety –¬†though with each group focussing on its main area of responsibility –¬†will hopefully result in some much needed changes.

Thankfully¬†most people use care and common sense¬†on our¬†pavements and roads, but the number of people that don’t is still significant. So I have drawn up a (wish) list of actions that we can all take that I feel would go some way towards improving cycling/road safety in our city, right now. The list is based on my own experiences of using our city’s¬†roads and pavements.

  • Cyclists: Please be aware that one way streets are also one-way for cyclists, unless specifically stated otherwise.
  • Cyclists: It is illegal to cycle on the pavement unless you are under 16 or are accompanying a cycling child.
  • Cyclists: Please make sure your bike has a bell and that you use it if the person you are about to pass doesn‚Äôt know you‚Äôre there, especially on pavements. You do not have right of way on the pavement.
  • Cyclists: Even though you are a cyclist, 20mph speed limits still apply to you.
  • Cyclists: Please don‚Äôt use your hand-held mobile phone to have a conversation (or even worse ‚Äď text!) whilst cycling. This makes you a danger not just to yourself but others too (hands-free devices are not actually much safer either, but I¬†won’t go into that here).
  • Cyclists: Traffic lights also apply to you ‚Äď please don‚Äôt cycle through pedestrian crossings when there is a red light.
  • Drivers: Please don‚Äôt¬†drive so close behind cyclists. If there‚Äôs an accident it will be your fault and your conscience.
  • Drivers: If a cyclist makes a mistake or even downright inconsiderately cuts you up, please don‚Äôt beep your horn repeatedly/shout and swear at them, this is intimidating (to observers too, not just the cyclist) and only increases the chance of an accident ‚Äď which will likely¬†be your fault.
  • Drivers: Please don‚Äôt drive right up behind¬†a cyclist after they‚Äôve cut you up, to try and teach them a lesson – this is extreme road rage and quite frankly you shouldn‚Äôt be on the road yourself if this is your attitude.
  • Drivers: Please look out for cyclists coming behind you from the wrong side, they may be in the wrong but you still have a responsibility to be aware of hazards.
  • Drivers: Please don‚Äôt rev your engine when behind a cyclist ‚Äď it‚Äôs intimidating and could cause an accident.
  • Drivers: If you are driving over Mill Road bridge, or indeed any ‘uphill’ journey, please don‚Äôt drive right behind cyclists. Sometimes the uphill is too much for a cyclist and they have to stop ‚Äď if you‚Äôre right behind them when this happens you could well kill them.
  • Taxi drivers: When a passenger points to a sign saying a street is one-way, please don‚Äôt ignore them by driving the wrong way because¬†you think it’s¬†quicker.
  • Bus drivers: If a passenger says they‚Äôre pretty sure you‚Äôve just hit a cyclist, please don‚Äôt ignore them and just carry on driving.
  • Pedestrians: Please look out for cyclists cutting across pedestrian crossings, even though they are meant to stop.
  • Pedestrians: Please look out for cyclists on the pavement ‚Äď they shouldn‚Äôt be there (unless they‚Äôre a child or accompanying one), but often appear anyway.
  • Pedestrians: Please don‚Äôt walk in cycle lanes, it‚Äôs dangerous and could cause a collision.

BicycleIt¬†may sound as though I am giving cyclists, drivers and indeed pedestrians a¬† hard time. I suppose I am, but it¬†is in all our interests and all the points I’ve made are based on my own personal experiences and observations here in Cambridge. I know there are cyclists who will say that drivers are to blame for the unsafeness and I know there are drivers who will say that cyclists need to change their behaviour –¬†I actually think everyone needs to be considerate and I don’t¬†think ‘blame’ can be pinned on one particular group. Tackling the issues needs a¬†joint effort. I have heard the idea of bike licencing suggested, and whilst I’m not sure how desirable/practical this is I do think there needs to be some (re)education of both drivers and cyclists.

Cambridge is¬†far behind other European cities (such as Copenhagen)¬†– when I go abroad I see dedicated cycle lanes on most roads and cyclists can travel across cities without having to go on-road at all. It’s also¬†interesting that Cambridge is one of the best known UK cities for cycling, yet came only 60th (!)¬†in a survey of the UK’s most cycle-friendly towns and cities.The Chisholm Trail will thankfully address some of the issues we have¬†here in Cambridge, but as far as I can see from the proposed map, there’s no cycle lane/s proposed for Mill Road itself – I think this is needed. It should also be noted that Cambridge is a tourist destination and has many visitors from other parts of the UK and abroad, and many of these people won’t be used to seeing the sheer number of bikes we have here – so¬†it’s important to¬†bear this in mind when using our roads. In the same token, I think many of our visitors aren’t necessarily aware of our rules about cycling on the pavement (especially as we don’t have many cycle lanes)¬†so I would like to see the universities, colleges and other similar establishments that host residents/guests reinforce this message to those that stay/study with them.

In terms of action I would like to see:

  • Cambridgeshire County Council make it a priority to look at strategic and behavioural changes that are needed to improve cycling safety. I know they are already doing some good work, but I feel we need more – for example, I would like to see dedicated cycle lanes on most of our roads in Cambridge. Whilst I don’t like surveys for the sake of surveys and I suspect I already know some of the answers, I wonder if there’s any mileage in doing a resident survey¬†on cycling?¬†– it’s not just cyclists that feel cycling isn’t safe enough, it’s would-be-cyclists like me too. Also, I think they need to improve Mill Road’s 20 mph signage before the police can realistically enforce it.
  • The Police & Crime Commissioner make it a priority to tackle those that break the law. My list above contains plenty of examples (both of cyclists and drivers) but as a starting point I would suggest enforcement of the 20mph speed limit on Mill Road (though only once the signage has been improved), police patrols so that all those (both cyclists and drivers) who drive the wrong way on one way streets are tackled, a clamp-down on cyclists using hand-held devices whilst cycling (and of course on car drivers too) and also tackling drivers who intimidate cyclists.
  • Camcycle are already doing some great campaigning work in promoting better and safer cycling, but¬†they are a voluntary group and the responsibility for¬†implementing necessary changes should not fall to them. I do hope they are able to¬†get Cambridge to push forward with the Chisholm Trail proposals, as this will make a huge difference to us all.

I just want to be able to cycle safely, in Cambridge Рit would make my life a lot easier and would probably increase business at all manner of shops, pubs and lovely places I want to visit in and around Cambridge, not to mention increase business here on Mill Road.

Orange buttercream marmalade sponge

Orange buttercream spongeI’ve been an avid viewer of the Comic Relief Celebrity British Bake Off over the last few days and have¬†spent a lot of time dreaming about a multitude of cakey possibilities. So with Saturday all to myself, I decided that a spot of creativity was in order. I looked through the Bake Off recipes online and after much salivating and deliberation (would a hive cake really be a step too far??) decided that a two layered cake ‘seemed’ doable. I had never made one before, but figured it was about time I tried…

Beehive CakeI had planned to make two sponge cake layers sandwiched together with some buttercream and raspberry jam, with more buttercream on the top and fresh raspberries for decoration. But¬†there were no¬†raspberries in the shops of Romsey and¬†I had to improvise. So I decided to use marmalade and oranges instead of jam and raspberries. I bought all the ingredients at the Co-operative though I¬†must mention that Hilary’s were very helpful indeed and said they’d have some raspberries for me first thing on Sunday morning – which was great, as I will be making another cake very soon!

I started by lining two 7 inch cake tins with very soft butter and put a circular cut out of baking paper in the base of each, and I put the oven on to gas mark 4. I had looked at a few sponge cake recipes and they all seemed to suggest that for the cake mix I would need equal amounts of sugar, butter and flour plus an egg for every 200g or so of dry mix. So I started by mixing 250g of softened unsalted butter with 250g of caster sugar. I then beat¬†four eggs into the mixture followed by 250g of self raising flour, and gave this all a good mix with an electric mixer. The consistency seemed a bit thick (it had been suggested that a ‚Äėdropping‚Äô consistency was best) so I mixed in a couple of tablespoons of milk to soften it up a little.

Marmalade layerI then added my mixture to the cake tins and levelled them off with a spatula before putting¬†in the oven for about 30 minutes. As they were pretty big cake tins they wouldn‚Äôt both fit on one shelf, so I swapped them over half way through cooking. When they were ready (looked golden on top and a skewer I inserted came out clean)¬†I took them out of the oven and put them to one side for a few minutes to rest; and after about ten minutes I removed them from the tins and put on wire racks to cool completely. It was now time to make the buttercream –¬†I made sure I used soft butter and continually stirred about 200g of it whilst gradually mixing in 400g of icing sugar – this got quite messy and it was at this point I realised I had forgotten to put my apron on! When it reached a smooth consistency I¬†stirred in¬†the zest of an orange.

Orange buttercream spongeOnce my sponge cakes had cooled completely it was time to get layering! I spread a thick layer of marmalade over the top of one of the cakes (I would have made my own marmalade but didn’t have time this weekend, though will definitely be trying it at some point given the success of my jam attempt). I then turned the other cake upside down and spread a thick layer of the orange buttercream over it, making sure I spread it right up to the edges. Then I flipped the creamed cake back over and placed on top of the marmaladed one (this had to be done in one swift move!). This looked pretty tasty, but I still had plenty of buttercream left and was determined to make something that had more of an aesthetic wow so I spread the remaining buttercream over the top of the cake. I also had a little bit of orange zest left so sprinkled this over the cake. The result Рdelicious orange buttercream marmalade sponge!

I was very pleased with¬†my first ever layered cake. Though when I took the cakes out of the oven they hadn‚Äôt risen quite as much as I‚Äôd hoped, so next time I will probably add a teaspoon or two of baking powder to the cake mixture¬†‚Äď I was reading the Afternoon Tease blog¬†yesterday¬†and spotted that she had made a very similar cake last year, and the only difference in the sponge mix was that she had added a little baking powder (if only I’d spotted¬†her recipe¬†before I made my cake…!).

Delicious homemade orange buttercream and marmalade sponge cake!

My friends and neighbours were also very pleased with my baking efforts, for which they are a very willing set of¬†‘testers’¬†(!) and now there‚Äôs only two slices left. In fact, make that just one slice…!