The unseasonal mild weather brought the crowds swarming to Mill Road for it's now-traditonal Winter Fair. Bright sunshine encouraged many to stay outdoors and participate in many of the open-air activities, from music and dance to children's activities and al fresco dining.
Even before the Fair started, the outdoor events had already begun with a walk along Mill Road to enjoy the huge variety of tree species from all four corners of the world. Keith Jordan, from Romsey Garden Club, pointed out to the dozen or so early risers some of the 30 kinds of tree —from Chinese gingkos, North American silver maple and Mediterranean Judas trees to Himalayan silver birch.
Mill Road paused for a short period to remember Suzy Oakes, the founder of the Winter Fair, who died earlier this year. The Fair was then declared open by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith, who spoke about his connections to Mill Road —including the independent shops, the many varied places of worship and even the former maternity hospital where his first child was born.
Another outdoor event saw Santa pay a visit to the new Community Garden on the corner of Madras and Marmora Roads in Romsey Town. The initiative, led by two volunteer-led organisations —Transition Cambridge and Ad Lib— has transformed a small plot into a sustainable space for the community. After a successful first six months, which have seen an abundant crop of vegetables and the construction of a circular path and composting area, Santa dished out the presents and mulled wine kept everybody warm and happy.
Walking from Coleridge Road to Parker's Piece, your were always within ear-shot of music and the delicious scent of street food. Dotted around was an eclectic bunch of buskers and choirs keeping the crowds entertained, alongside outdoor stages in Hope Street Yard and at the Argyle Street housing co-operative by the railway bridge.
Highlights were undoubtedly the contrasting sounds and dance of a troupe of local morris dancers and a samba band, Arcoiris, with its unmistakable drumbeats, percussion and colour.
The temperature dropped as the day progressed and dusked neared, but still it was possible to stay outdoors and keep warm thanks to a couple of well-positioned wood burners to keep the hands warm —and, of course, the fine selection of pubs that make up Cambridge's Real Ale Quarter. Father Christmas made another appearance at a legendary watering hole, The Cambridge Blue. Even his reindeers in attendance, munching away in the beer garden.
Just over the back wall from 'The Blue' is Mill Road cemetery, and we finished off our day exploring this 150-year old Grade II listed urban oasis of nature. Blackbird, robin and chaffinch are regular visitors, along with the greater spotted woodpecker. Our friendly and knowledgeable guide explained that while in winter the cemetery looks rather barren, in spring it comes alive with snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses.
It was fitting that Mill Road should be heaving again, and with many more people than in previous years. Suzy Oakes wouldn't have wanted anything else but for the tens of thousands of people to celebrate the buzzing, bohemian heart of Cambridge.
Mill Road Winter Fair took place on 3 Dec, 2011