The Castle Hill area of Cambridge is almost certainly the oldest continuously inhabited part of the city – it is here that the Roman fort was established in the first century CE. Perhaps this is why the whole area, which is still a tangle of streets and alleyways, once you leave the wide ring road that snakes through it, has a sense of strangeness and dislocation. You are very close to the hyper-busy tourist areas of the colleges and shops, but there is a sense of being threaded into the density of the past, the whole area has a slightly eerie quietly brooding atmosphere that clogs the arteries of one’s immediate concerns….
Shelly Row has a pavement of old slabs, raised above the road, which was doubtless a foul smelling swill of water and refuse in not so distant times – the whole area was famous for being a close knit tangle of alley ways lined with hovels. A dark trunked cherry bursts out from the wall into the public space….
Honey Hill is the only remaining intact example of the old alleyways that once threaded this whole area. The hill is due to the fact that this small district is raised above the surrounding streets. Two millennia of human habitation lie under your feet….
St Michaels was the church for the area, now redundant, a tiny squat building with a magical churchyard of chestnut trees and wildflowers, and full of ghosts.
Bells Court is right next to the busy road that descends to the main town centre which, from Saxon times, has been over the other side of the river on the south shore. But it feels removed and apart, holding on to its own small world, a reminder of when the whole area consisted of small courts and paths like these, containing a stew of humanity living in what would now seem utter squalor, and looking down on the grand colleges and libraries of the town below.