"I can sit for hours watching the top of King’s Chapel and the clouds punting across the great and darkening sky, and it is a comfort to think that everyone I know is spread out in my eyeline." The view from Castle Mound.Olivia Emily

At one 11 pm near the start of the long and hot summer of 2018, I sincerely believed that I was suffering from heartbreak. (I had read too many novels that term.) I walked up Castle Mound in an unseemly sulk and started settling down to have a mechanical little cry, really wanting to believe that he was running after me and would appear up the steps holding an apology in one hand and perhaps an endearingly clunky sonnet in the other. (He did not, thank God.) 

Love Letters to Cambridge

These are tough and uncertain times for us all, and a lot of us are left with little closure. Varsity are launching this series to give a platform to students reflecting on the parts of Cambridge they'll miss the most, and to gain some closure through writing. Just email our Features team with a 150-word pitch with your idea!

But, before I could start performing this vital act of emotion, someone sat next to me. I found myself in conversation with a kind Italian man who pointed out stars in the clear and broad sky, and showed me how many we couldn’t see with a trick of his camera. He told me that his heart had been broken too, in Italy. He worked in a pizza chain and he came up the mound to take photographs and think about unseeable things. When I got back to college, I realised I had never quite got round to churning out some tears.

Castle Mound is a very small molehill halfway up Castle Hill, accessed through an unlikely-looking carpark. My encounter with the stars and the camera and the deflated heartbreak is one example of the myriad of life that can be found up there late at night or early in the morning. It has been the consistent site of my most extraordinarily touching encounters and my most delightful joys, as well as the companion to my sadnesses, both shallow and deep. 

At times, I would walk there nearly daily, and almost always I would find myself in conversation with someone who was wandering, or sad, or stoned, or happy, or lost. The classicist on the way back from an ill-fated family formal. The boy, nervous about going into Murray Edwards for a film screening. The people I took group photos for. The man who told me all of his intestines had been removed five years ago.

"At one 11 pm near the start of the long and hot summer of 2018, I sincerely believed that I was suffering from heartbreak." King's Backs in the same, hot summer.Lucy Tiller

Cambridge is like an ironed bedsheet straight from the drawer, so this little wrinkle in its surface is a relief. The city throws itself underneath your feet immediately. I can sit for hours watching the top of King’s Chapel and the clouds punting across the great and darkening sky, and it is a comfort to think that everyone I know is spread out in my eyeline. A mug of peppermint tea and the same playlist are still hugely evocative of a time when I was there almost every day, and all of the random brushes I had with people up there alone.

I imposed a romantic notion of solitude onto it, but Castle Mound has never been a lonely place. Watching the fireworks this year, wrapping our hands around flasks full of Baileys hot chocolate and listening to the raptures of toddlers, was a moment of explosive joy – one of those which you can feel embedding itself into your mind in real time. 


READ MORE

Mountain View

See you soon, Hot Numbers

In the dark and the wind and the rain in late autumn, I turned the E.E. Cummings lines over and over again until, like socks out of a corner-store laundrette, until they lost their shape: ‘leap into the ripe air / Alive / with closed eyes / to dash against darkness’. More recently, this has shuffled alongside O’Hara – ‘listening to the air becoming no air becoming air again’. The aliveness of cold and dark air is lost so easily in cities.

In many ways, it really is quite an unremarkable patch of land – small, grassy and not high enough to afford a spectacular prospect – but Castle Mound has seen me through my degree. It knows the soles of my feet and my joys and my sadness. The grass is allowed to grow and is a great relief after the striped lawns of college courts. I don’t think an extra term could have handed me closure, but I am in soft-mourning for the chance to look for it on the grassy top of an insignificant mound in the Fens. 

To say that I am determined to return is meaninglessly impractical at the moment, but of course it is also true: one day, I hope I will again sit on Castle Mound with a cup of peppermint tea and meet someone remarkable.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following information and support is available:

Sponsored links

Partner links