"I remember catching a glimpse of an owl... a flash of white swooping between straight-backed trees"Illustration by Emily Senior for Varsity

According to Google Maps, Byron’s Pool (where the great Lord Byron himself is rumoured to have skinny-dipped) lies three miles from the centre of Cambridge, and takes approximately an hour to walk to. I will not swear by these measurements, because although I have actually walked there, I will freely admit that it takes a lot longer if one gets distracted by photo opportunities, the Orchard Tea Rooms, and even longer if you confuse the markings for a boundary fence with a footpath. In my defence, it is very difficult when the map on your phone is a blurry photograph of another blurry photocopy, but I digress. Byron’s Pool is a beautiful little nature reserve, although not necessarily for the reasons I had initially expected.

It was the sort of crisp golden afternoon which are wonderful for Instagram photos but even better for being outside. Looking at things felt like I was constantly gazing through a glass of maple syrup, but the coldness (end of January, afternoon turning to evening, fingers of no more use than a bag of frozen peas) sharpened my thoughts and, luckily for future-me, meant that I could remember the details of that afternoon’s journey. Details apparently devoid of any useful information however, because the only directional guidance I can give you is to follow the Cam to Grantchester, maybe cut through the Orchard Tea Rooms, follow the road round and if it looks like someone’s garden, it probably is. But I got there, eventually, and found that there is little Byron, and not exactly what I would describe as a pool, either.

“My first sighting of the super-blood-wolf moon in a not-yet-dark sky, pale against pale, a companion for the long walk back”

Perhaps it was the season, or the cold, or the fact that we only got there when night was pulling in and the prevailing colour was a mauve grey, dark naked trees silhouetted against the sky and the water. Byron’s Pool is actually a weir, far from my vision of a secluded copse with crystal pool, the sort of place where one would be inspired to write about nature and love. Although I would be inclined to blame the weather and time of year – nothing screams poetry like a shoeful of mud – perhaps it was also my jumping imagination. I wanted awe and splendour because it is out of the ordinary, because it is something to talk about other than weekly essays and the extortionate amount of money spent on Deliveroo. But life is not all spangles, and now, nine months after this particular journey, there are bright pinpoints of memory which override the mundane details of the cold and the weir’s disappointing greyness.


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Mountain View

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Being told that the unexpected moments are the most beautiful is probably the equivalent of also being told to ‘live love laugh’. But every time I’ve gone for a wander this has proven true, and Byron’s Pool – in spite of the initial anti-climax – continued this trend. I remember catching a glimpse of an owl (my first since leaving home; a second of nostalgia), a flash of white swooping between straight-backed trees. My first sighting of the super-blood-wolf moon in a not-yet-dark sky, pale against pale, a companion for the long walk back. The colours as the sun set; not particularly spectacular, but subtle and muted and soft, perhaps better to show off the trees’ gnarls and knuckles. These tableaux are still in my head, rammed in amongst my useless facts and cake recipes. They are images of beauty, of winter, and remembered over the stresses of term and essay crises.

"There is little Byron, and not exactly what I would describe as a pool, either"Ines Letellier
"I will not swear by these measurements, because although I have actually walked there, I will freely admit that it takes a lot longer if one gets distracted by photo opportunities"Ines Letellier

If you’re looking for Byron, you may not necessarily find him at Byron’s Pool. Maybe look in his poetry at the UL, which is probably as cold as that winter’s afternoon anyway. But for the unexpected, the sightings of birds or the stars or even just a fleeting sense of being away from the city, then at Byron’s Pool – unless you get Properly Lost – you can’t go far wrong.

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