A dip in the river

Scarlet Rowe recounts her first swim trip in Grantchester; the highs, the lows, and everything in between

Scarlet Rowe

"Two of my friends went in for one minute and- sensibly- decided they were done for the day"Credit to author

Jumping into the not-at-all-dirty, what makes you think that (?) river in Grantchester is something that people talk about a lot as a staple Cambridge post-exam “tradition.” And so, ever one to follow the crowd, and having (narrowly) survived exams, I finally braved it to Grantchester Meadows last week to take a delightful dip and see if it lives up to its favourable reputation.

“I had adopted the classic approach of ‘if I pretend the problem does not exist, then I do not need to worry about it’”

Unfortunately, the trek to Grantchester did not get off to the best start. I had — foolishly — forgotten to put on sunscreen and it was a particularly sweltering day. My pale skin was not happy with this neglect and I was left with a beautiful red glow for the days to follow. On top of this, I had also been walking around in broken shoes for a few days and finally got a blister which was, admittedly, completely deserved. I had adopted the classic approach of “if I pretend the problem does not exist, then I do not need to worry about it.” This approach culminated in me having to walk the last two miles to Grantchester with bare feet, notable pain, and a number of sideways glances.

I had also forgotten to bring any drinks or provisions, which would have been fine, if people didn’t look quite so happy and radiant with their ice creams and barbecues and cloudy lemonades and general wholesomeness. Despite this, the walk was genuinely quite pleasant on the whole; the sky was a vivid shade of blue, and the water even looked a bit tempting. The first obstacle upon reaching Grantchester, however, was that my friends and I could not find our friends who were already there. They said that they were sitting among the “bikes and barbecues” which was all well and good except it hardly helped us to limit our search. It appeared that everyone had at least a bike or a barbecue near them, or both. Luckily, Facebook was there to save the day with its location tracker application. Not all heroes wear capes after all.

“This, of course, was a catastrophic idea, and I am still recovering now”

I was more apprehensive than most to go into the river because the last time I had been swimming in open water was back in January, when for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to jump into a lake in just my swimming costume. This, of course, was a catastrophic idea, and I am still (spiritually) recovering now. As a result of this somewhats scarring experience, I had dystopian visions of immersing myself in mind-numbing water. So, after waiting for twenty minutes for my final friend to arrive (who had luckily bought me sliders for the way back) I was extremely relieved to find that the river was not cold at all. In hindsight, this shouldn’t have been especially surprising seeing as we are no longer in the middle of a grim British winter anymore, but it’s always best to be on the cautious side I guess!


Mountain View

An ill-fated trip to the lido

As for the actual swim, once I had got over the murky green-brown-ish shade of the water, it was very fun. Even I can’t find much to complain about here, and that’s saying something. Two of my friends went in for one minute and — sensibly — decided they were done for the day. The other two carried on swimming with me and had to endure my endless chatter for another ten minutes or so. Of course, this would not be a proper review of Grantchester without mentioning the river bed which consists of who-ever-knows-what and is notably squelchy to stand on. Remarks were inevitably made along the lines of “ewww” and “aarghh”, but I quickly solved the problem by resolving not to touch the ground unless absolutely necessary. This worked a treat.

Getting out of the river was also surprisingly smooth as my friends who got out before me had to haul themselves out of the river bank, an ordeal which I did not especially fancy. Luckily, the stars were aligned as my friend found a few foot holds to get out the river (relatively) unscathed, and I followed suit. I spent the rest of the evening with my boyfriend, reading on the river bank (how quaint) and drinking Diet Coke (which he had also luckily brought) until it started getting cold and dark, making it the perfect time to retreat back home.