Streams of Natural Law Diaries : No. 7 : Grantchester and the River Cam

The latest instalment in our Streams of Natural Law Diaries, is Grantchester on the River Cam, where Rupert Brooke lived and worked, who was Maxwell Fyfe’s inspiration. As we walk beside the stream, we discover how the landscape impacted his poetry and still linger there to this day.


To launch our film, book and recording of Dreams of Peace & Freedom : The Humans in the Telling and preview forthcoming performances, we are walking streams of natural law in the UK. Visit our multi-media hub at www.thehumansinthetelling.org.

GRANTCHESTER & THE RIVER CAM

The war sonnets of Rupert Brooke, first published in 1914, are at the heart of Dreams of Peace & Freedom. After he studied at Kings College, Cambridge, he lodged in Grantchester from 1909 – 12 and his presence is still very much felt there today.

Along the Cam in Grantchester
'The peace and holy quiet there'
Still loiter by the 'slumbrous stream'
Where Rupert Brooke once lived and dreamed
And though a hundred years are gone
Since he was here, his words live on,
Riverborne, upstream they flow
His poems in the undertow
To quarterlies and magazines
Collections, books and other means
They're spoken, quoted, even sung
Because of this - his name lives on
So now, 'the centuries blend and blur
In Grantchester, in Grantchester.'

POEM BY SUE CASSON

The latest stop on our streams of natural law tour was Grantchester. It really belongs on David Maxwell Fyfe’s stream rather than Magna Carta (although the Cam which flows through on its’ way to Cambridge carries on into the Great Ouse of which the River Lark in Bury St Edmunds is a tributary) but as a river where poet Rupert Brooke lived, whose poems form the musical heart of our telling of David Maxwell Fyfe’s story, it is undoubtedly a tributary of his stream of natural law. Fyfe’s papers are all held a little further upstream, in Cambridge.

Rupert Brooke settled in Grantchester after taking his degree at Cambridge, and before he went away to war. He captured this beautiful natural landscape that he came to love in words, and already making a name for himself as a poet, many famous writers and thinkers of the day came to visit him there.

Having performed in Dreams of Peace & Freedom for years, it was exciting to visit the place where Brooke had lived and worked. His presence is still very much felt in his adopted village, and his name appears on the war memorial by the picturesque church.

Driving in, we were immediately surrounded by the ebullient greenery he writes of in one of his most famous poems describing Grantchester – ‘green as a dream.’ Although there is now a large and successful gastro pub named after him, we drove past it, and made our way to park on a road beside the Orchard Tearooms, which have been created in the garden of one of the places he used to live, where writers from the Bloomsbury set like Virginia Woolf and Bertrand Russell met to discuss their ideas.

It took us some time to find the towpath beside the stream along which Brooke reputedly walked from his lodgings into Cambridge. We first made our way towards Byron’s Pool, to which another famous poet who enjoyed bathing there gave his name. It was overshadowed with trees waving in the breeze and the emerald green reflected in the water. However, we discovered that we were heading in the wrong direction for Cambridge, so double-backed on ourselves, via the Mill pond, (very popular with paddle boarders) the Old Vicarage and Orchard House, which commemorates Brooke’s life as a resident and poet. We finally found a public entrance to the Cam down a small path which led towards the river via the Meadows.

Once we made it to the river, it was brimming with wildlife – ducks, swans and even a statuesque heron amongst the reeds – it was no wonder Brooke was inspired by living here. The willows swayed in the breeze, creating nature’s bead curtain, and the water rippled, gently moved by fish. The flatness of the landscape accentuated the curve of the river and made it look like a painting.

Walking along the long grass of the meadows, we continued the path until we reached the view to Cambridge. It was a popular route, many people – tourists and locals alike were enjoying the stunning surroundings, walking dogs and even swimming. I think Brooke would be delighted that the place he loved so much and captured for others, is still loved to this day!

Come back soon for the next location!

River Cam at Grantchester

Follow our journey as it happens on Instagram @streamsofnaturallaw and share yours with #streamsofnaturallaw.

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