Perhaps it’s because the couple’s new home is on the very edge of Countryside Properties’ Novo development on the Southern tip of Cambridge – overlooking Addenbrooke’s Road and the fields beyond it stretching out towards Shelford and the Gog Magog hills – but it seems to perfectly capture the changing colours and moods of the big East Anglian skies. Theirs is one of the first houses to be built among the 286 new properties on the former Glebe Farm, between Bishops Road and the new hospital access road, which first opened to traffic in 2010.
“We were a little bit put off initially by it being right alongside Addenbrooke’s Road,” says David. “But when we looked around the house, you couldn’t even hear the road because it’s such a well insulated house. Also when you looked out from the upper floors – across Addenbrooke’s Road, Hauxton Road and the M11 junction – they’re all interesting. Being urban people, we like all that movement and life. And of course all the green of the Country Park, which has all been opened up. I walk there a lot because you can get down to the River Cam on either side of the M11.”
David and Jen moved into their new four-bedroom home in Trumpington two and half years ago after living for 17 years in Hertford. Until then, they had lived in London – where they both grew up and worked for many years. When they both retired, they decided to look for somewhere more lively to grow old. Jen takes up the story:
“Our original idea was to move back to London,” she says. “But the sort of size of property we could afford in London would have been a small flat, probably. So we wanted to go somewhere that was lively, that had lots of things that we could be interested in. When I retired in Herford, there wasn’t a lot to do. Having ruled out London we looked for somewhere that had similar facilities and was very accessible to London because we do go there a lot – we go to football, to the theatre and to the cinema. So we started looking in Cambridge. We initially looked in the city centre and prices were already rising then and we wouldn’t have been able to afford the size of property we wanted. And I spotted this development on a website.”
They had driven past the new housing developments on the Southern fringes of Cambridge many times as they turned off the M11 and headed into Cambridge. But initially they discounted Trumpington as being too far from the city centre.
“It seemed far out so it wasn’t on our mental map,” says David. “But then, when we looked into it and found out it was right next to the Park & Ride, and not only that but also had guided bus access, that changed our view. This place is really accessible, not only for the city centre but as significantly for the railway station, which is marvellous.”
From their new home, David and Jen can walk to the Park & Ride bus station in just six minutes. They can be at the hospital in hardly any time at all (which has been useful after some recent health issues). And at peak times, the guided bus takes just six minutes to zip to the station. Then they can just hop on a train to London in under an hour – something they frequently do. Last week, they were in London three times to watch their beloved Chelsea playing football (they describe themselves as ‘fervid’ fans). And they also went to watch the new Star Wars movie at the British Film Institute’s IMAX screen. They can equally be found jumping on the Park & Ride bus to enjoy the delights of Cambridge – from the Arts Picturehouse to the theatres and restaurants. They appreciate the fact that everything is so close together.
“We’ve been bowled over by the sheer creative energy of Cambridge,” says David. “There’s all kinds of stuff going on, always.”
But it wasn’t just the location that attracted David and Jen to the imposing three-storey detached house on the edge of Trumpington. It was the design of the house and the light and airy layout that won them over too. Not to mention the simple magnolia colour scheme that’s an ideal backdrop for the eclectic collection of paintings and ceramics by local artists they have gathered over the years.
“Most people retire to a bungalow but we’ve moved to a three-storey house,” jokes Jen, who’s a fit-looking 66. “We love the house and it’s really good exercise going up and down the stairs!”
David, who looks far younger than his 71 years, agrees: “The house is such a great plus,” he says. “The actual design of the house, the basic materials, is tremendous. We have a heat recovery system that recovers the warm air. It has a filter that removes the pollution. And we have solar panels to heat our hot water.”
“We were able to afford a size of house – well, we were back in 2013 – which enables us to have our family to stay,” adds David. He and Jen have two sons aged 31 and 27 and a 5-month-old grandson called Dylan, who came to stay for Christmas this year. Their youngest son is currently living with them.
They also appreciate the fact that their neighbours come from all different age groups and walks of life – due in part to the 40% affordable housing that is mixed up alongside the private properties.
“There aren’t many people as venerable as us!” jokes David. “That for us is a real plus actually that we’re not here amongst too large a proportion of older people. We enjoy an age mix. We like older people but it’s nice to have young families around from all social groups.”
“It’s good they’re all mixed up together,” agrees Jen. “We don’t have separate blocks for the council housing. There are a lot of young couples, young families and good use of Trumpington Meadows primary school. There’s a lot of positive energy coming out of the school, which involves people here.”
“It’s not all airy-fairy planner nonsense,” agrees David. “It actually works. And I was a planner when I was younger so I know what I’m talking about!”
Since David took early retirement from his seven-day-a-week job as Chief Executive of Enfield Council in 2002 and Jen retired from her work in the probation service in 2012, they have both had more time to pursue their passions – which includes getting more involved in local politics. Both longtime Labour supporters, they have become involved with the Cambridge Labour Party since they moved to Trumpington, which has seen a three-fold increase in members since last year’s election. Jen is ward secretary for Trumpington and David volunteers as the Cambridge Party’s local government officer, drawing on his four decades of experience in local government. David has also become very involved locally with the Trumpington Residents’ Association (TRA).
“Being involved with the Trumpington Resident’s Association has been great,” says David. “You’re always a little bit wary of going into a locally established body primarily made up of well-established residents so I was a little bit nervous about that but there was no need to be.”
“As a body they’ve been tremendously welcoming and they’ve been very open to new members from the new developments,” he says. “And they have been very supportive of the new developments. They didn’t object to the original planning application, which is pretty unusual. They’re a positive, active non-political force in the local community. If you look at the work they do in relation to local planning issues, it’s well done and it’s thorough.”
We've been bowled over by the sheer creative energy of Cambridge.
“It’s not in any way a Nimby organisation,” he continues. “It’s a positive force protecting rightly what needs to be protected. But having supported the release of the green belt to allow these developments to take place, it’s rightly protective now because there is a reduced amount of green belt now between ourselves and the necklace of villages around Cambridge.”
One of the issues David has been looking at with the TRA is two proposals to develop the fields that he can see from his study window. There are two potential developments in the pipeline – one from Grosvenor for 520 houses and a new ‘sporting village’ including a training facility for Cambridge United on the fields behind Trumpington Meadows and beyond the M11; and a second one for the fields owned by Jesus College just on the other side of Addenbrooke’s Road for 1,250 new houses and an 85,000 square metre science park.
“We were realistic when we moved here,” says David. “We made no assumption that the green fields would remain green. We’re not naïve. The grounds for our objection are not loss of personal amenity, but it is now properly understanding the importance of this green belt around the south of Cambridge in actually maintaining Cambridge as Cambridge. To hear some developers and business people talk, they think of Cambridge becoming some huge megalopolis with a 600,000 population. And Cambridge would stop being Cambridge.”
“Cambridge is a relatively small city, a medieval city, you know a beautiful city,” he adds. “There is a balance between a medieval centre and the rest of the city. That balance is just about rightly struck now. To think about a huge expansion of 1,250 houses there, I mean come on. Is that what people want for the future for the city, let alone what we might think as neighbours?”
Another issue that David feels strongly about is the amount of traffic coming in and out of Cambridge, which he can also see with his own eyes from the often standstill traffic along Addenbrooke’s Road.
“I wouldn’t want to exaggerate it, but occasionally it can lead to inconvenience,” says David, in typically measured words. “We’re very supportive of the intention to reduce the number of cars in Cambridge because there are 200,000 vehicles every day coming in and out of Cambridge between 7 in the morning and 7 in the evening. A lot of that traffic goes close to the city centre and this is just not sustainable. Whichever way you cut it the number of cars coming in and out has to be reduced.”
We like older people but it’s nice to have young families around from all social groups.
So are there any other downsides to life on the southern edge of Cambridge?
“It is particularly windy here,” admits David. “We’re open to the elements. It can be a little bit like a blasted heath or ‘edge of the steppe’, as we sometimes refer to it. But that’s an exaggeration. There is a wind tunnel effect that comes from the hills and blasts down through this valley and I’ve certainly experienced that on my walks. There are no buildings to buffer the wind.”
And although David and Jen appreciate the proximity to Waitrose, they admit that it would be nice to have a few more local shops within easy walking distance.
“But that would be the icing on the cake,” says David. “We like Trumpington. Trumpington is a good place to live…”
After two and half years, David and Jen are well and truly settled in their new home and think of themselves as Trumpington residents now – in spite of their friends’ initial amusement about the name ‘Trumpington’, which reminded them of the 1960s children’s cartoon series ‘Trumpton’.
“It provides a talking point,” says David. “It gives us a chance to talk about the long-standing origins of the name Trumpington and its association with Sir Roger de Trumpington. Trumpington is a place with tremendous history.”
One thing they don’t call their new neighbourhood is ‘Great Kneighton’ – which is the name Countryside Properties has given to the 2,300-home development stretching from Novo down to Aura on Long Road (which is described on the marketing blurb as “one of the best addresses in Cambridge”).
“[Great Kneighton] is purely a marketing construct,” says David. “Which from Countryside Properties’ point of view of course is understandable but when authorities start using it, it rightly leads to objections. Trumpington is Trumpington, thank you very much.”
Certainly, David and Jen don’t have any plans to leave Trumpington anytime soon.
“We’re very happy here,” says David. “It’s a beautiful area. It’s a city in the country with a great cultural life and things that really interest us. It’s accessible to London but it’s also accessible to the countryside, which is also very important to us. So you’ve got the best of all worlds, really.”
“I think the main thing has been that local residents have been welcoming,” he adds. “It’s been a positive policy on their part, which is good. You get the occasional remark, of course you do. But you don’t get the kind of bellyaching that happens in some areas. And these are big developments for Trumpington.”
Jen agrees: “I’m amazed at how generous people have been, actually,” she says. “To suddenly have your view of farmland replaced by a whole load of houses… I’m sure there are people who’ve never accepted it, but we haven’t heard from them.”
“Obviously there were people with contrary views but the people of Trumpington have not allowed that to get in the way of living as good neighbours with their new neighbours,” says David. “And that’s good.”
Trumpington is a good place to live.