Visiting/Living in Cambridge for 4 months - with kids

(19 Posts)
IndigoOrange Fri 20-Nov-15 03:09:19

Next year my family has the opportunity to work/live in Cambridge for a relatively short time (approx 4 months). During this time my husband will be working and I will be a SAHM with our 3.5 year and 1 year old daughters. I am trying to figure out the logistics of how we will get on over there.
Such as, I understand that there's no use obtaining access to a vehicle for commuting while there. Most posts about commuting refer to getting bicycles but this options would be suitable for me when alone with the girls. How would a mum of two young people manage getting around?, for example doing the weekly food shopping? Do the buses and trains easily get you to local places such as the grocery store, parks and other interesting places for daily outings for the children? I would need to take the pram everywhere for my youngest. Would this be easy to do/get around?
As to date I do not know where we will be staying as I'm even daunted at trying to find such short term accommodation for a young family. Anyone have any suggestions on how to look (websites etc), and potential locations that would be family friendly for us.
Thanks for your help, it is much appreciated.

neolar Fri 20-Nov-15 16:46:13

Cambridge is small and the traffic is bad. It's generally easier to walk or bike most places instead of using the car. Bus can also be OK. A little scooter for your 3 year old( like the mini micro) will probably make life easier for you all. I'd also get a child seat for your bike for when you only have one kid. Get a bike with a basket for putting small amounts of shopping in. Internet shop for the big weekly shop and the food comes to you.

Cambridge is a great if you have small kids. There are many activities / groups to go to every day and lots of playgrounds /parks.

Is your dh connected to the university? If so, they might be able to help with accommodation advice.

Wuffleflump Fri 20-Nov-15 16:48:34

People do cycle with two young children on their own. There are lots of off-road paths and back streets so it is relatively safe, but it can take time to learn these routes, which are a less obvious than main roads. You'd need the right bike for it, which might be expensive for a short time, though resale market is good. But it's not for everyone.
Some of the big cycle parks do free prams hire, so you can cycle in then switch to pram for shopping.

Buses are slow and expensive, but will get you to major locations.

Food shopping: ocado delivery is probably local norm!

Lots of communities are walkable: it depends where you live. But pavements can be narrow for a pram, and drop-kerbs could be better. There are lots of green spaces and parks all over the city of varying sizes.

If you're travelling out of peak hours driving is not so busy, but it seems a shame to live in such a compact city and drive short distances. Parking is expensive and limited: lots of residents parking zones, and narrow streets with limited space for parking.

CityCentre Fri 20-Nov-15 16:51:35

You might have to take a rental place for 6 months as the shortest, even if you plan to leave after 4.

If you live centrally, then cycling or walking is a good option; there are buses from places going into the centre. You can get bike seats and trailers, or trailer bikes - I know some who put two toddlers in a trailers, or one in a child seat and a bigger one on a trailer bike (if 3.5 year old can balance well enough for that).

But a car is not that bad an option either if you could get one (leased?) for a short time, or joining zipcar if you live near one of the locations (google it). If you end up living in a village, I think you would probably want to get a car, just for the chance to experience days out and see more of the country. The train is fine for getting to London, say, or Ely, but for random days out in the countryside etc, car is certainly easier. But it can be done by public transport - I did for years. There are several large supermarkets with big car parks, though, but slightly more on the outskirts than right in the centre. If you are very centrally based, then you won't want to drive.

Lizardc Sat 21-Nov-15 17:07:05

I have three children 5 and under and don't drive (although my husband does). Day to day we get about by bus, bike or walking. We have a bike with a trailer but we mostly bus or walk. We get about just fine and Cambridge really isn't that big so it's fine!

For shopping we get lots of bits from the Coop or small local Tesco which we pass almost every day on the way to school or nursery. For bigger things either my husband takes the car to Tesco or we order online.

It's all very doable!

Lizardc Sat 21-Nov-15 17:08:50

Oh and pushing a pram about is easy and I rarely have a problem getting on the bus with it either. And there are a tonne of activities and groups for children! We are spoilt for choice smile

northofcambridge Sun 22-Nov-15 09:04:46

Is your DH associated with Cambridge University - if so their accommodation office is some help. Is he working in the centre - makes a big difference. If he is working in the centre - I would rent something as centrally as possible. Agree you will probably need to sign a contract for six months. Is it possible for one of your to come over before he starts and get something? Normally have to take rentals on the day. Agree for big shop online shopping is the way to do go!

jacklyn444 Sun 22-Nov-15 18:25:37

My recommendation: if you're here for a short period, rent as centrally as possible as it makes life easy. We are carless and bikeless blush and we get on just fine. Walking or the bus (which is overpriced and can take you just as long as because the traffic can be bad). Lots to do for children in Cambridge. Churches everywhere with non-religious fun activities for kids daily.
Groceries, Ocado will deliver as mentioned earlier, as will most other supermarkets.
We rely on Zipcar for car journeys and there are so many dotted around where we are, and demand isn't so bad so we are often able to get one last minute.

IndigoOrange Tue 01-Dec-15 02:20:54

Wow! Thank you all for such amazing suggestions and advice. Your contribution is much appreciated and now I feel much more confident about not having a vehicle for everyday, like we do at home.

I have just applied for help via the University site, as suggested here - thankfully although not at the Uni campus, the location my husband will be at is part of it (CRUK CI).

The Zipcar, online food/delivery and certainty that there will be plenty of activities to keep us occupied during the day are tips I haven't found anywhere else online. Thanks!

Just one more thing internet searching it is really hard to know what the temp will be like between April and September - I know it is your summer but the sites say average temperatures are 18C/65F! Ha that is COLD! :-0 Surely that's wrong, yes? Or shall I mainly pack jeans, tee-shirts, jumpers and closed-toed shoes for the kids?

Thanks again?

CityCentre Tue 01-Dec-15 09:03:43

By 18C, you will find people are wearing strappy tops and sandals and taking as many clothes off as possible... smile

(sorry, that's a bit of a stereotype. It's not really that bad. But 18 is a nice temperature here - and it will quite likely be warmer than that. Many days up in the mid-20s, which feels pleasantly warm, and some up to 30 or early 30s, which is getting too hot to me!).

Houses here don't usually have air conditioning, just windows (with no bug screens often - I got an expanding-width one in North America once when I was visiting and brought it over here, and it's been very useful). So you don't want it too hot really. Shops etc are air conditioned though.

Jeans, t-shirts, possibly jumpers, closed-toes shoes are fine for April/May/Sept, but for June/July/Aug, you can wear short-sleeved tops, perhaps shorts or skirts, sandals, etc. Always useful to have a cardigan or hoody to hand though. Be prepared for rain, though. Rain jackets and umbrellas and wellies (rubber boots), but you can get that cheaply here. It doesn't actually rain here as much as in the rest of the country, but it still might be more than you're used to. And then some summers have been fine and dry.

Online food shopping is much, much more common here than in North America, a very normal and standard thing to do - so just get that set up as soon as you arrive for all the bigger items, and then pick up smaller stuff regularly in the little supermarkets or the markets.

Have a look at the highway code perhaps, or even take a driving lesson here just to get used to e.g., roundabouts etc, and then you should be able to sign up for Zipcar, as long as you've driven for at least a year elsewhere, I think it is. That would increase your ability to get out and see the rest of the country. And investigate railcards as well, if you are going to travel often to London or further afield.

Wuffleflump Tue 01-Dec-15 10:33:20

Oh man, I've been baking at the recent 12C! It's supposed to be winter! Heating didn't go on until about a week ago and now I want to turn it off again.

Layers, layers, layers. The weather is changeable and unpredictable. We've had snow in April and 30C heat at the end of October. Lots of thin layers and different length sleeves gives most flexibility.

We're in the driest part of the country for rainfall. I mean, see above, anything is possible, but average rainfall is comparatively low for UK and northern Europe.

Summers are humid.

northofcambridge Tue 01-Dec-15 21:14:05

i see - in that case Trumpington or Cherry hinton might be a good places to live - money would stretch further. Or live in nearer the centre and your DH can cycle to work. or there are lots of buses - but traffic can be really bad.

IndigoOrange Tue 01-Dec-15 22:48:04

Hahaha - singlets in 18C - that's a funny stereotype!

I think it must be the humidity that makes all the difference. We are expecting high 30's and 40C over the weekend and our summer started just yesterday - it's a dry heat, usually.
Layers it is then - and perhaps I'll buy light rain jackets over there when we arrive as I doubt shops in Aus will be selling much rain gear for kids over summer.

As for housing we have gained access to the University accommodation site - not much on there atm, but they do say most listings only come up one month or so prior. It appears we will have enough $ to rent a 2 bedroom furnished place (our budget 1200-1600 a month). Fingers crossed the prices stay stable once the summer comes and the demand seems higher for accommodation.

Some parks i've been researching near the city centre that seem nice are Lamma's Land, The Botanical Gardens, Jesus Green and Christs Pieces. For two kids aged 3.5 and 1 year old, are there any other parks you think more suitable/nicer to live by, of course if we had the choice?

IndigoOrange Tue 01-Dec-15 22:52:41

Oh and Hubby is a bike rider already - so he's happy to ride to and from work. It's really me getting around with the two kids everyday that I was most concerned about - and being in a location that we'd feel we would get to explore Cambridge so we'd have the best experience possible.
Could anyone direct me to a website advertising second hand goods, like bikes etc (a buy sell page for cambridge perhaps?)

Wuffleflump Wed 02-Dec-15 10:30:13

Problem with second hand bikes is that there's a lot of bike theft around, so need to be careful with origins.

OWL bikes is a charity which refurbishes bikes It's in a village to the south so will need transport to get them.

There's freecycle and gumtree as generics for other items. Also lots of charity shops in the centre, especially Burleigh Street shopping area has a whole row of them.

IndigoOrange Mon 18-Jan-16 03:04:08

Thank you all once again for your suggestions! We are in discussions with a property (within the triangle of Midsummer Common, Chesterton Road and A1134, when looking at a map). It appears to be a great spot to access the River, The Grafton Shopping Centre and the city. Are there any major concerns with this area we have missed though? It would be nice to know in advance.
I presume the Central Library could be good for the kids, and Jesus Green Pool/Park. Does anyone know of any other handy places for toddlers around this area? Churches with activities or other great little parks?

pixieg1rl Mon 18-Jan-16 21:40:37

Jesus green is lovely, but be warned the pool is unheated, so it's bracing even on the hottest day. Jesus Green has a lovely playground with a fenced off area for the smaller ones (under 4s I'd say).

Slightly further afield if the weather is nice there are a selection of free paddling pools and splash pads which run from around late May time. The paddling pools and splash pads are free to use (

If you are in the Cambridge for May then the beer festival held on Jesus Green is great; it's usually full of families and children, the Saturday is family day but if the weather is good it's quieter earlier in the week. I know it doesn't sound like a very family thing but it's a great institution in Cambridge and worth going to if you are close.

I'm a bit out of the loop with younger children's activities but Cambridge is full of young families and there is usually lots to do. When you get settled have a wander around your neighbourhood and see what you can find.

I would also recommend the Botanical Gardens (if your husband is affiliated to the university you might get free entry - its worth checking) its very popular with families and young children.

Shopping wise if you don't have a car then online shopping is preferable, there are lots of smaller convenience stores around for basics, but it's really such a compact place that not many places are more than a 40 minute (pushchair) walk away. You can probably get away with not having a bike if you can get a double buggy or a pushchair with a toddler board. Cambridge is great for walking. The buses are expensive for what they are and I'd echo what everyone says - the traffic does slow them considerably. You will only have to pay for yourselves though - children go free.

austengirl Tue 19-Jan-16 03:44:19

The Botanic Gardens are lovely, but no one gets free entry, even university staff.

As a new mum, I've found there are loads of things going on for parents and children, so you won't be short of things to do when you get here. If you wanted to go swimming before the outdoor pools open, Abbey and Parkside pools are both indoors. Many of the museums have events for children particularly during the half term holidays.

jsp56 Tue 19-Jan-16 03:59:53

It's just the staff at the Department of Plant Sciences that get free entry, so it depends what field your dh works in.

I'd second the view that a double buggy is enough to get around. My ds went up to a large tricycle with a parent handle for me to keep hold of once he got too heavy. I'm looking to sell it on soon if you want it and I live just up the road from where you are looking at renting. Pm me if you are interested. Some people also buy box bikes (google it) and they are great for getting around a bit faster, but are quite wide so almost like a small car in some ways.

There are loads and loads of toddler groups within easy walking distance so you'll be fine.

The only reason why we really feel the need of a car is that we used to be frequent users of Camdoc, the out of hours doctor's service and it was super-handy to have a car when we needed to go in the night. I only mention partly because you'll be glad to know about camdoc if you ever need them. They are great. Your GP will give you the number when you register I would think.

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