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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Gog Magog Farm Shop‏

I take my parenting duties seriously - it is a Dad's role to have a limited but endlessly-repeated stock of unfunny jokes, to ruffle children's hair and lead them on wildly implausible expeditions, the subsequent memory of which leads Mum to sigh lovingly as she irons the socks.

Last year, when #1 child was given her first proper bike, with gears and everything, she announced she would like to try them out by riding up a hill.

In most places, this would not cause any issues, but here in fenland it presented quite a challenge and necessitated a long ride just to find a hill to ride up.

"Of course Cambridge has hills", is the standard refrain to the accusation that the city and its environs are completely flat - "There's Gog Magog".

Cambridge not only does not have hills, it is actually situated in something of a dip - a large natural crater or dimple.

Stand on the highest point in the city centre - the top of Castle Hill - and you will see the land first dip away and then gradually rise back up to eye-level in all directions at around a distance of around 20 miles.

Gog Magog is a pair of hills a couple of miles south of the centre just beyond Addenbrooke's, home to a golf course, Wandlebury Ring, Magog Down and most importantly a Farm Shop and Cafe.

So for #1 child's inaugural "hill ride", we headed out to Gog Magog, approaching it from the side via Trumpington and the Shelfords and stopping off at Gog Magog Farm Shop for sustenance and a brief respite in the form of hot chocolate with marshmallows and a chocolate brownie.

Last weekend, the children begged to be taken back and even remembered exactly what they had had a year or so ago. And with the temperature just a few degrees above freezing and the wind whipping up an icy blast, I decided it was sufficiently challenging to go ahead.

Late winter and early spring is always a challenging time for keeping children active - it is too wet to let them play in the garden, too cold to send them to the playpark, so an uphill bike ride might just do the trick, I hoped.

My very first visit to Gog Magog Farm Shop was perhaps a decade or so ago when it was just a slightly dreary, if worthy, place with a few bits of vacuum-packed meat on offer.

It has now become a destination in its own right with a smart cafe offering lattes, home-made pastries, the weekend papers and various other staples of middle-class weekend life.

Unlike The Orchard, which has a genteel aristocratic insouciance, Gog Magog is more a place to go after exercising dogs or young children either on Magog Down or Wandlebury - it has not yet got as far as play equipment or a petting zoo, so on a cold day in January, there is not a lot to do there.

On arriving, I do that "Embarrassing Dad" thing by pretending to order cold water and stale bread for the children before "remembering" they actually want hot chocolate. I compound this by insisting that surely they don't want marshmallows on top, as well. They respond, inevitably, enthusiastically in the affirmative and take the opportunity to remind me that I promised them brownies, too.

Seated with our drinks brought to us, for a few blissful moments, peace and quiet reign as the children set about their treats and I peruse first the motoring and then the travel sections of the Sunday papers.

My coffee is hot, strong and well-frothed - spot on, in fact. In the name of research, I also try out the kids' brownies which prove to be rich, sticky and rather wonderful.

#2 child is the first to finish and the first to get bored of watching me look at depictions of picturesque warm holiday destinations in France and adverts for Rhine Cruises, so announces he will go outside to play.

His sister accompanies, but promptly returns saying it is too cold, so I collect up my things and head out to watch them make a game of running along the edges of herb beds - it never ceases to amaze me how innocently these would-be teenagers can entertain themselves by running around on uneven surfaces in any given location.

We check out the two adjoining shops - in the cheese and wine shop I note with approval the presence of the thoroughly crowd-pleasing Mont Rocher Old Vines Carignan.

We are also given a couple of samples of cheese to try - a sweet, hard yellow coolea and a Tunworth with a yeasty rind whose flavour persists long after we have eaten it, left the cheese shop and entered the meat shop.

In here, samples on offer are of a three-herb sausage which is meaty, well-flavoured and appreciated by all.

Unsurprisingly, the children quickly lose interest in the displays of the free-range meat counter, so at this point, all that remains is to look at the geese in the barn, admire the two ponies called William and James and then roll all the way back down the hill into Cambridge and home for lunch.

The CWB rule of thumb is that going somewhere at least three times makes it a firm favourite - I've lost count of the number of times we have been to The Orchard, but with both kids now competently riding bikes, I sense it will not be long before we make visit #3 to Gog Magog Farm Shop.

Other related articles
The Orchard
Punting and Fitzbillies
Cambridge's Museums
A Sunday Morning In Saffron Walden
The Plough, Coton

Gog Magog Farm Shop - website, twitter

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