Milton: A Cambridgeshire village with (nearly) everything
Adrian Peel takes a look around
Milton is home to a population of approximately 4,300 and is within easy reach for commuters travelling to and from Cambridge. It has an impressive number of pubs and places to eat and is well served by a large Tesco. With a business park offering employment opportunities and a more scenic park of the country variety, situated around picturesque freshwater lakes, it’s got plenty to recommend it.
Though it still maintains a ‘village’ feel, the construction of two large housing estates in the late 1980s meant the population doubled between 1986-91, according to the 1991 census.
So what’s it really like to live here? What better place to find out than at one of Milton’s watering holes...
We caught up with Darryl and Christine James at The Jolly Brewers pub on Fen Road. Watford-born Darryl is one of six owners of the pub and is a long-time Milton resident.
“I’ve lived here for 25 years and have been at the pub for four and a half,” he says. “It was shut and run-down when we bought it and we’ve obviously invested a lot of time and money in getting it up and running again.”
“It does get frequented by quite a few of the locals,” says Christine, who organises the catering for Robinson College and helps out in the pub from time to time.
“It’s got four B&Bs at the back which used to be stables years ago, but we did them up and they have a 70-80 per cent occupancy, which is pretty good. We just want it to be a nice community pub that people can come to, have a reasonably priced drink and good food.
Christine, who is Cambridge-born and bred, continues: “We moved here in ‘91 just before we got married and we’ve been here since then.”
How has Milton changed during the couple’s time there?
“I suppose there’s been a lot of younger people move into the village, like any place, but it hasn’t changed that much,” replies Christine.
“The only new development has been the North Lodge development - they’re the only new houses that have been built since we’ve been here,” notes her husband, a former policeman, “because everything else was as is, really. There’s some talk about building further down Fen Road, and there’s obviously a lot more traffic than what there was 25 years ago...”
“It’s a lovely village in as far as it’s got everything that people want; the country park provides a place for people to go, sports and activities,” enthuses Christine. “It’s got the shops, Tesco... I think it’s an ideal place and you’re not really out of Cambridge. It’s only the A14 that separates us, and it’s got that feel of being a village. You’ve got the College of West Anglia and the horses go by and it’s village life in that respect.”
When strolling through Milton, you can spot numerous old buildings and homes with a great deal of charm and character, including The Church of All Saints’ in Church Lane, meaning that Milton is more than just a superstore destination with some housing estates.
The pubs in Milton are all grade II-listed buildings and are all close together. As well as The Jolly Brewers, there is The Lion & Lamb and The White Horse, both on High Street. These days, what with the number of pubs closing down, it is something of a rarity to find three in the same village.
“We’re bucking the trend because most villages are closing their pubs and we opened one!” says Darryl, “so it’s good and obviously people do like coming out. You get a nice evening and the village is buzzing on a Friday night, people doing the rounds or sticking to the one they like. That’s the nice part about it in a way...”
What makes the James’s pub different from its competitors?
“Well, we’re a free house; we’re not tied to any big brewery chain so we can certainly give value for money,” states Darryl confidently. “I think we all offer something different - that’s what’s nice about this village. If you want a lively pub where you can play pool and darts, then you go to The White Horse. If you want a quiet drink without the noise of fruit machines and jukeboxes, you come to us...”
“Although we’ve got a little play area out the back, I think certain families will go to The Lion & Lamb because they’ve got the big pirate ship for the children,” adds Christine.
Unsurprisingly, the main sit-down restaurant in Milton, the Osteria, Waggon and Horses (an Italian eaterie), used to be The Waggon and Horses pub before converting to its current status in 2014. The only place to stay in the village for visitors, apart from the B&Bs at The Jolly Brewers, is the Ambassador Lodge, a family run B&B also located on the very long High Street.
The old rectory is home to Each (East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice), an organisation which helps terminally ill children right across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk. Education-wise, there is Milton Primary School and The College of West Anglia’s agricultural college.
Many clubs and societies in the village get together during the week at venues such as the Milton Community Centre on Coles Road and the recreation ground on Coles Road and the Sycamores. Sporting opportunities include football, cricket, netball, tennis and bowls (indoor and outdoor). Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides are available for younger people to join.
If you fancy a pleasant walk, head down Fen Road through the conservation area to the River Cam and watch boats working their way through the lock at Baits Bite and students rowing.
It’s clearly a safe and relaxing place to live – and with Cambridge literally next door you can find most of what it doesn’t have within easy reach.
So what else does it need?
“The only thing I’ve thought would be ideal is a fairly decent sort of gym,” muses Darryl. “I don’t think it needs much more, does it?” “Not really,” answers Christine. “I mean it has got pretty much everything...”