Do you love flowers?
The Scented Garden at Cambridge University’s Botanic Garden features dozens of varieties of sweet-smelling spring flowers. It is a place where the senses are heightened and visitors can enjoy fragrant blossoms, lush foliage, and beautiful views year-round. This garden also has an extensive collection of trees from around the world that provide shade in the summer months.
You will be able to explore over 1,000 different species of plants on your visit to this garden! There are many places for picnics or just relaxing with a book while enjoying the beauty all around you!
What is Cambridge University Botanic Garden
The Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a botanical garden located in Cambridge, England. It is the oldest botanic garden in the United Kingdom and one of the major gardens of the world. The garden was founded in 1831 by John Stevens Henslow and now covers 42 hectares (104 acres). source
The History of Cambridge University Botanic Garden
The Botanic Garden at the University of Cambridge was created in 1831. It was originally intended to be used as a teaching resource and to provide plants for the University’s greenhouses. The Garden has since grown to become one of the most famous botanical gardens in the world and is now home to over 8,000 different plant species.
The beginnings of the Botanic Garden can be traced to Humphry Henslow, a botany professor at the University. In 1829 he took a trip to North Wales and Scotland with a student, John Stevens Henslow. On this trip, they explored many different ‘wild gardens’ or places where exotic plants were growing in their natural habitat. Henslow was very interested in these gardens and promised to create something similar at the University once he had been promoted from being a lecturer. In 1829 he was made a professor, as promised, and began looking for the perfect place to construct his garden.
Humphry first considered Waltham as an option – it was close to the city, and the land was cheap. However, it did not have any buildings suitable for housing greenhouses. Nearby Cherry Hinton turned out to be too expensive at £500 per acre (£20,000 in today’s money), although this price may have included house-building costs.
Humphry then went on a walking tour of Cambridge, accompanied by his gardener. He was looking for a site that had good soil, good drainage, and enough space to one-day house hundreds of different plants. He also needed it to be near the University, as he planned to use students in his garden.
The first option was to land behind St John’s College on the corner of Silver Street and Benet Street. However, because the land was right next to a busy road, Humphry dismissed it as an option.
His next choice was along Bateman Street. This had better drainage than the other site, but was still right next to a busy road and so inconvenient for transport. Also, this site was already earmarked for development and was expected to be sold soon – it didn’t look like a secure investment.
The final site that Humphry considered was land on the corner of what is now Lensfield Road and Brooklands Avenue in South Cambridge. There were two houses on this land, known as Botanic Cottage and The Orchard. Humphry made an offer of £1,000 for the two properties and a further £120 for a strip of land to connect them. This offer was accepted in 1828, with the sale being completed in the following year.
Botanic Cottage was converted into a library and lecture room. It is now known as Old Nursery House, the building with the clock tower. The Orchard was turned into a small museum. It is now known as Old Botanic Garden Glasshouses, although it no longer contains plants and is used for office space.
The new garden opened in 1831, but it still wasn’t suitable for teaching plants because of its size (it only covered around one acre), and the plants inside were not labeled.
Some of these problems were solved in 1835 when £4,000 was donated to the Garden by Charles Dickens, owner of Gads Hill Place in Kent. The money was used to expand the area, with three acres added north of Bateman Street. This allowed Humphry to grow a wider variety of plants and create a better teaching environment.
In the 1850s the Garden experienced more growth, as Bateman Street was extended westwards. This meant that Humphry could expand the area further by purchasing more land from St John’s College to the southwest. He also built two glasshouses near Botanic Cottage.
Humphry died in 1861, by which point the Garden had around eight acres of land to play with. It was named after him soon after his death, is known as the Henslow Botanic Garden until it became ‘The Cambridge Botanic Garden’ in 1930. The garden has continued to expand over time and is now around 30 acres in size. source
The Grounds at Cambridge University Botanic Garden
The Grounds at Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a set of gardens located on the grounds of Cambridge University. The garden is situated in the heart of the city, with buildings that are among some of the oldest in Europe. It includes both formal and informal gardens, ponds, woodland walks, herbaceous borders, and lawns. The garden is a popular destination for tourists and locals who wish to relax in the beautiful surroundings.
The design was based on his experience designing glass structures, such as greenhouses, for English estates. Two years later the University Council accepted Paxton’s plan and construction began under the direction of Edward Milner assisted by William Saunders.
Paxton’s original vision was for a large botanical garden, planted with thousands of plants that would be used for scientific research by the University. The original site only occupied land on the Northside of Cambridge in what is now known as the “Old Botanic Garden”.
The Old Botanic Garden was expanded in the early 20th century by botanist Sir Harry Godwin, who created the modern site as it exists today. Much of the modern gardens were designed and planted by Gertrude Jekyll.
The Grounds at Cambridge University Botanic Garden is divided into two distinct areas: The Old Botanic Garden and the New Botanic Garden. The two are separated by a raised path that is lined with flower beds on one side and glasshouses for plants on the other.
The Old Botanic Garden features an ornamental pond, sunken garden, rock garden, rose garden, herbaceous border (up to 400m in length), alpine house, and glasshouses for tropical plants, ferns, and orchids. The site is on the Northside of Cambridge in an area once occupied by almshouses.
The New Botanic Garden features lawns, a sensory garden, wooded walks, rock gardens, and glasshouses for cacti and other succulents. The site is on the Southside of Cambridge, occupying an area once occupied by a hospital.
The Cambridge University Botanic Garden consists of over 61 outdoor beds and 61 glasshouses covering about two hectares total. The majority of plants are Mediterranean in origin although there are numerous other species from around the world including China, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas. There are also a number of plants from outside of Europe that were originally collected by Cambridge botanists during their travels in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas.
How to get to Cambridge University Botanic Garden
With entrances on Trumpington Road (Brookside Gate) and Hills Road, the Botanic Garden is a 15-minute walk from Cambridge city center and 5 minutes from Cambridge railway station (Station Road Gate). source
Opening times at Cambridge University Botanic Garden
- January, November, December: 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
- February, March, October: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
- April – September: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
The Garden is free and accessible to the public. Walk-ins are welcome; pre-registration is not required.
The last paid admission is 30 minutes before closing time. source
Entry Prices for Cambridge University Botanic Garden
- Adult is £7.50
- Friend of CUBG is Free
- Children 0-16 inclusive is Free
- Cambridge University Student is Free
- Essential Carer for Disabled Visitor is Free
- Standard Adult is £6.80
Friends enjoy free entry with their Friends membership card. Corporate Friends do not need to pre-book in groups of under 10, but please bring your Corporate Pass or a company ID with you when you visit. source
What to See and Do at Cambridge University Botanic Garden
If you’re looking for a fun day out with the family, Cambridge University Botanic Garden is the place for you. There’s plenty to see and do, so make sure you check out all the different gardens and attractions.
1. The Crazy Cone Caper Self-Led Trail is a great way to get started. This fun trail will take you through the various gardens, and you’ll learn all about the plants along the way.
2. The Winter Garden is a must-see, especially in winter when the garden is at its most beautiful. You’ll find a range of plants here, including cacti and other succulents.
3. Bird Binoculars are a great way to get up close and personal with the garden’s birds. As well as looking at the plants, you can spot some colourful feathered friends in their natural habitat.
4. Cactus Print Making is a fun activity and there are plenty of materials so everyone can join in. You’ll be surprised by just how much you can create with just a few bits of paper, elastic bands, and cacti.
5. The Snowdrop Trail is beautiful in the winter, and it’s home to some of the earliest flowers in spring. The best way to experience this is by opening your eyes wide during a Snowdrop Nectar Trail.
6. The Queen Bee is one of the garden’s stars! She lives inside a beehive designed by architect Norman Foster and has made millions of new bees. You can see the Queen Bee with a Honey Tasting and learn more about how she makes honey and creates new bees.
7. Mysterious Moths are all around in the summer months, and you can spot some up close on Bug Detective Trail. You’ll also meet some of the garden’s other creepy crawlies and see just how many insects live here.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Visit to Cambridge University Botanic Garden
1. Go on a weekday for fewer crowds
2. Bring your own food to avoid the high prices of the cafe
3. Check out the different sections of the garden, like “The Secret Garden” or “The Temperate House”
4. Take pictures and post them to social media with #cambgbotanicgarden, so others can see all your adventures!
5. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, rent bikes from outside and explore more of Cambridge!
Other Places Nearby
1. Scott Polar Research Institute
The Scott Polar Research Institute is a world-renowned center for polar research, located on Lensfield Road in the south of the city. It was founded in 1920 by Dr. Edward Adrian Wilson and houses many important collections pertaining to Arctic and Antarctic exploration. The institute has been designated as a national repository for documents and artifacts relating to polar exploration, and its library is one of the most extensive in the world relating to this subject matter.
2. Cambridge in Hebrew
There are a surprising number of Hebrew-speaking people living in Cambridge – around 3000, making up around 1% of the population. This community is concentrated in the Jesus Green area, and there are a few Jewish schools in the city. Jesus Green, alongside the nearby Mill Road, is also an area where one can find kosher shops and restaurants serving Jewish cuisine.
3. Our Lady and the English Martyrs (Roman Catholic)
On Trumpington Street is Our Lady and the English Martyrs Roman Catholic Church, which was built in 1964 after its predecessor on Sidney Street was deemed too small. Its chief architectural feature is a prominent tower that serves as a landmark for the surrounding area, and which can be seen from almost anywhere in Cambridge.
4. Cambridge Junction
Cambridge Junction is a music venue near the city center with a capacity of around 300. It has been used by an eclectic mix of bands, including The Boomtown Rats, Ben Folds Five, and David Bowie. Bands regularly sell out the Junction.
5. Hughes Hall
Hughes Hall is a graduate college of Cambridge University, located off Mill Lane near the Bridge of Sighs. It was founded in 1885 as a women’s hall for students from poorer backgrounds and was the first of this kind in Cambridge. Unlike other colleges, it has no on-site accommodation; its purpose is primarily to provide access to early research for students who are not eligible to live in the city center or require accommodation. source
Cambridge University Botanic Garden in Cambridge, England is a great place to spend your free time. The garden has something for everyone and is open year-round! There are plenty of different trails that will help you explore the gardens at your own pace, whether it’s with friends or alone. You can also check out one of their many events such as Bug Detective Trail or Honey Tasting if you’re looking for an interesting experience while exploring nature. When visiting this beautiful garden in central London be sure to bring some snacks so you don’t have to pay expensive food prices (if not bringing any, then consider stopping by the grocery store beforehand). Other than that, all there’s left to do is enjoy your day and take lots of pictures!
Learn more about Cambridge University Botanic Garden