When I woke up this morning, I did not imagine that several hours later I would be standing at the side of the road near Wimpole Hall, my thumb stuck firmly out towards the steady flow of traffic heading South towards Cambridge city, hoping that someone would stop and take pity on myself and two friends by giving us a free ride back into the centre. I did not even imagine that I would be hitch-hiking anytime in the next year, let alone that very day.
But there I was. Thumb up, nervous smile stretched across my lips, and a slightly foreboding sense of doom lapping at my heels.
The day had gone fairly well to begin with. A cute group excursion to the nearby National Trust property, Wimpole Hall, started off with a mad cycle into town to catch a the number 75 bus. The driver assured us he’d let us know which was our stop and there were no stop announcements or any names on the bus stops we passed, so that was a blessing. 45 minutes later, having driven through some very picturesque villages which looked like the ideal two-kids-and-a-dog kind of place, the bus stopped at the end of an unassuming road end and we got out, blinking in the bright sunlight.
There was then a mile-long walk up a road with no pavement, chatting and joking and assigning ourselves roles for this family-esque trip (spoiler: I’m the Mum Friend), wishing I’d put more suncream on, before we finally reached a sign for Wimpole Hall. We’d made it! Another small walk, a few photos, and soon we had tickets and were wandering down a path in search of the farmyard.
It’s been so long since I’ve visited a farm, but it didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t too long until we’d greeted a bored-looking cow, some large horses who hardly moved at all, and some pigs which were insanely noisy. Honestly, if we hadn’t known it was a shed full of pigs when we were standing outside, we’d have thought it was a scene from the apocalypse or something.
(The worst thing about being a vegetarian on these sorts of trips is that you know what will happen to the animals. They even advertised using their own pigs in their restaurant. I find it hard to understand how that doesn’t upset people, but still, that’s a topic for another time.)
We didn’t have enough time to go into the hall itself, but the outside provided plenty of photo opportunities and the gardens behind it were gorgeous:
If you have a little more time, I’d definitely recommend going inside and finding out more about Wimpole Hall’s history. There’s also a gift shop, and of course… ice creams!
But we didn’t have time; having arrived after lunch and eaten our picnic while walking between sites, we realised the last bus back was inexplicably before 3pm. The bus driver had told us he would stop for us where he’d dropped us off ‘for the 3pm bus’ but it turned out when he said 3pm, he didn’t mean that literally. When we arrived at the stop at 2.52pm, we’d missed it.
So there we were. Stranded about 8 miles from home, at the side of a busy road, with no bus in sight for another day. And somehow, we had decided to hitch-hike.
Here’s the thing. If you’re going to hitch-hike, you should remember a few things:
- Don’t do it alone.
- Aim to stop cars with people who seem trustworthy in – preferably more than one person where possible. And sometimes stereotypes might be something to bear in mind.
- If you stop a car and don’t like the look of the driver, say no. Say they’re not going where you need to go, and step away.
- When you do decide to take a lift, take a quick photo of the driver’s registration number and text a friend or family member with the number and where you’re going.
- Better to be safe than sorry, in any case. Time to listen to that old aphorism if in doubt, don’t… ?
We didn’t remember most of those things. But we got lucky with a National trust employee who very kindly dropped us off in Cambridge, tired and exhilarated and, well… unlikely to miss a bus again anytime soon!