Bar Hill is situated five miles north-west of Cambridge, just off the A14. When approaching it from Cambridge, drivers have a designated lane, which is marked 'Superstore', for reasons that will become apparent.
A New Place on the Map
The village is noteworthy for its relative youth, as it was created in the late 1960s and early 1970s as extra housing for south Cambridgeshire. Architecturally, it could therefore be said to have a vague 1970s vibe (not particularly appealing in house styles) although, as documented below, some of the older buildings have already been replaced.
Bar Hill has a curious geography, in that it is basically a large housing estate1 bounded by a ring-road. Pathways from every street lead to the centre of the village, where shops and other amenities can be found. There is only one way in or out of the village, which is via the roundabout at the bottom of the ring-road, from which you can exit onto either the A14 or the B1050, a country road to Earith. This fact proved interesting one Saturday evening in the early 21st Century, when the roundabout was closed to install new traffic lights2 and the residents had to plan to be home by 8pm or stay out all night!
The Reason For That Road Sign
In 2001, the then-biggest (in square footage) supermarket in the UK was opened in Bar Hill. The supermarket brought with it a new parade of shops and businesses. It also curbed the highly practical but eyesore-inducing tradition of walking home with a full shopping trolley, as the new trolleys applied the brakes when they came within range of sensors placed around the edge of the carpark. Unfortunately, this meant that some residents had to get in their cars to do their weekly shopping, as they couldn't feasibly carry it from the store, resulting in annoyance as these local shoppers felt they were causing unnecessary pollution. Under the old system, a casual visitor may have seen a tatty village with a shopping trolley in every other garden; someone with more local knowledge would have been able to tell them that such trolleys generally only stayed outside a house long enough for the food to be safely stored before they were speedily returned to the shop.
Where's My Pub?
Before the opening of the giant store, a branch of the same supermarket existed on the site, together with an ugly concrete shopping mall (which was demolished, along with the attached concrete village pub, to make way for the new store). For over a year, Bar Hill had no public house for its residents to frequent. An enterprising landlord in the next village (either a walk across the fields or a complicated journey via the A14 away) laid on a minibus that would collect parched residents for the price of a local phone call and deliver them home at closing time. For those residents who weren't members of the village sports and social club, which had its own bar, this was very useful.
Alongside the sports and social club, Bar Hill has a variety of societies and sports teams, managing to maintain a healthy community spirit despite its young age and sometimes less than inspiring vista. There is a monthly magazine, an annual fête and a yearly firework display. There are allotments, a nature reserve, tennis courts and playing fields, a church shared by a number of denominations, a primary school, health centre and a library. A new pub was eventually opened in late 2001, presumably much to the relief of one resident who, after seeing one too many opening deadlines fly past, had set up what became a popular website3 asking where his pub was!
Amenities and Businesses
Bar Hill has a hotel with its own golf course and fitness club. A skateboarding area has also been created. There is a choice of places to eat out in the village... namely the hotel restaurant, the pub or the cafe in the supermarket. A mobile curry van visits the carpark most evenings and will take orders by telephone. There is also a fish and chip shop in the shopping centre. Bar Hill has a substantial industrial estate, mostly situated outside the ring-road, with warehouses and trade outlets housing approximately thirty-five businesses. There are regular buses to Cambridge as well as St Ives and Huntingdon.
Still a Place to Call 'Home'
The supermarket has recently had an upper floor added. Despite this, the residents continue to work hard to maintain their village identity, their motivation perhaps all the stronger due to the palpable lack of history and being known as 'those houses tacked onto the supermarket carpark' (or similar).