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Cambridge is situated about 50 miles (80 km) north-by-east of London. The city is located in an area of level and relatively low-lying terrain just south of the Fens, which varies between 6 metres (20 ft) and 24 metres (79 ft) above sea level. The town was thus historically surrounded by low lying wetlands that have been drained as the town has expanded.
The underlying geology of Cambridge consists of gault clay and Chalk Marl, known locally as Cambridge Greensand, party overlayed by terrace gravel. A layer of phosphatic nodules (coprolites) under the marl were mined in the 19th century for fertiliser. It became a major industry in the county, and its profits yielded buildings such as the Corn Exchange, Fulbourn Hospital and St. John's Chapel until the Quarries Act 1894 and competition from America ended production.
The River Cam flows through the city north from the village of Grantchester. It is bordered by water meadows within the city such as Sheep's Green as well as residential development. The name 'Cambridge' is derived from the river. Like most cities, modern-day Cambridge has many suburbs and areas of high-density housing. The city centre of Cambridge is mostly commercial, historic buildings, and large green areas such as Jesus Green, Parker's Piece and Midsummer Common. Many of the roads in the centre are pedestrianised. Population growth has seen new housing developments in the 21st century, with estates such as the CB1 and Accordia schemes near the station, and developments such as Clayfarm and Trumpington Meadows planned for the south of the city.
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“Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
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—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)
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—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)