Once is enough: Ely

Gateway, Ely

Today’s (Wednesday’s) jaunt was to Ely. The attractions of Ely include the fact that it is in the Fenland, has a cathedral and is one of the few towns whose name has only 3 letters.

We arrived in Ely in good heart as the day, which had started grey, had brightened. It was warmer too. We had first to find the town centre from the station. We could see the cathedral looming above the trees and buildings and this gave us the general direction.

Parkland, Ely

The pleasantest part of the walk was the part that went through parkland with the cathedral buildings playing hide and seek between the trees. There was also a large rough paddock with ponies and a goat in it.

Our first port of call was to be the tourist information centre and we dutifully followed the signs. These led us straight to the cathedral. The public is charged to visit the cathedral so we didn’t wish to go in.

Sundial, Ely Cathedral

However, the lady at the ticket desk admitted that the tourist information signs were misleading and said that if we just walked through the building, the quickest route, she would not charge us. Reasonable.

So we walked through the cathedral, looking to neither right nor left lest we saw something we ought to have paid to see (yes, I am being ironic), and exited by the main door.

Cromwell's house, Ely

We eventually found the tourist information centre, wastefully sited in Oliver Cromwell’s house. Why “wastefully”? Because Ely has so little to recommend it to the visitor – it is really little more than a village – it is indeed wasteful not to make more of a feature of Cromwell’s house. It ought to be a museum about the Civil War, life in those times and Cromwell’s purging the country of the monarchy. It is a pity he is no longer around as we still have work for him today.


The highlight of the day for me was to watch the antics of a flock of 10 ducks. They moved together across the grass beside the cathedral looking for somewhere to settle and graze. They were not at all nervous of people and even crossed a little road, holding up the traffic.

Monument to Humphrey Smith

I have mentioned the cathedral. It is the town’s main attraction as there is little else there of any note apart from the ducks. I have to say that the cathedral is an ugly lump with little grace or harmony in its structure. It is in a parlous condition and is patched and restored in many places but rather badly as if the job has been given to cowboy builders. If anything symbolizes the decline of the church in England, this gloomy and crumbling pile does.

Another bright moment was lunch. We found an Indian restaurant called Montaz. The dishes were on the expensive side but we solved that by ordering side dishes and rice – a DIY thali.

As Ely was soon exhausted we decided to go on a bus ride. We chose Littleport as our destination because the name sounded interesting. What we thought of Littleport can be summed up by the fact that we got straight back on the bus and returned to Ely, which now seemed quite exciting in comparison but only because it has a station where one can take the train back to London.

High street, Ely

When we find an interesting town, we place it on the list to be visited again later. Ely will not be added to the list. The town boasts of the fact that it was once a good place for catching eels (hence its name) though as a vegetarian and animal rights supporter, I am hardly likely to see that as a recommendation. I don’t doubt that the people of Ely like their town and their cathedral. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not in the fabric of the object held to be beautiful.

My back seems to be a little better today. This is a relief as it suggests the damage is not permanent. I will continue to be careful and to use the walking stick for support until I feel it is no longer needed.

I jokingly said to Tigger that I was thinking of continuing to carry the stick even after recovery because people seeing it have shown me such consideration!


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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5 Responses to Once is enough: Ely

  1. athinkingman says:

    I was amused by your assessment of Ely and Littleport. I know both places relatively well as I live just ‘down the road’ in King’s Lynn. I have always thought that Ely has little going for it, apart from the grass around the cathedral – and the station always seems so grim. Littleport’s dubious claim to fame rests on the fact that one of the creators of ‘Spitting Image’ (not sure whether it was Peter Fluck or Roger Law) originated in that delightful Fenland metropolis. I am sure that had you have know that fact, you would have been even more impressed 🙂 .

  2. Nora says:

    Maybe I should consider using a waking stick now that I’ve got lumbago and get some respect around these here parts. Too bad Ely had as little as its name seemed to imply, cathedrals should never let you down, i think. Ducks make up for a lot, especially if nobody has the really bad idea to eat them. I agree with you on that, being a fellow vegetarian.

  3. SilverTiger says:

    To athinkingman: I was perhaps a little hard on the place and half-hoped that there would be a chorus of complaints justifying the town. Maybe Ely is one of those places that exports its best people…

    To Nora: I left “Tiny Tim” (ref. Charles Dickens), as Tigger calls my stick, at home today. I think that now the pain has subsided somewhat, my back must learn to be independent again.

    A stick can be addictive even to a completely healthy person and I must say that now I have started to notice them in the shops, there are some beautiful examples to be had.

  4. George says:

    You’re right about Littleport, but you missed the three treats that make a trip to Ely worth the journey:
    1 A trip up into the innards of the Cathedral’s “octagon” . Yes, you have to pay but it’s worth it
    2 One of the best bookshops in the country – Toppings – where they give you tea and coffee
    3 One of the best tearooms in the country – where they don’t, though they (actually, we) have a choice of 67 varieties.

    Good luck in Devon. See if you can get to Chagford – a gem on the edge of Dartmoor.

  5. SilverTiger says:

    If ever we return to Ely, we’ll bear your recommendations in mind.

    We didn’t make it to Chagford. Another time, perhaps.

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