So after the craziness of Sunday you’d think we’d slow down. But no. Instead late Monday morning we set off for Ely. Everyone had recommended it, especially for the cathedral. Just outside Brandon we saw a sign we had noticed before: Aircraft Viewing. And being in no particular hurry we turned off to see what aircraft you could view. It was a little parking lot on the side of an airfield and it was packed with cars and people. We could see what looked like a couple of military jets way over on the other side of the runway, and we could hear a jet engine but nothing much was happening. This is RAF Lakenheath and it is part of United States Air Forces in Europe. I was very surprised that they had provided a space for aircraft spotting. So we left and went on our way to Ely
This was our first foray into Cambridgeshire. Ely was originally built on a clay island which was the biggest island in the fens. I’m pretty sure fen is a word for marsh but you can look it up. I find Google very helpful. The inhabitants did a lot of willow and rush harvesting as well as eel fishing because eels really like to live in fens. In 673CE a queen named Etheldreda founded an Abbey there and that was what the basis of the first church was. That was destroyed and a couple of others built in its place until the Normans came along (think Norman Conquest) and took the smaller church and made it a really big church with big square towers. This was to point out that they were the Normans and they were now in charge (so behave yourself).
Well then the center nave tower fell down and some very enterprising (and wealthy) parishioner decided to rebuild this tower but using very large, long 1000 year old oak trees. Of course there was an opportunity to climb up the tower and so off we went all 11 of us. Up lots of tiny winding staircases and through extremely small and unforgiving stone doorways. Then across the Lady Chapel roof and into the wooden platform area behind the painted saintsThen we had an opportunity to look down through the opened panels to the nave floor belowAnd also across to the other opened panels. And then we began climbing inside the tower, in the narrowest winding staircase I have ever been in. Luckily only about 25 stairs and then we came out on top of the roofThis is the Octogonal Tower looking up from below and by now we had climbed on to the star pointed roof itself. Here’s our guide John showing us points of interest and here’s the view from the topAnd here’s me smiling for a selfie while anxiously considering the climb back downWe also visited Oliver Cromwells house. He ruled England as Lord Protector after Charles I was beheaded. Charles tried to govern without Parliament and he tried to reestablish Roman Catholicism and England was having none of it. This is CB in a Roundhead helmet. To this day people are still arguing about whether Cromwell was a hero or a tyrant. He was a king in everything except name and when he died his son assumed the role. And after that everyone had had enough of dictators and they brought the son of Charles I back to rule England, Charles II.
Then today was a quieter day with a picnic lunch and walk in Thetford. First we explored the castle hill in Thetford which was originally an Iceni fort where Queen Boudicca may or may not have been (they also think her grave may be somewhere under Thetford). And then the Normans (we’re here and we’re staying) built a castle inside the fort walls. This is what’s left:Here’s me down inside the fort walls and above is a photo of CB on the top of the castle ruins.
After this we walked along the Thet riverbank, on a Permissable Path. That is, a path across private land which you the walker may use but at no responsibility of the landowner. And then as it was somewhere around 88F we decided to drive home and just as we got close to Brandon, 2 jets thundered overhead. So we thought, why not? And we drove to the Aircraft Viewing area where nothing much was happening. It’s the luck of the draw the other watchers told us and after about 20 minutes standing in the hot sun, just as CB was about to say: let’s go home….There were 3 in this lot and they took off and swooped into land but then excelerated up again and made an unbelievable amount of noise right over our heads! I think they were F-15Es that is Eagles but I’m not sure. As I write this, they are still out there thundering overhead.
Another day, another set of cultural experiences. I’m not sure I can keep up.