The first 100 or so Steps
In the quiet hush that can only signify a Sunday morning, my husband and I enjoyed the rare luxury of a breakfast together, exchanging small gifts and cards, before heading to the car for our day’s outing.
Twenty years ago we met for the first time and this was an occasion to be marked. We’d pondered how a few days earlier. Should we replicate the evening itself? That involved a flurry of pubs visits, one so empty and dull the security guards outnumbered the guests, the other so packed we sat like sardines on sunken sofas, embedded within the aged fabric. Even through rose-tinted vision of time passed we shook our heads in an empathic no!
Our interests took us elsewhere and with the promise of a few rain-free hours, we set off to a place we yearned to see again. Two years ago we’d paid a flying visit to Ely and it’s stunning cathedral set amongst the beautiful landscape of the Fens. We looked forward to seeing it again, enjoying the time and space to revel in its gifts.
1,000 or so steps
The car park in Ely by the Maltings, the Victorian brewery, kindly offered us free parking and requested we mention their generosity to our friends…duly done!
Nearby an eel sculpture stood prominently in a park to commemorate Ely, known at one time for its eels and named after the Saxon word for the fish -eilig!
The walk to the river opened up to reveal a bustling holiday atmosphere as canal boats and small pleasure cruises teemed on the water, the golden willows whispering their greeting to the river, children, and dogs competing for attention.
Fishermen sat far apart along the river bank, nearly absorbed into the dark green of the grass, they seemed to blend seamlessly together in the picture.
2,000 or so steps
Astonishingly, the busy lively riverside promenade was left behind as we ducked below a railway bridge to the path along the swollen river. Here only the serious walkers set out. The raised path stood just above the water level of the flooded field to our left, the yellow decaying weeds a fluttering reminder of the winter still upon us.
3,000 or so steps
To the right, the mighty river (by British standards) flowed with majestic elegance.
Ahead arrow-sharp rowing boats raced past at dazzling speed, the long oars barely seemed to dip into the water, effortlessly carrying it along. The University of Cambridge has a boathouse here and often practice on the river; not surprising considering the extremely busy River Cam, clogged with punts and the numerous tourists!
4,000 or so steps
We continued to traverse through the Fens flat landscape, the marshland of 1,500 square miles (3,900 square kilometres) stretching ahead, gently curving at bends. Here the sky opened up to lofty heights, the soft clouds of whites, pinks, greys dotted upon the lightest of baby blue hues. A gentle peace cascaded, rolled over us as we ambled on, my camera to hand.
5,000 or so steps
To the left, a sudden rush and hoot stopped me in my tracks – I hadn’t noticed the railway track before, set up just above the water level, the mechanical surprisingly not at odds with the calm of nature.
The menagerie of birds seemed quite unperturbed, the dogs continued to walk calmly on as did we.
6,000 or so steps
I’ve never walked across a railway track before and approached this one with discernible excitement, heightened as the lights started to flash and the alarm sounded. Here is the video I took of the Train as it passed closely past us. (Since WP suddenly will not allow me to post videos I set up a YouTube channel to allow me to share this!)
7,000 or so steps
Yet again the wonderful Cathedral dominated the horizon as it sits on the hill in this ‘Isle of Ely’. Visible from miles around the towers reach up to the heavens and there is no danger of becoming lost with this constant reminder of the town centre.
8,000 or so steps
We near the cathedral. Originally a church was built on this site in AD 672 before the Normans started work and it was deemed a cathedral in 1109 and thereafter the town formed around it.
9,000 or so steps
We approached the awe-inspiring cathedral which is fittingly known as the ‘Ship of the Fens’ after its famous and unique Octagon tower which replaced the former Norman tower.
This collapsed in 1322 and was replaced with a structure made from eight great oaks which served as the frame for the famous lantern inside.
The interior of the cathedral filled me with wonder and overwhelming gratitude. It is unusually light for a cathedral, and I wandered down the nave, before glancing up to its ceiling. The amazing painted wood panels were installed in the mid-1800s by the Victorians in an attempt make the cathedral appear even more medieval.
Walking around I admired the architecture, the stained glass windows and at one stage noticed the playful rainbow of colours on a pillar from one of the windows.
Along the walls, plaques and statues of people buried or interned are placed along the walls and floor. One was a Robert Steward, a knight who died in 1571 and looked peaceful in his repose.
10,000 or so steps
These last steps were used to visit the UK’s largest stained glass museum housed within the cathedral; more about these treasures in my next post. Tired but full of joy we ambled back to the car, letting the glorious sky sweep over us.
On the drive home we were treated to a sumptuous sunset; a glory and riot of colours which made driving difficult but a wonder to behold for me, the passenger.
Thank you for joining me on this 10,527 steps day out. Have you recently had a special day out? Celebrated an anniversary? As always it is a delight to read your comments and thoughts.