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Ely >  Google™ Map Sep 2022  Cambridgeshire Coat of Arms

ēl eel + Anglian district, region. Population - 20,112.

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Sep 2022

Cambridgeshire Coat of Arms

EE-lie, eh, although it's EE-lee, really, like you didn't know already. Not that mam knew, neither, Ely the UK representatives in It's a Knockout or rather Jeux sans frontières so no, not the rubbish, British one filmed on an athletics track on a windy day in June.

With just a pocket atlas for reference back in the '70s, a slightly swotty and nerdy Bob[1] spent the rest of their formative years wondering where this exotic-sounding place was?

Turns out it's just up from Cambridge in the fertile flatlands of the Fens and it's got a big church in it, like you didn't know already.

Ely Cathedral

This is the smallest English city in the world, isn't it? That's what was first thought although some, erm, research indicates that total urban and city council areas come into play and it's only just top five population-wise.

Avid readers who have been digesting this nonsense for some time now, yeah right, will be saying, didn't you say that was Southwell, anyways? Well, that's the smallest cathedral town in England and, as should be known by now, a cathedral doesn't guarantee city status.

Ely didn't get theirs until 1974 and no, it wasn't in recognition of them winning It's a Knockout, sorry, Jeux sans frontières.

[1] Just slightly?

The initial visuals are of a smaller version of Cambridge but with a dreaming spire, singular, even if that applies more to Oxford. Tell your friends how much easier it is to park up than in Cambridge, eventually, before heading for the high street with the rest of Ely's punters.

Ely - Barton Road Car Park
Ely - High Street

There's a bit of bustle to the place and the motion for a frothy coffee, somewhere, means a wait in most of the tabled outlets. Not so in the Street Cafe, which is unashamedly old-skool, and has gone down the laminated listing of every conceivable breakfast item combination route.

This was before the current cost of living crisis kicked in and, what with the price of eggs, these days, that's going to make for an awful lot of Tipp-Ex™, eh?

With the cathedral walls providing the backdrop on one side, it's a mixture of the medieval and the not-quite-so in parts.

Ely - Market Street
Ely Markets

Small markets of the street food and traditional varieties make for some mooching but with no great interest in the cathedral's interior nor what's inside of or what went on inside of Ollie Cromwell's house, neither, that looks to be Ely largely done.

Are you sure this is the fifth smallest city? Oh! Hang on! There's suddenly a sign to a river down here, somewhere.

The fleshpots of Fore Hill provide a distraction before the Georgian, it's thought, terraces continue down, which is often a plus when a river is being sought.

Ely - Waterside
Ely - River Great Ouse

Not just any old river, though, the River Great Ouse, of course, although, on today's evidence, that might be an overstatement.

Flowing north through the famous Fens, it's the fifth longest river in the whole of the UK, no less, so that 'Great' claim now has some credibility and there's no longer a need to be nearly so initially sniffy at the name.

For boaty sorts who are not on a narrowboat, there's a marina over the bridge and this would once have been the only way to access the 'Isle of' Ely.

Goods out and in of King's Lynn, largely, but extensive modifications over the centuries helped to drain the plain and it's a more leisurely affair, these days. The fertile flatlands now provide a third of all the vegetables on your plate, they say, that and the barley for the old maltings, probably.

Ely - The Maltings

The building is now an events venue with cinematic and live performances and an attached bar-restaurant that looks to be run as a separate concern.

Recent events have included a stage adaptation of Dickens' Barleyby Rudge, a screening of the Hitchcock classic North by NorthWest Coast IPA and unlikely survival tips given during an evening with Beer Grylls.

Rather than simply tracing your steps back to the centre, exit via a playful area and cross the road to enter Cherry Hill Park for it's in and up here that the feel for a mini-Cambridge really kicks in.

Ely - The Porta
Ely - Church Lane

That's not all down to the cathedral, Ely's King's School and sundry buildings play a helping hand but it's hoped you haven't brought your drone with you? Have you?

Ely Cathedral

Yeah, drones aren't permitted, innit, but if you do have a drone with you then you really need to think about what it was you were thinking when you left the house this morning.

There's still time to gawp at some impressive masonry and to sneak a peek at the cathedral's interior where a drone is needed, really, to fully appreciate the ceiling.

Ely Cathedral - EXT. DAY
Ely Cathedral - INT. DAY

There's honestly not that much interest in these things, honestly, apart from the eye-catching highlights and the fact the oldest parts are 12th century. That's when one can imagine meditative monks in the medieval meadow, maybe, and here's a thought...

Near Ely Cathedral

It's largely untouched but if you relocate the grazing cattle and take a strimmer to that, you could film an It's a Knockout on there. It's bet that Richard Osman is just waiting to bring it back when the likes of Ninja Warrior UK™ fall out of fashion, eh?

What's What
 Oliver Cromwell's House
 Riverside Bar & Kitchen
Where's Where