Brie: On Saturday, we all went to Ely and Wicken Fen with all the Dickinson kids. When Marianh and I first hopped on the bus, we knew it was going to be a great day – seats right behind Crouch and Becky! They’re just too darn cute. And the Dickinson Humanities professor, Prof. Qualls, brought his whole family with him, including a precious little 3 year old girl.
When we first arrived in Ely, we visited the Oliver Cromwell house. Apparently before he got involved in the Civil War and named himself Lord Protector, he was a tithe-collector for Ely Cathedral. The house was decorated in the style of the times, and we picked up some old school recipes for a tussie-mussie (fragrant herb bouquet) and eel pie (not trying that one). Fun fact: they used to eels as currency in the city. I think we both enjoyed watching the little kids running around in 17th c. attire more than the tour of the house.
From there, we headed to the famous Ely Cathedral and were stunned by the gorgeous Victorian woodwork. The cathedral was beautiful, as always, and it made us reflect on all of the wonderful houses of worship we’ve visited. We agreed that the chapel at Kings College from last weekend in Cambridge had to be one of the tops. Needless to say, we’ve always been impressed. Our friend, Mike, said it best, “you would never be able to find anything like this in America. They’re just so good with their stonework!” Deep truths.
As we left the Cathedral, we headed towards the place we (mostly me) had been looking forward to all week. The APPLE FESTIVAL, guys! Is there really anything more autumnal? (Besides Dollywood’s Gospel & Harvest Celebration…) We bought some delicious gingerbread muffins, tasted some outstanding sheep’s cheese, tested the children’s apple hats, and listened to the official Ely Renaissance Band. It was a little chilly and rainy, but we warmed our bones with a Pork & Apple Burger (Marianh) and traditional Hog Roast sandwich with stuffing and apple sauce. As if that weren’t enough, we downed some piping hot cider while cheering for the kids’ Spoon ‘n’ Apple race. The best part of the Ely Festival was that EVERYONE looked so darn British. There was so much tweed, and hunting caps going on. So precious.
We were sad to leave Ely, but we hopped onto the bus towards Wicken Fen. The fens used to be marshland surrounding Ely that was rich in peat (and eels). Peat was a very richly mineralized soil that was used as fuel and structure for homes as well as a hearty fertilizer. Unfortunately, the land was dried to increase the area for farming, and much of the region’s natural habitat was compromised. In the late 1800s, Wicken Fen was purchased as one of the earliest nature reserves in England. Now, the park is almost back to its original richness, and is host to more than 29 species of mammal, 200 species of bird, 1000 species of butterfly and moth, and almost 2000 species of fly. It’s a huge example of biodiversity, and it’s said that even Darwin collected beetles on Wicken Fen.
On the bus back, we were both tuckered out, but we made plans to eat dinner out in Norwich. And boy, are we glad we did. Our friend Molly joined us for some Mediterranean mezes downtown. I threw down a solid 20 pounds, but enjoyed a goat cheese and roasted vegetables salad on top of our shared meatballs, beans and sausages, Spanish omelettes, mushrooms, potatoes and more. For dessert, we tried the semolina cake, and splurged on a latte and mocha. We left stuffed and happy, ready to take on the work for a new week.