The Crows nest!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Ely the Christmas lights and ghostly happenings.

Well any good day out start’s with an early rise, this was no different the travel to Ely via Cambridge takes around 2 hours with a change at the University City. For a change Fox has offered me the ability to travel first class, which being a meaner with money I thought no way, but then thought well maybe I see how much it costs?
Actually it was not as expensive as I was thinking double or triple the price but in fact only a quarter of the price if you travel from Sawbridgeworth which is the nearest station to me under 3 miles if you go via the back roads. It’s a beautiful morning waiting for the train to Cambridge the sun is warm thought it feels chilly I was wondering if I should have brought my gortex jacket, but there was little use for it, a little bit of rain around 4pm which only lasted seconds was the only wetness there was.
The train pulls in to the almost deserted Sawbridgeworth station, I quickly locate the first class carriage, via one of the standard carriages, it felt nice to walk out of the standard and into the first, it was deserted like the platform I got on from.
It was so comfortable, it had it’s own WiFi and plug sockets was wishing I brought my power lead for the Iphone for coming back knowing I would be low on power and I would have been able to listen to music as well, I will remember that for the next time I go on a day out. As the train trundles along the stations whiz pass at times the sun is in my face, so most people just try and change seats if they can, but in first class you pull the curtain to block out the sun, neat, I settle back and await my arrival at Cambridge station. It intercom burst’s into voice please remember to take your belongings and thank you for travelling with south central, we are now approaching Cambridge where this train will terminate.
The station is in full hustle and bustle of a station that on a modernization run, there seems to be only two platforms that are being used in fact there is only 3 platforms, so its easy to find the train for Ely I only have a short time to wait, when the train pulls in its first class is not as luxury minded as the London train, the seats a bit tired still comfortable but no WiFi or power points for mobiles or computers.
Lucky it only takes 15 mins from Cambridge to reach Ely, the train slowly pulls into the clean but empty station, its not dilapidated or anything but a no thrills commuter train for the people who possibly commute to Cambridge.
Its car park a similar size to Bishop Stortford, the first thing you notice when you come out of the station, is the Cathedral sitting on top of the hill, over looking the whole area.
Busy lay bys as cars, trucks and buses going about there daily business, the sun is still out but its cold, as I climb towards the cathedral, through a little park, I notice the wind picks up, the autumn leaves fly around in swirls, a happy boisterous terrier jumps and kicks up the leaves on its extended lead, I think of Obi being home with fox, I miss him, fox texts me a few times I stop and respond, giving her a blow by blow account of how it is so far.
To reach the little park you turn into Broad street and about 250m its on your left, this is all the cathedral grounds its massive it has horses grazing lazily, for some reason watching them it reminds me of the pink horse in Devon so many years back, I carry on walking towards what looks like another structure I recall in Devon again the entrance to Berrypomeroy Castle.
It’s an easy place to navigate, and well sign posted all it’s attractions with in a square one third of a mile, when I made the booking for the haunted happenings encounter over the phone a week back, I was asked to make the TI my first port of call, and true to my word, I stopped off there first, as I made my way to Oliver Cromwell’s house which is also the TI I came across something I did not expect… Drunks!
So far, Ely has reminded me of many other places I have visited or stayed near by to the houses reminding me of Lewes in East Sussex, structures reminding me of Devon and the horse of course, but drunks I did not expect, although it’s a city the second smallest in the country, so far what I have seen was people who had money, big cars, big houses and big plots for gardens, veg or orchard.
I have an aversion to drunks, I have never trusted them, most drunks are so easy to fly of the handle if they feel your scrutinizing them in any way, out of there own shame with the predicament they themselves cause.
There is the Russian cannon I wanted to explore but the drunks are near to it, so I walk along the footpath another guy a tourist is taking photos of the massive Iron cannon, the drunks pay no notice, and are in a world of there own, the man apologises for getting into one of my shots.
I smile and reassure him not to worry, and say with him in the shot will show how big the cannon really is, we chat for a few seconds he asks did I know where the TI was, I point down the road from where we are and say its down there, near the red telephone box, his wife walks into my next shot, I just laugh it off and wish them good day. The cannon was captured during the Crimean war, the cannon found its way as a gift from Queen Victoria in 1860, to mark the creation of the Ely rifle volunteers, how nice of her!
It stands in front of the cathedral, in a very prominent position, its unmistakable that a weapon of war would stand in front of a place of reverence of god, but then one just needs to turn it around to the six o’clock position and it would blow the catholic cathedral to bits.
It takes only a minutes walk to reach the house of Cromwell, which sits next to St Mary’s church.
The church yard has a interesting history, of grave robbing, and ghosts have been sighted in the grounds one of a woman looking for her body which was taken by the robbers and sold to Medical students of Cambridge and London during the times when the body was looked upon as property of god.
For some strange reason all the grave stones are neatly lined up against the walls of the church the green carpet of grass, so neat and tidy, some of the head stones are really beautiful looking the best one included here you can’t read what it says but you can get an idea of what it must have looked like when it was first done.
The building looks Tudor, built around the 13th century, the exposed beams inside and out the white washed walls, warm and inviting taking photos from all angles I noticed something that I did not recall before in the picture below, you can see what looks like a hat that during the Tudor/Stewart times might have worn?
The front entrance to the house, two manikins stand still, but give an Idea of what people wore during the time of Cromwell the hat similar to the one I took at the window, during my tour of the house and I had two tours I do not recall seeing any manikin sitting at a window with a hat on, and the only time they did have an effigy of Cromwell, he was hatless and no dummy was sitting at a window.
The staff were helpful and polite, and remember my call from last week, my tickets in a plain white envelope with still to pay on it, I hand over the cash and do my first tour of the house it’s self, it was enlightening but to be truthful there is a little book you can get for £1.99 and it will give you all the same information but then you would not get to walk around the house, there are several rooms the parlour they show a video, from there you go to the kitchen it smells of lavender, a large kitchen with a big open fire, wax moulded food, electric flickering lights to represent candles light, on to the war room its rather cold, recently build umm the 17th century one wall I was sitting near to felt really cold to the touch it was a cupboard of some sort, chances are it had very little insulation.
A short walk into what is known as the Haunted Bedroom, a replica of Cromwell lays in the bed, still, one almost expects to see his chest rise and fall, the guide tells us the story of the ghostly encounter of this room, to cut a long story short, some couple were staying over night when the house was the vicarage of St Mary’s and during the night the woman found herself standing in the corner of the room a force had a grip of her wrists, and a voice said Tis not my way over and over she claimed it was Cromwell having to make a decision when he was presented by a half white goose feather, which was claimed if he the king ever needed help the feather will give him the help of the fens men, and Cromwell was a fens man, but ignored it and still executed Charles the 1st
From one of the back rooms it looks on to the grounds of St Mary’s graveyard and it has been noted that a grave robber has been seen with spade in hand, at the dead of night. He was spotted between the bushes on ether side of the main doors, can you see him?
It’s an incredible place to visit and would recommend it to anyone visiting the sleep little city, and only 15 minutes from Cambridge its well worth the time and travel. On to the imposing Cathedral, the grandeur and splendour of this place, over shadows everything, from the pubs, shops, cafes, and Town Square you cannot miss it, everything of note and worth is there.
From modern continence, toilets, parking and shops it has a fair bit to offer the traveller from piping hot chips to creamy coffee and decent clothing companies like fatface, starbucks, nero’s, and Argos it caters for all and sundry.
I walk around the imposing structure taking pictures from all angles trying to cram as much into each shot as possible but the place is so big that, it proves difficult I had to go to the grounds of the Almonry restaurant and café to get the back of the place in the whole frame, it was here that a peculiar thing happened when I was framing a shot of a cross in the gardens that I saw something like a black figure dart across from the corner of my eye, I looked at the shot I just took and nothing was on it see the picture below.
Inside the Cathedral the high vaulted ceiling, stretches off into the distance, the large 20foot doors that only open for special occasions, entrance is via a small door cut into one of the bigger ones.
Along the main channel of the Cathedral is adored by fresco’s and paint, rather imposing in the far end of the holy place voices echo in song and prayer, I see no singers
To enter this part of the cathedral will cost you £6, no concessions, a trip to the main tower will cost you £8 no concessions and a visit to the Stained glass museum will cost you £4 no concessions, not nice if your unemployed or low waged is it? Or you can have the whole tour for a modest sum of £16 no concessions.
I know that places as big as Ely Cathedral cost a lot of money to up keep, but being its Catholic one of the richest organizations in the world, you think they would do concessions for the under privileged, and there is no poorer than me since I, well we have decided to tell the government to stick its dole and sickness benefit up its fucking arse.
I made the mistake of paying for the entrance fee into the main church and the stained glass, I think I would have rather given the money to a tramp, it was wasted and I told them so as I was leaving, I only wanted to see the stained glass anyway, ooh yeah they do not like you taking photographs, one poor sod was made to delete all the pictures he took, I was a bit more discreet and took some as I walked around, other than a few well placed tombs and writing and interesting stained glass, it was never worth the entrance fee.
I visited the café and the soup was scorching hot, it burnt my tongue the bread was lovely a French blend of white crusty baguette. I walk around the small city a few times each time the square is getting busy as each passing hour, to pass the time I visit a fair few café and one pub for second lunch chips, beans and garlic bread and a mug of tea, my first since leaving the house in Sheering several hours ago.
It is fairly easy to spend more than you intended like for instance the average cup or mug of coffee in any high street café will set you back at least £3 a time depending on the type of coffee you drink, for me it has to be a latté with lots of sugar, ok I’m diabetic but the though of drinking coffee with out makes me want to be sick and I tend to sip it unlike tea I will just wolf down, its quite easy to spend over £20 just on coffee for the day.
And as the day progressed it was steadily getting colder and colder, due to the fact that everything of interest was up hill, and I also forgot my Tramadol painkillers which is never good, I ended up having to get some other painkiller, it worked but only just getting up after having a coffee was painful.
I walked around taking photos of the Market square, more and more stalls are filling up, the stage area, from where the Overtones are going to sing from has its first dedicated fan’s arriving young old alike staking there pitch, for the best view in the square.
4pm has just come and gone I been sitting inside the cathedral entrance, for sometime not wanting to spend even more money in the coffee shops, Idly I watch people as they come and go thought the great oak doors, lots of local school kids start to walk by with there tutors or is it masters?
I sit and wait for the next 30 minutes fiddling with my iPhone looking at FB twitter, anything to pass the time, I feel a lull in my attention, I am starting to feel cold, I got the sniffles, I could walk back into the Cathedral, and sit by the massive heaters and they themselves look like works of art, and just spend my time waiting there till it was time to go to Cromwell’s house.
From the Cathedral its only a shore walk to Cromwell’s house, right across the green by the Russian Cannon, and right next to St Mary’s church it stands proud facing the main road its 20 to 5 and already there is an assortment of people waiting inside the North Range which faces St Mary’s road and is also the TI centre, I walk in and almost Immediately I’m offered mulled wine, I decline and instead take the fresh Orange juice and a hand full of peanuts as I wait for the tour to start.
A woman old and white haired gathers the party and bacons us to follow her into the parlour, we take seats thinking I hope they don’t start the video again, I will be miffed but the video does not crack into life, and she tells us of a little 5 year old girl who saw a ghost here in 2010, she said she saw a little girl the same age as her, the ghost asked her did she like her pink bonnet? The little girl replied yes the ghost told her other things and when she reached the haunted room she be came hysterical and left, the mother phoned the TI the next day to tell them why the little girl acted so strangely.
In the darkness we follow her into the kitchen, here she tells us that a woman in Blue has been sited at the open fireplace lost in her cooking this is believed to be Mrs Cromwell, who had 9 hungry mouths to feed including Mr Cromwell, its also been said that a window that looks on to the church yard of St Mary’s harbours a few ghosts one of a woman looking for her body and the ghost of one of the gravediggers still plying his traded in corpses We go upstairs to Mrs Cromwell’s room children’s laughter has been heard in this room they think that this may have been the nursery in days gone by. From there you come to the Civil war room its adored with the weapons that were used and a full size portrait of Cromwell in his horse uniform, rather dashing, the ghost associated with this is from across the road where the chemist is or above it there is flats a woman has been seen looking across to Cromwell’s house, maybe a secret lover of Mr Cromwell?
From there we find ourselves in the Study, a large cosy room a model of Cromwell sits at a table, though he never actually did this it was a bedroom but to make it more inviting they changed it! Stupid if you ask me, but anyway this room has been said to be extremely cold, and in fact it was bloody cold the seat where I was sitting the wall next to it was so cold to the touch, and was part of a cupboard, and the void could easily make this cold if there is little insulation.
One of the party asks the guide does she believe in ghosts, she says no, for some reason it deflates me, I did not want to hear that I mean why do a tour if you don’t actually believe in what you do, what it does is negate everything she says, she hurriedly tries to change it knowing the mistake she made by trying to say well I have never seen one, but I believe that some people are sensitive.
How to close the mouth of a believer in one easy lesson, I don’t mind people how don’t believe but if your doing a ghostly walk and tour, recounting tales from people who were kind enough to donate them the last person you want recounting your story is someone who don’t believe in what they are saying it takes a passion, and that passion shows each and every time.
I was wondering why I was being silent from the start I usually like to ask questions that get people thinking ooh yeah did not think to ask that, but instead I was silent the first time ever. From there we approach the haunted bedroom, the guide recounts a story quite famous, of a couple staying the night and someone or some thing grabs her. I have recounted the story early on in the blog so scroll back lol.
From the Haunted bedroom we go back down stairs to the Tithe office where Cromwell did all his work for the Cathedral money was not exchanged for the rents from tenants but wheat oats hay animals etc, it was said that a woman who was with a choir group singing in the cathedral had some time off and went on one of the tours say a man in a red cowl at one end of the room by using her side vision when she looked directly at him he disappeared, and again she saw him using the periphery vision at the other end of the room, this was the first time any thing was seen in this room. From this room you head back into the North Range and the end of the tour.
I enjoyed the tour, very much the story telling was ok, but lacked passion and belief, you could not take any photos of the house inside, this always gets me, next time it be a spy camera I take with me and film the whole house, I do intend to go to one of the local ghost walks around the city and might look out for the ghost happenings again. So many questions I wanted to ask but felt flattened. On my last part of the Ely house of Cromwell, I think I took a photo of something a bit strange if you look at the window above where you see the lights on the Tudor side you can clearly see someone a man possibly sitting with a hat on, like on the shop front dummy in one of the early photos. What do you think? In fact I got a response from the TI and its a exhibit of some minister with a big hat on lol, I thought it was standing not sitting but there ya go.
As I left Cromwell’s house and made my way to the Market square I fired of some more shot’s of St Mary’s after hearing of the grave robbers, nothing came of it, and quickly made my way to the centre of the city, it was packed the video of the whole affair was quite poor, due to my size being a small 5ft’5 tall I was never going to see much but the next time I attend something like this I will get my self a mono pod so I can raise the video camera over the crowd, but it was fun the atmosphere was good.
The Lord Mayor came on stage and said a few words and the count down began 10-0-9-7 and the place light up felt nice to hear merriment and cheering, I navigated my way back to the station and ready myself in the first class carriages back home.
I have a few gripes over the day, partly due to my not taking my medication with me, and having to use inferior brands of painkiller, and the none believer taking a ghost tour of the delightful old house, I would fully recommend you at least once in your life if you find yourself in the Cambridge area, spend a extra 15 minutes on a train and visit this lovely place, there are decent pubs, attractions and lots of places to eat, and of course the ghosts, they are there, you just have to find them like me and maybe your luck will be in. xxxxx