The A14 is a car-park. We know this since we can see from afar a tailback of static traffic, thankfully before we join the constipated throng. Frustratingly, satnav is having none of it and no matter which avoidance tactic we try, it resolutely wants us to join that jam and delay our journey home by Lordaloneknows how long. Out comes the map-book and despite no obvious alternative, we plot a route which ultimately adds about ninety minutes to our overall journey time, but – what the hell – at least we keep moving, which always feels better.
We’ve decamped from Burnham Breck, bang on the 11:30 curfew at which point the site closes until next year, but not before we pay a valedictory visit to Burnham Market. Here, we find the village fully-functioning after its apparent confusion with the Bank Holiday weekend. We observe that even the bookshop, which we’d been keen to visit from the outset but had been apparently closed (resolutely refusing to display opening times for the benefit of potential customers) so we voted with our feet and passed by on the other side of the road.
In doing so, our last-ditch lobster hunt was also delightfully fulfilled in Gurney’s fishmongers, where freshly cooked (but sadly single-clawed lobsters) gleamed coral-red from the iced display. Snapping one up (geddit?) and then acquiring holiday-bad breakfast goods from the next-door bakery, we returned to the Knumptywagen, racked the bikes and found to our delight, as we put it into the fridge, that our bargain one-clawed lobster actually sported a full set.
Ely was very pretty and a river ran through it. The imposing and impressive-looking Cathedral – the ship of the Fens – is a delightful amalgam of church architecture through the ages, as the CNO (‘O’ level in ‘Art With Architecture’, she’ll have you know) was keen to point out. It appears to owe its most lauded feature – the soaring 52m-high octagonal lantern above the main altar – to the fact that this had to be installed after the previous tower collapsed (an indication that cowboy builders were also rife prior to A.D. 1322, or perhaps instead a sublimely ironic act of God?).
Having paid out £8.00 per-head entry fee, we wandered as diligently as we could, craning our necks upwards, downwards, sideways and forwards to marvel at both the power of religion to cause such edifices to be raised to the glory of God – and to the astonishing capabilities of stone-masons throughout history. We lit candles at every opportunity – not from any long-abandoned religious observance but more to feel we were getting our money’s worth. Exit without passing through the gift-shop and there we were, back on Ely’s pretty, bustling streets.
Onwards to our next port-of-call at Offord d’Arcy to impose (again) upon a long-lost cousin and family, where – in the delightful surroundings of this Domesday Book village – we’re assailed by a psychotic, thankfully-muzzled sausage-dog who erratically and without warning attempts to taste our ankles and calves throughout our visit. Made welcome and immediately anaesthetised through capricious and dedicated applications of wine, we enjoyed a thoroughly sociable evening in the company of family with whom we’ve remained distant for far too long.
The following morning, we head off towards the aforementioned A14, aiming this time for a friend’s art exhibition, close to home and hosted in an isolated, beautifully restored, 18th century Orangery at Ingestre. Dressed with an astounding display of collaged birds of the air, suspended in flocked flight from the ceiling, we enjoyed a show-round in the company of the artist and designer, @kateslater, purchased one of her published, illustrated childrens’ books and headed for home.
As a final delight of the trip, we find that our small flock of self-sustaining hens, three of which are newly-acquired, have laid blue-shelled eggs and there’s even a few left for tomorrow’s breakfast. All in all, not a bad trip.