Friday, May 19, 2017

Isle of Ales

This week's pub trip was notable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it featured the first visit to the fair county of Cambridgeshire and secondly, it once again saw me travel to one of my former stomping grounds as I travelled to the city of Ely, where I resided for a year around 6 years ago. This was back in the dark days before I discovered real beer and so I must confess that I had not fully explored its pubs in the past. It was high time that this particular oversight was rectified.

Ely is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, 14 miles (23 km) north-northeast of Cambridge and about 80 miles (129 km) by road from London. Æthelthryth (also known as Etheldreda) founded an abbey at Ely in 673; the abbey was destroyed in 870 by Danish invaders and was rebuilt by Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester, in 970. Construction of the cathedral was started in 1083 by a Norman abbot, Simeon. Alan of Walsingham's octagon, built over Ely's nave crossing between 1322 and 1328, is the "greatest individual achievement of architectural genius at Ely Cathedral", according to architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner. Building continued until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 during the Reformation. The cathedral was sympathetically restored between 1845 and 1870 by the architect George Gilbert Scott. As the seat of a diocese, Ely has long been considered a city; in 1974, city status was granted by royal charter.
Ely is built on a 23-square-mile (60 km2) Kimmeridge Clay island which, at 85 feet (26 m), is the highest land in the fens. Major rivers including the Witham, Welland, Nene and Great Ouse feed into the fens and, until draining commenced in the 17th century, formed freshwater marshes and meres within which peat was laid down. There are two Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the city: a former Kimmeridge Clay quarry, and one of the United Kingdom's best remaining examples of medieval ridge and furrow agriculture.
The economy of the region is mainly agricultural. Before the fens were drained, the harvesting of osier (willow) and sedge (rush) and the extraction of peat were important activities, as were eel fishing—from which the settlement's name may have been derived—and wild fowling. The city had been the centre of local pottery production for more than 700 years, including pottery known as Babylon ware. A Roman road, Akeman Street, passes through the city; the southern end is at Ermine Street near Wimpole and its northern end is at Brancaster. Little direct evidence of Roman occupation in Ely exists, although there are nearby Roman settlements such as those at Little Thetford and Stretham. A coach route, known to have existed in 1753 between Ely and Cambridge, was improved in 1769 as a turnpike (toll road). The present day A10 closely follows this route; a southwestern bypass of the city was built in 1986. Ely railway station built in 1845 is on the Fen Line and is now a railway hub, with lines north to King's Lynn, northwest to Peterborough, east to Norwich, southeast to Ipswich and south to Cambridge and London.
The King's School is a coeducational boarding school which was granted a royal charter in 1541 by Henry VIII; the school claims to have existed since 970. Henry I granted the first annual Fair, Saint Audrey's (or Etheldreda's) seven-day event, to the abbot and convent on 10 October 1189; the word "tawdry" originates from cheap lace sold at this fair. Present day annual events include the Eel Festival in May, established in 2004, and a fireworks display in Ely Park, first staged in 1974. The city of Ely has been twinned with Denmark's oldest town, Ribe, since 1956. Ely City Football Club was formed in 1885.

Roswell Pits are a palaeontologically significant Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) one mile (1.6 km) northeast of the city. The Jurassic Kimmeridge Clays were quarried in the 19th and 20th centuries for the production of pottery and for maintenance of river embankments. Many specimens of ammonites, belemnites and bivalves were found during quarrying, in addition to an almost complete specimen of a pliosaur.
There is some scattered evidence of Late Mesolithic to Bronze Age activity in Ely such as Neolithic flint tools, a Bronze Age axe and spearhead. There is slightly denser Iron Age and Roman activity with some evidence of at least seasonal occupation. For example, a possible farmstead, of the late Iron Age to early Roman period, was discovered at West Fen Road and some Roman pottery was found close to the east end of the cathedral on The Paddock. There was a Roman settlement, including a tile kiln built over an earlier Iron Age settlement, in Little Thetford, three miles (5 km) to the south.

The origin and meaning of Ely's name have always been regarded as obscure by place-name scholars, and are still disputed. The earliest record of the name is in the Latin text of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, where Bede wrote Elge. This is apparently not a Latin name, and subsequent Latin texts nearly all used the forms Elia, Eli, or Heli with inorganic H-. In Old English charters, and in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the spelling is usually Elig.
Skeat derived the name Ely from what he called "O[ld] Northumbrian" ēlġē, meaning "district of eels". This uses a hypothetical word *ġē, which is not recorded in isolation but thought by some to be related to the modern German word Gau, meaning "district". The theory is that the name then developed a vowel to become ēliġē, and was afterwards re-interpreted to mean "eel island". This essentially is the explanation accepted by Reaney Ekwall, Mills and Watts.
But difficulties remain. Bailey, in his discussion of ġē names, has pointed out that Ely would be anomalous if really from ēlġē "eel district", being remote from the areas where possible examples of ġē names occur, and moreover, there is no parallel for the use of a fish-name in compounds with ġē. More seriously, the usual English spelling remains Elig, even in the dative case used after many prepositions, where Elige would be expected if the second element were īġ "island". This is in
conflict with all the other island names which surround Ely.

The city's origins lay in the foundation of an abbey in 673, one mile (1.6 km) to the north of the village of Cratendune on the Isle of Ely, under the protection of Saint Etheldreda, daughter of King Anna. This first abbey was destroyed in 870 by Danish invaders and rededicated to Etheldreda in 970 by Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester. The abbots of Ely then accumulated such wealth in the region that in the Domesday survey (1086) it was the "second richest monastery in England". The first Norman bishop, Simeon, started building the cathedral in 1083. The octagon was rebuilt by sacrist Alan of Walsingham between 1322 and 1328 after the collapse of the original nave crossing on 22 February 1322. Ely's octagon is considered "one of the wonders of the medieval world". Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner believes the octagon "is a delight from beginning to end for anyone who feels for space as strongly as for construction" and is the "greatest individual achievement of architectural genius at Ely Cathedral".
Cherry Hill is the site of Ely Castle which is of Norman construction and is a United Kingdom scheduled monument. Of similar construction to Cambridge Castle, the 250-foot (76 m) diameter, 40 feet (12 m) high citadel-type motte and bailey is thought to be a royal defence built by William the Conqueror following submission of the Isle from rebels such as the Earl Morcar and the folk-hero Hereward the Wake. This would date the first building of the castle to c. 1070.
Following the accession of Mary I to the throne in 1553, the papacy made its first effective efforts to enforce the Pope Paul III-initiated Catholic reforms in England. During this time, which became known as the Marian Persecutions, two men from Wisbech, constable William Wolsey and painter Robert Pygot, "were accused of not … believing that the body and blood of Christ were present in the bread and wine of the sacrament of mass". For this Christian heresy they were condemned by the bishop's chancellor, John Fuller, on the 9 October 1555. On 16 October 1555 they were burnt at the stake "probably on the Palace Green in front of Ely Cathedral". In The Book of Ely published in 1990, Blakeman writes that "permission was not given" for a memorial to the martyrs to be placed on Palace Green. In 2011, a plaque recording this martyrdom event was erected on the northeast corner of Palace Green by the City of Ely Perspective.
Oliver Cromwell lived in Ely from 1636 to 1646 after inheriting a sixteenth-century property—now known as Oliver Cromwell's House—and the position of local tax collector from his mother's brother, Sir Thomas Steward. Cromwell was one of the governors of Thomas Parsons' Charity, which dates back to 1445 and was granted a Royal Charter by Charles I of England. The Charity still provides grants and housing to deserving local applicants.

There was a form of early workhouse in 1687, perhaps at St Mary's, which may have been part of an arrangement made between the Ely people and a Nicholas Wythers of Norwich in 1675. He was paid £30 per annum to employ the poor to "spin jersey" and was to pay them in money not goods. A purpose-built workhouse was erected in 1725 for 35 inmates on what is now St Mary's Court. Four other workhouses existed, including Holy Trinity on Fore Hill for 80 inmates (1738–1956) and the Ely Union workhouse, built in 1837, which housed up to 300 inmates. The latter became Tower Hospital in 1948 and is now a residential building, Tower Court. Two other former workhouses were the Haven Quayside for unmarried mothers and another on the site of what is now the Hereward Hall in Silver Street.
The diaries of writers and journalists such as William Camden, Celia Fiennes, Daniel Defoe, John Byng and William Cobbett illustrate the decline of Ely after the 14th century plague and the 16th century reformation which led to the dissolution of the monastery in 1539. In the 1607 edition of Britannia, chorographic surveyor William Camden records that "as for Ely it selfe, it is no small Citie, or greatly to be counted off either for beauty or frequency and resort, as having an unwholsome aire by reason of the fens round about". In 1698, Celia Fiennes was writing "the Bishop [Simon Patrick] does not Care to stay long in this place not being for his health … they have lost their Charter … and its a shame [the Bishop] does not see it better ordered and ye buildings and streetes put in a better Condition. They are a slothful people and for little but ye takeing Care of their Grounds and Cattle wch is of vast advantage". Daniel Defoe, when writing in the Eastern Counties section of A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain (1722), went "to Ely, whose cathedral, standing in a level flat country, is seen far and wide … that some of it is so antient, totters so much with every gust of wind, looks so like a decay, and seems so near it, that when ever it does fall, all that 'tis likely will be thought strange in it, will be, that it did not fall a hundred years sooner". On his way to a Midlands tour, John Byng visited Ely on 5 July 1790 staying at the Lamb Inn. In his diary he writes that "the town [Ely] is mean, to the extreme … those withdrawn, their dependancies must decay". Recording in his Rural Rides on 25 March 1830, William Cobbett reports that "Ely is what one may call a miserable little town: very prettily situated, but poor and mean. Everything seems to be on the decline, as, indeed, is the case everywhere, where the clergy are the masters".
The Ely and Littleport riots occurred between 22 and 24 May 1816. At the Special Commission assizes, held at Ely between 17 and 22 June 1816, twenty-four rioters were condemned. Nineteen had their sentences variously commuted from penal transportation for life to twelve-months imprisonment; the remaining five were executed on 28 June 1816.

Ely Cathedral was "the first great cathedral to be thoroughly restored". Work commenced in 1845 and was completed nearly thirty years later; most of the work was "sympathetically" carried out by the architect George Gilbert Scott. The only pavement labyrinth to be found in an English cathedral was installed below the west tower in 1870.
For over 800 years the cathedral and its associated buildings—built on an elevation 68 feet (21 m) above the nearby fens—have visually influenced the city and its surrounding area. Geographer John Jones, writing in 1924, reports that "from the roof of King's Chapel in Cambridge, on a clear day, Ely [cathedral] can be seen on the horizon, 16 miles (26 km) distant, an expression of the flatness of the fens". In 1954, architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner wrote "as one approaches Ely on foot or on a bicycle, or perhaps in an open car, the cathedral dominates the picture for miles around … and offers from everywhere an outline different from that of any other English cathedral". Local historian Pamela Blakeman reports a claim that "Grouped around [the cathedral] … is the largest collection of mediaeval buildings still in daily use in this country".
As the seat of a diocese, Ely has long been considered a city: the caption to John Speed's 1610 plan of Ely reads "Although this Citie of Ely", and Aikin refers to Ely as a city in 1800. Ely, however, was not formally granted city status until 1 April 1974 by Queen Elizabeth II by letters patent. Ely's population of 20,256 (as recorded in 2011) classifies it as one of the smallest cities in England; although the population has increased noticeably since 1991 when it was recorded at 11,291.
Henry III of England granted a market to the Bishop of Ely using letters close on 9 April 1224 although Ely had been a trading centre prior to this. Present weekly market days are Thursday and Saturday and seasonal markets are held monthly on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from Easter to November. The city is situated on the River Great Ouse, which was a significant means of transport until the fens were drained and Ely ceased to be an island in the eighteenth century. The river is now a popular boating spot, and has a large marina.

The low-lying fens surrounding the island of Ely were formed, prior to the 17th century, by alternate fresh-water and sea-water incursions. Major rivers in the region, including the Witham, Welland, Nene and Great Ouse, drain an area of some 6,000 square miles (16,000 km2)—five times larger than the fens—into the basin that forms the fens. Defoe in 1774 described the fens as "the sink of no less than thirteen Counties". On 23 November of that year, Church of England cleric and Christian theologician John Wesley, wrote of his approach to Ely after visiting Norwich: "about eight, Wednesday, 23, Mr. Dancer met me with a chaise [carriage] and carried me to Ely. Oh, what want of common sense! Water covered the high road for a mile and a half. I asked, 'How must foot-people come to the town?' 'Why, they must wade through!'" Peat formed in the fresh-water swamps and meres whilst silts were deposited by the slow-moving sea-water. Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford, supported by Parliament, financed the draining of the fens during the 17th century, led by the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden; the fens continue to be drained to this day.

On what was a warm, but thoroughly unsettled, Wednesday afternoon I stepped off the train at Ely Station and my reacquaintance with this picturesque and hugely historical location began in earnest. With no time to waste, I headed to the first destination, a short walk from the station on the bank of the nearby river. My first stop was The Cutter Inn.

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Situated next to the River Great Ouse, the pub overlooks a marina and boathouses. Its name comes from the cutting or diversion that brought the river closer to Ely. The outside area includes a narrow terrace with a handful of tables. Internally, there is a lounge bar to one side and a smart dining area to the other with a separate restaurant adjoining. The bar sits in the lounge area facing out towards the river and features 4 handpulls offering a choice between Theakston Hog's Head Bitter, Woodforde's Wherry, Doom Bar and Adnam's Ghost Ship. I decided to begin my day with the Ghost Ship, which proved to be an excellent choice as it was exactly as it should be and very refreshing after a train journey. I took a seat on a bench just inside the door to the bar, opposite a TV that occupies one corner wall. This was a suitably picturesque spot to begin the day's adventures and I can vouch for the quality of the view when the weather is less inclement. The weather plays its part in a strange story associated with the nearby river. On misty evenings, it is said that a group of spectral monks are seeing steering a barge down the river carrying the open coffin of a woman, whilst singing hymns. This is believed to be linked to the story of Saint Withburga, whose body was taken from her grave at East Dereham by monks acting on orders of the Abbot of Ely. Ely has a certain ghostly reputation, as will become clear later.

Back in the land of the living, it was time to venture and there was a short walk involved to get me to my next destination. Leaving the riverside, I ventured towards the city centre, eventually reaching Fore Hill, one of the roads that leads up towards the market place and cathedral. About halfway up this road on the left was my next destination: the Royal Standard.
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Recently refurbished and now operated by Greene King, this is a large traditional pub with a split level dining area to the front and further seating throughout. Many of the traditional features have been kept, adding to an olde worlde ambience. The bar is accessed through a short corridor that comes out into the central drinking area and takes up a significant portion of one wall. The 4 handpulls on the bar offer a choice between Greene King IPA, Timothy Landlord, Isle of Ely Bitter and Oakham JHB. On this occasion, I decided on the Landlord and this was well kept with the familiar flavour and finish that has made it so popular, Being back in Ely, I was intrigued to see how the pubs had changed. Whereas The Cutter was relatively unchanged, the Royal Standard was significantly different to how I remembered it. My previous visits here had been to a pub that featured live sport and exposed timber beams, a thoroughly different interior to the pub I now sat in. The change appears to have benefited the pub though with a comfortable and pleasant feel to the building and the beer is good as well!

To reach my next location, I continued up Fore Hill and then turned right, crossing the market place, before walking through a small shopping precinct and crossing a car park behind a Waitrose. The next pub was accessed through a small alleyway where it sat on the other side of Newnham Street between a car park and a leisure centre. I had now arrived at The High Flyer.

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The pub is named after a famous, undefeated thoroughbred racehorse from the 18th century which built a small fortune for its owners. It is alleged that the horse's spirit lingers on nearby as the sounds of thundering phantom hoofbeats have been heard in the vicinity on multiple occasions. The original pub has been extended to form a bar area, a large restaurant area and a separate function room for larger parties or private bookings. Memorabilia and breweriana, much of it dog themed, decorate the various areas and hotel accommodation is also available. This is another pub that has changed much since I was last here and the interior is quirky and comfortable with low seating opposite the J shaped bar and the restaurant to the rear. Operated by Inn Britain, a small local chain, the bar holds 3 handpulls which, at the time of my visit, provided Well's Eagle IPA, Bombardier Burning Gold and Courage Director's. The Burning Gold was my choice and it was delicious, smooth and fruity. It went down very well indeed.

The next few pubs benefited from being in close proximity to each other, in a smallish area in and around the city centre. The first of these is located in the main high street and goes by the name of The Hereward,
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Formerly part of the Smith & Jones estate, this large sport-friendly pub is now operated by Stonegate. TV screens are on every wall, showing Sky Sports News whilst I'm there and the bar is large and runs almost the full length of one wall. There is a small seating area outside to the front and lots of seating throughout with some on a split level divided into booths. The beer choice comes from 6 handpulls proferring a variety of different things, in this case Fuller's London Pride, Wychwood Hobgoblin, St. Austell Tribute, Ghost Ship, Courage Best Bitter and Marston's 31 Deep. I'm always a big fan of Hobgoblin and so it didn't take me long to make my decision. The beer, when it arrived was as good as I've had with its malty bitterness and almost treacly undertones well represented. The weather had significantly worsened by this time and the rain was starting to really come down. Thankfully, my next stop wasn't far away.

Located directly opposite The Hereward, I now headed to the Townhouse.

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This Grade II listed Georgian townhouse was converted to the Townhouse Pub by landlord Vince and Debbie in 1996. It is now a popular modern pub with a spacious conservatory, an enclosed garden and a separate pool and darts room just inside the entrance. There are 5 handpulls and the pub proudly displays its Cask Marque accreditation. The choice of beers here is known to vary often and on my visit I am faced with a decision between Wantsum 1381, Newby Wyke Summer Session Ale, Newby Wyke Kingston Topaz, Wantsum Dynamo and Abbot Ale. Wantsum isn't a brewery that I see much of in Nottingham so I decided on the Dynamo (4.3%). This is a crisp, light, golden ale, fruity and floral with an orange citrus twist. It's certainly a very heady and fruity concoction and I consumed in the light and airy conservatory, watching the rain come down. This is a very nice beer and a very popular and well run pub. If you're ever in the area, you can do a lot worse than to pop in!

I was hitting my stride now and thoroughly enjoying being back in Ely for a few hours. I continued my wanderings, heading just around the corner to where my next stop occupies a significant portion of space on Lynn Road. I was now at The Lamb.
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Run by Greene King as part of their Olde English Inns brand, The Lamb stands 150 yards from Ely Cathedral. An inn has existed on the site since 1416 but the current hotel was built in 1828 as a popular stopping point for those travelling between London and East Anglia. The main entrance leads to a corridor that divides the drinking and dining area for visitors from the hotel proper. A small bar sits opposite this corridor and holds 2 handpulls. This is where I sit my first snag of the day as neither handpull was in use as both of the house beers had gone. A friendly barmaid offered me alternatives in the shape of a kegged version of Ruddles and bottles of Abbot Ale. I went for a bottle of Abbot in the end as this seemed the best option and meant I could still enjoy my surroundings at a table in the dining area. The walls in this area are decorated with photos of old Ely, adding to the age of the site.

Despite my slight disappointment at the lack of draught ale, I got the sense that this not a regular occasion as the beers were in the process of being replaced as I was leaving. I now headed over the road to a place that had been a particular favourite of mine when I lived here. In the shadow of the magnificent cathedral sits the Minster Tavern.
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The building that is now the Minster Tavern is believed to have been standing since the 10th century when it was originally used by monks from the cathedral. It is now operated by Stonegate and has a quaint and homely feel to it. There is a plaque on a wall nearby in memory of 2 martyrs who were burned to death on the cathedral green in the reign of Mary I. The bar is J shaped and sits to the left of the room. 5 handpulls are present, 3 of which are in use at the time of my visit, with the options of Jennings Cumberland, Ghost Ship and Hobgoblin. Having had 2 of the 3 throughout the day so far, I went for the Cumberland, which was pleasant and well kept. I sat on a long table just inside the door, with my back to the mullioned windows and admired a nearby mural that talks about the ghosts that haunt the property. One of them is believed to be a monk who is heard banging around on the upper floor most nights of the week and is known for the disappearance of pints of bitter from the cellar at 4am. There is also a strange story regarding the outline of human figure that appears on the wall in one part of the cellar. No matter how often this is painted over, it always eventually reappears. Strange things are afoot here indeed!

I found it hard to leave the Minster as it is a place that I always enjoyed visiting. Needs must though and I mustered the strength to tear myself away and push on. I retraced my steps and turned left in front of the Lamb onto St. Mary's Street. My next location was on the right at The King's Arms.
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This popular live music venue has 2 bar areas served by a central bar with separate doorways leading to both. There is a large TV in one area and seating is in the form of low tables scattered around both sides. The bar hosts 4 handpulls, 3 of which were in use on the day, with a choice of Doom Bar, Sharp's Atlantic and Milton Medusa. The latter of these was my choice as it was a beer with which I was unfamiliar. This special edition beer is a strong mild with an ABV of 4.6%. Cocoa, vanilla and fruitcake aromas are backed by a satisfying yet subtle bitterness. I'm not normally one for milds but this was certainly very drinkable and almost did enough to detract from the fact that Donald Trump was on TV.

I finished my beer and left before politics made me angry, wisely deciding to head to the next pub which required a short walk and a left turn into Silver Street. Located approximately halfway down this road is the first of 2 Good Beer Guide listed pubs on this trip, namely the Prince Albert.
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This is a small, yet perfectly formed pub located near to the Cathedral car park. It was formerly the Officers' Mess for the local militia and has recently been refurbished to create a separate restaurant area for fine dining. There is no music and no games machines, providing a relaxing atmosphere with emphasis on old fashioned chit-chat. There is a walled garden to the rear. The small bar sits opposite the entrance and features an impressive 10 handpulls, 9 of which are in use during my visit. The choice of beers is interesting, with Abbot Ale, Greene King IPA, Greene King XX Mild, Castle Rock Harvest Pale, Black Sheep Best Bitter, Milton Sparta, Three Blind Mice Milk Worm, Robinson's Trooper and Old Rosie cider. With the last Milton beer going down so well, I chose the Sparta this time. At 4.3% this is a yellow/gold best bitter with floral hops, kiwi fruit and balancing malt softness which fades to leave a long, dry finish. The feel of this place reflects its prior use and it's easy to picture militia officers gathering here for their meals. This connection is extended by a connection to an alleged haunting that takes place on the street outside. On warm, sunny afternoons, the figure of a man in military uniform, resplendent with medals, has been seen walking silently towards the Cathedral car park, whereupon he disappears. Who this man is subject to debate but the story is an interesting one.

Continuing down Silver Street leads to the penultimate destination of the day's activities, which is opposite the Porta Gate of the Cathedral grounds. My travels had now brought me to The Fountain.
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This attractive street-corner pub occupies a Grade II listed building opposite the monastic gatehouse. The interior is brimming with character, featuring an eclectic mix of furnishings, local historical photographs and paintings. The large and welcoming fireplace houses a log fire in winter. The large bar has 2 banks of handpulls, 8 in total with 6 in use during my trip. These are doubled up on Ghost Ship, Adnams Southwold Bitter and Landlord. It seemed a good idea at this stage to return to Ghost Ship and I enjoyed this at the bar whilst eavesdropping on the most middle class conversation ever as a girl explained how returning to the UK from LA was like being in a 3rd world country and the 'inhumanity' of learning to drive in a Lexus 4x4.

Returning to the real world, I had one destination left, delayed until last because of its opening times, and it was one that I was very much looking forward. Returning to Fore Hill, I located the building I was seeking, opposite the Royal Standard. My day would close at the Drayman's Son.
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Formerly known as the Liberty Belle, this is a small and very welcoming micropub situated in former shop premises. The theme is nostalgic with old railway signs, posters and musical scores throughout. The pub is Good Beer Guide listed. Ales are sourced both locally and from further afield and served direct from the barrel in a temperature controlled back room behind a small till counter. The pub is very busy when I arrive with a small buffet set up for some kind of celebration, a few children running about and 2 very well-behaved Staffies under a nearby table. The beer choice numbers 10 from a variety of different sources. The beers on offer ran as follows: Elephant School Porter in a Storm, Fossil Fuel Amber, Three Blind Mice Drayman's Best, Baker's Dozen Electric Landlady, Black Pig Oatmeal Stout, Wolf Battle of Britain, Blindmans Mine Beer, Milk Street Funky Monkey, Bexar County American Pale Ale, Colchester Trinovantes Gold and Brandon Old Rodney. Amongst such an intriguing choice, the name alone drew me to Electric Landlady. Brewed by Rutland-based Baker's Dozen, Electric Landlady is a big hitting golden ale, brewed with Mosaic hops, giving a big hop flavour and a citrus kick in a package of 5% ABV. I managed to find a table to sit at on the lower half of the split level interior as I enjoyed this delicious beer and reflected upon the day I had had.

Ely has been excellent. It's pubs are numerous, welcoming and, in some cases, very old and quaint. The beers have been a combination of old favourites and new things and it's safe to say that the real ale scene is in very good shape. I wasn't sure what to expect from a place that I never really explored when I lived here but this second opportunity to immerse myself in the pubs and inns of this historic place has been much welcomed. In the wide expanses of the fens, sits an island. And that island is brimming with wonderful beer, good people, great pubs and excellent stories.