Ely (pronounced eee-lee), Famous for Oliver Cromwell also contains a magnificent cathedral. Founded in 672 by Etheldreda, this cathedral has undergone many facelifts over the years. The story of Etheldreda is fascinating and can be read here.
The cathedral in its most recognisable form took 112 years to complete and this can be seen in the architecture. The bottom of of the cathedral reflects a much older period with rounded simples arches. These arches become more ornate as the levels increase, with interlocking arches and pillars. Interestingly the top arches reflect a much more stable and newer design with a more pointed top. In one wall you can see 112 years of architectural history and innovation.
Candice and I took the West Tower tour which I highly recommend. It is 15 pound for the tour and cathedral general admission fee. The tower tour also includes an excellent history on the cathedral and the west tower, and with our guide, a history of the local fens too!
Amazingly Ely Cathedral is built on only 6 ft of foundations. That is incredible, but over the years this has caused some major structural issues. Here you can see where the original arch used to be before strengthening with these newer pointed…and thicker arches were implemented.
On the west tower we were able to climb to the top where we we treated to great views of Ely and the Cambridgeshire. Here you can see the octagon tower, which is unusual for a normal church. This tower was created after the original tower fell down. The foundations for the Lady Chapel, seen of the left, caused the lowering of the water table and the drying out of the clay beneath. This then caused the tower to collapse at about 4 am. The octagonal chase was the formed by building just outside the original footprint of the previous tower.
The stone used to create the cathedral is not local stone, which is too hard and brittle and cannot be shaped, but was shipped down river from Barnack in Northamptonshire. Barnack stone is more easily sculpted, however some of the local stone can be seen in the walls as infill.
After the tour we browsed the rest of the cathedral and boy is it HUGE!
Many a grand palace has been built in the name of ones god and this is no exception. I’m not a religious person, intact I am atheist, however Ely Cathedral is an excellent example of grand design and beautiful architecture. At least, in my non expert opinion!
The wooden box in the above photo is a mirror allowing you to view the magnificent painted ceiling.
Lastly, and although we didn’t go in, there is a stained glass museum on site. If the window depicting the crowning of Esther are anything to go by, the stained glass at Ely Cathedral is just as ornate and magnificent as the rest of the building!
Approximately 16 miles outside of Cambridge is a national trust nature reserve called Wicken Fen. We arrived at about 3pm with my idea being to set up for a sunset image of the wind pump. These wind pumps were used to help drain the Fens in a similar manner to the techniques used by the dutch, and are partly why the netherlands are so famous for their windmills! The draining of the Fens is a really interesting story and you can read more here.
Wandering around the nature reserve and up the board walk brought us to a bird watching hide. Unfortunately nothing of interest was actually going on and I didn’t have time to spend waiting there for bird photographs as sunset was around 5:15. So we wandered off up the nature trail. To say that we were under prepared for marshland is an under statement. I guess the clue is in the name “Fen” but still, that place is boggy! We attempted to make it up one of the dirt tracks only to be blocked by a some pretty deep water and mud, and with Candice nor or having Gum boots (and a rental car!) we decided to turn around and stick to the board walk. That’s when I saw a huge barn owl swoop from the trees (no photo sorry). Such a majestic creature though and for the rest of the evening we saw a couple flying high searching for prey. Just after the barn owl we saw a Muntjac Deer. Look at him, he is so adorable! He was bouncing up and down the path about 100 meters away from us. In fact I think there were several deer with only really one being spotted at any one time.
Candice decided she didn’t want to stand in the cold while I took sunset photos so she kept on the board walk trail. I, on the other hand, decided to head to the wind pump to set up for what I hoped would be a big reveal. The day was fairly cloudy but sometimes all you need to be is patient and a burst of light at the right time can really make a photo. Unfortunately I was out there for over an hour watching the light and that cloud would not budge. There was no colour and no interest in the sky. As I was setting up I tried a few different things with focal lengths and lenses. Due to the lack of interest from the sky at any part of sunset, I was happiest with this image converted to black and white from the 70-200.
I guess this means I need to go back and try again.
Kudos to Hertz car rental though for the cheap car for the weekend. No sponsorship here, they’ve just been the best deal and I’ve used them twice now.
All in all Wicken Fen is a great place to go and see some wildlife and I highly recommend spending an afternoon there. I wouldn’t go during the school holidays if you want to enjoy a peaceful wildlife experience as kids tend to be noisy, but during normal days I’m sure it would be much quieter.
With our last few weeks in Australia ticking away, Alex wanted to get out of town and get a little more site seeing and photography in. He had the idea of a sunrise image of the Brim Silos, a site that in January 2016 had been turned into a road side Art attraction by world renowned street artist Guido Van Helten. This silo was to be the first of 6, as part of a 200km long art trail through the heart of Victoria’s Mallee District.
The Mallee and Wimmera regions are found in the north western corner of Victoria. The area is famous for Mallee Eucalyptus, wheat, sheep, gold and even a little world class rock climbing or sand dunes, depending on which corner you end up in. The Silo trail will be a collaboration between famous Street artists and the local governments, community groups and private companies, such as Graincorp, that work and operate in the region. Other supporters such as Taubmans paints, Loops Colours, Juddy Roller Art Management and the Regional Arts Fund, also providing the support necessary to get the project off the ground. The idea ultimately is to increase visitation and revenue from tourism in a region regularly hit hard by droughts, floods, fires and the ever fluctuating agricultural commodity markets. The plan therefore was to head out of Melbourne and explore this region in the north east of the state.
So leaving Saturday afternoon and hoping there would be enough daylight hours left when we got to Brim to pitch our tent, we started up the Calder freeway, with a 4 hour drive to our destination. Essentially a LONG way to drive for a sunrise shot especially when we weren’t sure if sunrise would work for the composition, not having visited the site before. Fortunately Brim has a lovely little recreational and campsite area with new facilities for visitors, including fixed BBQs and hot water showers. The tent or powered caravan sites work on the honesty system, a simple process of slipping $10 a night into the secure box on site.
We arrived just before sunset and set up our reliable little Vango Spectre 3 man hiking tent. Brim being a very small country town only has the 1 pub, a garage and 2 churches, making the choice for where to go for dinner very easy. The pub aka the commercial hotel was nice, had friendly owners and did a good steak. We have no review on the churches or garage. Luckily we finished eating about 8:10 and with sunset due about 8:35 we rushed to get back to the right spot. Ideally it would be good to be set up before golden hour starts but from experience we know that in the country, kitchens close early, so it was: eat then get the shot, or likely not eat at all. Luckily we were at the silos and shooting just as they were being bathed in a gorgeous warm glow from sunset.
Alex, with tripod set up and camera metered for the scene, had started shooting just as someone in a truck pulled up in front of the silos to take a photo of their rig with the artwork. The passenger and designated snapper apologised as she realised she had entered into the composition, as the whole interrupted scene lasted for about 2 minutes Alex just kept shooting throughout anyway. While post processing preference is for the image taken without the truck in the foreground, ultimately the interruption just provided a different narrative to shoot for a few minutes. The following day we would see many of the same make and model of trucks, filling up and depositing grain at other silos up and down the trail. Whatever had been the outcome, sometimes the right light is only there for 30 seconds and so continuing to shoot no matter what is the only sane approach; especially if you have just driven 4 hours to get to the place.
With the shot taken, we carried on shooting for about an hour and then headed back to the tent. Bathed in mosquito repellent we took in the stars, still trying to settle on where the southern cross was for the billionth time and decided to head to bed early. The possibility of trying some star trails, was discussed but as the reason for travelling up the day before was to get sunrise shots the next morning and with neither of us being known as early risers, getting some shut-eye won out. The alarm was set for 5:00am with sunrise expected at 5:50.
With 5 am came a chorus of native bird species, slightly drowning out the Banjo Frog calls that had echoed from the lake beside our camp site all night. For the amount of frogs we heard over night you would think the local mosquito population might be better kept in check, but a wetter than normal spring this year had proved to good a breeding season for the little buggers. The bonus of getting up early is no one is around and you really get to just enjoy the sounds of countryside sans traffic and people. With a nice smattering a clouds to add some interest in the sky and no one else out competing for the shot, the early morning start was definitely the right decision.
Being all wrapped up in Brim by 7.30 am, we headed north an hour to Patchewollock. The drive took us along the edge of the Wyperfield National Park, a nice break in the scenery of wheat fields. The silo in Patchewollock, painted by Fintan Magee, is of local farmer Nick Hulland. This idea of capturing real locals and the realities of life of the area is the truely great aspect of the art project. The silo in Patchewollock mark the end of the proposed trail and so we turned the car around and headed back towards Melbourne, with plans to see one more silo and find some breakfast.
Hopetoun, is the largest town we went through on the northern part of trail and seemed the most likely place to find an open cafe on a Sunday morning. Fortunately, it was also only about 40 minutes south of Patchewollock. The breakfast wasn’t going to be gourmet, just a good honest country fry up and a great cup of tea, exactly what one needs after a night in a tent. Alex, an English man through and through, after 5 years in Melbourne is now so used to specifying what type of tea he’s after, asked for his standard “English Breakfast Tea” and was delighted when the lady looked at him blankly and said, “Sorry, we only have normal tea, is that ok?” Appetites satisfied it was onwards south to Sheep Hills.
After about an hour we arrived at the third silo, still in the process of being painted by Adnate. His work is amazing, with many of his amazing realistic portraits seen on walls and down laneways in Melbourne. The work at Sheep Hills, features the Wimmera Elders Ron Marks and Regina Hood with a young indigenous boy and girl. It symbolises indigenous knowledge being passed down to the younger generation. It is just beautiful and unfortunately thought we ended up being a week too early to see the completed project.
When the silo art trail is complete in Mid 2017, with the three remaining locations in Lascelles, Roseberry and Rupanyup, finished, it will truly be well worth the drive out of town. Even with only three of the sites complete it was a great way to spend 24hrs, seeing some world class street art and exploring a little more of country Victoria.
Melbourne has a lot to offer, and once you arrive there is little doubt as to why it has been named the world’s most liveable city 6 years in a row. Coincidentally that is the same number of years Alex has lived in the city, 5 and a half years of which were with Candice.
Melbourne is home, probably always will be, but the adventure originally started in 2007 in Kelowna, B.C. Canada. In this town at the base of a ski resort, within a backpackers, Alex meet Candice, flipping pancakes in rocket man pyjama pants. Since that time we’ve figured out what that first meeting has come to mean, finally tieing the knot in November this year.
This blog kicks off just as we’re about to start another adventure. An adventure to Alex’s original home, the United Kingdom.
Feel free to check back often to view our exploits.