Jeremy Fisher, the Fens and fabulous Morris dancers tripping the light fantastic

One of my early childhood memories is my father reading to me “The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher” by Beatrix Potter, so it was such a delight to visit Melford Hall in Suffolk and discover that Beatrix Potter had stayed there frequently and made many sketches around the Hall which she later used to illustrate her beautiful children’s books.

The original cover from “The Tale of Mr Jetemy Fisher”
Mr Jeremy Fisher catches a fish
A photo of the fishpond st Melford Hall taken by Beatrix Potter and later used to paint an illustration

The exterior of Melford Hall dates back to Tudor times (Elizabeth I was a visitor) but the interior has been remodelled over the centuries particularly in the 19th century and again in the 20th century after a catastrophic fire in WWII when the north wing was burnt down.

The Tudor exterior of Melford Hall
With a more recently constructed interior

A window to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth I to Melford Hall

With some National Trust properties you find that there is no sense of the house being a home but Melford Hall felt really homely and “lived in”, a tribute to the Hyde Parker family (cousins of Beatrix Potter) who have inhabited the house for two centuries.

The Hall has a very homely feel despite the vast size of some of the rooms

The stair case was imposing but not too grand
Beatrix Potter used her sketches of this bedroom as a basis for some of her beautiful illustrations
This piece of furniture was apparently from the Tudor times but still used for flower arrangements.

More from the excellently turned out Melford Hall

The town of Long Melford lies just a short walk away from the Hall and we spent a very nice hour or so having lunch in the Bull – a historic pub that when the family lived in Suffolk, Jonathan’s parents used to frequent on “date nights” and at dinner dances, (the cool thing for young marrieds to do in the 1960s!).

An ancient path from Melford Hall to Long Milford village
The old Bull pub in Long Melford

We had spent a fair amount of time in British pubs during our trip round the UK due to a very good book “Brit Stops” which lists hostelries that welcome camper vans, giving free camping in their car park in return for a visit to enjoy a pint or two or have a meal.

The previous night we had stayed at a pub right next to the Little Ouse River called the Ship Inn (very appropriate as it caters for the many long boats and other craft that ply their way along the river.)

The Ship Inn next to the Little Ouse River
Looking at boats in the rain

While enjoying a quiet drink we became aware of a group of people who had arrived in dribs and drabs and were all dressed rather strangely with matching white stockings and black shoes. After a few drinks all round they shed their jackets and anoraks to reveal who they were – a team of Morris Dancers.

We were enjoying a quiet drink
When this happened!

They each strapped bells to their legs and an accordionist and fiddle player struck up a merry folk tune and the dancing began. We were treated to a very British style of entertainment!

Lots of hanky waving and clashing of sticks
It was all great fun

Morris Dancing has been around for hundreds of years – the first mention of it goes back to 1448. The tradition interestingly, has had a strong connection to beer – in the 16th Century Churches brewed and sold ales to raise money at festivals and the Morris dancers provided the entertainment! A great tradition that we and our fellow drinkers of ale enjoyed very much!

Lots of beer going down between dances
Next morning we had a visitor
She got quite bold
And eventually came right in!

Our travels also took us to the cathedral city of Ely in Cambridgeshire which is situated in the marshy coastal plain of the Fens.

Ely is surrounded by water
With lots of boats of course
There were some lovely gardens down by the water

Most of the fens were drained several centuries ago, resulting in a flat, dry, low-lying agricultural region supported by a system of drainage channels and man-made rivers (dykes and drains) and automated pumping stations.

More boats

…and more beautiful gardens
We also saw some vintage vehicles including this ice cream van and The Morris 1000 below

There were some quaint retro shops

Ely is built on a 23-square-mile (60 square km) island which, at 85 feet (26 metres), is the highest land in the Fens – it of course means that everywhere you go you are near to water which meant it was a very pleasant place to walk around.

We loved these carvings which we found on one of our walks

It was great to see the long boats slowly moving between the shady river banks
There were loads of different hiking paths

Ely Cathedral

Apart from walking along the rivers, we enjoyed visiting the Cathedral, (the present building dates from 1083) seeing Oliver Cromwell’s house and going round the fascinating little museum that once serve as a notorious prison from 1679 to 1836.

The interior of Ely Cathedral

This plaque is very hard to find – it is set very low down away from the Cathedral. The martyrs were executed for believing in the Protestant interpretation of the Bible.
One of the most controversial figures in British history, Oliver Cromwell lived here

The Ely museum was well worth a visit despite its ghastly history as a gaol

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

One thought on “Jeremy Fisher, the Fens and fabulous Morris dancers tripping the light fantastic”

  1. Hiya Dot!!

    I’m still loving your posts. And this one reminded me of a joke – but you have to be careful who you tell it to!

    Q Why can’t Jews become Morris Dancers?

    A Because you have to be a complete prick to be a Morris Dancer!!!

    Much love

    J xxxxxx

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

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