What’s going for it? It’s an odd place, Ely. For a start they have an annual eel-throwing competition on Eel Day. (That’s toy eels, animal lovers.) But that makes it all the weirder. I can imagine a rather fabulous Nordic-noir-inspired TV detective series being set there, under the flat, relentless Fen skies – possibly set in the 15th-century (Ely’s heyday); possibly starring Paddy Considine as a monk detective, with issues of course. (You can have that idea for free, scriptwriters.) It’s the city’s uncanny combination of isolation and exposure, brought on by its geography and history: all by itself high up on an island of clay, surrounded by marshes and miasmas. What an astonishing spot it must have been in medieval times, with its fantastic cathedral newly completed, the Ship of the Fens, and hooded clergy dominating this isolated, lonely place of gothic arches and misericords, eel traders and clay potters. Executive estates may now cling to the island, tour buses come to gawp at the cathedral, and Cambridge is only 15 minutes away on the train, but its intense past seems seeped into the stones, haunting the place centuries on.
The case against Its unique sense of place won’t be for everyone. It remains, despite good train links, decent local culture and community, relatively alone, quiet and small.
Well connected? Trains: to Cambridge (15 mins), to King’s Lynn or Peterborough (35 mins) and to Norwich (an hour). Driving: 40 mins to Cambridge and then the M11, 45 to the A1, 50 to Peterborough.
Schools Primaries: Isle of Ely, St Mary’s CofE, Highfield, St John’s Community and Lantern Community are all “good”, says Ofsted. Secondaries: Highfield is “good”; Ely College has no current inspection report.
Hang out at… The vegan cafe, Lucyat35 – tasty and highly photogenic food. The Drayman’s Son, run by local brewery Three Blind Mice. Up the hill, in town, the Old Fire Engine House is still a good spot.
Where to buy Obviously I’d go for the lovely old centre, all cobbled lanes and cottages, with the period property accoutrements of a cathedral city in miniature. Look, also, down Fore Hill to the riverside; and on and off the main roads out of town, like Cambridge Road, for Victorians and Edwardians. House prices suggest the most in-demand are suburban executive estates on the edge of town. Lots of recent new builds. Large detacheds and townhouses, £400,000-£800,000. Detacheds and smaller townhouses, £300,000-£400,000. Semis, £250,000-£525,000. Terraces and cottages, £170,000-£400,000. Flats, £130,000-£230,000. Rentals: a one-bedroom flat, £550-£750pcm; a three-bedroom house, £800-£1,300pcm.
Bargain of the week Three-bedroom, postwar terrace, chain free, yours for £210,000, haart.co.uk.
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From the streets
Alison Binstead ‘Our kids love the freedom of living somewhere quite rural but also well connected. Beautiful riverside, country park, independent shops.’
Jeremy Friend-Smith ‘Rush hour in and out of Ely is agony.’
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