East Anglia

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© Lonely Planet Publications

East Anglia
Unfurling gently eastwards to the sea, the vast flatlands of Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk, and
Norfolk are a rich web of lush farmland, melancholy fens and sparkling rivers. Between them
they offer miles of sweeping sandy beaches and a host of picture-postcard villages, magnificent
cathedral cities and Edwardian resorts. The region’s most renowned attraction, however, is the
world-famous university town of Cambridge, an ancient seat of learning with a hushed and
earnest attitude and a backdrop of some of England’s most stunning classical architecture.
While the country’s upper crust and brilliant minds were busy establishing the university
as one of England’s most exclusive institutions, the rest of East Anglia was growing rich on
the backs of the medieval wool trade. Right across the region soaring churches and cathedrals, implausibly picturesque villages and pretty market towns remain testament to the
enormous wealth amassed during medieval times when the wool and weaving industries
flourished. No expense was spared on the delicate stonework of the superb cathedrals in
Ely, Peterborough, Norwich and Bury St Edmunds. And in rural areas, half-timbered houses
still exist, and elaborate decorative pargeting (plasterwork) and ornate thatch still adorn the
former homes and halls of rich wool merchants.
In between, gentle hills and placid valleys shelter slow-flowing rivers and the same bucolic
scenes that once inspired Constable and Gainsborough. The big skies and dramatic sunsets
are still a magnet for artists and tourists alike. The coast too remains largely untouched with
broad, sandy beaches, pretty seaside villages, traditional resorts and a whole host of new
gastropubs and boutique hotels to cater for trendy city visitors.
„ Dreaming of your student days as you punt

Holkham Beach

(p434) past Cambridge’s historic colleges
„ Wandering aimlessly along the pristine

sands of Holkham Beach (p466)


„ Soaking up the medieval atmosphere in

topsy-turvy Lavenham (p449)
„ Walking the prom, dining on sublime food

and just chilling out in understated
Aldeburgh (p453)


„ Relaxing on a slow boat through the tranquil

waterways of the Norfolk Broads (p463)



„ AREA: 6055





You can get tourist information for the r...
lonelyplanet.com CAMBRIDGESHIRE •• Cambridge
Plus Pass is a great option for families and
gives unlimited regional travel after 8.45am
on weekdays and any time at weekends. It
costs £13 for one day (plus £2 each for up
to four accompanied children) or £26 for any
three separate days over a period of seven
days (plus £2 each for up to four children).
You can also get discounts of up to 33%
on most rail fares over £10 in the southeast
by purchasing a Network Railcard
08457 225
225; www.railcard.co.uk/network; per yr £20). Children
under 15 can save 60%, but a minimum £1
fare applies.
Many visitors to Cambridgeshire never
make it past the beautiful university town
of Cambridge, where august old buildings,
gowned cyclists, wobbly punters and glori-
ous chapels await. But beyond the breathtak-
ing city and its brilliant minds lies a county
of vast open landscapes, epic sunsets and
unsullied horizons. The flat reclaimed fen,
lush farmland and myriad waterways make
perfect walking and cycling territory while
the extraordinary cathedrals at Peterborough
and Ely, and the rip-roaring Imperial War
Museum at Duxford, would be headline
attractions anywhere else.
Getting Around
The region’s public transport radiates from
Cambridge, which is a mere 55-minute train
ride from London. This line continues north
through Ely to King’s Lynn in Norfolk. From
Ely, branch lines run east through Norwich,
southeast into Suffolk and northwest to
Peterborough. The useful Cambridgeshire
and Peterborough Passenger Transport Map
is available in tourist offices.
pop 108,863
Drowning in exquisite architecture, steeped
in history and tradition and renowned for
it quirky rituals, Cambridge is a university
town extraordinaire. The tightly packed core
of ancient colleges, the picturesque ‘Backs’
leading onto the river and the leafy green
meadows that seem to surround the city give
it a far more tranquil appeal than its historic
rival Oxford.
Like ‘the other place’, as Oxford is known,
the buildings here seem unchanged in cen-
turies and it’s possible to wander the college
buildings and experience them as countless
prime ministers, poets, writers and scientists
have done. The sheer weight of academic
achievement seems to seep from the very
walls with cyclists loaded down with books
negotiating narrow cobbled passageways,
earnest students relaxing on manicured
lawns and great minds debating life- changing
research in historic pubs. Meanwhile dis-
tracted punters drift into the river banks
as they soak up the breathtaking views, tills
whir with brisk trade in the city’s designer
boutiques, and those long past their student
days wonder what it would have been like to
study in such auspicious surroundings.
First a Roman fort and then a Saxon settle-
ment, Cambridge was little more than a rural
backwater until 1209, when the university
town of Oxford exploded in a riot between
town and gown (see boxed text, p226 ). Fed up
with the constant brawling between locals and
students, a group of scholars upped and left to
found a new university in Cambridge.
Initially students lived in halls and religious
houses but gradually a collegiate system, where
tutors and students lived together in a formal
community, developed. The first Cambridge
college, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284.
The collegiate system is still intact today and
unique to Oxford and Cambridge.
By the 14th century the royalty, nobility,
church, trade guilds and anyone rich enough
to court the prestige that their own institution
offered began to found their own colleges. It
was 500 years before female students were
allowed into the hallowed grounds though,
and even then in women-only colleges Girton
and Newnham, founded in 1869 and 1871
respectively. By 1948 Cambridge minds had
broadened sufficiently to allow the women to
actually graduate.
The honour roll of famous Cambridge
graduates reads like an international who’s
who of high achievers: 81 Nobel Prize win-
ners (more than any other institution in
the world), 13 British prime ministers, nine
archbishops of Canterbury, an immense
number of scientists, and a healthy host
of poets and authors. Crick and Watson
discovered DNA here, Isaac Newton used
Cambridge to work on his theory of grav-
ity, Stephen Hawking is a professor of
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