The city of Ely is not only famous for its Cathedral and for eels but also for the fact that it was home in in the 1640s to Oliver Cromwell. That is his house in the picture above.
Ever since my Dad bought me an Airfix model kit of Oliver Cromwell in about 1960 I have always been fascinated by the English Civil War. I think this was a defining moment in my life, I immediately became a Roundhead, a Parliamentarian and later a socialist, on the side of the people fighting against wealth, influence, privilege and injustice. Today I despair that we have a wayward Cavalier liar as our Prime Minister. The shame of it, the shame of it.
There was also an Airfix model of Charles I but I had Cromwell first. Charles came with a detachable head.
I have always considered the English Civil War to be the most important conflict of modern Europe because this was a revolution which provided a blueprint for those that followed, principally the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The revolution begins with the moderates calling for reasonable and restrained reform for the exclusive benefit of the aforementioned wealthy and privileged who wanted even more power and wealth. The problem with moderates of course is that they are on the whole reasonable people but by beginning a process of reform they provide an opportunity for radicals and agitators to go much further and the English Revolution like those that followed swiftly gained pace. After the radicals came the extremists, then war, then terror, then regicide.
The English Civil War swept away the supremacy of the Church of England, ended the Divine Right of Kings and embodied the principal of Parliamentary Sovereignty into English politics. It was the end of medieval feudalism and paved the way for the agrarian and industrial revolutions of the next century. At its most radical period it introduced the principals of socialism and even communism through the power of the New Model Army and the social ambitions of the Diggers and the Levellers, both proto-socialist political movements.
It is a shame that King Charles had his head cut off but even after sixty years or so of being given that Airfix model I confess that I remain a loyal Roundhead rather than a Cavalier.
So we left Ely and continued west towards the coast but made two short stops along the way along the River Waveney which at nearly sixty miles is the longest river in East Anglia and forms the natural boundary between Norfolk and Suffolk so many times along the route we switched from one county to the next.
We were heading towards the neighbouring towns of Bungay and Beccles both south of the river and in Suffolk. The region is called East Anglia because the name derives from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the East Angles, a tribe whose name originated in Anglia, in what is now northern Germany. The names of towns are different to where I live in Lincolnshire which instead of the Angles and Saxons was invaded and settled by the Vikings.
Fifty years or so ago my Dad had a car called a Ford Anglia. Later car manufacturers used continental names and we had the Ford trio of Corsair, Cortina and Granada, Triumph had the Toledo and the Dolomite and the Seat the Ibiza and the Cordoba. The Anglia was considered too English for continental markets and in 1967 it became the Escort.
This is what we call East Anglia even though this map includes Essex which is a bit common…
At Bungay we stooped long enough to walk the disappointing High Street and to explore the back streets of this languid market town, a distracting jumble of alleys, back lanes that lead nowhere, elegant Georgian houses and the remains of an unexpected castle.
From Bungay we drove the short distance to nearby Beccles where we stayed a little longer, walked another disappointing High Street and made our way down to the river, busy today with pleasure boats where we enjoyed an afternoon cup of tea.
Like grains of sand through our fingers the day was beginning to slip away now and we were close to booking in time at the Parkdean Caravan Village so we left and completed our journey.
On arrival Mum declared the caravan to be completely suitable for a four night sojourn…
… and after approving the accommodation, settling in and unpacking Kim and I went for an early evening walk along the beach. It was rather wild and cold I have to admit. We had come to Kessingland fully intending to take a dip in the North Sea but for now that would have to wait.
While we were out Mum prepared her speciality Shepherd’s Pie that she had made earlier…