Thursday, 23 April 2015

We love Bury St Edmunds!

We had originally planned a day out Cambridge from West Stow, but
Abbey ruins in Bury St Edmunds 
when it came to it, having already driven to Stratford and back at the weekend, we decided that Bury St Edmunds, a mere 5 miles away would be much the better option. Of course, having now still not visited Cambridge (maybe next year!), I can't compare the two, but I did absolutely love Bury St Edmunds.

We began with a wander through the twice-weekly market - Wednesdays and Saturdays - which is pretty big and has an excellent range of stalls. There was also lots of fresh produce and baked goods, all of which looked tempting. Even Dave commented on how nice the veg looked and for Dave to say that ... ! We bought some new potatoes to go with our Elveden sausages tonight.

We turned off and walked through an imposing tower gateway to begin
Gateway to Abbey gardens and park 
exploring the Abbey grounds. The Abbey itself was destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII in what must have been a fantastically lucrative exercise - for Henry, if not the monks. Now some ruined walls do still stand and the area is a beautiful park with truly gorgeous flower beds. The tulips are blooming already. The park is a lovely tranquil space which includes a water garden and also a children's play area that is bordered with woven willow fencing - so much more attractive and inviting than the metal wire alternative. We left the Abbey grounds via a different route, wanting to see the Regency Theatre Royal. Unfortunately, it is only possible to view the theatre's interior by either seeing a show or getting there in the morning before half-past twelve. We were an hour too late! However, we did spot some incredible modern houses that are actually built into the remaining Abbey ruins. Chatting with the guide at St Mary's Church later, we learnt one of these went for several hundred thousand pounds a few years ago.

House built into the Abbey ruins 
We visited two churches. St Edmundsbury Cathedral dates back to 1503 when the elegant nave was built, but also has a quire and altar from the 1960s and a Millennium Tower in the very centre which was completed in 2010. It is all sympathetically done and makes for a light and airy space, but I felt it lost some of the sense of history. By contrast, St Mary's Church feels much older and most of it is. Both buildings do have impressive ceilings and stained glass windows. I spent most of our visits looking straight up! St Mary's also contains the remarkably small and plain grave of Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's sister who seems to have led a pretty interesting life. I remember her character vaguely from the TV series The Tudors, but must do some reading about her. Can anyone recommend a book?!
Flower bed in the Abbey gardens 
Our thirst for history and culture sated, we walked back into present-day Bury St Edmunds. We were pleasantly surprised by the great range of shops and eating places. There are high street standards, but also many independents that look to be doing well. Special mention must go to Shoephoric where, after much deliberation, Dave has finally found a pair of Josef Seibel shoes he likes to replace his worn out Merrells. It's only taken over a year, off and on! We ate in a little Greek cafe just by the side of the market. Cafe Kottani serves delicious Greek meze and filo pies. Dave had a generous slice of Spanakopita and I had a meze plate of hummus, olives, stuffed vine leaves and hot pita bread. The coffee was good too.


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