There’s a reason it’s known as the Ship of the Fens. Seen across the flat expanse, the cathedral seems to ride the land like a ship on open sea. Few buildings rival Ely’s iconic status: Turner did it in watercolour, and it features on the album cover of Pink Floyd’s Division Bell, right on the distant edge of the horizon. The West Tower is immense in size, and the celebrated octagonal Lantern is unmistakable.
There’s been an abbey on this patch of land since the 700s, but the present building dates back to 1083, making it one of the UK’s oldest cathedrals. Mingling the sturdy Romanesque with the Decorated Gothic, Ely is a wonder to behold. But so too is the story of its construction, built from Northamptonshire’s famous Barnack stone. Quarried 40 miles away, the blocks had to be carted on sleds and loaded onto barges on the Welland. Luckily this was before the great draining of the Fens, making it possible to navigate the marshy waterways.
This design captures an ethereal moment – Ely at sunset, framed below by river reed and fingers of bulrush, framed above by a silhouetted flock of flying geese. Silky orange light like this would brighten any kitchen.