BBC Countryfile In Ely: The Eel Catcher

In our third instalment featuring video from the BBC’s Countryfile in Ely episode we present what was arguably the most interesting segment of the show featuring Ely’s one and only remaining eel catcher, Peter Carter.

Peter Carter uniquely tells how eels are caught still using the same traditional traps that were used throughout his family for centuries. The segment ends with a trip to Ely’s ‘Old Fire Engine House’ to see how this highly regarded restaurant prepares eels for it’s customers.


Ely was once known as the ‘Isle Of Eels’ a translation of the Anglo Saxon word ‘Eilig’. It was named so because of Ely’s early history based around the trade of eels, indeed the segment states that the Domesday Survey of 1087 (The domesday book, prepared in 1086 at the order of William the Conqueror, gives a detailed and comprehensive picture of transition from Anglo-Saxon to Norman rule over England.) stated that 52,000 eels were caught on the river Ouse in one year alone. Later documents record many thousands of eels being supplied to the monarch and other wealthy customers in London and elsewhere.

The final instalment will feature a little known story on how Ely hosted the Cambridge/Oxford boatrace during World War 2.

BBC Countryfile In Ely: The 1944 Boat Race In Ely

Here is the final feature that made up BBC’s Countryfile episode from Ely. Not many people know that in 1944 the Oxford and Cambridge Varsity Boat Race was raced on the River Great Ouse. It was the it’s the only time the boat race has not been held on the Thames in its 150 year history as the country was still in the grip of World War II and London was deemed unsafe for such an event.

The race was won by Oxford despite Cambridge being ahead early in the contest.

The feature has an interview with Martin Whitworth, one of the eight that made up the Cambridge crew of 1944 along with interviews of the current team .


Come And Have An Eely Good Day

Ely is set to be inundated by all types of eels on Saturday 28th April for the city’s fourth Annual Eel Day.

The day will encompass a whole range of events to celebrate Ely’s heritage and historic association with the humble eel.

Image: Ellie The Eel

Starting at noon, a carnival like procession led by ‘Ellie the Eel’, Ely’s Samba Band and 12 Town Criers will start from Cross Green next to the Cathedral and head along part of the City’s Eel Trail Heritage Walk, down to the Waterside. The procession will end in the Jubilee Gardens where a whole host of eel related activities are planned.

Anyone is welcome to join in the parade which will include members of Ely’s Lantern Studios and children from Ely Barns Group. They have spent their Easter holidays working with local artist John Lyons to help make the event’s mascot: ‘Ellie the Eel’.

Tracey Harding, Tourism and Events Officer for East Cambridgeshire District Council said: “The Annual Eel Day is all about celebrating Ely’s culture and traditions as well as encouraging awareness of the Eel Trail. On the day, there will be the chance to experience life in years gone past with a living encampment showing the trades and wares of the time while for the more adventurous there will be the chance to taste smoked and jellied eels.
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Timeslip 1970: Little Downham & The Giant Balloon

When one recollects childhood memories, invariably there are many that standout. For me – growing up in Little Downham – these included my first day at Feofee’s primary school, the tragic death of Susan Cockerton (Susan and my Auntie Steph used to babysit me) in April, 1968, a little shop forever frozen in time called ‘Lofts’, making houses out of straw bales in the field bordering on our house (sorry Mr. Parsons!), fishing down the ‘Hurst’ and the ‘giant hydrogen-filled balloon’ that drifted over our primary school in September, 1970.

I was recently researching old Ely Standard news via microfiche at Ely library when I came across the original story. Here is that story. I am sure many people who attended Feofees in 1970 will remember this day.
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The Band of the Parachute Regiment in Ely

The Band of the Parachute Regiment commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict with a magnificent concert in Ely Cathedral. Dressed in vibrant red, these skilful musicians filled the Cathedral with glorious sound. They presented a series of spirited and moving pieces with dazzling precision.

Under the directorship of Captain Glen Jones and WO1 (BM) Freeborn, this band demonstrated tremendous agility and versatility. In the opening and closing procession of standard bearers, the “Dambusters March” never lost momentum while in “A Festive Overture” by Reed contrasting moods and textures were fully explored.

The vibrant atmosphere in the Cathedral was further enhanced with challenging contemporary pieces such as music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The compelling percussive beats foretold doom and destruction.

Solos were astutely included in the programme. The first movement of Martin Ellerby’s Clarinet Concerto was phenomenal. The technical gymnastics this piece demanded in its tightly constructed short and detached phrases were rapidly and cleanly executed by the soloist and the band. Other notable solos were the trumpet and alto saxophone solos. The trumpet solo reflected beautifully the name of the piece: “Brilliance” by Barker. Clear articulation and controlled brilliance smoothly evoked its pure Brazilian character. The mellow tones of the alto saxophone solo evocatively presented “Carnival” by Sparkse and a euphonium duet added new warmth to the poignant song: “Softly as I leave you” by Devitas.
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Monster Eel Spotted In Ely

Reports of a thirty-foot eel slithering down the High Street in Ely would normally cause mass panic but not last weekend.

For ‘Eddie the eel’ was part of celebrations to mark Eel Day, where hundreds of visitors turned out to take part in the procession through the city accompanied by Ely’s very own samba band and 12 town criers from around the country.

Image: Eel Day

‘Eddie’, made by Barns Young People Forum and carnival artist John Lyons, led the revellers all the way down to Jubilee Gardens, where thousands more took part in a whole host of eel related events. There were musical performances, children’s theatre and historical re-enactments but the highlights were the Town Crier contest and Eel throwing competition.

Tracey Harding, Tourism and Events Officer for East Cambridgeshire District Council said: “We could not have asked for a better day. There was beautiful weather, a massive turn out and some incredible events for everyone to experience. The eel throwing competition was a record defying event with some truly spectacular performances and distances thrown.
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