There’s a buzz on the streets of Ely. Over the summer we’ve all been watching a tired old shop gradually change into something special. We’ve been peeping through the windows, watching the progress. Finally, this week, the wait is over – White Stuff have opened their lovely new shop.
White Stuff is one of my favourite brands – cool, quirky and with a conscience. It’s the perfect fit for our tight-knit little city. I’m so thrilled they’ve decided to open their 100th shop here. For those of you who aren’t familiar with White Stuff, it’s a dreamy lifestyle brand, selling clothes, shoes and accessories for men and women – along with some lovely gifts. We’re all going to be looking very smart from now on!
To celebrate the opening of White Stuff, I’d like to share some of my favourite Ely places with you – and persuade you that you really must come and visit soon…
Ely’s markets are thriving. Come on a Thursday to buy anything from local fruit and veg to a Norfolk crab or a new broom – or come on a Saturday for an eclectic mix of antiques, crafts, flowers and food. Every other Saturday there’s a famers’ market too.
Just recently, the flower, food and craft market has also started on Sundays. It has a slightly quieter feel. Pick up some beautiful artisan bread from the Brown Bread stall, or some lovely plants and bric-a-brac.
The Samovar Tea House
After all that bargain-hunting on the market, you’ll be in need of refreshments. Ely has a lot of places to drink tea and coffee. My favourite is the Samovar Tea House. Walk away from the bustling market place and down Forehill – and halfway down you’ll find this quirky little gem, inspired by the tea-drinking culture of the East.
You can choose from up to two hundred different teas, and Sofia, Marta and the team are coming up with new blends all the time. On this visit I chose London Fog – a beguiling mix of vanilla pods, bergamot, blue cornflowers and Vietnamese black tea. It tastes wonderful with milk, and looks as beautiful as it sounds.
If you fancy coffee instead, then there’s lots to please you too. Particularly interesting is the Polish coffee – a dark, bitter confection. My husband loves it, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. I prefer the wittily-named Flatland White.
The food, too, is blissful. Memorable bagels and salads, and wonderful cakes. Oh, the cakes. Try the chocolate and beetroot cake – heaven on a plate.
Topping & Company Booksellers
After you’ve finished your tea and cake, walk back up the hill to the High Street and visit Ely’s well-known independent bookseller. Spread over three floors, Topping’s is every book-lover’s dream. You can lose hours in there, browsing through thousands of books. My favourite place is the very top floor, full of beautiful art books. Sit in the window and catch a glimpse of the cathedral through the old sash windows. If you missed out on a coffee earlier, then enjoy one here – brought to you by one of the lovely, knowledgeable booksellers (I can vouch for this as I used to be one).
Topping & Company also run a year-round programme of exciting literary events.
What can I say about the Cathedral? It’s spectacular. For almost a thousand years it has defined Ely. You can see it for miles around, soaring out of the flat fenland landscape. Living so close to such an amazing building, you have to make sure that you don’t take it for granted. It’s good to make the effort to go inside and remind ourselves how lucky we are that it’s here.
No visit to Ely is complete without a walk along the river. If you arrive by train, this is the first bit of Ely you’ll see. It’s a busy, bustling stretch of the River Great Ouse – packed full of narrow boats. Enjoy an ice cream, or call in at one of the riverside pubs and restaurants. You might also meet Ely’s most unusual residents – the rather grumpy Muscovy ducks. Along Waterside, as it’s known, you can also enjoy the beautiful Georgian buildings, some of the city’s prettiest. It’s always worth a little wander round Waterside Antiques too – a huge old warehouse, jam-packed with wonderful old things. We’ve bought so much for our house there over the years.
And finally… there’s the new White Stuff
I was so impressed with the new store on Market Street. I loved the products, the witty vintage styling, the retro children’s kitchen – even the noticeboards. It felt like visiting a really cool friend’s house.
A lot of thought has gone into the store, and I was thrilled to see that they will be supporting a well-known local charity, Branching Out. As part of their White Stuff Foundation, this charity will receive at least 1% of the store’s annual profits. Pretty awesome, don’t you think?
White Stuff Ely will be having a grand opening party on 16th and 17th September 2015. Why not pop along for a glass of fizz and lots of other exciting goodies?
Clothes and shoes courtesy of White Stuff – as ever all thoughts, words and photos are my own.