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Base for East Anglia

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Nov 16th, 2015, 09:00 PM
  #1
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Base for East Anglia

Planning a driving trip of England and Wales (and maybe Scotland) next year. At this stage I'm looking for a base in north Cambridgeshire/East Norfolk for exploring the north Norfolk coast, cathedral towns Ely and Peterborough, and maybe up into south Lincolnshire for some family history research. We're thinking of a base in the Kings Lynn, Wisbech, March, Downham Market area.

Any comments on these four choices anyone? We enjoy towns rather than big cities, our interests include history and walking, and what we look for in a base is comfortable friendly accommodation and a some choices of good dining places plus somewhere pleasant to enjoy an English ale. Many thanks...
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Nov 16th, 2015, 10:55 PM
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The only one I've stayed over in was Kings Lynn but I've been to Wisbech and Downham Market a few times each.

Kings Lynn is a pretty large town - I'd guess over 150,000. I'd think both Wisbech and Downham Mkt would fit your brief better since they are much smaller but still w/ lots of pubs, shops, etc. If it was me I might choose Downham Market

http://www.visitwestnorfolk.com/expl...downham-market
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Nov 17th, 2015, 12:34 AM
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Wisbech would be my choice - a bustling, attractive Fenland market town.
I love the Georgian houses all along North Brink. These include Peckover House, now looked after by the National Trust. The house is lovely, as is the garden. You'd need to check opening times though as I'm not sure when your trip is planned for.
http://www.wisbechmuseum.org.uk/
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/peck...use-and-garden
You can also visit Octavia Hill's birthplace, one of the founders of the National Trust.
The Wisbech and Fenland Museum is well worth a couple of hours too. And there's a famous Brewery in town called Elgoods which you can tour.
http://www.elgoods-brewery.co.uk/
The Fenlands have their own beauty and are very flat which makes for easy walking. Wicken Fen is about an hour away and a fascinating place.
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wick...nature-reserve
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Nov 17th, 2015, 02:02 AM
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We stayed at this pub, in Milton, just outside Cambridge a couple of years ago. It was a wonderful place to stay, and with a car it was easy to tour East Anglia. The village is also on the bus line from Ely to Cambridge which is good as parking in both can be tricky.
http://jollybrewersmilton.co.uk/

It is owned by several villagers and run as a community pub. Good beer, good food, great company. We felt completely at home there.

We enjoyed Wicken Fen, Houghton Mill and Anglesey Abbey, all close to Milton. We also really liked Ely, and went up to the north Norfolk coast too.
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Nov 17th, 2015, 06:38 AM
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"It is owned by several villagers and run as a community pub."

I used to work with one of the original owners when it became a community pub, Malcolm... summit.
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Nov 17th, 2015, 07:12 AM
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Coincidence Bilbo. It is a terrific place. We absolutely loved our time there. They had their 1 year barbecue the day we arrived. They sent us an e-mail saying it would be noisy and we could cancel if we wanted. We said are we invited, they said of course, so we said great. And it was. Such a warm welcome. Not many places I have been to where you get hugs from everyone when you leave!
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Nov 17th, 2015, 05:18 PM
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Thanks everyone, these tips are really helpful. I had done some research of my own, including touring town centres on Google street view, but it is great to have first hand reports from people who've been there.

Wisbech looks a good option. I did read a news report about problems with Eastern European immigrants there, but maybe this is just the media beating things up - as they do! The town centre certainly looks attractive and bustling.

The Milton suggestion may be useful. We're spending time in London before picking up a hire car, and had allowed extra days there for the odd rail trip to places like Cambridge - because a past attempt to stop in Cambridge while touring by car had to be aborted after spending an hour and a half trying to find a car park! Rail from London wasn't an ideal alternative either (I understand the rail station is a long way from Cambridge centre), so maybe a couple of nights at Milton, from where we can bus into Cambridge, before moving on to Wisbech, is a good solution.

I know Milton to Wisbech is no great distance, but we could shorten our Wisbech time by a day as well, by doing Ely, March, and other places en route. So, 2 nights in Milton offset by 1 less night in London and 1 less in Wisbech, equals no change to our days away. A good result!
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Nov 17th, 2015, 06:57 PM
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Further to my last post above, no-one has mentioned March. I guess, being a smaller town, it's less visited and less well-known to most people. I only included it in my list because of some good Tripadvisor accommodation reports (for The Causeway & VS William IV Hotels) that also included favourable comments about the town itself.

But Wisbech has some well-rated hotels too, like Rose & Crown and the White Lion. They're somewhat more expensive than those in March, however. And Jolly Brewers in Milton sounds good - although again, at 90 pounds a night, rather expensive.
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Nov 18th, 2015, 01:05 AM
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You are definitely off the main tourist trail in contemplating March, Wisbech etc. So you are unlikely to get a lot of informed feedback. I know the area because I was born and brought up in Suffolk, and I lived in Cambridge for a while too.
You can easily get a taxi from Cambridge station into the city centre. There's probably a bus service too. We always take our car into the city because I have local knowledge about where I can get parked!
March is fine, but I'd still choose Wisbech!
One last point - you will find the Fenland roads maybe surprisingly busy and not just at peak times. They are easy to drive, being wide and straight although they have many roundabouts. But traffic IS heavy with lots of lorries and farm vehicles as well as cars. Public transport isn't that good (and constantly gets pared back further) and therefore just about everyone uses their cars. This isn't to put you off but to ensure you allow plenty of time to get about.
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Nov 18th, 2015, 01:38 AM
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Did you look at Bury St E and Ely?
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Nov 18th, 2015, 11:51 AM
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Eastern Europeans are the mainstay of Fenland farming and food production. Walking round Kings Lynn and Wisbech you will likely hear more of those languages and accents than you will English.

North Norfolk will be a trek from any of those places other than KL - narrow roads and tractors will slow you down. Personally I find the Fens bleak and unattractive, somewhere to drive to on the way to Yorkshire, and I wouldn't choose to stay in KL. Better to spend a night or 2 round Burnham Market or Wells.
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Nov 18th, 2015, 06:16 PM
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Yes, I've stayed at Ely and visited Bury St Edmund before, but have not yet made it to any of the other places I'm considering. It still looks like Wisbech might be the best bet, although the images online for Burnham Market look very attractive. The decider might be that the next area we're headed to after this is around Leicester/Burton-upon-Trent, and Wisbech is a good midpoint for this and for North Norfolk. The only really well-rated hotel in Burnham seems to be the Hoste, and at 160 pounds B&B a night it's way out of our league! Still, I'll keep an open mind. You never know...
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Nov 19th, 2015, 12:16 AM
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Wisbech and Burnham Market are completely different. Burnham is one of North Norfolk's 'celebrity' villages and the high prices reflect this. Wisbech is much more your 'common or garden' small working town.
If you are looking at how a place appears visually, have you seen Lavenham? Not right for you location wise, but so pretty!
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Nov 19th, 2015, 06:27 AM
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I probably wouldn't consider March - its a not very interesting (read 'horrid') little town that really is in the middle of nowhere. Most of the other suggestions are fine though.

Regarding Cambridge station (because this comes up a lot). Yes, it is a fair walk from the city centre, probably 1-1.5 miles and along a busy main road. However it is a level and direct walk, so easy. Buses run very frequently and cheaply from the station into the city centre and back - the stop is right outside the station exit/entrance.

Parking is a nightmare at the station at the moment due to redevelopment, and traffic is usually heavy in the city centre so its not fun hunting round for spaces in town - however Cambridge has a very good park and ride system with something like 4 or 5 large carparks on the outskirts and fairly frequent buses.

Charges are £1 per car then £2.70 return on the bus (Trumpington service)

http://www4.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/in...ark_and_ride/1

One other thing about the station - at the top of station road there is a handy second entrance to the Botanical Gardens which not many people seem to know about.
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Nov 19th, 2015, 01:47 PM
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Yes I can see how Burnham Market might be a "celebrity" village. It certainly looks attractive when I "toured" it on Google street view. I know I said I like the smaller places, but is this perhaps a little too small? With a population of only 900, might we be "captive" as far as dining options go? We generally use dining as another excuse for getting out and exploring a place, although one night dining at the hotel we're staying in wouldn't hurt, I suppose.

Thanks for all the information about Cambridge. The park and ride option sounds good.
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Nov 20th, 2015, 04:44 AM
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Wells is bigger than Burnham, or consider Holt, although if you're going in high season it parking can be a challenge. The thing about Norfolk, and specifically North Norfolk, is it is a long drive from anywhere else. That, of course, is part of its quiet charm, but means a pain to visit as a day trip staying elsewhere.
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Nov 20th, 2015, 04:55 AM
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You are aware of how out of date some of those street view views really are, right?
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Nov 20th, 2015, 05:42 AM
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Why somebody who wants to explore the coast isn't staying ON the coast is interesting.

What IS a "celebrity" village, anyway? Is that one of those places where ex-convicts have huge houses?
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Nov 20th, 2015, 09:01 AM
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'Why somebody who wants to explore the coast isn't staying ON the coast is interesting.'

They also want to visit Ely and Peterborough both of which are inland, so perhaps are looking for bases which are central to both.
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Nov 20th, 2015, 11:35 AM
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Why Peterborough? I lived just outside it for a couple of years. Even 10 years ago I didn't feel safe walking back to my car in the dark after work. Yes, it has a cathedral, but so have many nicer places and it really has no charm at all. I can't think of a single other thing going for it as a tourist.

Stay in Norwich - it's a city, but a small friendly one, with a castle and cathedral (2 actually), lots of pubs, restaurants and independent shops. North Norfolk is easily explored by car, and Ely and Cambridge a short train ride away.
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