Bury St Edmunds claims to be the Jewel in the Crown of Suffolk and who am I to argue, although the roads and pavements are decidedly rough around the edges. Take care when walking around the side streets and over the cobbled areas. I saw more than one person trip over the uneven ground and a word to the wise, Bury St Edmunds County Council: there is a fine line between quaint and downright dangerous.
St Edmundsbury Cathedral is certainly a majestic jewel and takes pride of place in the town, which is awash with shops and has markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the square. Parts of the cathedral have been recently restored and unlike some establishments, this one is FREE and relies on donations from visitors and parishoners.
I was fortunate enough to attend a lunchtime piano concert (also FREE) by Nils Frank, who has appeared with orchestras such as the St Petersburg Philharmonic and is currently Dean of Higher Education at University Centre Colchester. I thoroughly enjoyed the recital, Frank bringing the piano to life and the cathedral offering wonderful acoustics. There are many other lunchtime recitals on during the summer and a list is available on line and in the cathedral itself. There is not much going gratis nowadays, so I suggest visitors and residents make the most of the generosity extended.
Dating back to the medieval era, the cathedral and grounds are stunning. The nave and ceiling are magnificent and the stained glass windows are a sight to see, one dating back to 1480.
The cathedral is dedicated to Edmund, King of the East Angles, who refused to renounce his Christian faith to Viking invaders and was killed by arrows in 870 A.D.. His martyrdom is depicted in a painting by London-Irish artist, Brian Whelan.
Suffolk enjoys bright sunny days in the summer and I took a walk through the Abbey Gardens, adjacent to the cathedral, where I saw the ruins of the Benedictine monastery, dating back to 1020, and once one of the richest monasteries in England.
Within the beautifully maintained gardens, there are memorials to soldiers and airmen who have died for their country.
The gardens are frequented by young and old alike, but there is a sereneness within the grounds, unlike in parks or on commons in neighbourhood villages and towns, which I will feature in my next blog.
Adjacent to the gardens and cathedral there is a lovely café: Pilgrim’s Kitchen, which is most accessible to those with walkers, wheelchairs and the like. Even ground and not a step in sight, with car parking facilities nearby. (Bury County Council take note please!) I enjoyed a slice of Victoria sponge and cup of berry tea here but I mostly ate at the Old Cannon Brewery, in Cannon Street, a little off the main drag, but worth the walk, where Michael and his team offered my family and I a very warm welcome. In convivial, well lit, surroundings, featuring stainless steel mashing tuns and fermenting tanks, we enjoyed wholesome, homemade pub grub at reasonable prices.
It doesn’t cost a jewel or a crown to visit Bury St Edmunds and I always enjoy my time there, so much so my books Puzzling It Out and Fathom It Out are set in a fictitious village nearby. Scroll through the website to check them out and please buy a copy. They are an easy, light-hearted read that won’t cost you a jewel or a crown either!