It can be astonishing how much our world has changed but never our human nature. We are still today what we were back three centuries, and more, ago. All the folks on the Olde Ipswich Tours trip to East Anglia in England were on a mission to find their theological and ancestral roots. Ipswich, Mass. to Ipswich, England has proven more than gratifying for those who signed-up and made the pilgrimage for this trip.
Throughout the trip, the group has had the guidance of top “Blue Badge” tour guides, both in London and East Anglia. As Ipswich has been home base for the Puritan roots part of their tour after departing London, they had the opportunity of viewing the famous Ipswich Tapestries, hangings depicting the way of life in England’s East Anglia.
Hearing back from tour owner, Jean Moss, it seems the journey triggered even more joy, exceeded expectations and deeply satisfying everyone. Jean tells me that this group was greeted with the most cordial warmth and conviviality that totally blew the myth out of the water that the English are cold and reserved. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Jean said, “They couldn’t have been kinder and they greatly and humorously facilitated our trip at every turn.”
Yesterday, Jean says the group enjoyed exploring Constable Country and some visited the grounds of the artist Thomas Constable’s favorite landscape, Old Flatford Mill to Dedham Vale. Taking in Dedham Church they learned that Puritan John Rogers was influential in spreading the Puritan doctrine from its pulpit.
The group drove to the town of Bury St. Edmunds for a guided tour of the cathedral there and the ancient abbey ruins. Then the best part of the day included time spent in Cambridge were they went “punting on the Cam,” a lovely ritual, in fact du rigeur, when one visits Cambridge University. The River Cam meanders mainly around the back of the college buildings so when anyone hears that someone went "punting 'round the Backs," then it’s a sure sign they’ve enjoyed the bucolic beauty of a leisurely boat ride through the river lanes and under ancient bridges found mainly behind the ancient campus.
On Thursday, the group got a tour of Emmanuel College at Cambridge, as well King’s and St. John’s Colleges. They explored the Fitzwilliam Museum, a world class curated institution known for its brilliant collection of miniature portraits, some as small as the size of a nickel. Reminds me of the scene in “Pride and Prejudice” where Elizabeth Bennett admires a miniature of Mr. Darcy while visiting his country estate. These miniatures were treasures to the people who loved the individuals immortalized in them, pre-camera days.
Then they made their way back to the college where a lecture on C.S. Lewis and his Christian literary themes (think “The Chronicles of Narnia”) and then continued on the tour of the Cambridge Backs and Trinity College.
Friday, it’s a coach ride to Ely to view Ely Cathedral and Stow Hall Gardens and Farm for a country luncheon. Ely was once total flatland, thoroughly flooded and waterlogged that was filled-in (with thanks to Holland) much like our own Back Bay in Boston, and has some of the most fertile soil in all of England. It was once also populated by innumerable eels, thus the name, Ely. Then a quick trip to Oliver Cromwell’s home in nearby Groton followed by a farewell dinner Friday evening in ancient Cambridge before saying Hail and Farewell to East Anglia and the most historic trip Olde Ipswich Tours has ever coordinated.
According to owner Jean Moss, “Olde Ipswich Tours and I have been to countless countries whose antiquity and history could make England’s look almost post-modern! But honestly, this trip held more historical significance for all of us because it’s our own ancestry, our combined religious beliefs, and add to that the instruction of the speakers and lecturers, the Blue Badge guides, ‘taking tea’ with the Mayor of Ipswich, the warmth and hospitality of the hotel personnel, coach drivers, restaurant staff, I mean it’s endless. I could go on and on praising the generosity of those we discovered and chose to head up this tour. It will be so hard to leave here on Saturday.”
As of this writing, Jean Moss and her Olde Ipswich Tours company is hoping to plan a “reverse trip” for those folks living in Ipswich, England to come and visit us here in Boston’s North Shore where their ancestors emigrated to. I’ll look forward to that one, because living in Salem as well as for those living in Ipswich, well, we all reside and work right here in the heart and soul of that old Puritan sphere of influence. And what a trip that will be!
Individualized, specialized journeys can be coordinated with Jean Moss and Olde Ipswich Tours at www.IpswichTours.com and by phone at 978-356-5163.