Isle of Ely

Compared to the cultural richness of Cambridge, the fenland lying to the north of the city may, initially, seem ’empty’ but its story is one of dynamic landscape changes and considerable historical interest. Both literally and culturally, the highpoint of the area is Ely Cathedral which can be seen for many miles around due to its elevated position (at an elevation of c 20 metres!) on the ‘Isle of Ely’, now surrounded by low lying land some of which is below sea level.

The isle also has geological riches including the building stones of the cathedral itself, a good quality limestone from Barnack quarry in the far north west of the county, and the nationally important site Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI, designated for its Jurassic marine reptile fossils and also for its biological importance as a site for breeding birds. Other significant discoveries have also been made in the area including ‘Kevan, the Stretham pliosaur‘. This important find was dug from the Kimmeridge Clay, a Jurassic rock famous for its fossils, that is seen at the surface in various parts of south east Cambridgeshire as well as at its more well-known outcrop on the Dorset coast. Some of the remains of ‘Kevan’ were preserved at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Science in Cambridge and one of the hind paddles, over 2m long, is still on display there.

The northern part of the Isle of Ely showing the contours and geology. For a key to the geology see the British Geological Survey map viewer.

The southern part of the Isle of Ely showing the contours and geology. For a key to the geology see the British Geological Survey map viewer.

© Cambridgeshire Geological Society