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England/Jersey trip recommendations

Hi so I have mentioned before on a thread about my genealogy trip to Jersey that I am currently planning to go to England and then Jersey in either May or June, either with my brother and nephew or without. So I need some help.

First though I have been to London many, many times all but once was on business. The one time I wasn’t on business took my husband and we spent a few days just in Windsor seeing friends. So actually this will be the real first trip as a tourist. My nephew was there once with a tour, brother never before. Possible itinerary and welcome comments:

Day 1 (3 of us) to Day 5 - London
Day 6 (3 of us) — possibly take the train to Stanstead, rent a car at the airport. Drive to Ridgewell where our Dad was stationed in WWII flying B-17s, visit the small museum there for Dad’s flying group. Drive to possibly Cambridge? Have to find someplace that will keep their interest.

Day 7- Cambridge?

Day 8- return rental car to Stanstead Airport, fly directly from there to Jersey
(This part I don’t know if I will be doing on my own or if they will need to fly back, will have all those answers by February 1).

Day 8-11 Jersey
Day 12- fly back to London, spend however much longer time, a day or two or three, test and return to US.

If they can’t come, I would do the above though probably not drive as much, although I think I will have to in order to get to Ridgewell and the museum there. That being said I don’t mind hiring a driver for a day either.

Thoughts? I used to go to London like 2-3 times per year for business but our offices were first in Slough and then in Gilford so rarely in the city proper. Thinking of staying around Bloomsbury or SoHo area, want some walkable things to do (like British Museum) and think that if I end up there on my own in case they can’t come that’s safe area for 60+ solo woman?

Thanks much in advance.

Posted by
10939 posts

I'm guessing you haven't checked into flights from Stansted to Jersey. There are two non-stop fights a week between those two airines. However, there are several fights per day from Gatwick. And much cheaper. Go to Gatwick.

You're pretty much going to be safe almost anywhere in central London.

The most popular sights in London are fairly spread out so the tube and buses will be your friend.

Posted by
20797 posts

My top tip for London itself is the walking tours offered by London Walks. Pre-pandemic, you just showed up at the designated Underground Station, paid the fee (currently £15), and off you went. I believe it's currently necessary to book a walk in advance, possibly because they're trying to keep group size down to about 15. Unfortunately, I can't find an explicit statement about the pre-booking policy on the website, so you'll need to use the Contact Us link to email and ask. I've taken at least eight walks over the years, and all were very good. The guides were very engaging; quite a few of them are actors. If the COVID situation improves greatly before your trip, it may again be possible to download the full walks brochure and browse the offerings. At the moment, it appears you must check the schedule for each day individually.

I think Cambridge would be a good option if it's geographically convenient for you. Also in that area are at least three cute-as-a-button English towns: Lavenham, Saffron Walden and Bury St. Edmunds. I'm not suggested you have time for one or more of those in addition to Cambridge; I'm just mentioning them in case you think you'd prefer a more small-town experience.

Jersey has a lot of interesting tourist options. Among those I enjoyed in 2017 were the Eric Young Orchid Foundation, the war tunnels (with an affecting memorial to the prisoners of war who were forced to building Nazi fortifications during WWII), the botanic gardens at Samares Manor and the prehistoric La Hogue Bie passage grave and museum. There's also the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery in St. Helier. I had no difficulty getting to all those locations via public bus, but I had more time on the island than you'll have. A rental car would be nice for your group.

There are surely some nice coastal walks in Jersey as well.

Posted by
698 posts

cchapin100

I don't know if you read my other comment on your earlier post, but my sister lives in the village of Ridgewell, Essex. The museum is very small, run by volunteers, and not always open. Please contact them ahead of time so they know you are coming to visit. Ridgewell is difficult to get to using public transportation. On Day 6 you say you plan to leave London for Ridgewell and spend 2 nights in Cambridge (Night 6 and 7) and then day 8 drive back to Stansted. You don't need or want to drive in Cambridge and you can easily get the train or taxi from Cambridge back to London or Stansted. If you were spending more time seeing the villages around Ridgewell, I would say rent a car. But for one day, I am not sure it is worth it. You could take the train from London Liverpool Street to Braintree or Saffron Walden (Audley End). Take a pre-booked car hire (Taxi) to Ridgewell. I don't know how much time you plan on spending there, but if you want to go onto Cambridge from Ridgewell you would need a taxi service to take you the next 20 miles. I am pretty sure Ridgewell does not have a taxi service. The nearest would be taxis from Castle Hedingham. If you could tell me more about your preferred mode of transportation and how comfortable you are driving then I could help you plan better. I am 55+ and I have rented cars from Stansted and used the B roads to get to Ridgewell. It is a pretty and fairly easy drive through quaint villages. Would you want to spend the night near Ridgewell Instead of two nights in Cambridge? You could even take a day trip to Cambridge, use the park and rides, and go into town. Let me know your preference and I can help you more.

Posted by
432 posts

Thank you, especially MpaulySeattle, this is helpful. Yes we don’t know what we’re doing, lol. Your tips are helpful. We have been in contact with the Ridgewell museum and know they aren’t regularly open so we will make sure we can see it and work around a date/time when they can be open for us, hoping maybe a good donation can help too. We want very much to see it since our Dad was there before he got shot down and spent two years in a Nazi POW camp.

Anyway the only reason we thought about staying in Cambridge is because it is somewhat near Ridgewell. And we will have my 21 year old nephew with us so he will have little desire to stay in a little village or out in a rural area. We thought Cambridge could be a good compromise. So we can train to Stanstead or we can train to Cambridge but then we thought about getting a car because we know there won’t be public transport to Ridgewell and the museum there. Should we train to Cambridge and rent a car there and then drive out to do the Ridgewell thing and then turn the car back in? Or train to Stanstead, get a car there and then return it there? Should we then fly to Jersey from Stanstead or from LHR or LGW? This part of the trip we are trying to sort right now. So all these tips are helpful. Any further ideas welcome. If my brother and nephew are with me, they can drive. I am a bit worried about myself doing the left driving thing.

I also got some good news and thank the person who directed me to the Jersey Family website. Have been in contact with them and they have made some suggestions. Still seeking a driver there but a, optimistic I can hire someone there.

Thanks!

Posted by
698 posts

You most certainly could base yourself out of Cambridge and visit Ridgewell. (I understand what it is like to take a young adult that may not be so interested in the smaller villages). In Cambridge, there would be opportunities to hire a driver to take you to Ridgewell for the day. Cambridge is a very walkable town. The colleges are beautiful and you can all take a punt down the river. It has a very vibrant vibe that I think the 21-year-old would appreciate. Trains from Kings Cross or Liverpool Street will take you to Cambridge. Spend your two nights there and then go to Jersey from Stansted. This may be a better plan, than adding in the extra hassle of renting a car, all the anxiety about driving, and then having to return it all in about a day.

I hate that you will miss out on some of the local villages that your father would have visited. I particularly like Thaxted, Finchingfield, and Castle Hedingham. Plan B (renting a car) would allow you to visit these places on your journey through to Ridgewell. These are just very postcard looking villages within about a 15-mile radius of Ridgewell. If you do Plan B, My suggestion would be to stay at the White Hart in Great Yeldham. (it's a wedding venue for most of the summer but they do offer very nice rooms in between and breakfast in a beautiful oak beamed house). Check them out on Booking.com or their own website.

Let me know if I can help further. If you do decide to drive, I can give you specific directions. Just PM me for help. I am more than glad to help so your journey is as smooth as possible.

Margaret

Posted by
27426 posts

I'm glad to see I've got help in Cambridge!!

One thing to bear in mind about Cambridge and your May/June dates - the University colleges generally have their Examinations after a Quiet Period which generally is April, May and June. Most colleges do not admit visitors to the grounds during the Quiet Period or during Examinations.

Sorry.

Maybe you could drown your sorrows with a Chelsea Bun at Fitzbillies.

(just one tiny thing - spell Stansted that way. Computers may baulk at other spellings)

Margaret (mpaulynsettle) is your go to person for the area south and east of Cambridge....

My experience is that roads in rural Cambridgeshire and Essex aren't particularly challenging, and are quite scenic in many places. Parking in the City of Cambridge is neither easy nor cheap, and driving in Cambridge will be exciting due to the high number of bicycles, bike lanes, bus lanes, speed cameras and traffic. Take Margaret up on her suggestion to use the free Park & Rides and take the bus into town.

There is the most excellent Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial dedicated to the men from all the branches who were lost in WW-II, particularly from the USAAF and USAF. Just a few miles west of the city just before Madingley. I go there often.

Also the Eagle in Cambridge has WW-II flyer graffiti on walls and ceiling and a hotel at Lavenham south of Bury St Edmunds has similar.

Posted by
27426 posts

to get to Cambridge from London the train from Kings Cross/St Pancras (check they go from both now the new crossover has opened) is much faster than the slightly less expensive one from Liverpool Street - more modern trains too.

Posted by
10939 posts

I'll try again. The only regularly daily scheduled flights from London to Jersey are either:

Easyjet from Gatwick

or

British Airways from Heathrow

Jet2 is scheduled to have 2 flights a week from Stansted but I wouldn't count on it.

If you are heading to the airport from Cambridge, you could take the train from Cambridge to Liverpool Street station in London and transfer to another train to Gatwick. No change of stations.

I would also suggest taking a train from London to Cambridge and then either hiring a car, or hiring car and driver from there to Ridgewell.

Posted by
432 posts

Ok, got it and thanks. Sounds easy enough to do trains (which I prefer anyway) to and from London. I will research hiring a driver in Cambridge which I would definitely do if the brother/nephew can’t come and I am traveling alone.

Posted by
698 posts

I think the plan to stay in Cambridge and find a driver for a day out would be a good safe plan for you. The drive from Cambridge to Ridgewell is about 25 miles and not that scenic. You will go through Linton and Haverhill. IMO, Haverhill is just about the dullest place in North Essex. I have no idea how much a private driver would cost, but it might be worth the splurge if you are doing this solo.

Margaret

Posted by
20797 posts

Check with the tourist office in Cambridge to see whether its tours will have access to one or more of the colleges. I don't remember whether it was in Oxford or Cambridge, but one of those tourist offices told me that they can often get their groups into colleges when the latter are closed to other tours.

Posted by
27426 posts

you could take the train from Cambridge to Liverpool Street station in London and transfer to another train to Gatwick.

for that to work it has to be Cambridge to Kings Cross/St Pancras for the onward Thameslink to Gatwick. There is a fair chance if you get a Thameslink train from Cambridge that it will have a final destination of Three Bridges or Haywards Heath. If so it will call at Gatwick on the way.

From Liverpool Street it would involve a trip on the Tube to the next train.

Posted by
432 posts

Thanks for all your comments. Refining this a bit further now and would welcome further comment. Will not know for sure if brother and nephew can come and for how long until beginning of February. I am going either way with the rough schedule below, probably middish May leaving before Queenie’s festivities and what I am seeing as very high hotel prices all over UK on June 2-5. Or, will arrive just after this, go like June 5 for two to three weeksish.

London 4-5 days if Fam are with me and they are on tight time frame, probably 6-7 if they aren’t. Musts for me are Tower, Westminster and National Gallery. I need to figure out the Oyster card. Plan to stay either SoHo or Bloomsbury area. Like to walk. Need to figure out which of these will be walkable from hotel area. As mentioned I traveled to London 2 or more times per year on business but always stayed near offices in Guildford or Slough. Only time did tourist stuff was once on a later consulting trip and stayed in and did Windsor. So though many trips to “London”, have never done the tourist thing.

Cambridge/Ridgewell-2-3 days. Train from London. Stay in Cambridge. Hire a driver to tour Ridgewell and the small museum there where our Dad flew B-17s during WWII. What else to do in Cambridge? Love walking around. Rent the little boats? See if we can get into the colleges? Anything else? I love the idea of the American cemetery/memorial so we will add that in.

Return to London via train. 1 night. They will need to test to get back to the US and want the security of 24 hours in London for them to do this and also in case they have any problems. They will leave next day and I will fly from either LHR or LGW to Jersey. Assuming all goes well. If one or both gets a positive test (we are all vaxxed and boosted) then all bets are off and I will help them get things figured out so they can get home.

Jersey 4-5 days, probably hire a taxi driver each day to take me to various places where my family is from. Already contacted Jersey Historical folks, will be joining their group. They’ve sent me phone book (holy smokes, someplace still makes phone books???) with several people with the same last name as my grandparents.

Return to London again for a 24 hour deal to get tested and finish up anything else, maybe some shopping or do something else that last day that I missed.

Any comments/suggestions? Thanks in advance.

Posted by
20797 posts

The Cambridge tourist office runs a good walking tour. I don't remember whether there are multiple options; the one I took covered several university buildings as well as some outdoor walking.

The Fitzwilliam Museum is excellent. It has both art and archaeological collections.

Should you find you have extra time while staying in Cambridge, you can day trip to Saffron Walden, Lavenham and/or Bury St. Edmunds.

Posted by
698 posts

cchapin100

I think your plan is now a good one. Punting up the river in Cambridge is usually a must-do for visitors. You don't need to book a tour, there are several places where you can get a boat on any particular day. If it seems too expensive, you can haggle the price. Don't try to punt yourself. It is too difficult and it causes all kinds of chaos on the river. Most companies on the river hire students to punt and they usually provide an interesting history talk as you glide down the river.

I would definitely go to the American Cemetery. It is not far from Cambridge. You could also go to Audley End house (near Saffron Walden) by train, but I would be more inclined to tell you to take the train to Ely to visit the Cathedral. Bury St Edmunds is just OK. I love Lavenham, but without a vehicle, it's just too hard to get to.

Hoping Nigel will chime in and offer day trip options. My knowledge is more south of Cambridge around the Ridgewell area. I would check on the tourist office in Cambridge to see what car companies they can recommend for your Ridgewell trip.

Margaret

Posted by
20797 posts

I forgot Ely! The cathedral is wonderful. As a bonus, it has a stained-glass museum (upstairs with no elevator, I think) that allows you to see historic glass at eye level, something rarely possible in churches. There's an entry fee of £4.50 for the museum (free for children).