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historic region of England, part of the administrative and historic county of Cambridgeshire. The Isle of Ely consists of a hill about 7 miles (11 km) long and 4 miles (6 km) wide that rises above the surrounding fens (low-lying lands that were partly covered by water). The Isle of Ely is the highest point in these fenlands and was formerly an island surrounded by marshes and swamps; it could be reached only by boat or causeway. This inaccessible location became the scene of Hereward the Wake's resistance to William I the Conqueror about 1070. In the 17th century the surrounding fens were drained, and the Isle of Ely is now simply a hill in the midst of a low, flat plain whose rich soils provide highly productive farmlands.