Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

You can take a girl out of the fen . . .

. . . but you can't take the fen out of the girl

Today I led (with a lot of help from Cliff) my first walking route the Cambridge Rambling Club. I knew that a flat route is sometimes unpopular, but I hoped to win them over with a 14 mile circular route in my native habitat.

The route followed an ancient causeway through the fen before continuing along the banks of the Old West River.


The morning began cold and foggy; and although the sun was always there behind the milky air, the mist would not lift.

It gave the fen a deeply mysterious ambiance; it was easy to imagine Hereward and his followers waiting to ambush the unsuspecting Norman army, or the Fen Tigers* stalking the Dutch drainage engineers!

The ditch-side teasels shimmered with cobwebs spangled with beads of water.

And then the sun came out!

Casting long shadows over the fields.

You can follow the route (and see more photos) on fellow-walker Geoff's Everytrail site here.

Back home, hot bath, delicious Gloucester Old Spot pork chops for supper

and now for some spicy apple and pear crumble and ice-cream :-)


* Fen Tigers = indigenous inhabitants of the Fenland. In the 17th century the Duke of Bedford employed Dutch land drainage engineers to dig a vast system of drainage channels fed by 'windmills' pumping the water off the land. The local population who relied on the fish and water fowl for their survival, sabotaged the work and became known as 'Fen Tigers'.
The term has been adopted by the Mildenhall Speedway team, and more recently applied to 'big cat' sightings around the Cambridge and Fenland area.
True Fen Tigers still exist, Roger Giles has written an excellent description here. While delving around to compile this definition, I came across a song by Hobson's Choice "Fen Tiger and the Quarryman", which coincidentally was inspired by a 'meeting' in Over Fen . . . the afternoon section of my walk, where after major gravel extraction the Fen is being reinstated. You can listen to the song here and read the lyrics here, I think they perfectly describe the defiant character of the Fen Tiger.



  1. How could I have visited and not gone on a ramble with you? I think we were too busy looking at chickens :) I, for one, never complain about a flat walk. Aren't the shadows the best this time of year?

  2. What a treat for all the walkers. I would have loved to have been there.

  3. I am so glad that you took along a camera, and must tell you that your photos really do show the power of fog in a beautiful landscape. You made me smile with the notion of it being a flat walk.

    As I write from New York, I've also learned that London's Heathrow is closed due to fog, a condition I never encountered in any of my old trips across the pond.

    Anyhow, bravo to you on leading the walk. And the sound of that crumble for dinner is very appealing.

    (Everytime I hear the word fen, I am reminded of Caryl Churchhill's play Fen that I saw so many years ago.)


  4. Weren't the Fen Tigers the chaps who thought washing their feet would sap their strength?

    (One picks up all sorts of nuggets in pub quizzes!)

  5. Hi Terry - yes, we were side-tracked by the chickens and the scones! Next time ;-)

    Hi Diane - we're leading anothe rwalk on January 1st 2012 :-)

    Elephant's Eye - not real tigers! I've added a postscript.

    Hi Frances - yes the fog has really set in, and makes the roads treacherous! but it made the Fen beautifully mysterious.

    Hi Dinahmow - Golly! I haven't heard of that one, I suspect they were the Lincolnshire Fen Tigers ;-)


  6. Wonderful atmospheric photos, glad the sun came out eventually for you. Rather foggy still today isn't it - just been over to Newmarket and drove most of the time in fog. Still at least it's not freezing!

  7. Sounds like a great day. A good walk in beautiful countryside followed by some tasty food. Love the photos with the light shining through the teasels.

  8. I really must rectify the fact that I've never visited the fens. It's such a unique landscape and so full of history. I would have loved that walk Celia.... and that pear crumble and ice cream... yum!

  9. Your post made me think of my home town (Peterborough) although I left many moons ago. Your photos really catch the atmosphere of the Fens. I never realised just how flat it was until I moved away :)

  10. Beautiful post. I do so love your area.

  11. Thanks for a great walk and i never noticed the flatness as the company was so good.. :-)

  12. Your photos are so atmospheric and made old fen girl (who hasn't been home in years) want to jump in the car and drive east!

  13. Good old fens...sky country 9except when you can't see the sky for fog!)

    Loved the atmospheric photos too...

  14. & the ghostly number 9...I blame the fen tigers myself!

  15. Celia, just wanted to pop by to say Hello and say thanks for all the comments and chat we have exchanged over the last five years. :-)

    Forgot you were a bit of a rambler ;-) Absolutely adore the way you treated your images. Completely adds to the magic (for us) of your walk. Nice job all round!

  16. I love your atmospheric photographs, beautiful.

  17. What a wonderful walk, and one I've just shared vicariously through your divine pictures. I love the fenlands.

    I wrote a paper once on Bedford's drainage of the fens ... there are some fascinating extant documents about the works and their, um, interruptions!

  18. Beautiful! It's particularly wonderful to see your photos of the fens because I listened to radio 4's adaptation of 'On Mardle Fen', link here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kr5xj
    Though I'm sure you listened to it too. I had a vision in my mind when I listened to it of windswept heath land, a bit Scottish for some reason, but now I've seen your photos, it's become much clearer!
    Vanessa xxx

  19. Thank you Fiona and Petoskystone - looks like I'm starting to convince people that Fen has its beauty too.

    Hi Su - yes the fog has been treacherous on the local roads - a relief to see it has lifted this morning.

    Hi Wellywoman - I loved the light on the the teasels too :-)

    Hi Printed Material - I think you need a holiday over here in the East.

    Hi Anna - your comment made me laugh - I was the same!

    Hi Toffeeapple - another Fen-fan!

    Thank you Catherine - I used the Hipstamatic App on my iPhone.

    Sally - good to see you and Geoff on the walk - and thank you to Geoff for the fantastic map of the route, I must try that App!

    Hi and welcome to PPPs Mavina - another Fen-girl :-)

    Hi Thrifty Household - those darn Fen Tigers!

    Hello Shirl - very different home territory to yours, I think!

    Hi Anna - a clever App! But I was pleased with my compositions ;-)

    Hi Annie - you must know all about Fen Tigers!

    Hi Vanessa - I'm still laughing about your Scottish heath comment ;-)
    Yes I enjoy listening to 'On Mardle Fen' and now and again they get a Fen-accent nearly spot-on! It's based on a real place, The Anchor at Sutton Gault, just a few miles from my walk route. http://www.anchor-inn-restaurant.co.uk/
    Next time you listen you'll get the pictures right!


  20. Lovely photographs of still very green meadows - it must have been an interesting walk with the mist adding "the misterious effect". If I lived near by I'd definitely join you.


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