. . . we went for a walk . . .
Cliff is planning a route for the local walking group, for the last Sunday in the year; it's a Fen walk, so we've been checking out a network of Fen tracks and droves (after 20 years I think I've convinced him that there's more to the Fens than just flat fields).
I'm proud to say I'm a "Fenwoman; I know that may provoke snorks of derision and mentions of webbed feet and dubious ancestry, and I don't care! The Fens are unique and they are made by the people that have lived and worked there for centuries. Not just since the drainage of the Fens but Dutch drainage engineers in the 17th Century; the Fen story goes back longer than that: Medieval trading ports; Roman canals taking goods to the far reaches of empire and Neolithic fur traders all played their part.
Today, what can we see? Water held back from the land by strong straight earth banks; the long deep waterways are called 'lodes', they take water from the smaller 'dykes' and feed it into the 'levels' – those long man-made rivers that take the water to the The Wash (the large bay on the North Sea coast). East Anglia has been spared the torrential rain of recent weeks and although water levels are high there has been very little flooding. You can see the water in the lode is much higher than the fields on the right.
Fens are a landscape of air, water and earth; you have to accept that mud, "slub", "clag" is a fact of life. The beauty is in the details, you need to learn to look and to listen. The wind through the reeds which line the edge of the lodes and dykes, is like the rustle of taffeta or the whispers of a hushed crowd.
The air is rarely empty . . . skeins of migrating swans, charms of goldfinches and here – a flapping flock of lapwings cross the sky.
The grey and brown tangles of dead vegetation are alive with birds, like this female reed bunting.
And occasionally along the lode you will see a magnificent mute swan in full sail.
Have I convinced you to look at the Fens?