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, 2 December 2012

Fen . . . it's all about how you look at it

Winter has arrived . . . in the morning the grass and roofs are white with frost and the hens' water is frozen. This morning it would have been very easy to snuggle down into the blankets and stay there – BUT is was sunny! A glorious deep blue sky and a low winter sun was just too good to waste

. . . 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?


Celia
x

22 comments:

  1. As a descendent of many fen women I feel an affinity to the fens, even though I've never actually lived in them. Driving through them as a child to my grandparents I remember my mum (a non fen person) continually questioning what there was to see. She couldn't understand what my Dad loved about them - he always said that there was loads to see, you just had to look properly, and I agree with him, and you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I didn't take much convincing! I seem to remember Fens ice skating featured in "Tom's Midnight Garden."

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have loved the Fens since I first saw them in my 13th year and, if I could, I would live there like a shot. So much wildlife to observe...

    ReplyDelete
  4. A charm of goldfinches eh?! Lovely textures in your photographs. Thank you for sharing your day.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am not a fenwoman, but have lived here for over 30 years and love the fens for the space and peace. You are quite right, if you look and listen you will see the beauty!

    ReplyDelete
  6. A lovely post, I always associate big sky's with the fens. And yes I will take a better look at the fens!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Many is the time I wish to stop to photograph the big fen skies when passing through. I must stop one day.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I loved reading about your fens. They look beautiful and it was quite moving to read your description of the sights and sounds and your pride in your area of England
    x

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, Celia, you've definitely convinced me!

    This is beautiful post, with your splendid photos, history and geography information, and all those words that are new to me.

    Many thanks. xo

    ReplyDelete
  10. Your passion for your landscape and homeland is wonderful.
    I haven't seen lapwings for years, how lovely to be able to find them in abundance.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Glorious pictures of wide open spaces - have you ever read Waterland by Graham Swift - I'm sure you would love it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Your words and images returned me to my childhood landscape. And, reminds me I should head out east more often that I do. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The fenland landscape is one I'd love to explore Celia. I never took much notice of it as such until I fell under the spell of Carry Akroyd's work and it's an area we've talked about visiting but have never got around to. Your descriptions of skeins of geese makes it very tempting. I love your passion for where you live!

    ReplyDelete
  14. nothing to see, unless you take time to look with love - is how people see the Karoo. Just distance to cover, or a landscape to revel in.

    ReplyDelete
  15. A lovely post spreading the word about the Fens,lots of inspiration for your work Celia. Enjoy the walk with your group!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I adore the Fens, but I grew up on the edge of the Somerset Levels girl so I guess that's why.

    Gorgeous photographs Celia :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I would so love to see your fens and to share my hills with you. It is hard to explain quite how different the landscapes are. On our visit to Essex last year to see Beth Chatto's garden I was rather overwhelmed by the absence of hills but I can see how you could grow to love the flatness, maybe, just, if I really extend myself! Your photos have gone some way to convincing me anyway!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I didn't need convincing, though I've not been there for years. Endless skies, dramatic textures of straight lines formed by the dykes, bleak, beautiful, unique.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Absolutely lovely. I am fascinated by the Fen, but it seems unaccessible to me as an outsider who only briefly passed by.
    Have you ever listened to 'On Mardle Fen'? Radio 4 afternoon plays? I really love them the earlier ones were a bit 'magical' and I liked them because they seemed to evoke the atmosphere of that place. Maybe they are no truer to Fen life than The Archers is to real farming!

    ReplyDelete
  20. looking forward to the walk Cliff is leading for us :-)

    ReplyDelete

I love reading all the comments (except for spam and advertising which I will delete) and I'll reply here in the comments under each blog post, it may take a few days if I'm busy.
You don't need to have a blog to leave a comment, you can select the name/URL option and fill in just your name instead of a blog link.
And, I've turned off that annoying word verification malarkey, to make it easy for you :-)