Posts Tagged ‘The fens’

The Siren by Alison Bruce

Book cover of The Siren by Alison Bruce

The Siren by Alison Bruce

I never thought that retirement would be so time consuming. The thought that my twilight years would stretch in front of me unfilled allowing me time to read, watch films, write and generally idle away my time seem far from the reality.

Finally I have found the time to read The Siren, the second in the Gary Goodhew series of novels. Although Cambridge Blue was excellent, a brilliant first novel,  I think The Siren is even better. As with Cambridge Blue the book is set in my part of the world many of the places and the landscape of the fens are familiar to me, though I must admit not Mill Road Cemetery. Up to the very end I was left guessing. I shall be buying the next in the series, The Calling or adding it to my Christmas list for Santa’s attention.

 

 

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Sunrises and sunsets

I have lived and worked in Cambridgeshire just about all of my life I did work for a while on the outskirts of Peterborough, a matter of just a few months but that is all. I like the fens because of their openess and the skies, the skies are an everchanging picture, each second unique and different unemcumbered by the clutter of buildings they allow the really big picture of the sky to be seen.These are just a few of the photos I have, not every day brings skies as spectacular as these but we get plenty of them and there are plenty of days of sunshine.DSCN0238

Sunrise

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Sunrise same day

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Sunrise behind the wind turbines

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A bit further along the road

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Sunset looking towards Ramsey from the bridge at Bodsey

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From Bodsey again

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Near Bodsey

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Remains of an old wind pump at Ramsey St Marys.

I have wanted to photograph this old wind pump at sunset for some time but never had the opportunity, I intend to return for some more pictures in the future. It has a certain beauty for me mingled with a sadness that it is no longer needed and just left to rot. So much of that which is built on the fens has about it a feeling impermanence, of borrowing its’ existence from the waters that have been drained away and one day may return. Many buildings built on drained land have foundations that move with the shifting fen beneath them very few walls remain plumb even only after a few years. The most immediate effected by the shifting ground under our feet are the roads. Many fen roads move on a seemingly daily basis until after a short time dips and ridges form that can throw unwary vehicles in any direction.

 

 

Wind powered drainage in the fens

 

 I have lived and worked near, in and around the fens all my life. The battle to reclaim the land from the waters has had a fascination for me ever since I have known about it. In reality to describe it as a battle is to diminish what has really been a war, at times the waters have taken back with ease, that which was won with much hard physical work.

The most honest evaluation is probably that which has been taken is held; mammoth and innovative engineering maintain the status quo.

I have in my lounge a reproduction of a 1645 map of Huntingdonshire, with the Isle of Ely and part of Cambridgeshire. A good portion of Huntingdonshire and the Isle of Ely are shown as under water with a few towns and villages as islands within the waters, I have another map of about a similar age titled Inumdatum which gives an indication of the extent of the waters.

The drainage of the fens has been achieved over many centuries the long straight waterways (drains), dug mainly by hand. A truly spectacular sight to me is to drive along a road with the river above me on one side above the height of the van and ten twenty feet or more below me on the other side are the fields with crops growing in them.

Hundred Foot Bank, Sutton, Cambs The B1381 road to Earith runs below the New Bedford River level.© Copyright Rodney Burton

 

The photograph shows in an instant the monumental achievement in reclamation of land from the water the land below the road has to be drained by emptying it into a river or drain above it rather than below it. When you realise a cubic metre of water weighs a tonne the colossal scale of the feat becomes more apparent. Every drop of water in that and many drains and rivers in the fens that has been run off from the fields, has to be physically lifted considerable heights to keep the ground dry and usable.

To start with wind was used to power pumps and giant scoop wheels to lift the water then steam, diesel and now electric pumps do the work. With the appearance of wind turbines in the fens, ultimately they are now to a degree being drained again by wind power.

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