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Be A Fens Adventurer

‘Any fool can appreciate the hills but only a man of discerning can appreciate the fens’

Sir John Betjeman.

We are in the presence of mighty names, and the thrill of history here, where all may see the fen as Hereward the Wake saw it, as the Saxon monks of Thorney Abbey knew it, when they cut their reeds from it, as the first Bishops of Ely encountered it when laying a causeway from isle to isle across it. Black dykes flow between the acres of thick impassable rushes, the reed warblers trill among them from dawn to dusk in spring, the late cuckoo flits across them when autumn approaches, and Montagu's Harriers, the eagles of the marsh, flap heavily from bog to dyke in search of prey.'

('Cambridgeshire - The Country of the Fens' by Arthur Mee)

The Romans originally undertook the drainage of the fens but their systems decayed during the Dark Ages and water seeped back into the land. Several drainage projects later and finally in the 17th century, a Dutch engineer (Cornelius Vermuyden) transformed the marshes into something like the landscape we see today.

The fenland 'Adventurers' were the men (mostly major landowners) who 'adventured' the money for the project. Some people saw the large-scale drainage as a good thing but many were against the drainage because of the damage it would inflict on traditional livelihoods e.g. fishing, fowling, reed and turf cutting. Some people took to vandalising the drainage works. They became known as the 'Fen Tigers'

So, are you a Fens Adventurer? Pick up or download a leaflet to take you on your own fenland journey. Discover the ancient history and man made landscapes of this complex and undiscovered corner of England.

East Cambs

Bishop's Way

Cawdle Fen Way

Devil's Dyke

Earthworks Way

Mepal Way

Wicken Way

Fenland

Whittlesey Way

Woodsman Way

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs

www.defra.gov.uk

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