RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes
Fun Fen Skating Facts: Skating in all its forms was popular in the Fens. When it froze landowners would flood their meadows to turn them into skating grounds.
Skating matches were held in towns and villages all over the Fens: A course of 660 yards was measured out on the ice, and a barrel with a flag on it placed at either end.
So, it was odd to return later in the week as part of a Fen walk with Phoebe, the walking guru. The adventure began way before we hit St Ives and the Fens. We were excited at the promise of a trip on the guided bus-way from Cambridge rail station to St Ives. However, in our eagerness we jumped on the wrong bus and trundled up the busy A14 instead. I was not disappointed as I have a child-like fascination for any type of public transport and feel a sense of satisfaction, bumping around at the back of the bus. The driver had also reassured us that the return ticket was good for the guided bus-way back so the anticipation mounted and we were even more excited about our return journey. The bus sped along the old railway line, a bit like a tram and then converted into a normal bus when it entered Cambridge. The simple pleasures in life are fun and I fully recommend a ride on the guided bus-way if you are in the Cambridge vicinity.
St Ives and The Great Ouse
The fens are beautiful fertile marsh lands that attract a multitude of wild-life. It was an uplifting walk to the RSPB nature reserve at Fen Drayton. We were hoping to see the starling murmurations at sun-set but like the Northen Lights natural phenomena are not beholden to human timetables and witnessing them are more a matter of luck. Whilst the starlings failed to perform, nature had supplied an amazing array of beauty. The rainbow refracting light over the Fens and the setting sun shimmering across the lake were nature's beautiful gifts.
The photographs, courtesy of Phoebe, my official photographer for the day (as I am such a numpty with a camera!) will hopefully leave you uplifted and keen to commune with nature, even if you only get a chance to peep out of your window.
This week has been the calm after the storm. My mum is safely back home and recovering well from her heart attack. My son is also recovering well from his fracture.
Four Bulls Crest of St Ives
It has been a week dominated by the Fens and St Ives (Huntington rather than Cornwall!).
It has been weird as I hadn't been to St Ives for about 30 years and then I went twice in one week.
Fact : All photos of St Ives and Fen Drayton in this post were taken by Phoebe Taplin (phoebetaplin.com) and were very much appreciated.
Inspired by the F word, Fen this week I was drawn to the notes, pictures and wonderful video tracks detailing the old sport of Fen skating. It left me wondering whether it was another casualty of global warming.
Again, it was a grey day. It was drizzling and I was in a sober mood as we left St Ives to meander along the Great Ouse to Fen Drayton. Then the sky cleared allowing the sun to shine through the drizzle. It created a thick and vibrant rainbow that triumphantly arched over the fenland, raising my spirits. I love the magic of rainbows and their ability to radiate hope. They are a strong reminder of unchanging natural beauties, shining through all time-lines.
We were a small group of middle aged ladies armed with the St Ives town trail. We learnt that the car-park was the site of the cattle market and then spotted the original cattle railings adorned with the four bull head. We looked out for the crest, again with those four bulls, on the old lodge buildings that guard the entrance to the old cattle market . We trundled past Cromwell’s statue and then into the free Norris museum. It is a little delight by the river, housing snippets of history of the area since the time of dinosaurs 160 million years ago, when it was all under the sea.
The first outing was with my uncle who lives fairly locally. I try and pop in to see him regularly as he lives alone and has suffered with poor health this last year. It has been sad to watch him unable to stride off for great walks in the countryside. His passion is to be out in the fresh air communing with nature but his hernia problems, dodgy leg and arthritis have held him back recently. Bereavement has also been a difficulty for him. We decided on a little trip to St Ives and lunch in a tea shop overlooking the river to give him a change of scenery. It was a grey day of drizzle and biting wind so we didn't hang around too long and decided to head home after a bite to eat. As we drove back he asked if I could take a little detour through the village of Swavesey, where he lived with my aunt years ago. We stopped outside their old house. It was a place of fond memories for me too.We reminisced about how I had stayed several times when I was younger to help my aunt with my little cousins. We had a good old trip down memory lane, which is a often a tough place. Although my aunt died over 20 years ago of breast cancer there is still a gaping hole as she was a very special lady.
Fen skating also jogged my memories of Tom’s Midnight Garden and Phillipa Pearce’s atmospheric description of Hetty skating along the fens. It was towards the end of the novel and Hetty was growing-up, falling in love and Tom was fading from her world. Looking around the museum the spirits of the past infused me with a sense of loss, like the strong sense of loss Tom felt when he was losing Hetty.
St Ives was a reminder of my past, losing my aunt and leaving childhood behind.