The Great Fen Walk or Peterborough Ramblers, the lowest of the low. 15 June 2023

By Muddy Boots

All this happened, more or less. The Great Fen, Managed by Natural England, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest containing two National Nature Reserves, Woodwalton Fen and Holme Fen. It is located to the south of Peterborough with its western border along the east coast mainline.

The Great Fen covers an area of 3,700 hectares and as it is apparently in the rules of journos that if an area of any location is mentioned it must be compared to the size of Wales. So, Wales covers an area 0f 2,064,100 hectares making Great Fen 5,579 times smaller than Wales! Isn’t that interesting?

However there is a vast amount of interesting information about Great Fen and the Holme Fen Posts online and I urge you to spend a while browsing their websites, as time spent on browsing is seldom wasted.

Our walk was through Holm Fen and we gathered at Great Fen Information Point before moving the short distance to our start in the shade on the site of Halfway Farm where generations of the Robinson family lived and worked the land. All that now remains though are several fruit trees and a water well.

We follow the permanent way of the Ramsey to Holme railway, closed in 1973. We enter Holme Fen, walking through the largest lowland silver birch woodland in England on well-maintained tracks.

Even though I carried out a recce there was one short section I was not sure of. (The tracks are generally not waymarked).

So with nothing better to do at 6a.m. on a gloriously cool morning I went back to confirm where I was going, all sorted, I spotted a small painting propped up against silver birch with bark arranged about.

I sent the pics to my two daughters for their comments. Daughter number one (archaeology) was certain it was ritualistic, number two daughter (media) thought it most likely placed there by children from the local school.

I wasn’t sure at first but then it struck me that on that date, 12 June the rising sun was just missing the site and in a few days’ time on midsummer’s day the sun would be shining directly onto the site!

That clinched it for me and am convinced that if you were to go along there on the early morning of the 21st you would likely witness n*k*d swains and maidens frolicking in the glade encouraged by a local Shaman.

Regrettably, I forgot to point this out to the group so am unable to record their opinions.

The Holme Fen Posts are about half a mile to the west of what was Whittlesea Mere, drained in the mid-19th century for farmland, and at three miles across the largest lake in lowland England.

In anticipation of ground subsidence on draining of the mere, a local landowner in 1851 had an oak pile driven down about 22 feet into the underlying clay. He then had the top cut off level with the ground and used it to monitor the peat subsidence.

Eventually the oak post was replaced by a cast iron column with its top at the same level as the original post.

The post now rises 4m above ground and is believed to be the lowest land point in Great Britain at 2.75m below sea level, and it was here that we took our banana break. We truly were the lowest of the low.





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