The forgotten country

I live in a beautiful area of England as you can see from the background to this blog. It's only just over an hour away by train from London, and yet it's an area that tourists rarely visit, and that is largely forgotten. This is no modern day phenomenon, as it's been a forgotten land for much of its history. The Fens are an eerie water-logged world composed of reclaimed marshland, and man-made canals and dykes scything through the landscape. Stretching from Lincolnshire in the north and down into Cambridgeshire and Norfolk the Fens have always been a bit of a world apart from the rest of the UK. They are distinctively different, and not to everyones' taste, but once you've got a feeling for this odd watery landscape with its quirky placenames (Adventurers Fen, Black Horse Drove), you'll love it.

Living next to the river, and walking my dogs there most days I've developed a real love for this place, and for the life of the river bank. It's never boring and there's always something going on there. The lives of the animals feel quite as real to me, no more real, than watching any soap opera. I've watched swans partner up and have their families, I've seen raucous teenage swans, squabbles among ducks, and young hares coming out for their first look at the world. Man-made the Fens may be, but here man and nature lie happily together.

Today I watched the sun set behind a hot air balloon while above me parachutists whooped as they came into land, a flock of geese honked by overhead supremely indifferent to the trespassers in their airspace.

Last weekend two hares were out in the field - a wonderful sight. I used to see hares regularly but they've been strangely absent over the last year. These two were having a wonderful boxing match looking every bit the mad March hares. A solitary swan glided by, he looks quite young, possibly recently separated from his parents, and seems to be looking rather forlornly for a mate. The Russian swans are still over at Welney, or are possibly even thinking already of flying back to Siberia, while the usual swan residents of our river have moved further upstream. Nevertheless every day he hopefully chugs backwards and forwards.

Tonight although there was lots going on in the air, the river was strangely silent. No waterfowl, no fishermen. Probably because of this I saw something delightful that I'd never seen before. It was dusk, and the river and land were glowing with the rays of the setting sun. I spotted ripples in the water, as though it was raining, and then I saw the silvery body of a fish break the surface. The insects were flying low over the water, and the fish were grabbing their dinner as it passed by. Fish after fish broke the surface, and not a fisherman in sight....Just another day on a fenland riverbank.


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