Walking 39

‘…it is both means and end, travel and destination.’

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Fen Landscape – New Bedford River

New Bedford River, Mepal, Cambs, May 2021

The New Bedford River, also known as the Hundred Foot Drain because of the distance between the tops of the two embankments on either, is a man-made cut-off or by-pass channel of the River Great Ouse in the Fens. It provides an almost straight channel between Earith and Denver Sluices.  It was opened in 1652.

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Blue Rope – Magag Down

The Magog Downs were gilded delicately with cowslips on Friday, showing up the trashy gaudiness of lurid fields of rape. I like the brilliance of the blue here, the spiral and the way the end on the rope is pointing to the horizon. Shame about the composition though: a lower view point would have eliminated the intrusive path.

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Walking 38

‘In the contemporary city, the eyes on screens often outnumber those on the street.’

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Shingle Street – German Ocean Mansion

Shingle Street is not somewhere you go for the architecture. Pevsner ignores it in his Suffolk, though that is no surprise.  Its distinctions are found in the works of nature, not humankind.  Yet the hamlet is not without interest, with some vernacular cottages, the roughcast drum of a Martello tower (c.1812) and the solid beacon-like terrace of the coastguard cottages (c.1879).  Plus something unique: the German Ocean Mansion, two single storey red brick wings running north-south from a central sun room below a lookout reached by spiral stairs.

The Marine Lodging Houses were built ‘on the continental model in two attached blocks, North and South’ by Thomas Neale Fonnereau in 1876.  An advertisement offered: ‘Furnished residence of seven rooms can be let for one, two or three months.  The let can either be in five or seven rooms’.  In 1878 the south block was sold and it became one house renamed the German Ocean Mansion – the German Ocean was the usual name for the North Sea up until 1914.  The Mansion became the summer home of the Colleys, a Roman Catholic family that arrived each year with horses, yachts, friends and a chaplain.  Residents supplemented their often precarious incomes by gardening, domestic work and looking after the horses.

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Walking 37

‘…a way to bask in the faint human warmth of brief encounters, acquaintances, greetings, and overheard conversations.’

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Shingle Street 29

New island off Shingle Street, April 2021

A visit to Shingle Street yesterday – first since October 2020 – a day of haze and bright April sun with skylarks singing and hares out on the marshes.  The cycle of changes rolls on: a new island has formed off-shore; and the main lagoons continue to lose definition, fill with slime, mud and shingle and no longer invite swimming.  Land artists have added decorative flourishes to the shell line.

Percolation lagoon, Shingle Street, April 2021
Shell line, Shingle Street, April 2021
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Walking 36

‘How do you navigate a city where the streets have no names?’

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Walking 35

‘No walk, as far as I am concerned, is ever wasted.’

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Fen Landscape – Lodes Way, Reach

Lodes Way bridge, Reach

The abutments to the Lodes Way bridge over Reach Lode have big open arches to allow for flooding and the free moment of grazing animals.

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Walking 34

‘…the idea of a city as a place of unmediated encounters…’

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Classical Contrasts 33 – Tiw/Tyr

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Tiw/Tyr is a Nordic figure associated with war, justice and the law.  He can be equated with Ares, the Greek god of courage and war, one of the Twelve Olympians, and the son of Zeus and Hera. Figure: Tīw or … Continue reading

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Fen Landscape – Reach Lode

I fulfilled a long-held, though modest, ambition last weekend: to walk along Reach Lode going north-west from the village – previous walks there have always been south along the Devil’s Dyke.

Burwell Fen, Reach, April 2021

The village had the quiet of a sleepy Sixties Sunday when I arrived and parked along Fair Green.  Passing the front of the romantically overgrown Congregational Chapel, I and took Chapel Lane down to a track that led through trees to The Hythe and the west side of the Lode.  The embanked path overlooked pasture with sheep grazing, something rare to see, hear and smell in the Fens.  The landscape was dominated by a double row of pylons carrying skeins of cables from the major sub-station at Burwell.  Hedges and trees sheltered the path from a brisk and chilly northerly wind for the first few hundred metres.  Dried, bleached reeds swaying and rustling in the wind fringed the grey-green water of the Lode.  Soft calls and an occasional squawk betrayed hidden birds; a kestrel scanned the embankments; and a solitary reed bunting flitted from stem to stem along the water’s edge.

Reach Lode, Reach, April 2021

On either side of the Lode the landscape opened out into marshland with seasonal standing water and tufts of sedge.  Towering clouds, white, pearly and ashen, drifted against an azure background, sending waves of light and shade across the land.  A mile from the village a new humped- back bridge carried the Lodes Way over the water.  From the top Adventurers’ Fen and Wicken Fen stretched away to the north.  The anxious calls of gulls, ducks and geese floated in on the wind; roe deer and highland cattle went quietly about their business of conservation grazing.

Travellers’ Site, Burwell, Cambs, April 2021

I crossed the bridge and climbed two fences to get onto the path along the east side of the Lode.  In the distance, beyond a lagoon, blue in the reflected sky, a scar of sheds, vans and scrap vehicles was a jarring neighbour to the ecological re-wilding landscape. Two horses grazing nearby looked forlorn.  I passed under the humming power lines back to Reach.

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Congregational Chapel, Reach

Former Congregational Chapel, Reach, Cambs

The Congregational Chapel in Reach was built in 1862.  It could seat 290 worshipers and in its day was extremely well-supported.  The Fens have a long dissenting tradition: the Church of England was never popular, being seen as all too often too closely allied to landed interests.  The Chapel has been described as ‘notably confident’; it is ignored by Pevsner, which is a pity, but no surprise.   The boldness of the text on the frieze epitomises the confidence, though only part is now visible – ‘…EST.  AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOOD WILL…  It has been converted to a dwelling; nature is taking over, but it appears to be still inhabited.

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Walking 33

‘…the less one wanders the city the more alarming it seems, while the fewer wanderers the more lonely and dangerous it really becomes.’

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