The vast hedgeless fields of the fens change dramatically with the seasons. Since Roman times man has struggled to drain the fens, a vast area of bog. Early attempts failed, and it was not until the 1640's that drainage channels were sufficiently well engineered to start the drainage process.
Paradoxically as the fens dried out, the peat dried and shrunk. This caused the level of the land to fall, and hence be vulnerable to incursion from the sea as it fell below sea level. Eventually a system of powered pumps was used to pump water from the land into drainage channels, then when the tide came in, sluices were raised daily to keep the sea out.
Ely , with its wonderful cathedral, was an island in Saxon times, the haunt of Hereward the Wake, as he held out against the Normans. It was only in the 18th century that Ely ceased to be an island, as the fens were successfully drained
Return to Anglia page