Competitive skating for the first time in 5 years up on Welney Wash. Hard to imagine now, but at the end of the 19th century when fen skating was enjoying its heyday, normally isolated places like Welney would attract thousands of spectators. All vying for the best spot on which to view some of the world’s fastest speed skaters. Tom Jenkins captured the competition at Earith for the The Guardian, back in January.The image above was copied from the Cambridgeshire County Council – Archives and Local Studies page.
Pumping stations continue to maneuver water from one wet level to another so with this in mind, it’s worth mentioning that Stretham’s Old Engine House will be open to the public for a mere…15 days this summer. If you fancy doing something different then take the opportunity to see this place (the engine should be up and running, I think). It’s wonderfully windy out there in the potato fields of Stretham, and if nothing else it guarantees to blow the winter cobwebs faaarrrr away. Farmed land surrounds the strangely out of place Engine House, its empty chimney is one of the fens more elegant industrial landmarks. See also the wikipedia entry, there are some lovely pictures of the internal workings (William M. Connolley), empty chairs, oil lamps and other paraphernalia.The term Breedlings apparently originated in the late middle ages, and refers to the amphibious folk that inhabited pre-drained fenland. (See – The Human Geography of the Fenland…) For obvious reasons the native peoples were not taken with Mr. Vermuyden and his ilk. Industrial-scale drainage would render their ancient way of life redundant over a relatively short period of time. A couple of centuries later and the fading battle-cry of drainage protestors could still be heard. A bog spirit called Tiddy Mun was said to have placed a curse on the Lincolnshire fens as punishment for mans’ meddling with the natural flow of the waters. Locals worshipped the Tiddy Mun in the belief that he would protect their settlements against flooding and perilous fen mists… This part of East Anglia has inspired many a storyteller and soothsayer. Below: a tarot card gives an artist’s impression of a mutton chopped Tiddy Mun. (credits unknown)