Gedney End Drove: Salt Marsh

Whilst Europe roasted, the UK had a lovely hot day followed by a cool night – the perfect combination. Never the less, it was very apparent that climate change was occurring and we were finally in the end days. It no longer feels like we are standing on the brink – we’ve now gone over the top; we’re in No Man’s Land. And we’re all holding our breath. 

The Fenlands of East Anglia in England are spread out before our view like the ocean on a calm day – sometimes you can see for miles, but without any vantage points, the land will surprise you by quickly changing and mutating as you travel towards that beautiful semi-circle of the horizon. 

Whilst most of the fens is above sea level (unlike the Netherlands) some parts are a few metres under. Rising sea levels, due mostly to increasing temperatures, means that the salt marshes on the fringes of this Isle are vulnerable to flooding and are, therefore, shrinking. In fact global warning, the kind not created by humans, has already flooded a great stretch of our available land, and this process finished around 7000 years ago – cutting off Britain from mainland Europe far more effectively than Brexit ever could. Check National Geographic for an excellent  map.  I look at this and wonder endlessly about our forgotten lands – its people, memories, and secret places. 

Imagine inhabiting this vast area of forest and marsh and watching as the sea rolls in. Of course, it would have happened slowly, slow enough for people not to notice maybe, but within living memory. Perhaps for a few thousand years they passed on stories of this land – until they forgot where it once was and then forgot it once existed, maybe they called it Atlantis. Perhaps modern society will eventually disappear. Could we really forget society as it is? I bet the civilians of Pompei thought the same. Thought their society was immovable, carved in marble and wrought in stone. 

A few centuries ago and some of these fields would have been marshes – the inhabitance would live on intermittent high ground, villages built on stilts (like Venice). Instead of building up and up though, we drained the fens – creating a series of dykes and ditches to keep the land flat and dry.

Anyway – I let Charlie drive. Having recently passed her driving test, she was given a car as a present. I never got a car, I’m just saying. I took photos from the passenger seat which was fun. The photos are never particularly brilliant – you can never frame them like you’d want and the foreground is always blurry. But I find something so romantic about car photos. Plus it took my mind off all the near death experiences. 

We drove to Gedney End Drove, and took the Marsh Road to the coast. This piece of land isn’t part of any nature reserve (as much as I can tell) and is just down the road from RAF Holbeach. Sometimes you can see the jets chasing each  others tails across the marsh. The sound of distant bombing makes me nervous. 

I looked out across the Wash and spotted a small, but well shaped, island. Later on with the help of Google maps, I noticed this monstrosity (click the link but make sure it’s on satellite view). To start with I thought it was a digital fault – but on closer exploration it seemed to be a very real place. It is called ‘the donut’ which is weird because the British spelling is ‘doughnut’. Its alternative title is the ‘Outer Trial Bank’. It was built in the 1970’s as a test to see whether you could build a fresh water reserve in the wash. It was unsuccessful and the island is now home to 3000 breeding pairs of birds (what kind, I don’t know, probably some sort of gull thing).

All around grows Samphire (Salicornia europaea). It’s 100% edible, raw or cooked in butter. Take it home, wash it, soak it, enjoy. Sometimes I eat buckets of it. So that’s what we did.


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