A journey across a landscape and time
Explore the Cambridgeshire Fen Edge
The Cambridgeshire landscape has a unique and fascinating history, from floods and glaciers to deep seas, tropical lagoons and even volcanoes! The Fen Edge is where low-lying fenland meets the surrounding ‘highland’, roughly where the land lies 5 metres above current sea level. This is thought to be the approximate maximum extent of the once extensive wetland. Sea level has however, changed greatly at various times and the amount of freshwater flooding, from rivers and meres, has changed even more frequently, often not only from season to season but from year to year. Although the draining of the Fens is well-known, the story of how and when this happened is far more complex than is generally thought. The Fen Edge, including the many fen islands, provided drier land that was often a refuge from the marshes and it is, therefore, here where much of the history of the fens can be discovered by looking t the clues that remain.
As well as a rich cultural history, the Fens also have a fascinating, and often dramatic, landscape heritage, which is far less well-known but that continues, even today, to affect the lives of its inhabitants. From volcanoes to ‘ice ages’, and salt marshes to raised bogs, from Jurassic sea ‘monsters‘ to mammoths, and hippos to bog ‘oaks’, the complex story of how the fens were formed and what and who lived here, can be discovered by exploring the Fen Edge.
The Fen Edge Trail takes you from the Lincolnshire border in the northwest of the county to the Suffolk border in the southeast, using the 5 metre contour as a guide. It highlights some of the places of interest that can be visited in each area and gives links to organisations and events that will help you discover more. In addition, a series of walks are being developed that have accompanying maps and details that guide you and describe landscape, historical or wildlife features along the way. The links between geology, ecology, history and current day life in the Fens reveal themselves and the more you look, the more you discover and the more fascinating it becomes!
The Fen Edge Trail is an initiative set up by the Cambridgeshire Geological Society as part of our Geosites work. Our partners in developing the Trail are several local organisations who are each exploring their local landscape to contribute to the project. Our main partner is The Fenland Trust in Yaxley. Other key partners are the Great Fen, together with the Great Fen Heritage Group, and the Wildlife Trust (Beds, Cambs and Northants). Other organisations already contributing to the project include Warboys Archaeology Group, Chatteris Museum, Discover Ramsey, Burwell Museum, Farcet Parish Council, Thorney Heritage Museum, Holme History, and Wicken Fen (National Trust).
If you or your group would like to get involved in the Fen Edge Trail, please contact us. You may like to contribute information on local history, landscape, farming, wildlife or culture or you could help with designing one of the walks.
If you would like to get involved in the project or receive our emailed updates and news, please contact us.
NEW WALK PUBLISHED
Warboys to Somersham
This walk, on the south western Fen Edge, is the third stage of the Trail linking Ramsey and St Ives. Having climbed up to higher land at Warboys, the route now descends again to the lower lying fen to head east to Somersham. Starting at about 32m above sea level in Warboys, the walk reaches as low as 1m about half way through, as you briefly walk on the edge of the Peat. Somersham is important for geological research as it has well-preserved sequences of River Terrace gravels from ‘the Ice Age’. These show the climate changing between cold and warm periods, the rivers changing course and the fenland being flooded by freshwater and the sea at various times. This large peninsula of well-drained gravels has provided a significant area for human settlement. The walk follows the Pathfinder Way and the Rothschild Way.
The fen edge at Somersham has proved to be an important area for geological research due to its extensive gravel deposits of the River Terraces here (up to 7.5m thick), together with interbedded organic material. These hold a valuable record of environments during the current ‘Ice Age’ (the Quaternary Period) including the Pleistocene (Middle and Late) and Holocene Epochs. Deposits of marine silt (the ‘Fen Clay’) in the area show that marine conditions reached the (wider) Ouse valley between Chatteris and Somersham, interrupting Peat growth. The date suggested by the deposits is c. 3,855 years ago, a few hundred years before the likely fullest extent of this (early Bronze Age) ‘sea incursion’.
Somersham’s gravels have provided archaeological finds such as 4 flakes (now at the Sedgwick Museum) and a handaxe (at the British Museum) probably from Station Pit, dated to the Lower or Middle Paleolithic. The finds include Levallois flints, usually associated in Great Britain with Homo neanderthalensis.
Talks and events: Learn about geology – local and worldwide
Visit Cambridgeshire’s unique historical site for a taste of the fenland -past and present
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