A journey across a landscape and time
of the Cambridgeshire Fens
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 at 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.
Explore the Cambridgeshire Fen Edge
on a Landscape Heritage trail
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, we are publishing a series of walks, each with its own Walk Guide that describes the landscape, historical and wildlife features along the route. The links between geology, ecology, history and present 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, the RSPB (Ouse Fen), 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.
As part of Celebrate the Fens Day 2020, we published a new page of information on how the sea has left its mark on the the Fens in the form of roddons – ghost-like patterns of fossilised water channels that appear in many fenland fields. We would welcome any photos you have of apparent roddons, especially if they can also be seen in aerial photographs (such as on Google Earth).
If you would like to get involved in the project or receive our emailed updates and news, please contact us.
Talks and events: Learn about geology – local and worldwide
Visit Cambridgeshire’s unique historical site for a taste of the fenland -past and present
© Cambridgeshire Geological Society