A Following Wind

Front book cover for A Following WInd

A following Wind front cover

Our U3A Creative Writing Group, Whittlesey Wordsmiths, is working on a new book, a follow up to Where the Wild Winds Blow, our first very successful attempt at writing and publishing. This new volume has the title: A Following Wind.

I am working on a new front cover for the book, something that conveys both a movement by wind and our Fenland landscape. Over the years I have managed to take photographs of what is for many people the defining feature of our landscape, the skies. Often at their most breathtakingly beautiful during sunrise and sunset.

The cover may be slightly different depending on the template restrictions but please take a look at it and let me have your feedback.

The Calling by Alison Bruce a review.

Front cover of the book The Calling

The Calling by Alison Bruce

Having read the first two books in the DC Gary Goodhew series (Cambridge Blue and The Siren) I was keen to try The Calling; the third or more accurately the first.

Alison had written The Calling before any of the others but decided that it was better placed as the third novel in the series.

There is always the problem of a Cambridge based detective being compared to that of Oxford’s Inspector Morse, Edinburgh’s Inspector Rebus or Bath’s Superintendent Diamond. DC Gary Goodhew is further down the ranks, a mere Detective Constable but none the less just as talented.

Goodhew struggles without any advantage of rank to find his way through a maze of clues, using unorthodox methods and skating round procedural niceties to find the answer to a troubling series of cruel murders. The ending is edgy and tense with the outcome by no means a foregone conclusion.

I enjoyed the book, like a great many of Alison’s fans, Cambridge is local and familiar to me, we have ownership of the settings.

This is, as are Alison’s other books well written, detailed and literate but above all else a damn good entertaining read.

Visiting Woodwalton Fen Nature reserve

Wood Walton Fen Nature Reserve

This probably as close to how the fens were before they were drained

My wife and I visited Woodwalton Fen Nature reserve recently, it has been a number of years since our last short visit. We parked alongside the Great Raveley drain that forms part of what is in effect a moat that surrounds the reserve. The reserve needs these surrounding and network of internal waterways to keep the ground moist and maintain its height above the surrounding land. The land roundabout has been drained and is as a consequence lower.

We crossed the bridge into the reserve walking to the thatched information shelter where we picked up three leaflets, each a guide to a different walk around the reserve. We decided on the waterfowl trail and set off.

Woodwalton Fen Information Centre

Woodwalton Fen information Centre

The Great Fen Project of which Woodwalton Fen is part is returning the area to the fen wetlands that existed before their drainage. The ground is boggy and wet nearly everywhere, apart from some wooden walkways, in many places, there are ponds of dark peaty water. The landscape gives some indication of how difficult travel must have been in centuries past when most journeys in the fens were made on either foot, horseback or by boat.

The Bungalow Woodwalton Fen Nature Reserve

The Bungalow Woodwalton Fen Nature Reserve

For a while we saw little in the way of wildlife save for a few swans and an odd duck, then after coming across the bungalow and a beautifully carved memorial bench beside it, we spotted a dear in the distance. Surprisingly for this early in the season there were a number of butterflies around we spotted Brimstone and Peacock for certain.

Carved Memorial Bench at Woodwalton Fen Nature Reserve

Carved Memorial Bench at Woodwalton Fen Nature Reserve

 

A deer in the distance

A deer in the distance

A sleeping Swan

A sleeping Swan

We gingerly edged around a sleeping swan then came across a ditch full of frogs apparently mating and the biggest ball of frogspawn I have seen. I cannot remember seeing so many frogs in one place they all seemed to be thriving looking at their size.

Frog spawn

Frog spawn

Frogs

Frogs just two of a huge cast

We rambled on finding the winding footway to Gordon’s hide. The hide is elevated roughly ten feet above the level of the mere sharing the same name, it gives a good panoramic view of the open water and the surrounding fen. We will bring binoculars on our next visit.

We continued on the trail until we found ourselves back alongside the Great Raveley Drain. We followed this until we reached the bridge at the entrance and crossed to collect our car. As we walked alongside the drain we encountered a tree obviously hollow, home to wild bees. These little fellows seem to have an aerial motorway across the drain, the bee traffic seemed heavy and continuous.

Bee hive in a tree

Bee hive in a tree

We reckoned that we had spent the best part of two hours wandering around this beautiful, tranquil place and are determined to return sooner rather than l

Philosophy and History

Plato_Silanion_Musei_Capitolini_MC1377

By Copy of Silanion, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7831217.

I went to a U3A meeting yesterday at St Neots, they had a number of different displays around the room from different interest groups one was by the Philosophy Group.

Although there are a number of definitions of Philosophy they seem to distil down to what I understand Philosophy to be, the study of wisdom. I have felt for some time that along with History it should be a core subject within the education system. Philosophy should replace Religious Education in my view. Teaching people how to think, would help them make sounder judgements, rationalise and avoid knee jerk reactions to untested statements. It would make us all more questioning and rational less willing to take statements of fact at face value.

Why then history too?

This quote in its various forms is probably the most persuasive argument for the teaching of history:

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchill

(by Dallon Christensen White board Business Partners website)

The commonly used expression, “Those who ignore history are bound (or doomed) to repeat it” is actually a misquotation of the original text written by George Santayana (1863-1952), who, in his Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1, wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Stanford University online also provides an outstanding and much more detailed background on this important and profound philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist.

Santayana’s quotation, in turn, was a slight modification of an Edmund Burke (1729-1797) statement, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Burke was a British Statesman and Philosopher who is generally viewed as the philosophical founder of modern political conservatism.

(Answers.com)

I was talking to a history teacher of a secondary school a few years ago, when I said I thought history was a very important subject she asked me why I thought it was important?

I replied, that “History teaches us not only about the past but informs us about the present and helps predict the future”.

If we do not know history we have no option than to continue to repeat it as we have nothing to learn from.

England’s Lost Lake a Review

 

 

Englands Lost Lake

England’s Lost Lake, The story of Whittlesea Mere.

 

 

The fen country was for centuries, millennia even, a vast expanse of open water fen and bog that stretched from the Wash inland to the higher ground to the North and West. It has been described as a vast sump soaking up and holding the water flows from those surrounding counties on higher ground. A map of Huntingdonshire dated 1645 shows towns and villages as islands amongst the bogs fens and open water. Although drainage had been started in Roman times it was not until the seventeenth century that the serious work began with Van Vermuyden as the chief engineer. Eventually the last mere left undrained was Whittlesea Mere; Paul Middleton’s  England’s Lost Lake tells the story of that nineteenth-century project updating an earlier work produced by the WEA in 1986.

It is an interesting read, detailing not only the draining of the Mere itself and the methodology but also describing some of the players involved. The way of life of those that had earned a living from the mere is explored too. We learn of the Reed Cutters, Wild Fowlers and those that fished the Mere. We are informed of how the different seasons provided other means of earning a living for those whose livelihood depended on this vast lake. Details are given of the wildlife, insects, flora and fauna that occupied the area. The species that have survived and those that were lost, some completely unique to the area.

One is left with the feeling that the project was not the overwhelming success envisaged and returning a good proportion of the fen to its past state was partly an act of expediency. This though is purely my own personal view. Whatever the reasons the Great Fen Project is something that those of us that love this landscape, welcome, a view I share with the author.

If you have an interest in the Fens and its history this is a book you should own.

One last point Paul if you are reading this can you tell me about the Shelerode?

This book was sponsored by the Fenland Trust.

 

 

The Great Fen project and Fen Ague

Fenland sky 

The Great Fen Project is an attempt to restore and return some of our natural fen heritage to an earlier state. The objective is to facilitate the regeneration of an ecosystem encouraging the return of greater wildlife diversity and habitat.

Having the oppportunity to watch flocks of waterfowl as they return to roost in a panoramic Fenland sunset is something I look forward to. Even aged 67, after spending my life in the fens, the limitless skies, the beauty of spectacular sunsets and sunrises, on a grand scale continue to fill me with awe.

One aspect of the regeneration of the fens seemingly neglected concerns me. Fen Ague or The Ague was a form of malaria once prevalent in the fens. Those that survived the infection were often revisited with its symptoms. Samuel Pepys was a famous sufferer as was Oliver Cromwell. He died at the relatively young age of 59 from Tertian Ague.

Starting with the seventeenth century and since large scale drainage has removed the stagnant pools of water – the breeding grounds for the mosquito disease carriers. Records were kept during the nineteenth century by county of the incidence of Ague or Malaria. Records have been correlated together with rainfall and temperature variation  Rates of Malaria infection were found to have fluctuated with temperature and rainfall. Warmer and wetter summer weather coincided with increases in the number of recorded cases. (1.)

Since the referenced article’s publication in 2003, evidence for climate change has become even stronger.  The assumption is that as a consequence the UK will become wetter and warmer. As the Great Fen Project develops, pools of stagnant water will grow in size and number.

Greater numbers of people from the UK are visiting areas abroad where Malaria is prevalent. This increases the probability that some travellers may return infected with the disease. These factors: increasing climate temperature and more abundent mosquito breeding grounds could see a return of a disease that had left these shores. Another concern is that warm air flows could bring mosquitoes infected with the parasite into the fens. I have expressed concerns about Fen Ague to those setting up the Great Fen Project.

Rex Sly on his blog post “Malaria in the Fens” (October 2007) believes that the extinction in the fens of the disease has been comprehensive.  He states that the disease-carrying mosquito species responsible has become extinct and there would need to be a pool of infection existing within the local human population. These factors he feels sure should be sufficient to prevent re-emergence of Malaria. Hopefully, Rex is right but the areas of concern I have outlined may outweigh this optimism. Increased international travel, disease evolution, larger bodies of stagnant water and a warmer climate could in the none-too-distant future provide a means for Malaria to return to these shores.

Hopefully, Malaria or Fen Ague is gone for good. However, at the very least, contingency plans to deal with the problem, should it arise, ought to be in place. The guardians of our welfare should, in my view, give this matter serious consideration.  Often in the past, the unthinkable and unexpected, have found us as a nation unprepared, even though, many timely warnings were given.

 

(1) 2003 article. (Malaria in Britain: Past, Present and Future, 2003. Katrin Gaardbo Kuhn, Diarmid  Campbell-Lendrum, Ben Armstrong and Clive R Davies).

 

All the Colours in Between

all the colours in between

Book cover of All the Colours in Between

All the Colours in Between 

Written by Eva Jordan

Lizzie Lemalf is an author, a mum, a step mum and daughter of ageing parents.

Her parents, children, husband, ex-husband and those she cares for jostle for her time as she pursues her writing career. A career embarked on later in life. Her success and growing recognition as an author are balanced by the trials, pressures and joys of family life.

The reader becomes immersed in lives of the finely drawn characters inhabiting this novel’s pages. All the Colours In Between gives us the opportunity to share the pleasures, triumphs and emotions of Lizzie and her family; making their way not only in the world but through life.

The story deals with the contemporary difficult issues that affect many of us, our families, friends and those we care for. Eva’s observations are keen, incisive and informative.

It is a long time, a very long time indeed that I have experienced the empathy or shared the feelings  I felt for Lizzie and her family. Eva has highlighted the permanent nature of parenthood. She explores the complex emotional nature of relationships, doing so with great insight, skill and eloquence.

All the Colours in Between is an exceptionally well-written book. I could pile superlative, after superlative on top of that sentence but those few words sum it up: It is for me at least, truly exceptional.

This is one of the very best books I have read.

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