Posts Tagged ‘The fens’

Light on Leeds Podcast

Killing Time in Cambridge book cover

I was honoured and delighted to be invited by Hazel to be interviewed for her podcast Light on Leeds.

She wanted to ask me about my writing, my book, the Fens and Cambridge.

Here is the link to her podcast:

https://www.lightonleeds.com/episodes/light-on-episode-4-philip-cumberland-author?fbclid=IwAR0Rqhq61E1ObUfbHK4-Hy2xcySyImPWf4qCk0wfW-HS1UIqFrBSLHzx1VA#

To hear more of Hazel’s podcasts please visit her site.

https://www.lightonleeds.com/

The Authorised Guide to Grunty Fen (Gateway to the East) by Christopher South. A review.

The Authorised Guide to Grunty Fen by Christopher South

I was at Niche Comics Bookshop in Huntingdon a few weeks ago delivering copies of my books, when my gaze fell on The Authorised Guide to Grunty Fen by Christopher South.

Dennis of Grunty Fen was a celebrated resident of this unusual place and appeared weekly in conversation with Christopher South on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. When I managed to listen to them I was usually reduced to uncontrollable laughter, accounts of Hereward the Wake and his racing punt, the undiscovered vaults beneath Ely Cathedral are just two of the incidents discussed by Dennis and Christopher. There is many, many, many, more each one a gem.

This book gives an account of the area its architecture and inhabitants, it is a long time since I laughed so much that the tears rolled down my face. The Grunty Fen in this book has only mild exaggerations of some of the buildings in the fens. Rusting corrugated iron, railway sleepers together with leaning buildings of all shapes and sizes are not uncommon. The book contains many excellent drawings by John Holder enhancing visually the pictures so eloquently painted in words by the author.

Day to day life in this remote area of the fens is described in detail. For example, the importance of rhubarb both as a staple part of the diet and a means of communication is carefully described as are local competitive sports, Drain Rodding as a sport is unique to the area.

Sadly Dennis, Pete Sayers, is no longer with us but his spirit lives on I am grateful for the pleasure he and Mr South gave me. Even now there are pilgrims asking directions to Grunty Fen from the surrounding villages in search if not of Dennis but Potts Garage, Mrs Edwards at the Post Office, The Wolseley Hen Coop Car and of course Dennis’s home the LNER carriage. Visitors are advised to be wary of Feral Nuns on Vespas.

This book is a wonderful reminder of Sunday mornings on Radio Cambridgeshire, the world is a poorer place without Dennis and the community of Grunty Fen.

There is actually a place called Grunty Fen
This was Grunty Fen in 1648 before much of the fens was drained

To learn more about Grunty Fen and its most celebrated resident, Dennis visit: https://www.dennisofgruntyfen.co.uk/

To find out more about the wonderful bookshop that is Niche Comics Bookshop, visit: https://huntsbooks.co.uk/

Killing Time in Cambridge a review by Stephen Oliver

Stephen was kind enough to buy my book and has given me this wonderful five star review on Amazon, he has also posted it on his own blog too. I write not just for my own pleasure but hopefully to entertain others, it is gratifying for me when I have succeeded.

Killing Time in Cambridge

This is not part of my publishing career, but I would like to promote a novel written by a friend of mine, Philip Cumberland.

It is a cross between a time-travel adventure and a police procedural, with intense descriptions of local colour. The premise is fascinating, and the execution extremely well done. 

The tale gripped me from the beginning because of the interesting, quirky characters, like Arnold, Sylvia… and, of course, Marvin. Their interactions were believable, and the character-building using dialogue was credible. The world-building, basing itself on the real Cambridge and the countryside of the Fens as it did, brought a touch of reality to an otherwise bizarre and twisted tale. Well, time travel will do that to a story.

If you like stories that are a bit out of the ordinary (and time travel and police procedural under one roof are extraordinary), you should enjoy this journey into the past… er, future? Um, whenever…!

Oh, and I loved that little plot twist at the end, hinting as it does to a possible sequel.

The author assures me that he has made every trip mentioned, been to every scene described, and walked (and timed) every outing within the city. I have not spent much time in Cambridge, but I can visualise how it was on the days of the murders…

If you’re looking for something different and interesting, I can thoroughly recommend it.

Stephen Oliver

If you would like to read it for yourself there is a link to Amazon on the photo title or click herehttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Killing-Time-Cambridge-Philip-Cumberland/dp/1916481779/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1610177186&sr=8-1

The Siren by Alison Bruce

Book cover of The Siren by Alison Bruce

The Siren by Alison Bruce

I never thought that retirement would be so time consuming. The thought that my twilight years would stretch in front of me unfilled allowing me time to read, watch films, write and generally idle away my time seem far from the reality.

Finally I have found the time to read The Siren, the second in the Gary Goodhew series of novels. Although Cambridge Blue was excellent, a brilliant first novel,  I think The Siren is even better. As with Cambridge Blue the book is set in my part of the world many of the places and the landscape of the fens are familiar to me, though I must admit not Mill Road Cemetery. Up to the very end I was left guessing. I shall be buying the next in the series, The Calling or adding it to my Christmas list for Santa’s attention.

 

 

Sunrises and sunsets

I have lived and worked in Cambridgeshire just about all of my life I did work for a while on the outskirts of Peterborough, a matter of just a few months but that is all. I like the fens because of their openess and the skies, the skies are an everchanging picture, each second unique and different unemcumbered by the clutter of buildings they allow the really big picture of the sky to be seen.These are just a few of the photos I have, not every day brings skies as spectacular as these but we get plenty of them and there are plenty of days of sunshine.DSCN0238

Sunrise

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Sunrise same day

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Sunrise behind the wind turbines

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A bit further along the road

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Sunset looking towards Ramsey from the bridge at Bodsey

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From Bodsey again

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Near Bodsey

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Remains of an old wind pump at Ramsey St Marys.

I have wanted to photograph this old wind pump at sunset for some time but never had the opportunity, I intend to return for some more pictures in the future. It has a certain beauty for me mingled with a sadness that it is no longer needed and just left to rot. So much of that which is built on the fens has about it a feeling impermanence, of borrowing its’ existence from the waters that have been drained away and one day may return. Many buildings built on drained land have foundations that move with the shifting fen beneath them very few walls remain plumb even only after a few years. The most immediate effected by the shifting ground under our feet are the roads. Many fen roads move on a seemingly daily basis until after a short time dips and ridges form that can throw unwary vehicles in any direction.

 

 

Wind powered drainage in the fens

 

 I have lived and worked near, in and around the fens all my life. The battle to reclaim the land from the waters has had a fascination for me ever since I have known about it. In reality to describe it as a battle is to diminish what has really been a war, at times the waters have taken back with ease, that which was won with much hard physical work.

The most honest evaluation is probably that which has been taken is held; mammoth and innovative engineering maintain the status quo.

I have in my lounge a reproduction of a 1645 map of Huntingdonshire, with the Isle of Ely and part of Cambridgeshire. A good portion of Huntingdonshire and the Isle of Ely are shown as under water with a few towns and villages as islands within the waters, I have another map of about a similar age titled Inumdatum which gives an indication of the extent of the waters.

The drainage of the fens has been achieved over many centuries the long straight waterways (drains), dug mainly by hand. A truly spectacular sight to me is to drive along a road with the river above me on one side above the height of the van and ten twenty feet or more below me on the other side are the fields with crops growing in them.

Hundred Foot Bank, Sutton, Cambs The B1381 road to Earith runs below the New Bedford River level.© Copyright Rodney Burton

 

The photograph shows in an instant the monumental achievement in reclamation of land from the water the land below the road has to be drained by emptying it into a river or drain above it rather than below it. When you realise a cubic metre of water weighs a tonne the colossal scale of the feat becomes more apparent. Every drop of water in that and many drains and rivers in the fens that has been run off from the fields, has to be physically lifted considerable heights to keep the ground dry and usable.

To start with wind was used to power pumps and giant scoop wheels to lift the water then steam, diesel and now electric pumps do the work. With the appearance of wind turbines in the fens, ultimately they are now to a degree being drained again by wind power.

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