Open space

I will be catching a train out of London to spend a couple of days in the fen country which sits between Cambridge and the Wash. A strange place of wide open space, which leaves the visitor less than sure of their bearings, being as it is, a flatter land than most which was sometime earlier than now, the sea; the hardened edges being created over the years when the water still seeped through in a tidal creep to the softer fringes of reeds and sucking mud. To think about the where of their own physical being in such a landscape, can make a person so minded as to hold one of their arms straight and level against their chest with the other arm in almost the same position, just below the nose in a curious measuring guess at how much of them would have then been under the brine, with only the shine of their glare as an indication that there might have been a disappearing someone deep in there and almost lost. It can be a measure of a persons own worrying at such a sinking way to be gone which catches a shivering hold on the body before the mind moves on to a different, less concerning thought. As the visitor starts to think about what the land was, all thoughts on the matter can quick enough conclude that what it is in actual fact is flat and without expectation. Dykes scar the land from the north to the south and from the east to the west, to the edge of the marshlands which slide wide into the Wash close to Gatt Beacon, entering the channel through to Western Point, past Herrion Sand and the mooring buoys silent out along Freiston Shore. A wilderness of watered land, a created past earlier than the earliest reckoned moments, a line of clodders, slodgers and yellow bellied hops. A land that runs at the call of the stationary engines which hum and pump water wherever and whenever there is water to be pumped, to be sluiced and to be pushed, roaring through in a sounded crash of dirty white foam, down and then off around the channels and the cuts, moving way out into the sea at the Wash. As a person leans back as far as it is possible to lean without falling over and down, the mind wonders at the how of the skies and their eye boggling size which seem to be, by a clod bound starer such as most of us are, raising a hand against the sun, to be without an ended top or a sided stop, weighted fast as they are onto the flat fields below. A wondering gaze holds what could be seen as less than a care for convention or a more usual notion of rural splendour, leaving some of the visiting sort with the opinion that this is a good way for it to be. And if it is hard to mark a recognised edge in a line of sight out in the fields, there is less of an ease in establishing a defining sense of place in the towns that are scattered across the fen land. The earliest communities were established by those who saw only a need to raise the most basic cover over for the people there were to be got inside, out of the flattening wind which hurtles its way in from over and across the eastern fen. At first these communities were rare, though slowly each one increased in size, encroaching on the surrounding settlements in which most of the people continued to live, even to the outer reaches of the fen land, over the mud to the sea, through the shallow cuts interspersed with white salt flats, marshes and open water sounded with the crying of geese. The muddied flats were scoured by the wind which hurtles across the fen, over the land from Fosdyke Wash and the Moulton Sluice - the high old tide of the sea coming in quick through the running creeks, under swinging ropes on the Langrick Ferry, reeds bending under wet slogged boots, over long cloddered earth and the low hanging damp, seen raised to the level of Gosberton Bank, though the channel through Dowdyke is long gone.

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