The Fenland Princess Diaries

After relocation from Colchester, the Nomadic Family Unit now find themselves in the Fens. Or the Fenlands. Our forever home can be found in Eastern England so this is a very different area of the country to where Mum and Dad originate from in the North East. It is certainly very different for Hound Solo who hails from Cyprus and myself, Princess Zuri, who has come from Kenya. We are both used to glorious sunshine, and heat and when we arrived in late August 2022, it was a scorching summer. Mum and Dad had moved us to a much bigger property than we were used to but there was no such thing as climate control so for me and Solo, it was a fantastic start to the new place.

The new abode is on the banks of Well Creek so the view at the front is over the Creek, with the view to the rear over a rather unruly and untamed but magnificent garden and then rolling fields uninterrupted by development. Its all very rustic and rather sleepy, and crying out for exploration and adventure.

Fen is the local term for an area of marshland, and the Fens formed thousands of years ago as rivers dumped sediment onto sinking plains, forming wide marshes. The fens were drained centuries ago resulting in flat, dry low lying agricultural regions supported by a system of drainage channels and man made rivers. The area has become a major arable agricultural region for grains and vegetables and the land is particularly fertile and supports a rich ecology with numerous species of animals, birds and insects.

The Fens is an area of 400,000 hectares stretching from Lincoln and Boston in the north, Cambridge in the south and Peterborough in the west. It includes large parts of the counties of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, and smaller parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Fens have been referred to in bygone years as the ‘Holy Land of the English’ because of the former monasteries, now churches and cathedrals of which there are many. The village of Outwell where we find ourselves centres around St Clements Church.

Outwell is an ancient village named in the Doomsday Book in 1086 and is a civil parish in the borough of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, in the county of Norfolk although we are right on the edge of the border with Cambridgeshire. In 1990, Outwell parish was split with half in the county of Norfolk, and half in Cambridgeshire with the boundary falling along the old course of the river Nene. Wisbech is the nearest town some 5 miles away (8 kilometres) which lies north west of the village and is the self proclaimed ‘capital of the Fens.’

Outwell runs into a neighbouring village of Upwell and both villages are sometimes referred to as ‘the Wells.’ Well Creek snakes through both villages. It is difficult to know where Outwell ends, and Upwell begins or vice versa but both villages are equally quaint and picturesque.

In or around 1650, large scale drainage of the peatlands commenced and Dutch engineers designed long straight cuts to take the water to the sea quicker, and sluices were installed to stop tides running far inland. Success of this drainage was short lived because the peat shrunk. The fields became lower than the rivers and within 50 years, the land was once more drowned. The introduction of steam driven pumps in the 1820’s made a real difference and the Fens were drained once more. As a result of drainage and shrinking of underlying peat, many parts of the Fens lie below sea level and the land itself is sinking. However, the Fens today are protected by 60 miles (97 kilometres) of embankments defending against the sea and 96 miles (154 kilometres) of river embankments… dykes have been built higher and higher over the years to protect the land from flooding, and there are around 11 internal drainage board groups that maintain 286 pumping stations.

The landmarks that stand out in this flat landscape are the rivers and canals. There is an abundance of water and there are numerous rivers such as the Great Ouse, the Nene, the Witham, the Welland, the Old Bedford and the New Bedford, to name but a few. Some are entirely natural and some are man made but most lead out to the Wash, a rectangular bay and estuary of the north west corner of East Anglia on the east coast of England, where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire and both bordering the North Sea.

Everywhere you look there is water and I can see the connection to the location being referred to the wetlands but this has made for some beautiful walks in and around the area. There have been some truly enchanting sunsets and sunrises where the sun spills across the horizon with a yearned for yolkiness.

The summer was very short lived and we soon found out that the flatness of the countryside with no natural shelter across the never ending fields lends itself to some brutal weather conditions. The onset of winter was rapid and brought with it severe frosts and bitter wind sweeping across the landscape. Mum has made us wear our coats on quite a few occasions throughout the winter now but I grow grateful of an extra layer of warmth. There has even been snow which was not welcome at all.

Our village is traversed by drainage channels which characterise this part of Fenland Norfolk. The eastern corner of the parish is divided north to south by the Middle Level Main Drain. Crossing the parish from east to west is the Well Creek drain. Well Creek is the waterway which runs along side our house, and is pretty and idyllic often frequented by swans, ducks, moorhens, coots, egrets, herons and cormorants amongst other varieties of river birds. There is an amazing array of birds of prey and Mum has spotted kites, kestrels and hawks, including a Marsh Harrier and many more. There is a beautiful barn owl that regularly joins us on our ambling river side walkies on a dusky evening.

Middle Level Main Drain

Barges and narrow boats potter along the Creek from time to time reminding us that Norfolk is renowned for The Broads, a navigable waterway system which crosses the fenland of Norfolk and Suffolk.

There is plenty of wild life in the area and Mum has witnessed foxes frolicking in the field at the back of the garden, and Roe deer and Muntjac mooching around and nibbling on the grass. There are rabbits galore and there also seems to be a healthy badger population.

Disappointingly, there is a mole that has taken up residence in the garden and although the garden is in need of attention, Dad is despairing of the mole hills which keep appearing randomly across the lawn. Solo and I have taken to urinating on those mole hills so as to claim our territory, but it does nothing to deter the little critter. I have tried to fit in with the local wild life and have taken to rolling in fox poo but Dad made me shower which was not enjoyable.

Us with Barney

Mum and Dad are frequently away with a thing called work so the very lovely Run-around Hounds (a.k.a. Nicola) comes to take us out for walkies. I have made new friends on these walks and whilst Solo is content to maintain his sniffing duties, I have been on a charm offensive with the boys. I have numerous boyfriends now, namely Barney and a lovely elderly chap called Patch who has been nick named Hugh Heffner.

Patch a.k.a Hugh Heffner

I have been nicknamed Madonna because of my diva like antics, my strutting around and my questionable behaviour asserted over those boys. I have simply been displaying my dominance, in a rather friendly way. Mum says I have always been a Princess and I have a reputation to live up to now.

I have given up on hunting birds because the birds in this area are rather larger than I would like to tackle. There are swans everywhere, and I did hear about a place not far away called Welney, where there is a wetlands centre and the swans gather here and are fed. Although this sounds like a banquet, I did see the size of one of these swans up close which had been downed by a foxy relative and it was far too big for me to take on. In any event, I know that although those swans are elegantly beautiful, this belies their bad temper. So now I concentrate my efforts on mouse hunting. Much to Mum’s horror, I did manage to catch a mouse on one on our walks down by the river and whilst I did not munch on it, Mum got to witness the life ebbing out of its body in its shock at my hunting prowess.

The village of Welney some 15 minutes drive away takes in around 1000 acres of the Ouse washes. The washes are a flood storage area which are often under water during winter, which Mum has already experienced with the roads flooded and impassable for months on end making the drive to that work place thing difficult. It is an intentional flood plain and is seasonally flooded. It is also a natural reserve, and thousands of wild ducks, geese and swans gather here. In 2021, more than 12,500 Whooper swans wintered here. I’ve decided that these swans are actually to be avoided, although they are quite beautiful but when I see them silently drifting past the house along the Creek, I give them the space and respect they deserve.

The Living Room During the Carnage
The Living Room Finished

Mum and Dad have embarked upon ‘decorating’ in the new house. When we first arrived, the house was subjected to a full electrical re-wire and it was like living in a building site. The dust was unbearable and Mum was constantly cleaning. This has passed and now they are slowly putting the house back together. However, the parent’s are constantly stripping walls, skimming walls, sanding, papering and painting the walls.

The Dining Room During the Carnage
The Dining Room Finished

They had some help from friends Marc and Vanessa who visited from Solo’s homeland which was a great time because they let us snuggle with them on the sofa, a sacred place where we are not normally allowed to go but it was overlooked on this occasion.

Dad even built a very fancy book shelf in a room they call the ‘snug’ but I call it my new bedroom. Mum and Dad say the property is a work in progress but there seems to be much work to do.

The Snug Finished (My new bedroom)
The Snug During the Carnage

The garden is wonderful but it is wild although the adverse weather conditions have made it impossible to get to grips with it. There is a pond which Mum and Dad say they will be removing which is just as well as Solo has managed to fall into it. He is getting a bit old now and I’m not sure he can see it very well. He likes to drink out of it but it is covered in green stuff so it looks like grass, and I suspect he tried to walk on it, or he slipped into it when slurping away. Or both.

There are many trees in the garden – around 11 – including a Plum tree, 2 Apple trees, a Pear tree, a Maple tree, a giant Conifer tree, 4 Silver Birches, a holly tree along with plenty of ivy which is out of control and hiding all manner of things, but also slowly stifling other plant life and pulling down the already rotting fences. This makes for exciting exploration for me and Solo as there is always plenty to sniff, and it hides creatures which we take great pleasure in trying to uncover. We had great fun when a Tree surgeon came round and trimmed back some of these trees… who knew a grown man could get so high in the trees whilst manhandling a chainsaw.

Mum has promised to utilise the fruit on the trees to make jams, chutneys, sauces and bake pies and crumbles so I can’t wait for better weather in the hope that those trees bear the fruits and Mum channels her inner domestic goddess. Dad also wants to have a go at making cider which promises to be exciting times for the parents no doubt.

Spring has just about sprung as have the daffodils in the garden. There are flowers erupting along the river banks make for stunning surroundings and I am sure that when Mum and Dad have finally done with this decorating stuff, many more adventures will be in the offing.

Either way, the enormous and unkempt garden and this epic new house create an entirely new adventure for the Nomadic Family Unit.







One thought on “The Fenland Princess Diaries

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  1. Sounds like the four of you are having a wonderful life and you home is looking lovely πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸΆπŸΆ


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