Published Jul 2019
Whenever I travel…in upland Britain, I find the hills and the horizon are leaning towards me, as if trying…to blinker my gaze and stifle my imagination. It’s always a huge relief to get back to the infinite vistas of the Fens.
Inland from the Wash, on England’s eastern coast, crisscrossed by substantial rivers and punctuated by soaring church spires, are the low-lying, marshy and mysterious Fens. Formed by marine and freshwater flooding, and historically wealthy owing to the fertility of their soils, the Fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire are one of the most distinctive, neglected and extraordinary regions of England.
Francis Pryor has the most intimate of connections with this landscape. For some forty years he has dug its soils as a working archaeologist – making ground-breaking discoveries about the nature of prehistoric settlement in the area – and raising sheep in the flower-growing country between Spalding and Wisbech. In The Fens, he counterpoints the history of the Fenland landscape and its transformation – from Bronze Age field systems to Iron Age hillforts; from the rise of prosperous towns such as King’s Lynn, Ely and Cambridge to the ambitious drainage projects that created the Old and New Bedford Rivers – with the story of his own discovery of it as an archaeologist.
Affectionate, richly informative and deftly executed, The Fens weaves together strands of archaeology, history and personal experience into a satisfying narrative portrait of a complex and threatened landscape.