Ely High School 1905-1972 - Geography Expedition in the Fens

This is one of those trips that probably took place regularly as part of the curriculum: this account comes from the July 1954 Ely High School magazine.

The Geography Expedition in the Fens.

The morning was misty when we three Upper Fourth Forms set out for our expedition in the Fens under the supervision of the Geography mistresses.

On the way to Prickwillow we could see the black soil of the Fens. The celery was still growing with the black soil heaped round its roots. Carrots and mangolds were growing and sugar beet was being cut to take to the factory. On land which had grown potatoes there were potato clamps for storage.

The beet sugar factory is built by the side of the railway and therefore the beet can be sent by rail to the factory, made into sugar and taken away again. Also lorries carry beet to the factory and sugar away from it. The position of the factory near the railway and the hard road makes this easy.

On reaching Prickwillow we went inside the pumping station, where a man showed us round and told us a little about it. After that we went to the Vicarage. It was very old, and we were able to see how much the land has shrunk round it during the last fifty years. Five steps are now necessary to reach the front door, and nearly three feet of the foundations can be seen.

From there we went along the Mildenhall road, turning right at Littleport, and on to the Lynn Road to Southery. We saw the part of the road which had been swept away in the 1947 floods. Near Southery we saw two houses which had once stood side by side, but the land had shrunk more on each side of the houses than in the middle, so that they fell apart, and only at the bottom did the houses remain together.

When we reached Hilgay the colour of the soil changed and there were more trees and bushes. There was not any evidence of shrinkage now and more pasture land could be seen.

After stopping in Downham Market to have our lunch we went on to Denver Sluice. The tide was out when we reached Denver and we could see the clay banks. The large gates which hold back the water in flood time weigh eight to ten tons each. These gates work automatically with the tide. In flood time the gates are kept closed the whole of the time and the surplus water is diverted up the Old and New Rivers.

The 1947 floods were due to the fact that the water was very high on the other side of the gates, and that we had had very heavy rainfall which made the water very high on this side of the gates, so that the gates could not be opened to let the water through as the sea water would have rushed in, and the pressure of the water this side of the gates against the banks was so great that it burst the banks, and the water flowed out with such force that it pushed everything before it.

We left Denver Sluice at 2.15 p.m. and made our way back to Ely via Welney and Littleport. We arrived at school at 3.30 p.m., worn out, but we all agreed that it had been a very interesting expedition.


Denver Sluice Walk

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page created 8 Dec 10