A brief think back in time...

As promised I intend this to be a snapshot not a novel, although ironically there is no photo to go with this blog entry.

I've been working at The Riddy Wood Project this week. Those aware of this project know that Riddy Wood is in the Fenland of Cambridgeshire, or to be specific, right on the edge. The wood slopes gently down into what would once have been the Fens proper from what would have been 'the high ground', the final frontier as it were before the uncharted, largely untracked and certainly inhospitable fenland. From the track leading into the wood look north and the land is flat pretty much as far as the eye can see, look south and it is rolling countryside..., no, it's Cambridgeshire, undulating at best!

Working away from home is one of the few times I get to read anything these days because at home I'm too busy! I've been reading Robert MacFarlane's 'The Wild Places' recently and was reading the chapter on Forest where he considers what 'The Wild Wood' might have been like. I have often wondered how the Fens might have looked going back 500 years, 1000 years, 5000 years. Certainly large parts of them would have been woodland, albeit wet woodland or carr, perhaps similar to Wood Walton Fen just a mile or so from 'my' wood. It was just after sunset as I read this section, so I nipped out to the edge of the wood to have yet another look at this dusk landscape I had considered many times in the past.

In this frame of mind I noticed just how much there is that indicates our distance from those long forgotten times: piercing the horizon a wind farm, a brightly illuminated construction crane and a series of industrial chimneys; a distant road with myriad tiny roving pinpricks of light connecting the domed glow of distant towns where once would have been only darkness; closer to me mile upon mile of drainage ditch, from a scratch along a field boundary to channels big enough to lose a bus in; and the patchwork coat of crops of many colours receding into the distance. Although absent on this occasion from the same view point I have regularly seen aliens. Animals never imagined on our shores back then, whose native ranges had yet to be discovered, let along plundered; Chinese Water Deer, Chinese Muntjac (one of their full names), Pheasants. To complete the picture of change as I stood mulling over the altered fauna the shrill call of a Peacock, sounding out across the fields, from the posh house on the road.

My sunset chill out by the fire as my dinner heats up

and I have a few minutes to myself after a busy day.

I couldn't help but wish that it had never changed, that I could see it as it was, but alas, 'tis not so. The woods, pockets of ancient woodland no less, clinging on, ignored by farmers who, no longer allowed to grub them out, and unable to measure their yield in tonnes per acre, have lost interest. Are these perhaps our best chance of pretending that landscape of distant memory still remains? Possibly, which is why I will keep visiting and working there, and pretending in my spare moments that a bear or moose may interrupt me one day.

Thanks Mr MacFarlane for sparking those few minutes of enjoyable reflection that day; I am enjoying your book.


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