The Fens Wisbech January 2021

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Wisbech & Surrounding Issue 30 | January 2021


A magazine with the heart and soul of the Fens

Inside this issue

Short Story Competition Winner Announced Make your Fenland Bucket List for 2021 The Fens | January 2021 PEOPLE | FOOD | HOME & GARDEN | NATURE | WHAT’S ON | PLACES TO VISIT | REVIEWS


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January 2021

WELCOME So here I am, because of publishing deadlines and closures over Christmas, I am writing my January issue in November. Therefore, I’m guessing I had a nice Christmas (I had planned a whole week switching off my computer to really enjoy some family time, so I’m sure it would have been exactly what I needed.) Typically, January issues are tricky ones to plan and this one is no exception. With restrictions still in place (and likely to be more strict after the festive period), we have a duty to not promote things that would encourage anybody to break the rules. Therefore, this month we are looking to the year ahead. Richard Groom has collected a great list of different places in Fenland to visit this year - a kind of bucket list of places you really should visit. We aren’t suggesting you visit them all this month, and some you definitely won’t be able to, but hopefully it can bring some joy to plan future days out. Our first issue of 2021 might be a bit different, but around the corner there is hope that spring might bring back our old freedoms. This period of our lives will no doubt change us all forever, but if nothing else, it has highlighted what’s really important in life. And that’s family, love and togetherness.



Wisbech & Surrounding Issue 30 | January 2021


7 Local news 12 The bike’s return to Wisbech 16 Interviewing John Hyland 20 Local history with Garry 22 Get in training for wildlife 26 Short story competition winner 28 This month’s recipe 30 A Fenland New Year’s bucklet list 34 Cinematic challenges for 2021 Editor & design: Natasha Shiels Assistant Editor: Richard Groom Resident photographer: Chris Brudenell Sales & distribution: 07511 662566 Front cover: Jem Bulbrook @JemBulbrookPhotography With thanks to our brilliant contributors

A magazine with the heart and soul of the Fens

@thefensmag Inside this issue

Short Story Competition Winner Announced Make your Fenland Bucket List for 2021 The Fens | January 2021 PEOPLE | FOOD | HOME & GARDEN | NATURE | WHAT’S ON | PLACES TO VISIT | REVIEWS

6 Celebrate this month


THE FENS is published by a local team. Care is taken to ensure that the content and information is correct, however we cannot take any responsibility for loss, damage or omission caused by any errors. Permission must be granted to reproduce, copy or scan anything from this publication. THE FENS accepts no liability for products and services offered by third parties.

The Fens | January 2021


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WHAT’S HOT IN JANUARY Each month brings something lovely to spot or to taste. Here’s our round-up this month

FINDING BEAUTY IN JANUARY January isn’t usually a favourite month for many. And it’s a long one, at 31 days. Added to the fact that we might be in a third lockdown by now, on paper, January has a lot going against it. But that won’t deter us from celebrating this month. So here’s what we know about this typically chilly time of year… NAMED AFTER JANUS The month of January is named after the Roman god of doors, Janus, because this month is the door into the new year. Janus is also called the two-faced god. He represents all beginnings and possesses the ability to see the past and the future. I wonder if Janus saw the Coronavirus coming 6

The Fens | January 2021

last year? And I wonder, more importantly, what he can see into the new year? January is considered the coldest month of the year in most of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the kind of month to enjoy wearing those new hats, gloves and scarves that you got for Christmas and enjoy brisk walks in the cold air. Nothing quite beats a hot chocolate after a chilly walk. SNOWDROPS AND SNOW Despite the harsh weather and short days, there’s always something beautiful to be found outside in nature and this month is the turn of the snowdrop. Flowering between January and March, snowdrops are easy to grow

and can often be found in shaded positions. Last year we found a beautiful display at Deane Park. Janus might be able to predict whether we will get snow this month, I certainly can’t. According to the Met Office, the UK gets on average 23.7 days of snowfall or sleet a year. Scotland, as you would expect, has a higher figure, with Cornwall typically getting the least. If we do manage to get a sprinkling this month in Fenland, embrace it - make snow angels with your children and snowmen, marvel in the way it transforms the landscape. Explore the Fens and take photos. We have a unique landscape and whilst harsh, it is incredibly beautiful in the winter. If you do get a great shot, please do share it with us. We love seeing your photographs. Images: Chris Brudenell


EXPLORE THE GREAT OUTDOORS WITH PECT 2020 has taught us how much spending time with our families in the great outdoors matters. National and regional lockdowns have meant that, more than ever, we have made the most of our gardens and local environment for exercise, entertainment, and to regain a feeling of normality. This season, why not have a go at some of PECT’s themed Nature’s School activities? These newly launched resources aim to enhance children’s understanding of the world around them and allow them to discover more about the environment. The free downloadable activity sheets include everything from how to make your own reusable beeswax wraps and creating recycled decorations, to bird feeders and much more. “With the recent news about an extended winter lockdown period and regional restrictions applying, we wanted to support families with activities that enable them to make the most of their time together,” explains PECT’s Environmental Education Lead Heidi Latronico-Ferris.

Nature’s School is not just for families – schools, charities and other organisations can also benefit from this resource and use it to create new ways of delivering the curriculum and learning objectives. To access the resources, simply visit www.pect. or find PECT on Facebook @SustainablePECT.

ACCOLADE FOR SOCIAL HOUSING HERO A government white paper setting out a new deal for social housing tenants in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy pays tribute to the work of Wisbech-born Octavia Hill. The document, announcing proposed new laws before they are formulated in a government bill, recognises that Wisbech’s most famous daughter occupies a distinguished place in this country’s long tradition of providing homes for those most in need. The earliest recorded almshouse was founded by Athelstan, the first king of all England, more than 1000 years ago and Octavia Hill is acknowledged in the paper as one of the great philanthropists and social reformers who went on to change the face of housing in the nineteenth and early twentieth century Pioneering figures such as George Cadbury, Joseph Rowntree and George Peabody saw that good quality homes with open space and amenities were essential to overcoming the chronic public health challenges of the time – and in inner city London Octavia Hill famously made it her aim to ‘make lives noble, homes happy and family life good’. Under the proposals in the white paper, a

charter sets out what tenants can expect from a landlord and the government pledges that complaints to landlords should be handled promptly and fairly, and tenants should expect to be treated with respect, with the backing of a consumer regulator. In England four million households, where there are people on low incomes or with particular needs, benefit from social housing provided by government agencies or non-profit organizations. The long-awaited proposals are part of a fundamental rethink on social housing following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017, when a fire exacerbated by flammable exterior cladding claimed the lives of 72 people at a 24-storey tower block in North Kensington in West London. Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House at 7 South Brink, Wisbech, remains closed during the pandemic, but the reopening is planned to coincide with International Women’s Day on Monday, March 8. In the meantime, all the latest news and information can be found on the museum’s website at The Fens | January 2021



NEW STRATEGY IN THE PIPELINE TO BOOST ACTIVE TRAVEL ACROSS FENLAND Fenland District Council and the Hereward Community Rail Partnership have agreed to fund a new cycling, walking and mobility strategy to help secure available funding to boost greener, safer and healthier active travel. Earlier this year the Government announced a £2 billion package ‘to create a new era of cycling and walking’ in the UK amid the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. The first tranche of funding, released through the Emergency Active Travel Fund, has already seen temporary cycle racks installed across Fenland and new speed signs around schools in March. Three more schemes are currently being considered under tranche two of the fund including improvements to the Freedom Bridge roundabout for pedestrians and cyclists in Wisbech, cycle improvements to make connections between Whittlesey town centre and residential areas, and provision of secure cycle lockers at the Horsefair in Wisbech. Further funding is expected to be announced by the Government imminently, but the Council needs to identify additional improvement proposals and develop a wider strategy in order to take full advantage of the funding available. At a meeting last month, Fenland District Council’s Cabinet approved six further improvement schemes, and nominated priority projects to be worked up and costed straight away. These include a cycle way and footpath along the old railway bed between Chatteris and Somersham and improvements to the National Cycle Route 63 between Peterborough, Whittlesey, Eastrea and Coates. Cabinet members also agreed to develop a new Fenland Cycling, Walking and Mobility Strategy at a cost of £25,835, to help draw in further third-party funding. The strategy will identify high-level interventions to improve cycling and walking in Fenland, as well as accessibility for mobility vehicles for those who depend upon them. As the work also includes aims to improve connectivity to Fenland’s railway stations, the Hereward Community Rail Partnership (CRP) has agreed to contribute £7,500 towards the cost of developing the strategy. Cabinet agreed that Fenland District Council would fund the remaining £18,335 of the work, 8

The Fens | January 2021

plus £3,000 to work up the priority improvement schemes. Cllr Chris Seaton, the Council’s Portfolio Holder responsible for transport and social mobility, said: “During the pandemic there has been a huge increase in levels of walking and cycling in Fenland and across the UK, and so the Government is investing heavily in plans to empower people to choose these alternatives. “Not only will increased active travel relieve the pressure on public transport, but residents will also reap the associated health, air quality and congestion benefits. “Having a cycling, walking and mobility strategy in place, and a list of improvement schemes, will strengthen our potential to secure funding and ensure we have robust plans in place to develop sustainable travel options throughout the district.” Leader of Fenland District Council, Cllr Chris Boden, added: “This is all about transforming travel across our towns and villages. We want to make it easier for people to leave the car at home and make walking and cycling their first choice for shorter journeys, or as part of longer journeys, such as cycling to a railway station. Paul Nelson, Chairman of the Hereward CRP, said: “The production of a strategy for Fenland that enables more multimodal journeys that incorporate walking, cycling and rail travel as well as considering the wider mobility requirements of residents is exactly what the area needs. I am looking forward to seeing this work progress in the New Year.”

The Fens | January 2021


LOST IMAGES OF WISBECH TO BE MADE AVAILABLE IN A NEW BOOK WORDS Taleyna Fletcher, Townscape Heritage Officer, Fenland District Council Back in September 2020, the Wisbech High Street Project hosted an online exhibition of old photographs of Wisbech, together with a selection of images displayed in the former Bon Marche store on High Street, as part of the national Heritage Open Days event. We were overwhelmed by the interest in these images and with the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we have decided to make these images, plus several more, available by publishing a book which will be available in January. The images in the book were taken from an album discovered in the archives at Fenland District Council. The photographs were taken by the former Wisbech Borough Council engineers and are believed to date between the 1940s and 1950s. The book is split into four categories: “Around Town”, “War Damage”, “New Schemes and Improvements” and “River, Canal and Port”. Many, if not all these images, have never been seen or published before and offer a wonderful insight into the town and surrounding area during a period of great change when cameras were not as widely used as today. The photos, taken for the purpose of recording significant developments by the town’s engineers, can now be enjoyed by a wider audience. The book has been produced by the Wisbech High Street Project, delivered by Fenland District Council and funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Copies will be priced at £5 each. All proceeds from the sales will be reinvested in the production of further copies and to benefit local heritage organisations. Copies will initially be available from the Wisbech and Fenland Museum (see their website for opening times www. For further information or to find out other ways to get a copy go to or contact Taleyna Fletcher on 01354 622210. 10 The Fens | January 2021


Introducing Vine Law Vine Law is a new law firm co-founded by Melinda Smith, previously a managing partner of a large regional law firm, and Kim Cross, an employment law and litigation expert. They have also recently been joined by experienced wills and probate lawyer, Cath Collins.

clients require from them, or designing new processes which are quicker, more efficient and of maximum value to clients, Vine Law’s aim is to tailor their services to meet the needs of each individual.

The three bring many years’ of experience in the law but are keen to bring a fresh approach to legal work. They explore all aspects of the job to see how it might be done differently to best suit the clients. Whether by giving choice as to how legal services are priced, giving options as to the level of input each

Managing partner Melinda Smith says “Although we are all living in difficult times at the moment, it has actually encouraged us to think very differently about how we can move from a “one size fits all” approach which a lot of firms often have to operate by necessity, to a much more bespoke, tailored service which better suits our clients. It’s exciting to be able to look at doing things differently and we have the benefit of being a small firm so we’re agile and can quickly adapt as we need, which

is pretty essential in the fast changing world we’re in. It also helps that we’re good friends, have known each other a long time and work very collaboratively with each other and other professionals which is hugely beneficial for our clients.” The firm will concentrate on offering a small number of specialist services aimed at helping both individuals and businesses to not only deal with any legal issues as they arise, but to work with them to put as much protections in place as possible to try to minimise the risk of problems in the future. Kim, Melinda and Cath are happy to chat to you about the services Vine Law offer, or if you have a particular issue you need help with. Contact them on 01945 898090 or email at Pictured from left to right: Cath, Kim and Melinda.

Vine Law is a progressive, boutique law firm which puts client experience at the heart of what we do. We offer a uniquely personal service and have a strong focus on protecting our clients’ interests and making the law work for them. Our Services: Wills, probate and estate planning Lasting Powers Of Attorney Employment Law and HR services Civil litigation – dispute avoidance and resolution Legal assistance for start ups and SMEs

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The Bike’s return to Wisbech WORDS SUE BEEL IMAGES SEAN FINLAY

Cycling is in my blood. My grandfather who lived in London belonged to a cycling club and used to go off with friends every Sunday, or sometimes for the whole weekend, and covered huge distances. My mother was a keen cyclist who brought up her children to travel everywhere by bike and now my own children and grandchildren all cycle regularly. I go out somewhere on my bike most days but don’t travel a long way because of arthritis in my knees but I do find that cycling keeps them mobile. It was very noticeable that during the long summer lock down a lot more people were out walking and cycling in Wisbech and the surrounding area. The glorious summer weather, more leisure time and the need for physical exercise close to home together with 12 The Fens | January 2021

the quieter and therefore safer roads all encouraged people to enjoy alternatives to the car. While many people are still out walking and cycling the difference now is that the traffic has returned and with it the fear that cycling is not a safe activity in our town. The Fens are ideal for cycling – the beautiful flat landscape with its patchwork of fields, shining waterways, huge skies and a network of quiet droves and villages rich in history – all contribute to a very enjoyable ride out into the Fen countryside. Not only is cycling healthy but it is also good for the environment. Every journey made by bike reduces our impact on climate change. But unfortunately our main roads are also dangerous - heavy traffic and a high proportion of HGVs in Wisbech along with straight but narrow

roads outside the town where cars drive fast and squeeze past cyclists. The government has responded to this move to more sustainable forms of transport with its Emergency Active Travel Fund. You are probably aware that a lot of money is being spent on improvements for cyclists as part of a strategy to encourage cycling and walking as alternatives to the car, but most of this money has been directed towards the cities, the bulk of it in our area being spent in Cambridge and Peterborough. Our local councils are now recognising the need to improve cycling safety and facilities in the Fenland area and it is very much on their agenda. But in order to tap into government funding councils require evidence of need and to be assured that

this is what people want. It is important that plans do take into account all road users and that no-one feels left out. Walkers, cyclists and mobility scooter users can co-exist quite happily and do not need to be in conflict while developing cycle tourism can boost the rural economy, bringing trade to shops, pubs and accommodation providers. So far the government’s emphasis has been on re-allocating road space from motor vehicles to cyclists but this has naturally met with some resistance from motorists and, in any case, where in Wisbech would it be possible to replace traffic lanes with cycle lanes? A more radical and visionary solution is needed that takes into account the needs of all users. We would like to share with you our vision for a safer and more pleasant route for cyclists, walkers and mobility scooters along one of the main corridors into Wisbech. The route from Leverington into Wisbech and crossing Freedom Bridge is one of the more challenging routes locally but it could be improved without huge expense with a combination of on-road, shared-use paths and cycle

lanes. Starting near the church, school and village shop in Leverington the footpath along Roman Bank is a beautiful wooded route between fields which is not greatly used and could be managed for shared use. Barriers at either end could be adapted to exclude motorised vehicles while allowing access for bikes. Little Dowgate is a pleasant quiet road as is Peatlings Lane which leads to West Parade alongside the river with views across to the timber port in Wisbech. A shared path across Freedom Bridge and along the west side of Lynn Road as far as the De Havilland junction would allow cyclists to avoid the crowded roads around the Freedom Bridge roundabout. The traffic-free Nene waterfront is immediately accessible after the bridge. This in turn opens up the possibility of a quiet route to West Walton via Osborne Road and River Road (subject to negotiations with private land owners). The footpath as far as De Havilland Road is wide enough, with modifications, to accommodate all nonmotorised road users and gives access to Clarkson

Surgery. Pedestrian crossings enable cyclists to walk across the road and pick up routes into the town centre, to North Cambs Hospital and Wisbech Park as well as housing and employment areas around Lynn Road. Improvements would also be needed further along Lynn Road where unsigned and unmarked builtout sections and stretches of parking present serious hazards to cyclists. The route would link up at both ends with the National Cycle Network Route 1 and offer access to villages and countryside beyond. Done sensitively this could be a flagship project, meeting the needs of walkers, cyclists and mobility scooter users and seeking to reduce car journeys whilst at the same time taking into account the wider impact on all road users for whom motor transport will continue to be a necessity. If you would like to support cycling initiatives in Wisbech, join this group or to just find out more please contact us - Sue Beel on (01945 584319) or Sean Finlay on (01945 584737). The Fens | January 2021


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Age is no Limit for Orthodontics! Most people associate orthodontics with teenagers wearing metal fixed braces. However, nowadays the range of ages of patients suitable for orthodontics extends from 7 to 70 years! Here are a few pointers to age considerations if you’re considering having either your or your child’s teeth straightened. PRIMARY SCHOOL AGE There’s a common misconception that children needn’t see an orthodontist until all adult teeth have erupted. However, most children benefit from a specialist assessment by 11 years of age, and some 7- to 10-year-old children require early interception for bite problems and ectopic teeth (growing in abnormal jaw positions).

A 7-year-old where the upper left incisor’s eruption is impeded, being treated with a transparent aligner brace.


THE TEENAGE YEARS This is prime brace time, since the adult teeth have erupted and, crucially, facial growth may be harnessed and modified, especially if there’s an ‘underbite’ and small lower jaw size. ADULTHOOD Adults form a large proportion of my patients, typically having aesthetic (tooth coloured) fixed braces or transparent plastic aligners. Fortunately, many types of tooth and bite improvements are still biologically possible after facial growth has ceased, because bone is a dynamic tissue throughout life. Therefore, even 70-somethings can be treated successfully provided that their teeth and gums are disease free. In addition, a small number of adult patients with a severe jaw mismatch and/or airway restrictions benefit greatly from brace treatment combined with jaw (orthognathic) surgery (performed by a maxillofacial surgeon). A specialist can accurately diagnose features and then advise on the complete range of goals and treatment options for simple through to complex problems.

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With a creative revolution on the horizon thanks to another extended period of lockdown, more people than ever before are getting in touch with their imaginative side. This month, we catch up with local artist John Hyland who tells us of his biggest influences, why he paints and the effect lockdown has had on his creativity. WORDS AND IMAGES LEANNE HYLAND John has been astounding his followers with incredibly realistic works of airbrush art for the past ten years. With a natural talent from a young age, John would spend hours drawing but never studied art formally until 2012, when he travelled to South Carolina 16 The Fens | January 2021

and the Dru Blair School of Photorealism. Here he spent months learning to paint wildlife using acrylics and an airbrush - a small, air-operated tool that sprays paint. John has now attended several specialised art courses to develop his technique

further, including classes on portraiture. He enjoys dabbling with different mediums and has most recently started projects involving pastels, pencil drawings and oil paints.

SO WHERE DOES HE BEGIN? In my head I just know what I want to paint - says John. It comes from a mixture of gut feeling and intuition. I know as soon as I see an image whether it’s going to be a good candidate. I take a reference photo which mirrors the exact size of my canvas, that way I can draw it exactly as it is, rather than having to scale up from a smaller image where details are less obvious. This helps me to get the proportions correct. WHERE DO YOU FIND NEW PROJECTS? Up until now I’ve used

licensed images from online sites – but I’m now looking to create my own images to paint. My ideas can come from anywhere, social media is a big influence, as is the work of other artists. I take on a lot of commissions too. I have some photos from a recent holiday to Crete that I’m going to paint. I love the island, the food, culture, people so I’ll try to get that across in my work. I’ve recently started to paint landscapes, the sea, sun, architecture – I guess it’s been my way of escaping during lockdown. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? Projects can take from 20 to 200 hours, depending on the size of the painting and the medium. Airbrush work takes the longest due to the level of detail, and for logistical reasons – with a pencil drawing you don’t have to keep mixing up colours and cleaning out your equipment. WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU NEED? To airbrush I use a compressor, an airbrush gun and highquality acrylic paints. I use an easel, and paint in either natural light or while using daylight LED bulbs. Sometimes I’ll use a magnifying glass

to capture tiny details. I’ve converted my shed at home into a makeshift studio. WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES? Dru Blair. He’s a world class airbrush artist who travels the world giving seminars and top advice. He’s an expert on photorealism, his work is incredible. He does a lot of portraiture, texture work, monochromatics, wildlife – I’ve learned a lot that I can now apply to my own work. WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY? Portraits of famous people – women in particular, they seem to provide a big challenge – and they’re nice to look at! HAVE YOU EVER EXHIBITED YOUR WORK? I held an exhibition in October 2019 at The Red Lion in Warmington. More than 100 people turned up and I got several commissions from it too, varying from cars to family, pet portraits and wildlife. WHY DO YOU PAINT? I take a lot of satisfaction in my art. To be able to take a 2D photo and transform it into a 3D print and to retain the detail and realism of a The Fens | January 2021


photo is very rewarding. Painting makes me feel relaxed. I’m very focused. When I paint there’s nothing else on my mind. HOW HAS LOCKDOWN AFFECTED YOUR CREATIVITY? I’ve had a lot more time to focus on my art during lockdown – normally I’d be tiling or painting and decorating. It’s allowed me to take a step back and I find myself coming up with new ideas all the time. I was scheduled to travel to Rome in April 2020 for an oil painting class, but once covid hit I thought I’d teach myself instead, lockdown has allowed me the time to do that. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE? I’d love to find a niche style, a concept of my own. Distinctive enough to be attributed to me and me alone. That’s the ultimate goal. FIND OUT MORE More examples of John’s work can be found on his Facebook page: John Hyland Fine Art. For pricing, print or commission enquiries, contact John directly at: john.hyland69@ or 07949 422346.



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Emergency First Aid (6 hrs) 11 January 20 January 8 February Paediatric First Aid (12 hrs) 11 & 12 January 8 & 9 February First Aid at Work (18 hrs) 20 to 22 January 15 to 17 March First Aid at Work Requalification 4 & 5 February The Fens | January 2021




Resident historian Garry Monger is a member of FenArch and works to promote community archaeology in the Fens

Why does the Ace of Spades tend to be highly ornate, unlike the other three aces, and how has it acquired (for some) a status as a death card? The Ace of Spades may represent a time of change such as the death of the year and the start of a new one. Death comes for us all, even royalty. The spade can also be known as the sword - a symbol of war. The 12th (Eastern) Division of the British Army used it as their symbol in World War I. One special status came about in England through taxation. Playing card tax was very high to deter gambling however there was the temptation for makers to avoid paying the tax. 1765 saw the introduction of a new procedure: makers were required to supply the Tax Office with the 20 The Fens | January 2021

paper they used to print their cards and the Tax Office would print the Ace of Spades using their engraved metal plates, the technology was expensive and not widely available. The maker would then purchase the printed Aces from the Tax Office – thereby paying the tax – and the cost was passed on to the customers. In order to make it very hard to forge Aces, more and more elaborate designs were used. From this year the Aces carried the maker’s name,

they identified the sovereign and they were numbered to identify the printing plate used to produce the card. Until then a maker would have appeared on the wrapper but not necessarily on the cards. The wrappers were intentionally flimsy and were disposed of and usually tore when they were opened (this was to prevent wrappers being re-used). The design was changed frequently to reduce forging. As a consequence, the Tax Office has given the historian

a means of identifying both the manufacturer and an approximate date for cards made from 1765. During the reign of King George III Richard Harding a card maker, decided to print his own Aces, he would then sell the cards for the same price and pocket the tax. However, card-makers had wooden blocks for printing; which are unable to reproduce the finer details from engravings. It is relatively easy to detect the difference. Whether or not he realised that this was a capital offence is not known. He had a thriving business but bought relatively few Aces, and inevitably suspicions were raised. He and his accomplices were found in possession of hundreds of forged Aces and the equipment to reproduce them. As the tax on a single pack was equivalent to a week’s wage for a labourer, the loss to the Exchequer was significant. In 1805 he was tried and found guilty at the Old Bailey and later hanged. The prosecutor was the Attorney General Spencer Perceval, later to become the Prime Minister assassinated in 1812. From 1862, as the tax was now on the wrapper, card makers were once again free to use their own designs on the Ace of Spades. Makers however often continued to produce unnecessarily elaborate designs because that was what card players had become used to. Since then, the Ace of Spades has continued with these design styles. This tax on playingcards was discontinued in the UK in July 1960. The designs of the Ace of Spades remain the odd one out of the four suits to this day. Nowadays card makers such as Ivory, based in March, Cambridgeshire can produce packs to the customer’s design and requirements, whether this be a single pack or longer print runs. The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards website contains research on the history of playing cards and a link, on how to order the special charity editions they produce each year. The current design is a Covid19 edition in support of the NHS.


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Get in Training for Wildlife WORDS Caroline Fitton, Wildlife Trust

Short eared owls at the Great Fen by Kevin Robson

Grasshopper by Brian Eversham

It's always great to start a new year with the prospect of something fresh and exciting, something new to learn, perhaps a new skill or discipline; things to look forward to - so it's time to start planning. When it comes to the natural world the possibility of things to discover and learn are simply endless – how much do you know about grasshoppers? About trees or insects, birdsong or wildflowers? The Wildlife Trust have a great set of training workshops presented by experts in their fields, now held online (some also offering limited places on days outdoors) with the chance to acquire greater in depth knowledge across many areas of the natural world. These are ideal ways to get absorbed and immersed in a new subject matter, to feed curiosity and perhaps surprise someone with an unusual birthday present. On the horizon for this year is a 22 The Fens | January 2021

wide cross section of subjects – spread your wings of knowledge and learn about birds of prey and the soaring world of raptors with Great Fen monitoring and research officer Henry Stanier who brings a beginner’s guide to learn more about where and when to see them, and how to identify them. Make some new acquaintances with a series called 'Introductions to . . .' subjects of which include dormice, amphibians, solitary bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers, grasses, birdsong, meadow ecology, mammal tracks, butterfly ecology. And when it comes to flies did you know that there are the good the bad and the ugly?! Be fascinated as John Showers, the Northamptonshire county recorder for Diptera (order of winged insects commonly known as flies) reveals all about our winged friends. Cambridgeshire senior reserves manager Matt Hamilton presents

the world of winter trees and will help to identify common native broadleaved deciduous trees in winter which you may see on a nature reserve, using key characters such as bud colour and shape, bark types and overall growth form to separate oak from field maple, sycamore from ash, hazel from sallow and apple from elm. The shape and size of trees and their growth rates are varied as a result of their particular family history and the environmental conditions they have adapted to. The types of trees, their characteristics and their associations are all key components of many of our local habitats, so knowing which trees are which will help you to better understand your local nature reserve. Fascinated by animal tracks but don't know who's made them? Peter Pilbeam of the Cambridgeshire Mammal Group will highlight the sorts of mammal

tracks and signs that you might come across when out in the countryside. 'Tracks' could include those of the larger mammals like badgers, foxes, otters and deer, but will include the smaller mammals like hedgehogs and water voles. 'Signs' can be a very wide variety of things, including droppings, hair, fur, feeding signs (like holes in nuts and gnawed fir cones and tree bark) and 'homes' including badger setts and water vole burrows. Later in the year another workshop will discuss and advise on the use of trail cameras (camera traps). Increasingly popular for use in gardens, they are an invaluable tool for revealing the presence and behaviour of your local wildlife. Henry Stanier again will recommend which ones to purchase, how to set it up, how to position it and what to do with the resulting photographs and/or video clips. And finally, who could resist learning to carve a spoon?! Here's where to book and find out more

...and Wild January Sale - half-price membership There couldn't be a better time to join the Wildlife Trust. At a time when global environmental problems can seem insurmountable, for anyone making a New Year's resolution to try and make a difference, the Wildlife Trust are offering half-price membership throughout January. Each member receives Local Wildlife magazine (the children's version is Wildlife Watch) three times a year, information on events, local groups, walks, talks via newsletters – but the biggest benefit of all is knowing that local wildlife in the area, and all the conservation work involved, will be helped and maintained. The Trust's work supports local wildlife in the area from protecting habitats on nature reserves and in the wider countryside, along with all the species which depend on these places. There are a variety of memberships, from child to adult to families, so please visit The Fens | January 2021








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The Fens | January 2021



Facing Up To Facts

By Alan Kahn


y test results arrived this morning, brought by a new slip of a post girl. Letters like that should be delivered by seasoned people, not youngsters. Older ones are more discreet; they’ve seen it all before. A large white envelope printed with a huge blue NHS. I don’t want to open it. Everyone knows that good news comes in thin envelopes; this one’s thick, obviously several sheets inside, advice and instructions, so I can guess what it says. I’ve tucked it between mantel clock and wall, almost hidden. I’ll face it tomorrow. I was going to open it. Had it in my fingers to slide it out, but Mrs Prosser from next door arrived for tea and biscuits. We don’t talk about health; it’s not seemly, especially when it involves bowels and bits. She stayed chatting for twenty minutes then left. That envelope glowers at me, but I refuse to be dictated to by pieces of paper. I’ll open it soon. Another day or two won’t make any difference. I know they’ll just want to prod and poke me about. They don’t seem to realise that private parts are so-called for a reason – they should be kept private. I’m sure these pains in my abdomen are just digestive. Maybe I’ll stop eating buttery biscuits. Poor Mrs Prosser. I’ve never 26 The Fens | January 2021

seen her so distraught. Mr Prosser was rushed into hospital overnight, a sudden heart attack. I was only half-dozing, nursing a bad tummy, aware of a kerfuffle, but those eerie blue electric swirls on my ceiling frightened me, because for a confused moment I imagined they’d come for me. Do you know that older people literally wring their hands when they’re upset? Youngsters don’t do that. Fashion I suppose. Mrs Prosser constantly wrung her hands as if she were trying to squeeze water out. All this makes me realise – my fate looms. That damned envelope has been there for eight or nine weeks now. Where does time go? I’ll open it tomorrow, I promise. Tea and biscuits. Supposed to solve everything, but that’s just another lie. There, dear. Your roof’s collapsing, but you

still have your PG Tips and shortbread. Terrible news. Mr Prosser didn’t make it. In hospital for a week, but a sticky valve or something couldn’t be unstuck in time. If they’d caught it earlier, they could have done something. As it is, they did their best but he was too far gone. He slipped away with no word of goodbye. Mrs Prosser says it’s the silence. All these years she’s complained about his whistling, and now he’s finally stopped. Ironic, really. There but for grace of God go I … That envelope. If I leave it much longer, it’ll be too late for me too. Blue flashing lights. Silence. I promise I’ll open it tomorrow, or maybe leave it to after Monday. My birthday. I don’t want bad news just before my birthday.

Mrs Prosser looks twenty years older. She’s not good at arranging things, and his funeral expenses shocked her. Thousands. He always said he wanted an ecologicallysound cardboard coffin, but apparently they’re more expensive than wood. Would you believe that? Still, he left her comfortable enough. She has her pension on top. Tears will dry. That was quite a funeral. I’d expected Mrs Prosser to dissolve crying, but she was positively arid, almost reedy. Something’s changed, I thought. She’s arrived at anger too soon, definitely furious about something. Then she told me. That woman over there. She cursed beneath her breath. That’s Mrs Prosser. And those four with her, three women and a man, they’re his children. The first Mrs Prosser? No. The only Mrs Prosser, crawling out from under a stone. Shamefaced Mrs Prosser (that’s my Mrs Prosser) admitted they’d never actually married. All along she’s been Miss Jenkins. They just slid into living

together. She never knew he was married; never knew he had four children in Cromer. Crematoria are bad enough when you’re seeing off your own husband, never mind somebody else’s. What could I say? Come back for a cup of tea. I was about to retrieve my envelope from behind the clock when Miss Jenkins hammered on my door, weeping, wailing, so distressed I knew tea wouldn’t be enough. I gave her coffee, not decaffeinated. She’d been drinking. Whiffs of sherry or whisky on her breath as she waved a sheet of paper around. A will. Mr Prosser left everything to be divided between his children. Everything – lock, stock and water butt. Insurance money, bank account, house (in his name of course). Nothing at all for Miss Jenkins except a few personal things. She’s broken. Destroyed. She can’t afford to contest it and must leave, move in with her sister in Great Yarmouth. Tragic. And today I’m suffering terribly with wind.

I still think of her as Mrs Prosser, but really she’s Miss Jenkins. She blanches whenever I call her that. But, legally, it’s true, isn’t it? I’m sure she’s shrunk, withered even, so tiny standing at my door, with her old coat looking two sizes too big. A taxi will take her to Thorpe Station for a train to Great Yarmouth. One large suitcase. A life whittled down to what can be squeezed into one plastic shell of a box on wheels which fits easily into a taxi’s boot. A sad woman. She hands me a letter. I don’t know what he was doing with this, she sniffs. Found it among his stuff. I read it. A letter from the NHS addressed to me. A single sheet. My bowel screening tests were negative. They’ll have no need to contact me for another two years. I frown as I watch her trudge down my path, wave her goodbye. Damned woman knows my business. That envelope behind my clock – it’s addressed to Mr Prosser. An older postie wouldn’t have made that mistake, I think, as I throw it on my fire.

The Eyrie Press Short Story Competition 2020 Winning Story Once again, we want to thank everyone who entered our Short Story Competition this year - we smashed last year's record of entries and received 46 stories from across the region. It's safe to say you all gave our judges, Jon Lawrence and Sue Welfare, a tough job! So tough in fact that for the first time ever we have a winner and a runner-up, so congratulations to our winner Alan Kahn from Lincolnshire with his story Facing Up To Facts and Emma-Rose Hooker, our runner-up with her story, Inkwell. Please enjoy Alan's story here. You'll also be able to read both his and Emma's stories on our website ( from late January. We'll be running the competition again in 2021, so keep writing and look out for the announcement in The Fens Magazine later this year! The Fens | January 2021



SUPER BERRY AND TONKA BEAN GRANOLA INGREDIENTS 100g gluten-free oats 100g buckwheat groats 60g coconut flakes 50g linen seeds 50g hemp seeds 60g pumpkin seeds 60g pecans 60g hazelnuts 50ml unsweetened natural apple juice 100ml maple syrup 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 tonka bean, finely grated 35g black mulberries 35g cranberries, sweetened with apple juice 35g goji berries

METHOD 1. Preheat oven to 150-160°C. 2. In a big bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. In a smaller bowl, mix the apple juice, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Grate the Tonka bean into the wet ingredients mixture with a fine grater (a nutmeg grater). Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix well, until all the liquid is absorbed. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. Take the granola out of the oven two to

three times while baking and mix it well to ensure it bakes evenly. Let it cool completely before serving and store in an airtight container for up to a few weeks. The twist Obviously there is no limit to the nuts, dried fruit and seeds that .you can put in so fill your boots. We love hazelnuts and dried bananas and some Demerara sugar for a sweeter option… or honey. Serve this with milk, yoghurt, ice cream or even snack on it as is for a healthy hunger fix!

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A FENLAND NEW YEAR’S BUCKET LIST Instead of making the usual (and unrealistic!) New Year’s resolutions about losing weight, visiting Antarctica or learning Spanish, Richard has made a more realistic list of places to visit in 2021…how many are on your ‘Fenland Bucket List’? WORDS RICHARD GROOM IMAGES CHRIS BRUDENELL A big part of my ‘self-care’ activity through the lonely, scary months of lockdown and tier seven (or whatever it is this week) has been to think of the future. I’ve made all sorts of plans for doing lovely things once the world is less messed up, from a big family dinner to hiking in the Lake District. It reminds me that this won’t be forever, and better times are on the way. I’m also making a personal ‘Fenland bucket list’: places that I will visit in 2021, as soon as the restrictions and general need to be sensible allow. Some are open now, while some will hopefully be accessible again soon. Here are the first few on the list. In some cases, it will mean a return visit to an old favourite, while in others it will be a new experience. Either way, getting back to exploring the Fens I love will be very welcome.

WALKING FOR HOURS AT WICKEN FEN I’m almost ashamed to say I am still yet to visit the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve, even 30 The Fens | January 2021

though it’s just 30 miles from home. It promises to be a great combination of a reserve with over 9,000 species of wildlife, a safe place to walk my dog, and the Docky Hut Café MEETING THE CROCODILES AT JOHNSONS OF OLD HURST Another place I keep meaning to go, but so far haven’t. The Fens’ publisher Natasha raves about this place, with its farm shop, deli, bakery, butchery, tea room, steak house and woodland walk. Best of all, it has crocodiles. CROCODILES! They live in a specially built enclosure and I need to see them. BLACKSMITHING AT SACREWELL FARM I’ve been to Sacrewell Farm a couple of times and loved the visits. But next time I’m going to try my hand at one of their blacksmithing workshops. The half-day format looks great, with plenty of time to have a go at this ancient craft. CLIMBING TO THE TOP OF ELY CATHEDRAL Every time I visit Ely Cathedral I am in awe of its beauty. But so far it’s all been from ground level, so I’ll be back as soon as it’s possible to climb the 66 metres up the Cathedral’s West Tower spiral staircase. As this is the highest place in the Fens it’s sure to provide a unique view across the landscape. FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GEOFF HAMILTON AT BARNSDALE GARDENS


As an avid watcher of BBC’s Gardeners’ World, I really should have been to Barnsdale Gardens by now. Created by legendary former host of the show, Geoff Hamilton, it may be in Rutland (not the Fens) but it’s close enough to get onto my list. I especially like the idea of seeing 38 individual gardens gathered on one site. Any gardener paying the place a visit is bound to come away inspired with new ideas for their own garden. FLYING A GLIDER OVER RAMSEY As a teenager I had a couple of glider flights from the airfield at Upwood, near Ramsey, and loved every second. The Nene Valley Gliding Club offers a range of lesson packages and experiences, so I’m going to take to the skies again. A RETURN TO FENLAND & WEST NORFOLK AVIATION MUSEUM I had the pleasure of meeting the super team here in February but sadly Covid scuppered my plans for a return visit. The museum is full of real and often heart-breaking stories of lives lost in training and operational flights across our region. With thousands of items on display, from pilots’ personal effects to complete aircraft, it’s definitely worthy of repeat visits. HISTORY HUNTING AT PECKOVER HOUSE Wisbech has a lot to offer history buffs. I’ve enjoyed visits to the Wisbech & Fenland

Museum and Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House, and next on my list is Peckover House. The home of the Peckover family of grocers, bankers and philanthropists for over 150 years from the 1790s, the house, its extensive collection of artefacts and walled garden are rated highly by visitors. Best of all, it even has a pie funnel on display. I’ve no idea what that is, but I want to find out. BOATING ACROSS THE FENS This year will involve some time on the water. The huge network of waterways in the Fens played a vital part in our history and it’s finally time to experience it first-hand. Whether it’s a canal boat, a small cruiser or even a canoe, you’ll find me donning a lifejacket this summer. Through our waterways you can visit everywhere from Ely to the Nene Valley Railway, stopping at countless villages (and village pubs) on the way. It’s going to be great, just like all the other brilliant places across the Fens I can’t wait to see again or for the first time. I really hope you will have your own Fenland adventures in 2021, too. The Fens | January 2021


Vaccines - a look back

With the first COVID vaccines finally rolling out, 2021 will see (hopefully) a huge communal effort to get the population immunised against the deadly disease. So why are they important? The World Health Organization (WHO) claim that vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide. “Vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious disease,” they state, whereas only “clean water, also considered a basic human right, performs better.” Understandably, vaccine safety gets more public attention than vaccination effectiveness, but today vaccines have an excellent safety record and most ‘vaccine scares’ have been shown to be false alarms. The danger, of these misguided safety concerns, is that it allows diseases to spread again, as has been seen in the case of the re-emergance of pertussis and measles. With COVID vaccines at long last here, there is bound to be some uncertainty about whether they are safe to take. So here are the facts, in order to help you make your decision. 32 The Fens | January 2021

ERADICATING DISEASE To date, only smallpox has been eradicated, but this isn’t particularly suprising. In order to eradicate a disease, high levels of population immunity must be present, world wide, over a prolonged period of time and adequate surveillance in place. This is a tall order. That said, with polio next on the list of targeted diseases, there is some promise. High coverage of an oral polio vaccine has eliminated type 2 poliovirus globally, leaving transmission of type 1 and 3 only in limited areas in a few countries. So whilst it seems almost an impossible task to entirely eradicate a disease, it can be done with global effort.

ELIMINATION Diseases can be eliminated locally without global redaction. For example, 95% of the population has immunity against measles. Key to this achievement is through the two-dose vaccination regimen. The combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine could also eliminate and eventually eradicate rubella and mumps. This has already been achieved

in Finland.

FOR SOCIETY Jenifer Ehreth, who wrote ‘The global value of vaccination’, estimates that vaccines annually prevent 6 million deaths worldwide. Moreover, efficacious vaccines not only protect the immunised, but can also reduce disease among unimmunised individuals in the community through ‘indirect effects’ or ‘herd protection’. A good example of this was when the Hib vaccine, which covered less than 70% in Gambia, was still enough to eliminate Hib disease. We don’t necessarily need 100% of the population vaccinated, but if enough people get vaccinated against a certain disease, there is less disease prevalent in society to infect others. This is called herd protection. So what will you do when you are offered the COVID vaccine? That will be up to you, when the time comes, of course. Ultimately, you should do your own research and listen to the experts.


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Cinematic Challenges for 2021 Nathan Smith from the Luxe Cinema suggests some great ideas to start 2021 with It’s the time of the year when the optimistic among us attempt to lay out plans for the ‘New Year’ and I decided on New Year’s Day 2020 that I would try to watch 250 films in the year, to give myself more time away from my work email and really catch up on some titles that I missed out on due to work commitments and general stresses. Then the pandemic happened and what seemed like a lofty expectation was soon eclipsed as I powered through a veritable shed-load of titles while in Lockdown. My tally so far this year – according to my log on Letterboxd, an app that I adore – currently stands at 478! So, very reasonable to assume that I’ll smash through the 500 mark before the year is out. I found myself in a quandary as to what my cinematic challenge for 2021 should be, what filmic feat I should tackle, and decided to share my thinking in the hopes that I may inspire you (Yes! You!) to take a dive into movies in 2021. First up, there are loads of online lists that purport to feature the ‘Greatest Films of All-Time’ and this is a good place to start. There are loads of films that many of us know of, but have not seen. Citizen Kane is regarded 34 The Fens | January 2021

as one of the greatest cinematic achievements and yet I can count on one hand the number of close friends that have actually seen it. With the BLM movement very much in mind – and Steve McQueen’s fantastic anthology film series, Small Axe – perhaps 2021 would be a good time to champion and dive into film from underrepresented groups in the film industry, including femaleled projects. Not only does this give a shot in the arm for diversity in cinema, but it also allows you to experience other cultures and other

experiences like never before. Maybe sign up to the Letterboxd app and keep a film diary for the year, collect cinema ticket stubs and assemble a Cinematic Scrapbook. A Cinematic Scrapbook could end up being something to look back on in a decade, with family. Remembering that time that Geoff was moaning at the kiosk due to the lack of Maltesers while your Uncle Dave printed the tickets for the wrong week and you ended up sitting in the exact same seats as a family from Dublin. This mix-up could lead to new friends being made, so who *wouldn’t* want to document that. Alternatively, you could give a single thumbs down review for ‘Exploding Cars XXII – This Time They *IMPLODE’. Of, course you could also make more time for yourself to go to an actual cinema to view a film in a proper auditorium, I know I’m going to be trying to visit new cinemas, experience new auditoriums and learn a little about their history. I hope to visit twelve in 2021. With any luck I’ll end up doubling that number too, which will give me something to scrapbook about. Pictured top: Citizen Kane; bottom: Small Axe

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REG. NO. 10712

‘A’ Rated Windows

fitted as standard on all our installations...

...reducing your energy bills and saving you money

01945 466400

OR 0800 01553 772277 222 Lynn Road, Wisbech PE13 3EE 731 8322 The Fens | January 2021



…a fabulous service …a fabulous service and amazingly well and amazingly well made curtains… …a fabulous service made curtains… and amazingly well made curtains… With over 20 years experience of making bespoke made window dressings tailored to you With over 20 years experience of making bespoke made window dressings tailored to you

From Pinch PleatFrom to Eyelet curtains, to Venetian blinds. Selection of ready-made Pinch PleatRoman to Eyelet curtains, Roman to Venetian blindscurtains available From Pinch PleatFrom to Eyelet curtains, to Venetian blinds. Selection of ready-made Pinch PleatRoman to Eyelet curtains, Roman to Venetian blindscurtains available

With over 20 years experience of making bespoke made window dressings tailored to you

From Pinch PleatFrom to Eyelet curtains, to Venetian blinds. Selection of ready-made Pinch PleatRoman to Eyelet curtains, Roman to Venetian blindscurtains available

First Floor, North End, Wisbech PE13 1PE | 01945 660900 First Floor, North End, Wisbech PE13 1PE | 01945 660900   @thecurtainandblindstudio   @thecurtainandblindstudio

36 The Fens | January 2021

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