The distinctive fenland landscape has been heavily influenced by man. Its fertile agricultural land is dissected by dykes, rivers and embankments, constructed over centuries in the struggle to reclaim the land. The area is dominated by dramatic open landscapes and vast skies, giving the Fens their unique character.
The journey along the Fen Rivers Way is rich in both history and wildlife. From Cambridge, the Fen Rivers Way follows the River Cam through riverside pastures fringed with willows and on into the Fens. The Cam Washes are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of their special habitats and wildlife. Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve remains a fascinating fragment of a Fenland wilderness of former times. Approaching Ely, the River Cam joins the River Great Ouse, which the Fen Rivers Way follows all the way to King’s Lynn and the Wash. Ely’s magnificent cathedral and ancient city dominate the skyline for miles around.
Entering Norfolk, the River Great Ouse, charged by its tributaries, is contained by massive flood banks giving panoramic views over the surrounding countryside. At Denver Sluice lies the focus of the flood defence system that protects the low lying Fens. Since Roman times man has battled to keep water at bay but it was not until the 17thCentury that systematic drainage commenced. Dutch engineers, notably Cornelius Vermuyden, were commissioned to undertake grand schemes which still form the basis of the modern drainage system.
The Ouse Washes are an internationally significant environment. Flooded in winter, they attract thousands of migrating wildfowl. From Denver the river is tidal, bringing with it subtle changes in scenery and habitat. Close by is the Relief Channel, the final link in the drainage system, completed in 1964. The two waterways meet at King’s Lynn, the historic port on the edge of the Wash.