Perfect Blue
Kona Macphee
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Commentary: Fen train

The train journey from Cambridge to Peterborough is an indirect one, heading a long way north into the Fens before finally bearing westwards. In many places, the railway line is elevated on tall embankments, offering a panoramic view over the relentlessly flat landscape and its rich and delicious-looking brown soil.

The town of Ely, through which the railway line passes, used to lie on an island amid the swamps and waterways of the Fens, until the land was "reclaimed" for agriculture with the assistance of expert Low Countries engineers. While it was submerged under the water, biological matter such as dead trees didn't fully decompose; an ironic side-effect of draining the land is that in subsequent centuries, "ground level" sank lower and lower as biomatter in the soil broke down on exposure to the air. (Parts of the Fens now lie well below sea level). The original drainage channels, which can still be seen in places like Wicken Fen, are now effectively aqueducts elevated in high banks.

Some people love the Fenlands landscape and its "big sky", but I've always been more of a mountain person. East Anglia is apparently under a lot of housing pressure, and somehow those packed-in, identikit, five-bedrooms-crammed-into-the-space-of-three modern housing developments look even more depressing in a perfectly flat landscape.

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