Cherish the good old days

PUBLISHED: 16:56 10 August 2007 | UPDATED: 22:58 28 May 2010

Nothing stays the same for ever - not even in Fenland. The thought is prompted by a handful of old guides to the district that I ve rediscovered in my attic. One of them is the Geography of the County Adapted to the New Code. Just as schools must now teac

Nothing stays the same for ever - not even in Fenland.

The thought is prompted by a handful of old guides to the district that I've rediscovered in my attic. One of them is the Geography of the County Adapted to the New Code.

Just as schools must now teach the national curriculum, back in the 1870s there was the 'new code'. Part of this stated that children had to learn facts about their own county - and this little booklet contains hundreds of facts, ready to be learned by heart.

What stand out are the place names. Children were taught to spell Wisbech as 'Wisbeach'. It stood on the River Nen, not the Nene - but Whittlesea had already become Whittlesey. In fact, it had got its new spelling long before the railway reached the town. Yet even today, the railway companies use the old spelling.

Other spellings seem to have changed much more recently. A 1947 touring guide to the Isle of Ely shows that the parish north of March was spelled Westrea, Guyhirn was Guyhirne and Coates was then Cotes.

Completely missing from the guide's map was the main A605 from Coates to Goosetree. Just 60 years ago, the only option was to zig-zag your way through Turves and West Fen. Also waiting to be built was the straight road from Chatteris to Wimblington.

Two sights were pointed out as worth seeing: the thatched cottages of Eastrea and Manea railway station. If you stood on its platforms looking towards March, you'd realise this was "one of the few inland spots where you can see the curve of the earth's surface".

Coming much more up-to-date, my 1971 AA Guide to the Fens tells you not to miss the Blossom Tours organised through the Wisbech orchards each spring nor the elephants in Thorney.

It makes me wonder what a guide book published in 2057 will be like.

Texting will probably have ensured that our towns are called Whtsy, Chatrs and Wsb.

Hydrogen-powered tour buses will visit Whittlesey to see its remaining shop, Coldham to see the hugely extended Whitemoor Prison and Wisbech Marina to watch the film starlets on their sugar daddies' yachts.

Remember: nothing stays the same and, for your children, today will have become "the good old days".

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