Fen Blow: How global warming will affect the Fens

PUBLISHED: 12:11 10 February 2006 | UPDATED: 21:40 28 May 2010

As I finished filling the car last week, so too did the guy the other side of the pump. We both put the icy nozzles back into their holsters and he looked up and said: Talk about bloody global warning. I could see his point. There s nothing quite so col

As I finished filling the car last week, so too did the guy the other side of the pump. We both put the icy nozzles back into their holsters and he looked up and said: "Talk about bloody global warning."

I could see his point. There's nothing quite so cold as a Tesco petrol pump on a day when the temperature never rises above freezing point. Especially when you take into account the combined profits of Tesco and Shell.

Mind you, he was wrong. Global warming is a fact. When did you last see speed skating on the Whittlesey Wash? Long gone are the winters when Fen wives would strap sheep bones on to their boots and skate thirty miles to market. Yes, they did.

Although this January was a dry and bitter month, they don't make winters like they used to. Even George W Bush has finally got it into his head that we're addicted to oil and that our excessive consumption is bringing about serious climate change.

And yes, January was not only cold but amazingly dry. Even so, our now utterly unpredictable weather is melting the polar icecaps and ever so slowly raising sea-levels.

I was privileged last week to have a guided tour of the Denver complex of sluices near Downham Market and saw how much taxpayers' money is spent every year to prevent Fenland flooding. Even so, it won't take many flood tides and much more shrinkage of the peat soils to make serious flooding a real possibility.

During World War Two the Fens were so productive they became known as Britain's breadbasket. As a result, few airfields were built in the area, despite its being an ideal take-off zone for bombers destined for Germany. The soil was too useful to risk its being attacked.

Since then, the land has dried out even further. Some fields are nearly down to the underlying clay. Once the last fertile soil has blown away, there'll be questions asked whether Fenland's worth the cost of its flood defences. And if the Fens do flood, we won't be able to resort to stilts and become Fen camels again.

This time, thanks to land shrinkage, we'll be deep under water.

Every Fenlander has a vested interest in fighting global warming.

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