Not only are we a nation surrounded by water, the country is also criss-crossed by waterways both man-made and natural. The landscape of the Fens is largely man-made, created to turn uninhabitable marshland into productive arable farmland; England’s bread basket. This transformation was started in the 17th century, when King Charles I and various landowners turned to the expertise of Dutch engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden amongst others. To this day, the flat fenland landscape, dotted with windmills, reminds one of the stereotypical Dutch landscape. Like all watery places, it has become a magnet for people wishing to escape from city life.
I recently spent a weekend on the River Great Ouse, aboard a narrow boat, or floating coffin, as I heard it described. Narrow is a particularly accurate description, and it did take a while to adjust to such cramped quarters. Having fortunately never been inside a coffin, both inside and out reminded me more of a floating caravan, with its traditional paintwork, and space saving dining table-cum-beds etc. From stem to stern, a sun motif emblazoned itself everywhere, and the kitchen was cheered by sunny yellow curtains and matching crockery. Once we left its berth in Ely, and began our gentle progress northward, there was naturally little for a passenger to do, so, wine glass in one hand and camera in the other, I photographed every inch, well almost. I avoided the bathroom, memories of which I don’t wish to carry with me. To be fair, as a holiday home, the facilities are all pretty good; the kitchen perfectly capable of turning out a roast on sunday, and a wood burning stove, that even if one can’t exactly huddle around, adds coziness on a cold East Anglian evening.