The grace of an invisible hand flits across her cheek,
an ethereal sensation.
She leans forward, longing for more.

The bombardment of silence thunders in her ears
whilst the meandering of bumblebees
is amplified to
Concert crescendo.

Eyes closed,
she senses the trials of thousands of years
Swirling around her soul.

The ghostly guide tugs impatiently
At her hand.

‘Not yet’, she replies.
‘Soon, very soon.’

First she needs the grounding
Of the boardwalk.

As far as the eye can see
Reeds and sedge dance in the breeze
A bewildering display unleashed.
The unified being pulsating with life;
Its energy palpable.

The cerulean sky reaches
To infinity.
Unhindered by obstacles it sweeps down to
The sunbeam of golden land.

Ahead indistinct voices drift towards her
The unknown language beguiling.
The air punctuated by thumps of axes
Trees hewn by brute force.

A canopy of oak leaves looms above her
She shivers, sways and swoons
Into the arms of the mystical being.

©Annika Perry, May 2021

‘The Spirit of the Fen’ was inspired by my recent visit to Wicken Fen, the oldest Nature Reserve in Britain. Immediately I sensed an enchantment within the ancient fenland of East Anglia.

An inventive and enjoyable set of boardwalks has been created around the fen to allow visitors to the site whilst protecting the landscape and wildlife. It was thrilling to step out just above the water, gazing out upon the bewitching scenery.

The fens are made up of the fens, marshes, reed beds, farmland and woodland. There is a deep peat soil that is kept wet by rainfall and clean, chalky river water.

Within the low lying water reed and sedge are grown for harvesting. The latter is used for thatch roofing which is still used for many older buildings within the country. The earliest recorded sedge harvest was in 1414.

Furthermore, the fens are rich with a variety of floral and fauna with over 9000 species of animals, birds and insects thriving in the area. I only saw a handful of these alas! Charles Darwin in the 1820s favoured the spot for finding beetles.

A reed warbler

The reserve was founded in 1899 by the National Trust to preserve its iconic habitat and the first parcel of land was donated to the Trust by Charles Rothschild in 1901.

Although some parts of the southern fens were made into navigable waterways by the Romans called the ‘Lodes’, the majority of the fens were barely accessible before they started to be drained for farmland in the seventeenth century using windmills. Wicken Fen remained undrained and continued as a business for peat and sedge until the end of the nineteenth century.

Although Wicken Fen is currently quite a small area a new 100-year project was launched in 1999 to mark the 100th anniversary of the first acquisition. The Wicken Fen Vision is seeking to expand the fen to a size of 22 square miles to preserve and increase its exceptional biodiversity.

Finally, it was fascinating to learn about Bog Oaks upon leaving the Nature Reserve. These are remains of trees preserved in the waterlogged peat and just such a tree was unearthed in 2016 whilst a ditch was cleared, pictured below. Some bog oaks are from the Bronze Age and it is staggering to think that before me lay a tree trunk from possibly 4200 years ago!

Bog Oak, possibly 4000 years old

The magical aura of Wicken Fen stayed with me long after my visit, the peaceful, harmonious presence lingering within. It will not be long before I return to this unusual place of natural beauty to explore more!

130 thoughts on “THE SPIRIT OF THE FEN

  1. Such beauty, Annika! You have captured the spirit of the fern so vividly, I can feel the grace of that invisible hand. Simply beautiful! I hope I’ll have some quite time in nature as well, even though I don’t have a summer holiday this year. Enjoy the season! xx

  2. What an enchanting poem Annika and clearly inspired by your walks and adventures in this magical place. Thanks for transporting me to the spirit of the Fen. I loved this. 💚

    1. Miriam, thank you for you wonderful comment and it is special when someone truly ‘gets’ one’s writing. The poem is one of those that almost wrote itself as I was touched by the ethereal nature of Wicken Fen! xx ❤️

  3. Thank you for sharing your adventure and allowing us to see a part of Britain through your eyes!!..; almost like being there!… “Life gives us brief moments with another, but sometimes in those brief moments we get memories that last a lifetime, So live that your memories will be part of your happiness.” (Author Unknown)… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    (Irish Saying)

    1. Thank you for joining me … if only from afar via my post! 😀 I’m glad you felt you were almost there and it’s a magical feeling. Here’s to brief moments becoming memories that last a lifetime! (beautiful quote!)

      I love the Irish saying and appreciate you sharing it here. I travelled a lot in Ireland on business and found the people the best raconteurs, never afraid to show emotion through their words or music!

      Lovely to meet you here across WP! 😀

  4. Your poem and recollection of your visit to Wicken Fen was such a peaceful read, Annika. When I read the first line, ‘The grace of an invisible hand flits across her cheek’, I was already pulled in wanting to know what mystical forces are around us…and also your protagonist then longed for more too 😀 I love how abstract you wrote in the energetic display and energies at play. Makes me wonder that there is something out there, the universe, guiding us through thick and thin.

    That is amazing you spotted a reed warbler. It looks so cute and right at home. Lovely hear how the boardwalk was thoughtfully constructed to accommodated for visitors. That tree from thousands of years ago was an amazing find. There are probably many more things yet to be uncovered around there which is exciting to think of. Hope you have been keeping well, Annika 🙂

    1. Wow! Mabel, thank you so much for your wonderful and thoughtful comment! I love how you enjoyed ‘how abstract you wrote in the energetic display and energies at play’. The mystical element of Wicken Fen was profound and just could not be ignored and it’s lovely that you felt the peace through my piece here.

      Oh, I wish we had seen a reed warbler … the photo is from Google but we did hear quite a few; unlike any bird song I’ve heard before. Standing by the tree I felt like I was paying homage to times past and yes, I wonder what else will be unearthed over the course of the years!

      Thank you, I’m thankfully keeping very well and it never fails to astound me how a busy life continues in the midst of this all. Wishing you well, Mabel and look forward to popping over to your blog soon. xx

      1. I really enjoyed your piece and recolletcion of Wicken Fen. Perhaps the reed warblers were just a bit shy the day you were there 😀 That is great to hear you are keeping very well. Yes, life can get busy amidst blogging and before you know it, it’s been a while. Time flies like that. So kind of you to want to pop over, Annika. Hope you are having a good week 🙂

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