For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Warped

Soon the trees give way and the views open up. This is looking east from the railway bank...

...and this looking west...


The whole area, which is completely surrounded by rivers and drainage channels, is called The Isle of Axholme - the only part of Lincolnshire west of the river Trent.

A thousand years ago the Isle's series of low hills - home to its main villages of Haxey, Epworth, Belton and Owston Ferry - were islands in an inland sea. Later, in the 17th century, the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden came along and drained this wild, remote and inhospitable region. The inland sea became marsh and wet pasture land; however, these 'wastes' were still flooded in the winter months. So, in the 18th century, a more complex system involving sluices, drains and flood gates was engineered - allowing the surrounding rivers to inundate the low lying land in a controlled way.

And the rich alluvial sediments thus deposited - plus the deeper layers of peat already there (the region had been densely forested in much earlier times) - created some very high quality agricultural land. This has been intensively cultivated for the last two centuries, now producing bumper crops of sugar beet, carrots, celery, cereals and oilseed rape. This process of controlled flooding - producing such a rich topsoil - is known as 'warping' the land; and the land thereby created is known as 'warped' land. Pieces of petrified wood from the Isle's ancient forest turn up quite regularly; they're known locally as 'bog oak'.

This is the land I lived in for seventeen years - from babyhood through childhood to adolescence. Bleakly beautiful, I suppose - though I didn't appreciate it at the time. In my teens I just wanted to get away. And as far as possible. Whether the land 'warped' me or not I'll leave you to judge - as this story unfolds. (Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the walk. It's still unravelling - remember, all the best walks have their little detours and deviations, their wrong turnings and their cul-de-sacs.)

Anyhow, so much for the Isle's flat bits. But what about the hills?

To be continued...

5 comments:

Titus said...

Solitary Walker, your concept of the ur-walk so inspired me that I have borrowed the idea, quoting you in the process.
Really enjoying this series of posts, thank you.

am said...

Lovely open space.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I have had Dutch friends staying this week Robert and we were talking about Vermuyden (spelling?) and his drainage work!As far as appreciating one's childhood surroundings, I don't think one does until one leaves and then the beauty of it gradually seeps into the soul.

Grace said...

Reminds my of where I grew up: Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia.

Ruth said...

It's true that a good walk needs pauses and turns. I think the mind and heart need to let things settle in without focused attention, and averting our gaze to nature that surrounds you is a welcome stop in your tale.