Among the many changes taking place in the countryside are tracts of cultivated land reverting to marsh and lakes reflective of the environment centuries ago. An area on the site of Whittlesey Mere drained in 1850, is becoming a watery space reverting to wildlife habitation.
For almost 400 years, the Fens produced excellent crops. However, extensive cultivation leaves its mark on exhausted soil. Artificial additives have an effect and peat and silt becomes devoid of energy. In the years following total drainage, the Fens produced crops of such quantity and quality it was deemed necessary to delay growth. Allowing areas of Fen to revert to reed-fringed marsh and stagnant pools has a significant meaning. What we grow does have a telling impact on the national economy. It reduces expensive imports. Our Fens are not sufficiently recognised for their contribution to our culinary habits. On the other hand, areas reverting to their former wildlife state allow vast number of species to thrive and assist in the control of pests. This is better than using pesticides.
It is really a question of restoring, in part at least, the balance of nature. Man with his inventiveness and technology traduces beneficial discoveries to dangerous levels. The wetland near Peterborough, extensive enlargement of Wicken Fen, the wetland at Welney and the 21-mile length of the Bedford rivers and intervening washland supports useful predatory wildlife, beneficial to all of us. Have we overstepped the bounds of progress?
We might expect more areas to revert to wild fen and nature to be restored to a significantly greater role. A compromise could be the natural outcome of changing feeding habits for years to come.