War Memorial Gary Trouton

Notes from a newcomer

November 2006

Marion takes off her blindfold and looks at the countryside as she drives to work.

What with endless road works along the Guyhirn Straight and traffic down to one lane in Peterborough, there aren't many laughs to be had on the A47 these days. But the other morning, as I was driving along the Thorney bypass, I happened to glance at a field full of sheep.

To my amusement, two of them were standing solemnly side by side, each with a

magpie perched on its head. They looked like a couple of dowagers wearing absurd Ascot hats or a surreal moment from Monty Python.

William Cobbett wrote a book, 'Rural Rides', about his meanderings around England in the 18th century. I think I could produce a slim volume - 'Fenland Drives' perhaps? - on my daily journey from Stoke Ferry to Bretton. It is a route comprising two quite distinct halves; the serpentine A1122 twists and turns its way from Downham to Wisbech where it joins the more businesslike A47, crowded with HGVs all heading purposefully towards Peterborough and beyond.Commuting is a monotonous business but it is alleviated by the road's sometimes unexpected pleasures and quirks. One of the predictable pleasures is observing the swing of the seasons. Spring comes with a bang in Outwell where the river banks blaze with daffodils and willows trail their fresh green leaves in the water.

Late spring brings apple and pear blossom to the verges of the Wisbech bypass where old orchards still flourish. Along the same stretch, a dozen or so shaggy ponies browse in an equally shaggy field: at the gate there is a large sign threatening imminent redevelopment. Where will the ponies go when the long grass has given way to concrete, I wonder? I shall miss the passing glimpse of their frolics when they gallop aimlessly around, simply glad to be alive.Across the road from the ponies, someone with a pleasing sense of humour has parked an old tractor, painted it pink and placed a silly grin on its 'face' - a sight guaranteed to cheer a grey morning.

Other seasonal delights are stopping to buy locally grown asparagus, followed by strawberries and, later in the year, making a small detour to a farm shop for apples and plums. Near Nordelph, there is a roadside stall selling gooseberries, then beans and carrots and beetroot as the months progress. October brings mounds of golden pumpkins for sale.

The route offers some unexpected sights, too. What could be quirkier than a Chinese centre offering T'ai Chi and other oriental delights in Salter's Lode? And what is the story that led to an Italian restaurant in a petrol station in Thorney Toll?

While the bypass has cut ten minutes off my travelling time, I confess I almost miss the slow crawl through Thorney which allowed plenty of time to admire the Duke of Bedford's nice old estate houses, the classic cars parked outside the garage and some geese grazing, oblivious to the passing vehicles. Apart from the cars, the scene probably hasn't changed much since Cobbett rode through.

Marion Clarke

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