Saturday, 2 May 2009
A signpost out on the fens east of Cambridge. Having a kind of horrible ring-of-truth for our times I thought 'What's all that about?'. As the River Cam winds across to its confluence with the Great Ouse, an offshoot goes off to the south east. This is Swaffham Bulbeck Lode, and it ends between the villages of Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior (where two good-sized churches share the same churchyard), and just across the wide fields from Anglesey Abbey at Lode. The quay was dubbed Commercial End, and in the eighteenth century this was a very useful waterway, enabling local produce to be shipped straight off the fen and into either Cambridge or up towards Kings Lynn and the sea. The railways brought the water-born trade to an abrupt end when the Great Eastern put a branch through to Mildenhall and Bury St.Edmunds. You think everything's going to last forever; flowers in the church, God in His heaven, and suddenly 'pfff!' it's all gone in a puff of smoke.