Tag Archives: Peterborough

The Story of an Aussie in The English Fens (Part One)

Crowland Bridge 01

John is a blogging pal from Melbourne in Australia (John corrects me and tells me that is Melbun if you are an Aussie but I stick with the Pommy, as in Lord Melbourne, after who the city was named) and we have followed each other for several years and have become good friends.

Recently John announced that he was travelling to England for just a few days and hoped that there might be a possibility to meet up.  I told him that he was welcome to come and stay in Grimsby but as he only had a single spare day in his busy itinerary that this would be quite difficult.  Grimsby is a great place to go to but not a great place to get to, it just takes such a long time.

The solution was to find somewhere practical where I could drive and John could get to easily from London.  Looking at a map I settled on Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, a ninety mile drive for me and an hour train journey for John.

We met early one evening and over evening meal John explained that he had little interest in visiting castles or cathedrals or stately homes and such and that he would prefer to see the countryside.  With a an interest in farming he had read about the area of England called The Fens and was certain that he would like to see the farmland and the marshes of what some people might consider to be one of the least interesting parts of the country to visit.

The Fens

This made it easy for me, I lived and worked in Spalding in the heart of The Fens for ten years between 2000 and 2010 so before going to sleep that night I came up with what I hoped was an interesting itinerary for the next day.

After an excellent breakfast the day started to go badly.  There was a thick fog across the entire area, my SatNav wouldn’t work and there was a road closure due to an accident that blocked the road to my first intended destination.  This is when I remember that it is a good idea to put a paper road map in the car but of course I hadn’t so I was confused and making driving decisions without any useful assistance.  (A passenger from the other side of the World was, I have to say, not a lot of help).

After a long, and as it turned out an unnecessary detour, we crossed the mist shrouded fields and arrived in the small town of Crowland just as the fog disappeared and the sun began to shine.  That was a relief because this part of England is quite beautiful in sunshine but desperately dreary in any other sort of weather conditions.

Crowland is a long way off the tourist trail and was surprisingly busy today which took me by surprise but maybe it was because it contains two sites of historical interest, Crowland Abbey and Trinity Bridge.

Trinity Bridge

We started at the bridge which is a scheduled monument built in the fourteenth century and the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom, perhaps even Europe, perhaps even the World!  The bridge has three stairways that converge at the top. Originally it spanned the River Welland and a tributary that flowed through the town and was a clever and economical solution to the crossing of two watercourses at their confluence, reducing the need for three separate bridges to a single structure with three abutments.

The River Welland doesn’t flow through Crowland any more, it used to inconveniently flood so it was diverted some time ago away from the centre of the town and flood defences were put in place.

The river in Crowland grows reeds which produces some of the finest material for roof thatching in England.  Sadly it is expensive to process and has been undercut by cheap thatch from Eastern Europe.

John was taking pictures and blocking the pavement and as a consequence entered into conversation with a busy woman with a shopping trolley who was anxious to get by without stepping into the road.  He apologised and explained that he was just patiently waiting until he could get a picture of the bridge without people.  She gave him an old-fashioned look and asked how he expected to achieve that on Market Day.

We looked around but could see no market stalls and sensing our confusion she told us that there is no street market any more but everyone still comes into town on a Friday anyway.

Street markets in small English towns are difficult to find these days, they are no longer economical or viable, just like the thatch food is cheaper in European supermarkets.

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Real Ávila – Play Off Results

To begin with I need to start with a recap of the play-off rules.   The eighteen group winners of the Spanish third division are drawn into a two-legged series and the nine winners are then automatically promoted to the Segunda División B.  The nine losing clubs then enter the play off round for the last nine promotion spots.  The eighteen runners-up are drawn against one of the seventeen fourth-place clubs outside their group and the eighteen third-placed clubs are drawn against one another in a two-legged series. The twenty-seven winners then advance with the nine losing clubs from the champions’ series to determine the eighteen teams that will enter the last two-legged series for the last nine promotion spots.

Real Ávila finished in fourth spot in group 8 and therefore had to face a runner-up from one of the other groups.  This year for the first leg they were drawn against Almeria from Andalusia group 9.  After a disappointing 0-0 draw at home on 24th May the teams drew 1-1 in the second leg and Ávila went through on the away goals rule.  For the second leg they were drawn against even tougher opposition, RSD Alcalá from the Community of Madrid who this year were the runaway winners of division 7 but had lost the chance of automatic promotion after losing in the opening round of games to table topping Villajoyosa (near Benidorm) from Valencia so were now playing for one of the final promotion places in the second round of games.

It started well enough when on 7th June and playing at home Real Ávila won the first leg 1-0 and things looked promising but in the second away leg the wheels fell off and the home side ran out 5-2 winners, which means Ávila have now played in the play off finals four times in the last five years and never succeeded in winning promotion and are going to have to wait until next year for a another opportunity.

Alcalá de Henares, meaning Citadel on the river Henares, is a Spanish university city with a UNESCO World Heritage Site historical centre that sounds an interesting sort of place and may well have to go onto the travel itinerary next time in Spain.  It is located in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, thirty-five kilometres northeast of the city of Madrid, at a height of five hundred and ninety metres above sea level and it has a population of around two hundred thousand, the second largest of the region after the Spanish capital itself.

Interesting facts about Alcalá are that as the birthplace of Henry VIII’s first wife Catherine of Aragon, it is twinned with the English city of Peterborough which is where she is buried in the Cathedral there.  The author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes was born there in 1547 and there is an annual literary prize giving ceremony awarding the Cervantes Prize which is the Spanish-speaking world’s most prestigious award for lifetime achievement in literature and so important that it is presented by the King of Spain himself. 

We saw a lot of storks in Spain especially in Ávila and Segovia and Alcalá too is well-known for its population of white storks. Their large nests can be observed on top of many of the churches and historic buildings in the city, and are themselves a significant tourist attraction. Situated in the lowlands of the Henares river, the city is an attractive home for the migratory storks due to the easy availability of food and nesting material in the area.

One not so good thing to be remembered for however is that Alcalá is a commuter town with an excellent high speed rail link to Madrid and it was on the 11th March 2004 and the infamous Madrid train bombings when all the bombs were placed on trains that originated in, or passed through, Alcalá.

Katherine of Aragon