A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. ‘Francis Pryor brings the magic of the Fens to life in a deeply personal and utterly enthralling way’ TONY ROBINSON.
‘Pryor feels the land rather than simply knowing it’ GUARDIAN.
Inland from the Wash, on England’s eastern cost, crisscrossed by substantial rivers and punctuated by soaring church spires, are the low-lying, marshy and mysterious Fens. Formed by marine and freshwater flooding, and historically wealthy owing to the fertility of their soils, the Fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire are one of the most distinctive, neglected and extraordinary regions of England.
Francis Pryor has the most intimate of connections with this landscape. For some forty years he has dug its soils as a working archaeologist – making ground-breaking discoveries about the nature of prehistoric settlement in the area – and raising sheep in the flower-growing country between Spalding and Wisbech. In The Fens, he counterpoints the history of the Fenland landscape and its transformation – from Bronze age field systems to Iron Age hillforts; from the rise of prosperous towns such as King’s Lynn, Ely and Cambridge to the ambitious drainage projects that created the Old and New Bedford Rivers – with the story of his own discovery of it as an archaeologist.
Affectionate, richly informative and deftly executed, The Fens weaves together strands of archaeology, history and personal experience into a satisfying narrative portrait of a complex and threatened landscape.
'An immersive journey through the landscape, saturated with local history and personal insight ... It will inspire you to explore the locations on foot' Country Walking. 'A wonderful journey into the history and archaeology of an East Anglian landscape' Eastern Daily Press Norfolk. '[Francis Pryor] interweaves his own personal experiences, the graft and grime of the dig and lyrical evocations of place, offering a unique portrait of a sometimes neglected but remarkable area of England' Countryside. 'Literally hands-on history - a deeply felt discovery of half a million underestimated acres from Lincolnshire to Suffolk ... The Fens retains much of its brooding, enigmatic character and those who wish to understand its unique importance can now call on an articulate and avuncular guide' Country Life. 'A heartfelt love story to the fens: a testament to their deep past as well as a concern for their ecological future' BBC Countryfile. 'Pryor always writes well and entertainingly, and in The Fens he has created what should become one of his most lasting works, a personal, archaeological celebration of a region where he has family roots and where he conducted a lifetime's fieldwork' British Archaeology. 'An elegant account of a region that, as [Francis Pryor] puts it, "has inhabited my soul"' History Revealed. '[Francis Pryor's] enthusiasm is infectious, whether he's glimpsing Ely cathedral from a train, coming across John Clare's grave or counting the bricks of Tattershall Castle' Spectator. 'A fascinating account of a complex landscape by archaeologist Francis Pryor who has dug and worked its soil for almost 40 years. Weaving together strands of archaeology, history and personal experience, he paints an intimate portrait of the East of England's marshy and mysterious Fens' East Anglian Daily Times. 'Francis Pryor traces the area's history and his own relationship with it, which stretches back more than 40 years' Radio Times.
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