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Digging out one of the dikes which are so numerous in the Fens.   This one may be near Ramsey Forty Foot with the old brickworks, now demolished in the background.  The men are known as navies, short for navigators. The navies would split work into two, some would dig with a spade, and others with a shovel would move the peat soil onto either bank. Barrows would not work in the mud and soft peat. The men here are taking a break from the arduous work for the photographer to take a picture. When digging the soil would move rapidly up the slope by those with shovels to where it would rest. The men were stationary, the soil being passed up the slope to the next man. One side would be higher than the other, serving not only as a dam, but a fosse which formed a track for transport. Despite Victorian engineering they had no way  of foreseeing the large HGVs and constant 24 hour use the road has today.

The first people to successfully drain the fens were the Romans and Romanized Celts, who had settled much of the fens, draining marshy expanses for agriculture and habitation. With the withdrawal of the Roman legions, however, the area became once again swampy and sparsely inhabited.

The Roman emperor Nero after the defeat of Boudicca in about 60 AD may have played apart in the draining. By the time of Hadrian  salted eels were being shipped in barrels, by boat, to the wall the legions built (Hadrian's Wall) in what is now northern England.

Ramsey retained a port for shipping eels as recently as the 1850s, when the fens were eventually drained with the last meres becoming agricultural ground, Ramsey Mere, (near the Forty Foot/Mereside), Uggmere (Ramsey Heights) and Whittlesey Mere (Holme) being drained. The port was located where Barclays Bank is today which for a time was move to where the mill is on the northern side of Ramsey. This ceased with the coming of the railway.  

The road at Forty Foot also serves as a dam, the land the opposite side being at or below sea level where Ramsey Mere was located prior to draining. Repair will take some time as the piles required must come by barge. Traffic is having to use the B1096, Benwick road.

There was a near breach of the bank on 16 January, 2008 during the floods. Pictures below.




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A dyke being cleaned out and improved.  I'm told that the windmill (or is that wind pump?) is at Ramsey to St. Mary's. It can still be seen from the bridge looking west.  A dam can be seen holding the water back and what seems to be a steam tractor is also in the background.


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The same Windmill, but from the other side of the dam looking east.

This picture is from St. Mary's Bridge, but from the other side looking to the west.

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  RAMSEY IN FLOOD, known as the Great Flood of 1912.  It took place in August, in middle of harvest!


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Looking north from a very flooded Bury Brook to the back of what is now the Nat. West. Bank.   The houses to the right were swept away in the water and never replaced.  The same view is below as it is today



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From where the people are  standing was where the previous photograph was taken.   This is over looking what now is the Golf Course

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Another Photo of a very flooded Bury Brook.  Bury Church can be seen in the background


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Flooding out towards St. Mary's

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Harvest being gathered, I'm told it may be St. Mary's Farm, which is located on the road from Ramsey to St. Mary's.  The bridge having been replaced twice since the picture was taken the low barge was known as a 'fen lighter'.


The flooded harvest in the 'Bill', Ramsey..  The other following photos are in the same area

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Harvesting by boat in the 'Bill', Ramsey



Below, nearby Woodwalton Fen