Archived reports of meetings in 2015

11th March

Saved by chance - the unusual carvings of St Clements Church, Outwell

Previously unrecognised local treasures were illustrated at the March meeting of the March Society. Margaret Lake, representing the recently formed 'Friends of St Clements Church, Outwell' said that there was much renewed interest and excitement generated by over 200 unique and unusual wooden carvings in the roof and the nave of the Church.

The intricate carvings are believed to have been put there in the 14th century. The angel carvings on the roof are all different from each other and had been inserted separately from the hammer-beams. 6 dark pairs of demons and apostles carvings can be seen in the nave. Some of the carvings may have represented characters in the local community. All the carvings survived the Reformation, Puritanism and other historic purges on Churches. In a 1860s 'restoration' all the carvings in the nave were painted with a black creosote-like coating which remains on them today.

Further notable features of the church include beautiful stained glass from the Middle Ages, stone gargoyles and 2 Hanseatic League pine chests made in the mid-15th century and a 17th century alms box. The Friends have a target of &pond;250,000 needed to help conserve the church.

11th February

Quinton Carroll - Iceni and Romans

A large number of people attended The March Society's talk given by Cambridgeshire Archaeologist Quinton Carroll on 'Stonea camp, the Iceni and the Romans'.

Quinton took us on a fascinating journey through the Iron Age to beyond the Roman era and illustrated the effects they had in the Fens. Fenland was part of the Iceni territories with settlements and defences including Stonea and Wimblington Road.

In particular he told the story of Stonea and its hill fort. This was surrounded by almost inaccessible marshland. Evidence of several other hill forts in the region indicates a line of defences built to protect from potential marauders.

Relations of the local Iceni tribe with the Romans were generally good until the Icenis wanted to take the land from the Romans. Eventually, in AD47, the Iceni tribe, famously led by Boudicca, revolted against Emperor Nero and the Roman army. Although Boudicca was defeated (how and where she died still remains a mystery) a more conciliatory Roman attitude towards Britain emerged as a result.

It is thought that the Romans built the Stonea camp because the Romans viewed the Fens as being vital to their defences. Surveys and excavations have confirmed that the Romans built a great tower on the Stonea site and started up industries such as pottery, salt production, fishing, meat and agriculture in the wider Fenland area. There were Roman settlements near Bullock Road, Car Dyke Waterbeach, Flaggrass March near the Roman causeway, Littleport, Langwood Chatteris. After the Romans departed, the area again became largely flooded.

14th January

Nene Washes - RSPB

A large audience of local wildlife and bird enthusiasts enjoyed an information-packed talk at The March

Society.

Charlie Kitchin, RSPB site manager at Nene Washes, explained that the primary purpose of the Washes is to act as a flood storage area to protect arable land from flooding. The RSPB acquired the land round the Washes in 1982. Unlike other Washes, the Nene Washes (running between Whittlesey and Guyhirn) do not get massive flooding in winter. This means that the Nene Washes have better quality grass and so attracts many more winter and nesting birds. For example there are increasing numbers of Whooper Swans - currently estimated at over 1000 - arriving from Iceland in winter. Unfortunately annual numbers of Bewick's Swans, which fly from Russia via the Baltic States, are declining because they aren't travelling as far West as previously. Wigeon numbers have increased dramatically and the Nene Washes site has become one of Britain's most important habitats for these ducks - last winter it was estimated that there were some 20,000 Wigeons there. Teal, Pintails, Shovelers, Black-tailed Godwits, Snipes, Redshanks, Lapwings and Cranes are amongst the wide range of birds that now visit the site. Other wildlife seen in the area includes hares, water voles, grass snakes and even some crabs.