Explore the Fens
The Fens were originally low-lying marshlands and wetlands, with drainage work beginning in the 1650s under the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden and finally being completed in the 1820s when the introduction of steam-driven pumps replaced windpumps. Naturally, there's a Dutch feel to the reclaimed, low-lying environment, a world away from the inhospitable wilderness of squelching bogs where before a few hardy souls eked a living cutting peat for fuel, making thatch from reeds and existing on fish and wildfowl.
It's the churches in this area that captivate, their names appearing in village titles. At Terrington St Clement the parish church has the longest nave of any in the country, at Walpole St Peter the church is known as the 'Cathedral of the Fens' for its grandeur and fine proportions; in the Wiggenhalls, St Germans, St Mary Magdalen and St Mary the Virgin are well worth visiting, as is St Peter and St Paul at Watlington.
Take a look at the Wetlands Wildlife Trust Welney
Gateway to the Fens
The ancient Anglo Saxon town of Downham Market is just fifteen minutes by train from King's Lynn and is well-placed to reach the natural attractions of Welney Wetland Reserve as well as other attractions such as Church Farm, Stow Bardolph, Gooderstone Water Gardens and Oxburgh Hall. Downham centres on the Market Place, marked by the town's iconic Victorian clock tower. Weekly markets and crafts and collectables markets are held on Town Square and the market place. Nearby is the Downham Market Heritage Centre.
Just outside Downham is Denver Mill and the fascinating Denver Sluices, where fresh and salt water meet in the management of water levels for large parts of the Fens. A little further south is the Welney Wetland Centre on the Ouse Washes, home to thousands of wildfowl such as swans, wigeon and pochard who descend on the reserve during the winter months. In summer there are guided walks of this rich Fens area, and in the winter the spectacular movement of thousands of geese to and from their feeding grounds is an inspiring sight.