3.7 Cross section The Wash
The Wash is found on the east coast of middle
England. The Wash crosses a government regional boundary between East
Midlands in the north-western section and East of England found in the more
eastern part of The Wash. The shoreline is shared between the counties of
Lincolnshire and Norfolk but the maritime influenced hinterland also reaches
into the county of Cambridgeshire, all three counties are overseen by a
county council. Below these two tiers of government is a third and then a
fourth. The third tier is the five local planning authorities of East
Lindsey District, Boston Borough, South Holland District, Fenland District
and Borough of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Councils. Finally there are the
parish councils which consist of approximately 40 bodies around The Wash.
Coastal and marine environments: open water, saltmarsh, sand and mudflats, dunes, beaches, cliff and estuaries. These are strongly influenced by the tide and thus inputs of saltwater from the sea and lesser so freshwater from the five rivers of Steeping, Witham, Welland, Nene and Great Ouse (west to east). This open, wild land and seascape seems untouched by man, bar where the sea embankments define the land-sea boundary, and it continually changes with the ebb and flow of the tides.
land and sea merge, Freiston in Lincolnshire
land provides for rich agricultural and horticultural production
Reclaimed land: land that was gradually reclaimed from the marine and fluvial environments including reclaimed fen, marsh and estuaries. This is now characterised by being prime agricultural and horticultural land with over 80% of the soils being classified as Grade 1, the highest concentration in the UK. Crop coverage includes brassicas, flower bulbs, beet, potatoes and other field and salad vegetables with some cereals on the lower grade soils.
The Wash and its hinterlands tell the story of man’s development in the area and the constant fight/change between land and sea. This cultural landscape is illustrated in many ways from the small mounds often seen cropping up in the otherwise flat landscape indicating an ancient saltern to scar left from prehistoric field patterns that can be seen from the air today. The following will provide a brief tour.
Prehistoric - Saxon
The heritage reflects the diversity of the natural environment. In the lowland areas substantial episodes of fresh and salt water flooding has largely buried earlier prehistoric remains beneath clay, peat and silt. Occasionally remains of mesolithic to bronze age date occur on islands within the fenland but such episodes are increasingly rare towards the coast. Towards the end of the Iron Age there was an expansion eastward and numerous salt-making sites of transitional Roman date appear, particularly around Spalding. Early and middle Saxon sites occur within the transect with artefact scattered throughout and cropmarks in the fields illustrating the sites today.
One of the many
mounds that depict an historic salt-making site
Now the heritage begins to become more visible; earthwork remains of castles and manorial sites are frequent within the coastal parishes, some surviving as earthworks in the fens. From this period and possibly as early as the 8th century flood banks herald the reclamation of fen and marsh alike. Salt-making develops once more as a major industry along the numerous havens and coastal areas, subsequent sea embankments (dykes) fossilising the resultant undulating landscapes. The villages are renowned for their medieval churches. Spalding is the major town within the western section of the transect which historically developed as a major local port and trading centre from its late Saxon origins and, although it was not as important as the international trading centres such as Boston and Kings Lynn, it can boast some excellent medieval buildings, often hidden behind later facades, and an excellent archaeological legacy. As with many major ports it suffered decline at the end of the medieval period but a resurgence associated with the large scale drainage of the fenland and the development of the agricultural landscape lead to further development resulting in excellent streetscapes of Georgian and later town houses and warehouses lining the river which can still be seen today. King’s Lynn, in the eastern section of the transect, remains an active port today but historically it was highly important for trading with Europe and many fine examples of buildings from the Hanseatic League days still remain.
waterfront of King's Lynn
Later times and built heritage
contains some of the earliest brick buildings in the country, notably the
Boston Guildhall although outside of the transect. King’s Lynn still has
evidence in the form of old brick pits of its importance in the early brick
making days. But most of the surviving stock is of the 18th and 19th
century relating to agricultural expansion made possible by the new
reclamations resulting in grand farmhouses and associated farm buildings
being common. Changes in agricultural practices over the years have meant
that many buildings are now redundant and falling into disrepair, but they
are a most important element of The Wash landscapes.
has the tallest mil tower in the UK. This image is before it was recently
restored which was overseen by the local community
at Pode Hole
The maritime heritage consists not only of wrecks of all ages from the medieval period through to planes from the World Wars, but also of the buried prehistoric landscapes, which are occasionally exposed as in the example of Holme timber circle, and the saltmaking sites along the Lindsey Marsh, although both are outside the transect.
history being brought back to life in The Wash in 2004: visiting Kieler
found throughout including in the rivers, such as this
practices can damage our archaeological interests, but through agri-
environment schemes this issue could be tackled
reclaimed land supports a busy bulb industry
The trend is one with a positive outlook for cultural and historic heritage within The Wash through to regional and national level. The Wash Estuary Strategy Group recently completed a wide ranging review process consulting extensively with the stakeholders to develop an integrated management plan for the area which has a whole series of policies to help protect and enhance the cultural landscape and historic environment assets of the area. At a regional level the two spatial planning strategies recognised to some degree the wealth of historic environment assets we have and nationally there are various reviews, bills and strategies being developed to amalgamate and integrate the laws and designation procedure protecting our built heritage and the wider cultural landscape, which in hand with the changes to agri-environment schemes will make a positive impact on the management of our ‘treasure.’
But more needs to be done starting with improving our knowledge of what we have and ensuring this is recorded in a usable and purposeful way. Continued work with local communities is essential to achieve most of the policies set out within The Wash plan, be that the various sectors that are present and influencing their practices or inspiring a local group to take on the management of their heritage. Also continued lobbying and responding to relevant local to national government is essential to ensure that the historic environment is taken into consideration in all planning aspects. All of this requires stakeholder involvement and commitment and co-ordination to ensure that everyone is going in the right direction, thus a historic environment action plan developed in a collaborative way based on sound knowledge of our stock is probably the best way forward. Hence, working in partnership with the Lancewad Plan partners to develop such practices.
statue of just one of the great explorers from The Wash, Vancouver, found in