Yesteryear Road Run through Fen Edge villages to beat Cancer 2014

Yesteryear Road Run through Fen Edge villagesThe sun shone on the 27th of April as over 360 registered vehicles, plus a dozen or more that joined in on the way, took part in the Yesteryear Road Run a round road-trip from Cottenham – through the villages of Rampton, Willingham, Over, Swavesy, Longstanton, Oakington and Histon – to raise the magnificent sum of £6,500 for Cancer Research UK at the Cambridge Research Institute.

The Cottenham Brass Band was on the village green to send the parade on its way about 9.30am and stalls set up on the green did a roaring business when the vehicles returned in the late afternoon. The extraordinary display of vintage cars, whose owners came from near and far, brought hundreds of spectators.

The volunteers who made a huge contribution to the event were the six leather-clad motorcyclists who carefully herded the procession through the villages; the dozen bucket-wielding collectors who travelled in the bus, on Robert Smith’s trailer and on foot (they must have walked miles); and the foot marshalls in Cottenham who managed to allow the flow of normal traffic while encouraging the parking of the participants on the green. Thanks, too, to the tow truck and fire brigade for assisting those in trouble.

It was a wonderful day and brought smiles to the faces of everyone along the route.

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Next year’s Yesteryear Road Run will be on 19 April

The Fens and Flooding

The plight of householders and farmers overwhelmed by the water on the Somerset Levels touched the hearts of everyone around the country. Yet despite the two months of record-breaking rainfall, the Fen Edge area appeared fairly normal. Was this luck or good planning?

Some of the fields looked very wet and there was a lot of mud around but you’d expect that after the rain we’d endured. But the eastern fenland area is an area of high flood risk, so why didn’t the water rise – and not drain away – as happened in the Somerset Levels? The circumstances are not the same, according to Cottenham resident Mike Mason. He believes the name of the Dutch drainage expert Cornelius Vermuyden should be engraved upon every heart in the Fen Edge.

It was Vermuyden who in the 1650s built dykes, new channels and sluices to drain the original marshes and meres which had extended from the coast to Cambridge and Peterborough. These works have been improved on over the centuries by pumping stations to lift water from the low level fens into the high level embanked rivers running through them, making flood protection more reliable. Mike, a county councillor for Cottenham, Histon and Impington with a history of involvement with drainage, is a member of the Anglian Central Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (CRFCC).

Flood and water management is a complex subject with wide variations in regional rainfall and river catchment characteristics. The pastures of the Somerset Levels cannot therefore be easily compared with the largely arable peat lands of the South or Middle Level of the fens. The Environment Agency report for January said this was the wettest month on record for the Bedford Ouse and Cam Catchments and the second wettest for Central Area overall.

While flooding in the fens has been avoided this year, the cost borne by the local drainage ratepayers and taxpayers will be high in terms of electricity and fuel costs associated with many hours of pumping. Flood defences at Kings Lynn and Denver sluice were severely tested and were actually breached at Lowestoft by the recent east coast tidal surge. We should not be complacent about the effects of climate change, says Mike.

Vermuyden’s motto on the crest of the South Cambridgeshire District Council reads “Niet Zonder Arbyt” which translates (from old Dutch) as “nothing without work”. As Mike says, the Fen Edge flood defence system is an example of that motto, so luck and planning and many years of capital investment came into it.

Wendy Dear