sand storm in yaxley

Stan grows about 60 acres of vegetables for the boxes on Yaxley fen. The vast, flat and unique landscape of the fens has a fascinating history. East Anglia was once connected to mainland Europe by dry land, covered in primary forests. At the end of the ice age the forests were flooded, killing plants and trees. These fell and swampy

conditions begin to develop. Over time the plants gradually biodegraded into the developing peaty soils.

The Romans first attempted to drain the fens, recognising the potential fertility of the land. Their attempts were by and large unsuccessful. However, by the 17th century fenland drainage had started in earnest. Initially, wind power was relied on to pump the water out of the fens but this proved unreliable and the level of power required made it increasingly difficult but steam power started to be used in the 1800's that upped the pace. Today a complex network of drains and artificial rivers protects some of the most fertile soils in the country from the threat of rain and tide.

The fenland peat that Stan grows on in Yaxley is packed with nutrients, easy to work and holds moisture relatively well. It's the kind of soil that growers on heavier land(like our friends in Devon) dream of but in the winds that we experienced this week Yaxley Fen is worth avoiding. There is very little protection offered by vegetation or land and the light soil easily gets whipped up into the air. While most of Yaxley was bathed in sun yesterday, the fen looked like it was being ravaged by an intense thunderstorm, as thick clouds of topsoil rose into the air. Stan tries his best to

protect the organic soils with verges and strips of vegetation, but in such exposed conditions and a strong easterly wind there is not a great deal you can do.

Rob Haward