General Characteristics of Huntingdonshire

The general geographical characteristics of the District of Huntingdonshire in Cambridgeshire, England.

 

Huntingdonshire is an inland county in the south-eastern midlands of England, lying south-west of the Wash. King's Lynn is the nearest seaport. As Huntingdonshire produces neither coal nor iron, its manufactures are naturally on a small scale, and the energies of its inhabitants are devoted principally to agriculture, service and light -industry. Huntingdonshire was anciently forest, that is un-cleared land, and so specially suited for hunting; here and there there would be clearings with small cultivated areas and the homes of the sparse population. Its deforestation took place in the reign of Edward I, and doubtless had the effect of increasing the productiveness of the county; indeed in the early part of the nineteenth century much corn was exported, and, as the fen drainage became more and more effective, additional land was brought into cultivation. till the agricultural produce of the county had become much above the average in proportion to its acreage.

The Highland

The southern and western portions of Huntingdonshire present just such a picture as one may see in many midland counties of England - pleasantly diversified hill and dale, with no hills of remarkable height and no very deep valleys, but each valley with its stream making its way to the River Great Ouse or the River Nene. This part of the county is locally known as the "highland" in contradiction to the fen, which will be discussed later. Part of the highland is arable and produces the usual crops, part is devoted to dairy farming, but as we reach the northern boundary we find a soil not good as in the southern part, and the tall chimneys of the brickyards once told us of the industry that was carried on in this part of the county.

The Lowland and the Huntingdonshire Fen

There is a great change when we enter the north-eastern portion of the county. As we approach it from the hills on a bright summer day, there appears what looks like an absolutely level plain, dotted with a few homesteads surrounded by clumps of trees and here and there a cottage, while the straight dykes, cut beside the fields, in which the water glistens in the sunlight, make it look like some floor ruled with silver lines. Once we are in it, we can fancy ourselves in Holland; the roads are usually perfectly straight for miles, with a ditch- or dyke as it is termed- on either side and every field is bounded in the same way by a perfectly straight dyke on each side. These are all part of the system of drainage, all those on one level being connected, and each level with a higher or lower one. Hedges are practically non-existent; dykes take their place and serve a double purpose of draining the land and dividing the fields.

Flat and Straight!

Straight roads and dykes, few trees and no hedges are a feature of the Huntingdonshire Fens

Straight roads and dykes, few trees and no hedges are a feature of the Huntingdonshire Fens

 

In the fen is very little grass, the soil being to light for pasture, but abundant crops of sugar beet, celery, potatoes, and other roots are grown, and these often reach a large size - while heavy wheat crops with along straw alternate with the above.