Surface and General Features of the County of Huntingdonshire in England
The general elevation of the county is low, the highest point being at Keyston toll-house, which is between Huntingdon and Thrapston, at almost the extreme western part of the county. This is 245 feet above sea-level, while St Ives, six miles east of Huntingdon, is only 26 feet, and Huntingdon itself on 45 feet above sea level although it more than 37 miles from the coast.
The surface of the county in its southern and western parts consists of undulating ground. Though Huntingdonshire cannot claim the wild beauty of Cumbria; nor the charming variety of the scenery of Devon or Cornwall, yet a ride in the early autumn through the districts just mentioned shows the traveller a type of undulating land characteristic of the scenery of the midlands of England, with it hills and valleys, its trees and brooks, its well-kept hedgerows bounding fields rich with waving corn and meadows with herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, a very pleasing picture of rural England.
The north-eastern portion of the county is entirely different both in appearance and in the nature of its soil, consisting of fen, which, as we have seen, is almost perfectly flat, with few hedges or trees, but intersected by many rivers and dykes of different breadth. It does not require a great effort of the imagination to picture the fens as a sea or inland lake, the "highland" round it forming the edge and sloping down to it, which is exactly as the fens were, at times, centuries ago. Here and there some parts of the surface are somewhat higher, having been islands in the midst of the surrounding water and fen. These elevations are formed by inequalities in the Oxford Clay, the substratum of the whole county, which here rises almost to the surface, covered only by drift. The town of Ramsey is an instance of this, standing on what was once an island, rising above the surrounding fen.
The level surface of the fen stretching in some directions as far as the eye can see
Yet, in spite of all that may be said as to the monotony of a level surface stretching in some directions as far as the eye can see, the fens today have a beauty all of their own; the waving corn, in its rich luxuriance, growing to a height unsurpassed anywhere in England, while the variety of tint given by the intervening patches of potatoes, beans, yellow-flowered mustard, oil-seed and other crops make a pleasing picture suggestive of comfort and abundance.
The fen district of Huntingdonshire consists of 35,000 acres, or about one-eighth of the whole county.
The Historic Landscape of un-reclaimed fenland at Holme Fen Nature Reserve
A mere level plain presents perhaps little interest to the onlooker, but when he finds a piece of un-reclaimed fen-land, with its growth of course grasses, bulrushes, and small bushes, and learns that these grow upon a soil that is almost all formed of decayed vegetation; when he hears too; that below this layer of peat lies silt, sand and clay; that below this again lies yet another layer of peat and that this in turn lies on a lower bed of clay, it is very natural for him to conclude that great changes must have occurred, and to ask how these changes were brought about.
The question which present itself is; "How did the fens and meres develop into what has been termed the 'Golden Plain of England'?"