Art of the Fen landscape


To explore the different meanings of environmental change and landscape transformation the participants of the Wicken Fen workshop included a local artist: Carry Akroyd. She specializes in landscape painting examining the relationship between humans, wildlife and nature. Akroyd’s paintings often provides birds-eye views of the landscape showing transformations of that landscape, and drawing attention to the consequences of this for the character of the land and how it effects people’s lives. History plays an important role in many of Akroyd’s paintings and in her series of John Clare paintings she combines the past and the present. The paintings convey a sense of loss of a past, wilder landscape but also draws our attention to the landscape that we have inherited and how precious the small remnants of the original are.

Below are two images by Akroyd, one of Woodwalton Fen and a second accompanying an extract of a poem by John Clare. More images of Carry Akroyd’s paintings can be found on her website.


Woodwalton Fen (Text & image by Carry Akroyd)

‘Woodwalton Fen’, acrylic on board, 200cms x 100 cms

This painting was made after making many walks around the Woodwalton Fen reserve and environs. It shows how the reserve, like Wicken (which is about an hour’s drive away on a different part of the Fens) is an undrained remnant of diversity in the middle of intense arable production. Part of the Great Fen Project, adjacent fields are being purchased in order to relax the drainage regime and allow wet grasslands and eventually reed beds to re-emerge. This painting is already a historical piece, as some fields depicted in it as wheat and potatoes are now damp rushy grazing, with full ditches and shallow pools, attracting back snipe and lapwing whose numbers have plummeted in recent decades, and also cranes, long since absent.


Winter in the Fens – by John Clare

Ducks, geese & swans

So moping flat and low our valleys lie

So dull and muggy is our winter sky

Drizzling from day to day dull threats of rain

And when that falls still threating on again

From one wet week so great an ocean flows

That every village to an island grows

And every road for even weeks to come

Is stopt and none but horsemen go from home

And one wet night leaves travels best in doubt

And horseback traveller asks if floods are out

Such are the lowland scenes that winter gives

And strangers wonder where our pleasure lives…..

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