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24 September 2014

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Fen Cottage scullery, Wicken Fen
Fen Cottage scullery, Wicken Fen

Tourist in your own Town - Wicken

Jan Reynolds
Best known for its nature reserve, Wicken also has a number of interesting tourist spots that reveal more about its Fen history...

Listen to Jan explore Wicken:
audio Tourist in your own Town: Wicken - Part 1 >
audio Tourist in your own Town: Wicken - Part 2 >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer

Situated south of the cathedral city of Ely and close to Soham, the village of Wicken is known mainly for its preserved area of fen, maintained by the National Trust - Wicken Fen. The little wilderness is a breath of fresh air all year round but there are two buildings in the village which offer a different glimpse of this fen village's past.

Fen Sunset - Chris Bushell
Fen Sunset - photo by Chris Bushell

Just off the main road is the Wicken smock mill - believed to be one of only two remaining twelve-sided mills surviving.

Painstakingly restored by a partnership intent on bringing the building back to a fully-working state, the mill is now an example of what can be achieved by practising ancient woodworking skills – with a little added ingenuity!

Wicken Corn Windmill
Wicken Corn Windmill - photo Dave Pearce

The huge sails were repaired, new gears cut from timber, and temporary millstones sourced while the original French burrstones were repaired.

Now in full grinding order – windy weather permitting – the mill produces wholemeal and finer white flour, and is open for visitors on the first weekend of each month (or, as the miller says, whenever the sails are turning!)

Find out more about Wicken Windmill:
The Wicken Corn Windmill >
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Fenman's Cottage

Fen Cottage, Wicken
Fen Cottage, Wicken

Not far down the road, and outside the main Wicken Fen reserve, is the restored Fenman's Cottage.  This is a lesson in how resourceful people were in the past, using local materials from the fens to produce a truly organic home – reed, sedge and mud to make walls and roof coverings, peat blocks for insulation and fuel for the fire.

Despite its picturesque appearance today, the cottage suffered from a continually damp environment – which meant wet floors in winters and fen ague from mosquitoes in summer.

Find out more about Wicken Fen and Fen Cottage:
Fen Cottage - Wicken Fen >
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Wicken and the surrounding towns and villages have much to offer and this was just a flavour of the fenland history to be discovered in the area.

For more information about places to visit in East Cambridgeshire visit:
East Cambs Tourist Info >
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
Find out more about 'Tourist In Your Own Town' with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire:
A Tourist in your own Town! >
last updated: 06/09/06
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