Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Go visit Flag Fen

Yes, you should visit this Bronze Age site. They need your custom, for a start.

Evidence: two cars in the car park when we arrive at lunchtime, and one of those belonged to a staff member.

So I asked where everyone was, given that this is a fine prehistoric site of England and it is the school holidays, so should be thronging.

I was told they had been busy, that very morning, for the school holiday activity, but now everyone had left.

Somehow I doubted it. I could see the very nice man at the desk was not struggling under the labours of nervous aggression where he would like to punch the next person he sees in the face. That condition I recognise. It can be induced in any grown human after two hours shut in a room of crafting children and a bag of sequins. And the woman he called from the back office to unlock the coffee bar did not look in a state of exhaustion or weary defeat either. I suppose it is possible that the leader of the school holiday activity was flat out behind a desk covered in glue and sparkle, but I saw no tell-tale signs of that and heard no groaning or sobbing. No trails of tears, slime, toilet roll or pipe cleaners, and the visitor centre was very clean. So I did not ask how many children had turned up. Probably two, including one with social phobia and pigtails.

I think one of the issues is that Flag Fen is located at the back of an industrial estate miles outside Peterborough with no shuttle bus. I wonder if it is a problem for people getting there. No bus, no train, a long way to cycle, especially if Tinkertop is a stroppy madam aged two. If you drive, the landscape for miles around is dead flat and, on the way, you may be impeded by driving into a watery ditch if you judge those corners wrong. That cannot help much either.

When they located this site, those Bronze Age people clearly did not think ahead to the problems of our road network or the fragile public transport systems of twenty-first century fenland Cambridgeshire.

We have the place, more or less, to ourselves. An elderly couple potter by the round house after an hour. Even then, as one is photographing the other, I manage to get in the doorway and he has to take the picture again. Then I notice a pair of cycling young men, a young woman who doesn't make it much further than the coffee area, and a small child with a face in an ice-cream.

I take the opportunity of the quiet afternoon to lie down behind a hedge and contemplate bird song and fens and romantic idylls and transport networks and whether, if I lived here, I would be making a nuisance of myself with the local council regarding a shuttle bus or some other means of ferrying people in and out. I worked on the handrail, community noticeboard, and language book shelf at our library, so who can say.

For the educational record, Shark, Tiger and Squirrel say the museum is interesting, the activity sheet alright, the round house fun (although one lost its roof since the last time we were here), the information panels helpful, the wet site exciting, and the Roman garden lovely.

From my point of view the coffee was fine, the bookshop needs a wider range, the site is filled with possibilities for talk and wonder, and the staff are extremely helpful and obliging. Almost like they were grateful we'd arrived.


Nora said...

I would love to visit a Bronze Age site. Too bad of the location. They definitely need your expertise.

Michelle said...

It got taken over by the council in May so I think they will do more to promote it. I hope so as it is an amazing site. We're probably due a return visit. uk-england-cambridgeshire-13989619