A day afloat in Waterland

The Bronze Age settlement in Flag Fen lives again.

IT'S DIFFICULT to take in the size and significance of the archaeological park at Peterborough. After all, you've just driven past some of the most high-tech installations of 20th-century Britain - including a gas- fired power station. Here, just a few metres away, is the only place in Europe where you can see Bronze Age timbers being excavated, and what is thought to be the oldest wooden wheel ever discovered.

To the amazement of archaeologists, the area was found to contain hundreds of 3,000-year-old wooden posts, which once held up a long palisade and a timber platform about the size of Wembley Stadium.

These posts crossed the marshy fenland during the Bronze Age, and were saved by the watery peat that has entombed them. The platform has now been flooded to protect it, but some of the posts are still being studied, and are on show.

It is also fascinating to see a section of the road the Romans built on top of the Bronze Age route.

To help visitors step back in time, archaeologists have reconstructed a Bronze Age landscape, including huts, and breeds of domesticated animal that would have been in use at the time, but are now rare.

Some of the thousands of finds - including weapons, jewellery and sacrificial items - are on display in Flag Fen's small museum, housed in the visitor centre. The museum itself is unusual. Foundations below 18in are banned at such an important site for fear of damaging whatever still lies buried. So the visitor centre is floating over the re-created mere.

The visitors

Lucy Winson, from St Ives, Cambridgeshire, took her son Oliver and his friend Matthew, both aged 11.

Lucy: It was nice to see the enthusiasm of the guide who took us round. She captured our attention and made it much more interesting. I live about 35 miles away from Flag Fen, and I'd never heard of it - and I'd had no idea of its importance or significance to archaeologists. It's a good afternoon out.

The facilities were good - and there were some added touches, such as the umbrellas we could borrow if it was raining. I was pleasantly surprised by the information on display.

The animals were a good addition - giving you an idea of the sort of stock that was kept on this site thousands of years ago - and they also add a bit of interest for younger children. But I don't think my two younger ones would have appreciated Flag Fen. It's more suitable for children of secondary school age.

Oliver: When we first came in it looked as if it was going to be a small place. I didn't think it would be a gigantic park, like a village. I liked the animals, especially Angus the goat. I know people used to live in huts, but I didn't expect it to be like it was. I thought it was just the Saxons who had huts like that.

During the visit I learnt how people lived in the Bronze Age, how they built their houses, what sort of things they did in a day, and how they sacrificed animals. I also liked seeing the excavations.

But I have to say, this was not one of the most interesting things I have ever done. It was OK. This would be a good place to come for a school trip if you were doing the Romans, because we saw a Roman road. There's a great souvenir shop, and we bought some Roman figures and two cannons.

Matthew: I am not sure that I would like to live in the Bronze Age environment because they had no air-conditioning, no lights, no electricity; it was draughty and they didn't have comfortable beds, by the looks of things. I prefer my home. I have learnt from this that history can be very different from the way we live now, and that the past could be vicious. It was much more dangerous - especially living in a watery environment.

The deal

Flag Fen is at Fourthe Drove, Fenage, Peterborough (01733 313414). Open daily, except 25 and 26 December, 10am-5pm (latest admission 4pm). Admission: adults pounds 3.50, children/ students pounds 2.50, under-fives free, family ticket (two adults and three children) pounds 9.50, discount for English Heritage members.

Shop: sells souvenirs, postcards and a good stock of books.

Education: special tours and visits for schools feature hands-on experience, and videos that fit in with the National Curriculum.

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open