The Things I've Seen: High on the Holme Fen Post

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The Independent Travel
I WAS cycling across the Huntingdonshire fens looking for a sinister post. At least, I thought it would be sinister. I expected it to be gaunt and angular, a grim marker to the passage of time.

The Holme Fen Post is a huge cast-iron column, emerging slowly but relentlessly from the fen. In 1851 it was driven through the peat at Holme Fen until its top was flush with the surface. It was 22 feet long and it had gone right down into the basal clay below. Then the nearby lake was drained away. And as the water was extracted the peat began to shrink.

The level of the peat fell by six feet in the first 12 years. By 1890 10 feet of the post was exposed. By the time I got there it was sticking out 13 feet. Holme Fen is a nature reserve now, and the Post stands at the edge among birch trees. Not at all sinister. Just a post. But when I gave it a shove the ground moved beneath my feet. I considered climbing up and balancing on top where the ground used to be. But I decided not to bother.

Up the road I met C W Adams, an ex-gamekeeper who has lived here for 60 years. Like the post, his house is slowly rising out of the surrounding peatland. He showed me the three steps leading up to the back door. When he first moved in there was only one.

'We get a lot of people coming here to ask about the post,' he said.

'What sort of people?' I asked.

'People like you,' he replied.

The Holme Fen Post is at Ordnance Survey grid reference TL 203894

(Photograph omitted)