on the River Lark

Ever since I was a very small child, probably about four or five, there has been a family Christmas party. The first one was made up of four people, me, my cousin who’s a year younger, my Aunty who had the party in her bedsit, and Father Christmas. The party fare was very simple and I chiefly remember date rolls – bridge rolls, buttered and with slices of pressed dried dates shaved off a block. I’m sure we had jam sandwiches and orange squash and probably a cake or swiss roll, but I don’t remember that. Ever since, every year, the party has taken places; my aunty moved from a bedsit to her own house, and when she became too elderly to carry on, the party still did hosted by various cousins. I was living in Manchester by then and too far away to take my turn as everyone else lived in and around Cambridge.

And so it has continued with the exception of last year, for obvious reasons, when no-one was able to travel anywhere and we all had to celebrate in our own homes. This year the party weekend was celebrated but on a micro-scale, the oldies – once my aunty and her husband, now me and my cousins, met for a grown up dinner and it seemed so odd not to embrace and exchange big hugs! We stayed, not with any of the family but in a lodge on a marina in the small village of Isleham, out in the fens.

I’d heard of Isleham, it’s on the River Lark, but hadn’t ever been there; what a lovely small place it is. The marina is a mile out of the actual village, and that too was lovely, small but cosy lodges, fairly basic but with everything you might need and warm despite the wintry weather outside. Situated roughly between Devil’s Dyke and Shippea Hill, people have lived in the area for thousands of years, right back to the classic ages, iron., bronze and stone. I didn’t know that there was an incredible archaeological find called the Isleham Hoard:

The Isleham Hoard is a hoard of more than 6,500 pieces of worked and unworked bronze, dating from the Bronze Age, found in 1959… it is the largest Bronze Age hoard ever discovered in England and one of the finest. It consists in particular of swords, spear-heads, arrows, axes, palstaves, knives, daggers, armour, decorative equipment (in particular for horses) and many fragments of sheet bronze, all dating from the Wilburton-Wallington Phase of the late Bronze Age (about 1000 BCE). (thanks, Wikipedia!)

You might think, like I did,  that the name derives from it being a watery area and the village began on a small island, however it seems it’s probably derived from Gisla’s ham/homestead, Gisla being an early inhabitant of the area, a minor chief maybe!

We unfortunately didn’t have much time to explore the village but it seems an interesting place, with three churches, the oldest being St Andrew’s dating back to the 1300’s. However, that was not the first religious establishment, there was a priory church built  about 1090, The Church of St Margaret of Antioch. At some pint, no-one seems quite sure, it was turned into a barn and the building is still there today. We were sorry not to be able to visit it – on the list for next time. We did manage to visit one of the three pubs in the village though, The Griffin, which was a fine and friendly place with decent beer new to us which we very much enjoyed.

We liked Isleham, and would like to visit again, however it is a little far from the cousins so it may be more of a day trip than to stay, much as we enjoyed living in the little lodge on the marina. My featured image is of one of our friendly marina neighbours.

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