Wisbech, Capital of the Fens, is ideally situated for exploring the Fens and is within easy reach of both King's Lynn and Peterborough, as well as conveniently close to historic Ely and Cambridge. The Fenland around Wisbech and March with its unique landscape and network of waterways is wonderfully peaceful and leisurely featuring outstanding real ale traditional pubs, villages with craft shops and tearooms and a host of beautiful fenland sites, wetlands visitor centres and nature reserves. The area is ideal for avid birdwatchers, lovers of narrowboat holidays and keen nature lovers.
Historic attractions in Wisbech include the Georgian former townhouse of a Quaker banking family, Peckover House and Garden. Visit the Georgian Elgoods Brewery in Wisbech which has been brewing fine ales here for over 200 years. The birthplace home of Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust and key Victorian figure involved in the development of social housing and social work is also situated in Wisbech. The Grade listed house is now a museum exploring the history of this influential woman. March Marina is a hotspot for narrowboat hire and boating holidays on the Fenland Waterways.
The Fens are situated between the uplands of Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. In Cambridgeshire the Fens push up from Cambridge towards Lincoln and down from the Wash and King's Lynn to Peterborough. Wisbech in the heart of the Fens is known as the 'Capital of the Fens' and nearby March is a popular boating holiday gateway in to the Fens Waterway network.
The Fens are a unique landscape in Britain formed around 5000 years ago when the sea level rose and submerged the area which was then covered by a wildwood. In the Paleolithic and Neolithic period much of the Fens were underwater. Many weapons and tools from the earliest settlers in the Fens have been found and these early settlers despite the damp conditions found ample fish and wildfowl serving as sources of food from the Fens waterways. Local museums at Wisbech, Chatteris and March and fenland visitor centres like the Welney Wetlands, Flag Fen and Wicken Fen reveal more on the lives of the earliest settlers in Fens as well as detailing how the Fens were formed and the effords to drain it.
Most of the early human activity in the Fens was centred around the 'isles' of clay like Wicken village and Ely and the chalky dry uplands around the eastern edges at Burwell, Swaffham Prior and Reach. The Romans were the first to attempt drainage of the Fens from which they also derived valuable salt and peat. Serious attempts at draining the Fens came later under the supervision of the Duke of Bedford from 1630.
The unique flat landscape of the Fens is one of the most enchanting landscapes in Britain shaped by both nature and man. The Fenland waterways, which are rich in wildlife and waterfowl, are popular for boating holidays, including narrowboat holidays. Visitor centres like the Welney Wetland Centre near Wisbech are essential visiting in the Fens area. Welney, part of the northernmost area of the Ouse Washes subject to seasonal flooding, is home to hundreds of wild birds and wildfowl. In winter up to 9000 swans and ducks famously arrive here at Welney from the Arctic. A cutting edge eco centre, Ouse Washes gallery and numerous bird hides and trails are onsite at Welney Wetland Centre situated south of Wisbech.
Peckover House and Garden in Wisbech is the historic Georgian home of a family of Quaker bankers living in the Wisbech area for around 150 years. The Peckovers made an indelible mark on Wisbech and the beautiful Georgian townhouse sits within a plethora of stunning Georgian architecture in Wisbech.
Tours of Peckover House and Garden in Wisbech include The Servant's Hall, a fascinating Pet's Graveyard, a butler's pantry and acclaimed plasterwork in both the Drawing Room and landing. Peckover is also home to some fine watercolours by John Sell Cotman.
Typical Georgian features include the stunning Orangery with 300 year old orange trees and visitors can try their hand at a game of croquet on the lawn. Extensive displays on the history of the Peckover family and the Peckover bank are included and the Reed Bar tea-room plus plant sales are on-site.
The life-enhancing virtues of 'pure earth, clean air and blue sky' and a belief that the poor should not be denied beauty through an accident of birth were the bedrock beliefs of Octavia Hill, born in Wisbech in 1838 in the birthplace home which is now a museum. Octavia Hill was one of the founders of the National Trust and she has been credited with spearheading the modern concepts of social work, social housing and initiatives like designated Green Belt areas. Among her friends and teachers was the poet, political writer and social activist John Ruskin.
Octavia Hill's Birthplace House in Wisbech explores in-depth the life and work of this influential woman known as the 'Florence Nightingale of Victorian Housing'. The Georgian museum house is Grade II listed and contains exhibits such as 'Little Hell', a recreation of Victorian slums, the Cholera Corner, interactive touchscreen displays and The Octavia Hill Story Mural.
The story of how The National Trust was founded also features in displays and outside is the pretty Secret Garden - for the gardenless. A rooftop camera on the house affords spectacular views of Wisbech and the River Nene. A gift shop and tea shop are also onsite.
Wisbech, Capital of the Fens, is famed for its stunning Georgian architecture. The town was an important trading post during the Georgian era with a Port along the River Nene and the beautiful riverside Brinks. Elgoods Brewery in Wisbech was one of the first Georgian breweries built outside of London situated on North Brink. The Brewery is open to the public for tours to find out about traditional brewing methods. A 4 acre garden and Maze are also at Elgoods Brewery.
In the heart of Wisbech town centre is the Wisbech & Fenland Museum, home to definitive collections on the social history of the Fens up until mechanisation in the 20th century. Early Fenland tools including drainage tools as well as fishing and hunting tools are on display. In this busy Georgian port town it is not an accident that abolitionism was strong in the town. Merchants in Wisbech would have been knowledgeable of the dire conditions of slaves and slave transport in the Transatlantic Triangle during the period. The Wisbech Museum holds the archive of the town's own slavery abolitionist Thomas Clarkson which includes letters, books and articles such as slave manacles. Admission is free to the Wisbech Museum, open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm, last admission 3.45pm.
Find Wisbech Tourist Information Centre at 2-3 Bridge Street, Wisbech, open Monday to Saturday 9.20am to 5pm.
Bustling historic market town March alongside the River Nene is one of the most popular gateways in to the Fenland waterways network and moorings here at March marinas are popular with visitors taking narrowboat holidays in the area. March sits along the scenic old course of the River Nene which weaves directly through March town centre to great effect. A beautiful medieval church and a superb choice of independent shops and traditional pubs feature in March.
March was originally a small island community in the Fens which later developed as a Tudor Port, booming further with the arrival of the railway in the 19th century. March Museum explores the local history of the town and features a fascinating Fenland Cottage and Forge, both authentic historic buildings with interactive exhibits rescued from the town's outskirts at Chain Bridge.
Narrowboat companies for boat hire based at March marina in the heart of the Middle Level Navigation include Fox Boats. March is a superb location from which to take boating holidays on the Fenland Waterways as the town sits at the very heart of the river and canal network branching out from the River Nene.
Unique features in March include the medieval Church of St Wendreda with its double hammerbeam roof. Independent shops in March alongside a choice of fine a la carte restaurants and traditional real ale pubs are numerous. March hotels and accommodation includes top elegant leisure and conference hotels as well as self catering holiday cottages and B&Bs. Find March accommodation and boating holidays listed here on iknow East Anglia.
Capital of the Fens Wisbech contains an outstanding choice of character historic Georgian and Victorian Wisbech hotels, many of which line the River Nene on The Brinks. Traditional inn B&Bs in Wisbech as well as pretty family run Wisbech guesthouses are numerous around the town centre. Find Wisbech accommodation listed here on iknow East Anglia. Self catering historic holiday cottages in Wisbech can also be found along The Brinks riverside.
Small villages around Wisbech like Guyhirn, Emneth and Upwell also offer further accommodation options including beautiful country inns and character self catering holiday cottages and lodges.