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John Clare, Poet

1793-1864

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John Clare, the poet, was born in Helpston on 13th July 1793 and became one of our leading environmental poets. Despite having had little education he went on to write over 3500 poems. His poems are very descriptive of the wildlife, the people and the way the people lived in the rural 19th century villages. The works were created by a man who lived and worked in that environment and was able to relate to his surroundings. His first book of poems, 'Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery' was published to great acclaim in 1820, he went on to have three more books printed. He left Helpston in 1832 to go to Northborough, from where he went into High Beech mental asylum in Epping in 1837. He walked home, back to Northborough in 1841, taking 4 days. Later in 1841 he was sent to Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, now St Andrews, in Northampton. This is where he died in 1864. His body was brought back to Helpston, where he is buried in the churchyard.





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Expanding Settlements in the Nene Park Area

800BC-43AD

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During the Iron Age, tribal culture began to take hold and people needed to defend their territory against their rivals. The tribe which held the Nene Valley, the Corieltauvi, may have had allegiances to the large and powerful tribe to the south, the Catuvellauni, but we don’t know about their other neighbouring tribes. The settlement within Nene Park (mainly on what is now Coney Meadow at Ferry Meadows) became more defensive, as we can see on geophysical survey results. Ditches almost a kilometre in length were built across a meander in the River Nene, so that the settlement would be protected on all sides. The Iron Age is also when we can first start to see similarities between how people lived then and now: the Celts wore linen and dyed wool, used coins as currency and enjoyed continental luxuries, including Roman wine.





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Opening of Ferry Meadows

1978

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Nene Park’s centrepiece, Ferry Meadows, was opened on 1 July 1978 by the broadcaster and environmentalist David Bellamy. In its first year of opening, the Park received 90,000 visits and is now one of the most visited country parks in the UK.





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The Roman Town of Durobrivae

65-450AD

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A bridge was built across the River Nene around AD 65, after which a small settlement grew to the south west of the bridge. This prospered as a market centre for trade along the important Ermine Street, the precursor to the modern A1. The town had walls around it for protection and status, and developed major public buildings where a town council met and organised local government, which had controls over roads, cemeteries, baths, water supply and all aspects of the daily life of the town. Added to the towns market importance was its rich sources of clay and iron which were the key resources of a major pottery and metal working industry. The importance of Durobrivae lies in the fact that although the town walls covered 44 acres, the industrial suburbs extended for another 450 acres making a major settlement in Roman Britain.





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Last Reversal of the Earth’s Magnetic Poles

780,000 years ago

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The Earth's magnetic poles are not fixed over geological time. As the Earth spins on its axis its molten iron core naturally produces an electrical and magnetic field which gives the planet its magnetic north and south poles. The earth's magnetic field continuously and irregularly varies, and from time to time it flips completely, causing the magnetic north and south poles to trade places, a phenomenon known as palaeomagnetic reversal. Palaeomagnetic reversals have occurred many times over the Earth's history, the last one occurring about 780,000 years ago.





Britain Abandoned

180,000 to 70,000 years ago

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Before 11,700 years ago Britain was subject to violent swings in climate and environment and occupation was patchy. Between 180,000 and 70,000 years ago there were no humans of any species living here, Britain was abandoned.





The Creation of Stars and Galaxies

13.7- 4.6 billion years ago

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In the first moments after the Big Bang, the universe was extremely hot and dense. As it cooled, conditions gave rise to the building blocks of matter, quarks and electrons. A few millionths of a second later, quarks aggregated to produce protons and neutrons and in minutes these protons and neutrons combined into nuclei. As the universe continued to expand and cool, things slowed down and it took 380,000 years before atoms were formed when electrons were trapped in orbits around nuclei. These atoms were mainly helium and hydrogen, still the most common elements in existence. In the following  half-billion years, clumps of gas collapsed enough to form the first stars and galaxies. In the hearts of these stars elements like iron, carbon and oxygen are produced which are then seeded throughout the universe following explosions called supernovae. A little after 9 billion years after the Big Bang, our solar system was born. We are currently finding out more about the invisible as well as the visible universe, through agencies like NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and CERN ( European Organisation for Nuclear Research) who investigate phenomena like dark matter which does not emit any electromagnetic radiation and dark energy, comprising a huge part of the universe that we can only detect through its effects.





Borough Fen Iron Age Fort

300BC

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In the Middle Iron Age a local tribe established a fortified enclosure on the Fen edge between the Welland and the Nene. With an internal area of 3.8 hectares it was a significant feature of the local landscape. Today the fort can be clearly seen in aerial photographs. The site is bisected by Decoy Road; to the west the site is on protected land, under pasture. To the east it has been more affected by plough damage.





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The Roman Villa at Fane Road

180AD

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An Iron Age farmstead developed into a prestigious Roman villa with mosaic floors and a hypocaust. The building was improved and extended several times before it was demolished in about AD350. The Roman villa and Iron Age farmstead were unearthed by an excavation in 2011-12 triggered by the planned development of houses on a portion of the allotment site. The discovery of this villa caused great local interest and in 2014 a community excavation was launched to find its southern wing.  







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The Iron Age

800 BC- 43AC

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The Iron Age is the last of the Three Ages of British later prehistory. It begins with the arrival of the new metal, iron, around 800 BC and ends with Roman troops landing on the shores of Kent, in AD 43. The Romans gave the British writing and with writing came recorded history – which is why prehistory is said to cease with their arrival. People in Iron Age Britain are sometimes described as Celts and they spoke Celtic languages, which survive today in Breton, Welsh, Gallic (Scotland) and Gaelic (Ireland). The working of iron requires greater control of very high temperatures which led to improvements in pottery firing and less regionalised pottery styles.  The Iron Age saw the  appearance of ditched enclosed farmstead-type settlements as at Itter Crescent, open settlements characterised by roundhouses and pits as at Fengate, and the building of the hillforts like the earthworks at Newborough. Societies were hierarchically organised in this period, having moved from the extended clan to the chiefdoms and the earliest named rulers. These are the tribes the Romans encountered when they came to Britain in the first century. The best known of these rulers was Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe/kingdom. She led a popular rebellion against Roman rule, in AD 60-1. Environmentally, the Iron Age sees increased flooding and higher groundwater levels in the fens.





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