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Ancient fenland 'treasure' to tell story of flooding

New research at the University of Leicester is seeking to use a ‘treasure trove’ in the English Fenlands in order to decipher the ancient history of flooding in the region.

The study by Dinah Smith of the Department of Geology seeks to paint a picture of land-sea interaction by analysing tiny microfossils from the region.

Dinah said: “The route for many Midland holiday makers heading towards the East Anglia coast is through the Fens along the A47 from Peterborough through to Wisbech and on. This is a main route through the Fenland.

“The Fens cover some 4 000 square kilometres and is prime arable land, but what the traveller may not be aware of is the treasure trove which lies in the buried landscape through which they are travelling.

“The treasure is not King John’s Jewels purported to have been lost as his baggage train traversed an area of the Wash - but the subtle undulations in the landscape which can make driving the Fen roads seem like a rollercoaster ride.

“These are the Fenland roddons or “silt hills” as some of the local farmers refer to them. They are the remains of fossilised tidal creeks which are filled with silts and sands and formed after the last ice retreated 10 000 years ago.

“The roddons host a range of spectacular treasures - microfossils – especially foraminifera and ostracods. By analyzing these and working out how and why the roddons became choked with sediment a greater understanding of how sea interacted with the land across the Fenland will be obtained.”

Dinah joined the Department of Geology in 2002 to begin an MGeol degree after taking early retirement from teaching. The research has developed and followed on from her 4th year MGeol dissertation. This research has resulted in networking with many Fenlanders including archaeologists, British Geological Survey experts, Fenland farming communities, Inland Drainage Board and Wash Estuary Groups’ personnel. These people have been assisting in the project work, sharing their knowledge and advice for this very unique area of the British Isles. Future work will seek to build up a picture of the evolution of the Fenland.

The research is being presented to the public at the University of Leicester on Thursday 26th June. The Festival of Postgraduate Research introduces employers and the public to the next generation of innovators and cutting-edge researchers, and gives postgraduate researchers the opportunity to explain the real world implications of their research to a wide ranging audience.

More information about the Festival of Postgraduate Research is available at:

Ather Mirza | alfa
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