The village of Mepal sits on the eastern edge of the Hundred Foot Washes, in days gone bye the traffic to and from the City of Ely would trundle through the village passing over the Old and New Bedford Rivers and the Three Pickerels public house.
On the western edge of the Hundred Foot Washes you will find Engine Bank which runs northward along the Counter Drain and The Old Bedford River (River Delph) taking you passed the Mepal Pumping Station and Fortrey’s Hall, onto Welshes Dam and Welney in Norfolk.
John Fortrey a London merchant built the hall and his son Sir James Fortrey was responsible for extending the building, there is a plaque in the small church of St Marys, Mepal to Sir James commemerating his adventures, the Fortrey Family were heavily involved along with the Duke of Bedford in the drainage of The Fens.
Fortrey Hall and the surrounding area is featured in Anthony Trollope’s novel John Caldigate which was first published 1879, not as well-known as his Barchester Chronicles but can be recommend as good read on a cold winters evening, it takes in places as far apart as the Australian Outback, Newmarket, Cambridge and The Cambridgeshire Fens. The description of the area in the novel in my view is not very flattering and certainly not one in which I agree!
“Folking is not a place having many attractions of its own, beyond the rats. It lies in the middle of the Cambridgeshire fens, between St. Ives, Cambridge, and Ely. In the two parishes of Utterden and Netherden there is no rise of ground which can by any stretch of complaisance be called a hill. The property is bisected by an immense straight dike, which is called the Middle Wash, and which is so sluggish, so straight, so ugly, and so deep, as to impress the mind of a stranger with the ideas of suicide. And there are straight roads and straight dikes, with ugly names on all sides, and passages through the country called droves, also with ugly appellations of their own, which certainly are not worthy of the name of roads. The Folking Causeway possesses a bridge across the Wash, and is said to be the remains of an old Roman Way which ran in a perfectly direct line from St. Neots to Ely. When you have crossed the bridge going northward,—or north-westward,—there is a lodge at your right hand, and a private road running, as straight as a line can be drawn, through pollard poplars, up to Mr. Caldigate’s house.”
From: Anthony Trollope’s John Caldigate, Chapter I: Folking