Putting Gedney Drove End on the map

Historic maps: Fred Parnell and maps showing South Holland's changing landscape. Photo: SG171013-118NG

Historic maps: Fred Parnell and maps showing South Holland's changing landscape. Photo: SG171013-118NG

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Most of us have only a hazy idea of how land has been reclaimed from the sea over the centuries to create much of the fertile land we know as South Holland.

Fred Parnell, who understands this process better than most, owns a 1662 map when his village – Gedney Drove End – didn’t exist and the district was covered in a network of rivers.

Fred, who runs F Parnell Ltd and Anglo Plant Ltd, says: “I have lived here all my life and I have spent nearly every day going down the Marsh with my dogs. I probably know all the creeks from Sutton Bridge to Fosdyke, where to go when the tides are up.

“I have done sea defence work. In the late 1970s I helped with raising the banks from Sutton Bridge to Fosdyke, and I have always been on the emergency call out for any natural disaster that might happen through breaches of the banks, and so we have a good relationship with the drainage board. I have the machinery and the know-how to do it.”

Fred says Gedney Drove End is on top of 3-400 metres of top soil, raw silt and then a layer of sandy organic matter, although Fred has discovered from digging reservoirs the land varies – a river bed containing sea shells has been uncovered at Dawsmere.