Phil: Have you ever visited a place purely because you saw the name on a map ? That’s pretty much how we came to set the book in March, Cambridgeshire. I’d never seen the place, didn’t know if it was full of devil-worshiping fiends or anything useful. I just looked at a map of roughly the right area and though, “That’ll do”.
Anyway, earlier today I was visiting my editor, who is based just to the right of Peterborough. Once we’d had a nice long chat and I’d worked out he wasn’t going to take me to the pub on the magazine expense account, I found myself looking at some very flat landscape and thinking about lunch. On a whim I typed “March” into the satnav and after picking the right one from the list, found it to be only half an hour away. Half an hour further into deepest Fenland, past many signs promoting the amusingly named Tacklefest, but still not that far.
The roads in this area are straight and reasonably empty and I soon found myself standing by a sign proclaiming “March Fenland Market Town Twinned with St JeanDe Braye”. I took a picture and pressed on to try to find the centre. After a couple of miles this duly appear and thanks to a Fenland Council temporary (and free !) car park I was soon out and about exploring.
Sadly, I was on my own, sans sidekick and that was a shame. We both wrote this book and this would have been a great spot to scoff some cake. All was not lost though as a visit to Julies Bakery nearly solved the problem. In the glass counter was a nearly perfect model of my friend made from gingerbread. “Little Candice” is wearing a fetching pink dress with sparkly bits. Sadly, she appears a little perturbed, or applied that lipstick in a hurry and that third eye effect on her head must be some sort of fascinator but I can’t be sure. It certainly was nice of the bakers to produce a figure in her honour.
Unfortunately LittleCandiceTM was only available for a photo before being purchased by the lady in front of me along with some gentleman gingerbreads. Worse still, I had to explain why I needed to take a picture and might have sounded more than a bit mad. Everyone humoured me, presumably while they call the local asylum. They also took the time to sell me a rather delicious jam lattice (think open-top tart). It was so nice that once I’d finished my stroll I went and bought the remaining stock and have just eaten half a lemon curd lattice which was just as yummy. Please go to the Julies Bakery website and look them up if you are in the area. I’m 90 miles away or I’d be a regular and even fatter than I am already !
Anyway, March itself is a very pretty market town. The town hall beside the canal is an impressive structure that dates from 1900. Nearby is the old market whose buildings house what we tend to term a “junk shop” or vintage items emporium depending on your point of view. In many places they would have been torn down for a hypermarket or empty shopping centre a doubtless will be one day. For the moment it’s a chance for students of historic architecture to find something “real”.
The highlight though is a dome. In the middle of the town. A cast iron dome that serves no purpose other than to look nice and perhaps support some hanging baskets. Why don’t more towns have this sort of thing ?
The good news is that on the outskirts, there are a couple of vegetable packing stations. Niether does research, nor are they based in an ugly, ramshackle stately home. That’s just in our book. Mind you, there is an out-of-town adult superstore (they say it is a superstore, it looked like an old garage to me but maybe size doesn’t matter) which looked to be doing surprisingly good business for a weekday afternoon if the number of cars outside is anything to go by. Perhaps we could set something there ?