Conservation, Farming, Flooding: Our Natural Landscape?

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up the level from pymoor wide view Copyright Bill Blake Heritage Documentation

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Annual Conference

Wednesday 19 November 2014  – 9am – 2pm

Anyone interested in the Ouse Washes area is invited to attend the first-ever Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Conference which is taking place on Wednesday 19 November from 9am – 2pm at The Corn Exchange in St Ives, Cambridgeshire.

This conference – the first in a series of three, taking place annually – will explore the natural landscape of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area. The conference aims to provide attendees with an overview of future management challenges including issues around landscape-scale conservation, biodiversity value, agricultural importance and flood relief. A background to wetland creation schemes in the area will be given through presentations with discussion facilitated in small groups regarding the future importance of the natural landscape.

The Ouse Washes landscape area has a multitude of different uses. It has an important role in flood risk prevention; it is made up of high quality agricultural land; and its internationally-renowned nature reserves provide a vital home for wildlife. This conference will look at whether these competing uses can be reconciled and balanced whilst making the area a great place to live and work.

The Partnership aims to increase awareness of the significant natural heritage of the area. Bringing together local people and partner organisations with a range of land-use interests will promote a wider appreciation and understanding of the challenges of living and working in this ever-changing landscape.

Download the Invitation and Programme , or see depicted below: Invite p1 Invite p2 Agenda p3 Time has been allowed for opinions to be aired, giving all attendees a chance to contribute to the wider debate about the future of the Ouse Washes landscape. Change will continue to be a feature of this rapidly evolving landscape and the views and ideas generated by attendees will feed into the OWLP legacy planning work, with clear recommendations and actions coming from this conference.

St Ives Corn Exchange, the site for the first Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership’s conference. Image source: http://thecornexchange.org.uk/about-us/

To book a place, please visit: www.ousewashesconference2014.eventbrite.co.uk

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership’s central team looks forward to receiving your booking, and information if you want to book a display/ exhibit space.

Look out for wonderful wildfowl

This month’s guest blog from Paul Stancliffe of the BTO…

This is the month when the Ouse Washes comes alive again. Wildfowl that has spent the summer months further north and east will be making their way to the UK for the winter months, with many heading for the Ouse Washes.

Whooper Swan by Andy MasonWhooper Swan by Andy Mason

The first Whooper Swans from Iceland, could arrive any day now, although the end of the month is more likely. Wigeon, Pochard, Teal, Shoveler and Tufted Duck, largely from western Russia and Eastern Europe, should begin to increase from mid-September on, with numbers continuing to build throughout the month.

Bird Track reporting rate graph showing the increase in Wigeon

BirdTrack reporting rate graph showing the increase in Wigeon

The fields around the Ouse Washes are also good places to look out for Corn Buntings, that can form quite large flocks, particularly as the autumn progresses. During the last twenty-five years Corn Bunting has declined by 65% and become quite a scarce bird in our countryside but Bird Atlas 2007-11 shows the Ouse Washes as one of the few remaining strongholds left in the UK.

September and early October is also a good time to keep an eye out for Short-eared Owls and Hen Harriers as they arrive back for the winter months. Both can often be seen hunting over fields adjacent to the washes, often alongside the odd Barn Owl or two.

Short-eared Owl by Amy Lewis

Short-eared Owl by Amy Lewis

Several species of wader spend the winter months in and around the Ouse Washes, and these will also be arriving any day now. Birds such as Golden Plover, Lapwing, Snipe and Ruff can occur in impressive numbers and can be seen roosting on the washes during the daytime, moving out to the surrounding fields as light begins to fade.

The last month has also seen a few scarce birds using the washes which have included a Spotted Crake on 14 September, seven Spoonbills on 13 September and several Curlew Sandpipers from mid-month.

Spotted Crake by Kevin Carlson BTO

Spotted Crake by Kevin Carlson/ BTO

Now is a great time to get out and about around the Ouse Washes, with so many birds on the move, you never what you will see.

Paul Stancliffe

British Trust for Ornithology.

Riverside Walk and Talks – Denver and March

join us!

Water Care Partnership

The culture and history of The Fens is strongly linked with the watercourses that drain the area. However, every action on the ground has the potential to impact these watercourses.

Image from Cambridgeshire ACRE Narrow boats on the river at March. Image from Cambridgeshire ACRE

The Water Care Partnership is hosting two guided riverside walks at Denver and March on the 20th September. This will be a chance for you to enjoy a walk along the riverside whilst also learning about some of the impacts that are affecting our rivers. The walks will be approximately 2-3 miles with frequent stops to take pictures and talk about our rivers.

River at Denver Denver. Image by Cambridgeshire ACRE

To find out more about the Riverside Walk & Talks, please contact Jennie Thomas, Water Catchment Officer at Cambridgeshire ACRE 01353 865044 or jennifer.thomas@cambsacre.org.uk. Spaces are limited, to book please visit – www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/walkandtalk.

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Fabulous Community Murals Project

Arts Development East Cambridgeshire (ADeC) are kicking off this exciting project on Bank Holiday Monday 25th August 2014.

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Professional mosaic artist, Carolyn Ash will be working with the community, their pottery/ crockery items, some ‘spare’ museum pieces, found materials and mosaic-ware to create some fabulous permanent murals at Mepal Outdoor Centre, Denver Sluice and WWT Welney.  Postcards, and mini postboxes, will be placed at these sites for ideas for the murals or just turn up on any of the workshop days – it’s all FREE!

ADeC murals workshop poster

Download the poster here

All workshops are from 10 am till 3.30pm – wear clothes you can create in!

Mepal Outdoor Centre (Chatteris Road, Mepal, Ely, CB6 2AZ)

BH Mon 25th – Fri 29th August & Monday 1st September

Denver Sluice (PE38 0EQ/ 9QP follow the signs)

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th September

Whilst at Denver Sluice you may also want to sample the food and drink available at the Jenyns Arms (do check opening times though) and also at the wonderful Denver windmill.  There is also a golf and a sailing/rowing club in the area, a smattering of walking routes and some nice interpretation panels dotted around.  It would make a great day out with lovely lunches and afternoon tea available at the Mill which is only a short walk from the Environment Agency Sluice complex.  Spending a little time at Denver really helps highlight the man-made nature of this landscape.

WWT Welney (Hundred Foot Bank, Welney, Nr. Wisbech, PE14 9TN)

Monday 13th October – Saturday 18th October

The café and interpretation areas at Welney are excellent, with a charge for visiting the reserve proper (over the arching bridge – link to earlier blog post) but lots to see and do in the centre and shop if you have time or come back another day!

These practical, hands-on workshops mark the start of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme’s projects and activities, with the murals made with local people forming a lasting record of this landscape steeped in history and brimming with biodiversity that brings us bang up-to-date!  The murals will be mounted permanently at their making sites with related activities taking place during Festival Fortnight (20 – 31st July 2015 and in 2016 too).  Look out for more information on our activities via this blog.

Murals workshops: contact Nathan.jones@adec.org.uk for further information

See also the mural project’s own Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OWLPCommuntiyMurals

Waders and warblers

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At this time of the year it is all about waders and warblers. Many adult waders are now at the end of their breeding season and are making their way south – for some it might only be as far as a UK estuary, whilst for others this is only the first leg of a very long journey that could take them to a beach in West Africa, or even further in the case of Ruff; a 10,000km (6,000 miles) journey to South Africa.

Ruff BTO (John Harding)

Ruff – John Harding/BTO

The Ouse Washes is ideally placed to see some of these waders as they pass through the area, and that has been the case this month. Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers have been reported at several sites, along with the first Greenshank of the season. Rarer waders often get caught-up in the movement of the regular waders that pass through and winter in the UK, and mid-summer is probably the best time to keep an eye out for any of these.

During the last few weeks the Ouse Washes has been graced with the odd rarer wader. Having arrived in the north-east in mid-June, the Black-winged Pratincole that slowly made its way down the east coast, was found on the Ouse Washes RSPB on 19 July. The same location also hosted a Temminck’s Stint. The former breeds no closer to the Ouse Washes than the Black Sea, whilst the latter breeds in Arctic Scandinavia, and very rarely in northern Scotland – the last confirmed breeding here was in 1993. The Ouse Washes also played host to a Glossy Ibis – a freshwater wading bird from the Mediterranean.

Glossy Ibis BTO (Kevin Carlson)

Glossy Ibis – Kevin Carlson/BTO

Warblers are also beginning to make their way out of the country, their final destination will be south of the Sahara Desert, largely in West Africa. Currently it is mostly Sedge Warblers that are on the move, and the reed-fringed ditches in and around the Ouse Washes seem to be full of them right now. Willow Warblers are also being seen and numbers of these are beginning to be recorded at south coast watchpoints and observatories. Swift migration is also well underway and the drop in numbers around breeding colonies will be very noticeable in the next few weeks. So, whilst we are still in mid-summer mode, for quite a few of our birds Autumn is definitely underway.

sedge warbler BTO (Anne Cotton)

Sedge Warbler – Anne Cotton/BTO

All of the BTO satellite tagged Cuckoos have now left the UK and seven of them are already in Africa. Six of these have successfully crossed the Sahara Desert and are resting and feeding before making their final push to the winter quarters in Congo. There are still another twelve tagged birds spread across southern Europe – follow them as they too make their way south.

We are currently unsure of the whereabouts of another four; they haven’t transmitted for over ten days and are no longer on the map but this doesn’t mean that we have lost them for good, they could pop-up again. The next month should see waders passing through the area peak, as young birds join the adult birds, the almost complete disappearance of Swifts, and a few ducks turning up on the washes. One thing’s for sure – there is always something to look out for.
Paul Stancliffe – British Trust for Ornithology

World War I activities and events in Littleport

This autumn looks set to be a busy one in Littleport. The Field Theatre Group has joined forces with many other groups, organisations and individuals throughout the town to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

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These events have truly been a community-wide effort. Festival partners include: Littleport Parish Council, Littleport Primary School, Littleport WI, The Village Hall committee, The Grange Care Home, Littleport Lyrics, Littleport Rotary, Littleport British Legion, The Field Theatre Group and St George’s Church. With such a wide range of organisations on board, we can all look forward to a season of moving and memorable events this centenary autumn.

WWI soldier Littleport sign

Look out for our free programmes. These will be appearing in September, in the Barn, the Library, the new Adams Heritage Centre, and many other places throughout the town. Pick up a copy and see for yourself what is on offer.

There is still time to enter the Littleport Festival Fourteen poetry completion (new closing date 4 September) : Perspectives. Entry is free, and open to all who live, work or study in the East Cambs region, regardless of age, ability or background. Those not qualifying are still invited to contribute to our new anthology. We are inviting submissions of poems or prose, or letters which reflect on the First World War from the perspective of 100 years in time.

There are 2 categories, Under 16 & adult. The competition winners will receive a commemorative medal and a cash prize at our gala prize night on 15 November . All entries will be published in a new anthology also entitled Perspectives. Shortlisted entrants will receive a complimentary copy of the anthology. Join with us in creating a tribute in verse to those who sacrificed so much for us.

New poetry comp flier WWI littleport

We have been grateful to have had many offers of funds and support for these events. We are, however, still seeking donations provide further funds for some events.  If you would like to make a contribution, or volunteer your help in any way, we would love to hear from you!

We are looking for volunteers for help with displays, front-of-house, refreshments, transport and tasks of every kind. With your support we can make this once-in-a-hundred-year chance to commemorate the sacrifice of our forefathers, a very special time.  A proportion of Festival proceeds will be donated to the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes.

For full details of this and The Field Theatre Group’s other projects please visit our website or our Facebook pages: Field Theatre Group or Littleport WW1.

Deborah Curtis & Jennifer Stevens, The Field Theatre Group.

www.fieldtheatregroup.btck.co.uk; thefieldtheatregroup@hotmail.co.uk

Tel 01353 863595/862042

Rich Soil Rich Heritage – Free Film

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Opportunities to view the 45 minute film called “Rich soil, rich heritage” all about the district and how it has been shaped by the many different people who have come here over the past 350 years.

Leaflet HLF

Enjoy!

 

RSPB Fen Drayton events coming soon

Welcome to the summer!

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Some edited highlights from the ‘RSPB Fen Drayton Events and Activities Summer 2014’ leaflet… download here: Fen Drayton Events 2014 leaflet

Leaflet front

Two events from the Summer programme in late July 2014

Sunday 27th July
Fen Drayton Lakes Family Activity Day, 10am – 4pm
Come and meet the RSPB team here at Fen Drayton Lakes and find out what we are doing to ‘give nature a home’.  Have a go at pond dipping, bug hunting, wildlife bingo or nature art, join one of our wildlife experts on a guided walk around the reserve or use one our wildlife explorer packs and head off on a self guided adventure. Watch a willow weaving demonstration and have a go.

Wednesday 30th July
Family wildlife wander, 10.15 am – 1 pm, adults £4, kids £2 (RSPB members half-price)
Join us for a relaxed walk enjoying the birds, wildlife and flora that Fen Drayton Lakes has to offer. This walk is aimed at families and is an ideal way to introduce the younger members of the family to the wonders of the natural world.

When are we open? Every day, from dawn till dusk!
We currently also have a fully accessible portable toilet in the main car park. The nearest public toilets are at the A14 service stations.

How to come and see us? Motorists can reach the car park (grid ref. TL342700) via the reserve entrance on the minor road between Swavesey and Fen Drayton – follow the brown road signs from either village.

The Cambridgeshire Guided Bus service has a request stop 250m from the car park. Buses run at 10 minute intervals Monday-Saturday, and at frequent intervals on Sundays, between St Ives and Cambridge.

We have cycle racks in Holywell Lake car park.

Every weekend and every Wednesday from 19th July to 21st September there will be staff and volunteers on site from 10am to 4pm. Self guided pond dipping and bug hunting kits are available as well as advice on what to see and where to go on the reserve. Activities will be available on other days please call 07739 921459 for details.
All events start from the main car park unless otherwise stated.

At this time of year the RSPB recommend insect repellent as some of our smaller creatures are hungry!

If you want to hear more from Pete Stroud (who volunteered with the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership last summer) who is summer warden at the RSPB’s Fen Drayton Lakes Reserve check out his latest blogpost

 

His-story … her-story …. your-story ….our-story

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Great things have been happening in the old ironmonger’s shop JH Adams in the past few months. The shop has been transformed into Littleport’s one and only dedicated heritage centre. Much sloshing of buckets and frantic mopping, cleaning and dusting has been taking place.

Adams centre cleaning outside

Together with a great deal of paperwork and form filling behind the scenes (not nearly so much fun!).   Much of this work had to take place during filming for The Horseman’s Word, Heritage Lottery Funded film project. The old shop took another step back in time over the May Bank Holiday when it was transformed into an old saddlery shop for the cast and crew from the Field Theatre Group.

A Board of Trustees has been established to over see the formation of the Adams Heritage Centre Littleport into a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation). Simply put, this means that the centre will become a community heritage organisation of, by and for, the community.  It is planned to open the centre open one day a week initially. As well as regularly changing displays and exhibitions highlighting the varied history and heritage of the town and fenland, we are hoping to get stuck in with our community engagement delivery.

As far as we are concerned it means everything. The centre and its contents will be available to all: whether you are a researcher, academic or serious historian, or if you simply want to come in and have a good old gossip! You are most welcome. We will be running family activity sessions.

These include:

# Family craft sessions (making toys and simple craft pieces with parents, grandparents and carers).
# Classic story sessions (for ages 5 to 7): curl up in our story corner and enjoy a selection of spellbinding classic tales from the golden age of children’s literature. Let Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins and Toad, Ratty and Mole do the talking.
# Reminiscence and memory sessions for older residents, including dementia sufferers.
# Laugh and learn.
All these good things will get underway … as soon as we have some tables and chairs (we’re working on that one).

And of course, these are just our ideas! We want to hear yours.

We are launching the centre with an open weekend 19 & 20 July, 10-4. We are looking forward to showing Littleport residents what we have achieved so far, and explaining our great plans for this lovely building.

On Sunday 20 July, a WW1 re-enactor will be at the centre all day. Great War Society member Neil Bignal will be talking to the public about the role of an ordinary soldier in the great war.

Adams Heritage Centre Littleport July 2014 open Weekend

We have already received numerous donations of articles from the community. Most poignantly, a memorial board dedicated to WW1 fallen soldiers from Burnt Chimney Drove, has been donated to the centre. The board was rescued on its way to a skip!
It is now in the centre for all to see.

A festival stand for Littleport’s WW1 commemorative events will be in the centre, as well as a wonderful scale model of the old shop created by Trevor Vincent. There will be plenty more to see … but we’re keeping a few things up our sleeves till then!

Best Wishes, Deb Curtis, Trustee, publicity officer, Facebook: Adams Heritage Centre Littleport for full updates and fresh news postings

Where are all the Cuckoos?

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The Cuckoo can still be heard across the Ouse Washes, however, all is not well with this iconic summer visitor. During the last twenty-five years we have lost almost three-quarters of the breeding population nationally.

cucko 008 e (Edmund Fellowes) (A)

Photo by Edmund Fellowes/ BTO of a Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

The decline has been greatest in England, with the Cuckoos in Scotland holding their own, or even increasing slightly in some areas, whilst those that breed in Wales are losing ground but not to the same extent as those in England.

We know quite a lot about Cuckoos whilst they are here in the UK once they leave the UK much of what they do is a mystery. Or, at least that was the case until scientists at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) fitted tags to five birds in Norfolk in the spring of 2011.

The five birds were given names; two of them, Chris and Martin, after the BBC Springwatch presenters, Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games. They both set off, Chris in mid-June, and Martin at the end of June, which at the time surprised BTO scientists as it was thought that they might head off towards the end of August.  Both headed south through Italy, across the Mediterranean and the Sahara Desert spend the winter in the Congo Rainforest – prior to this the winter location was a complete mystery.

In February 2012, both birds started to head north but instead of taking a straight line 5,000 mile journey back to Norfolk, they headed into West Africa before crossing the Sahara once again –  effectively adding another 2,000 miles to their journey. From here they made their way back to the UK but Martin only made it as far as south east Spain, where he ran into an unseasonal hail storm and didn’t make it any further. Chris, however, made it all the way back to Norfolk.  Chris is currently still on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, where he has spent the last four summers but could leave for the Congo Rainforest any day now. He is the only bird remaining from the first five that were tagged in 2011. He has been joined this year by birds from Sherwood Forest, the New Forest, Sussex and Dartmoor, and the BTO are currently following 23 Cuckoos as they make their way south.

Cuckoo with tag

Photo by Phil Atkinson/ BTO of a tagged Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

As I write this, Thursday 3 July, only four birds remain in the UK, including Chris. The others are spread across Europe, with birds in France, Spain, Italy and Bosnia-Herzogovina. Not all of them will make it safely to the winter quarters in Africa, the crossing of the Sahara desert is particularly tough, but everyone can follow them online as their journeys unfold by visiting www.bto.org/cuckoos

* This is the first of a series of guest blogposts by Paul Stancliffe of the

British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)