The Fens Waterways Link is one of the most significant waterway projects to take place in the UK for two centuries. It will connect the Cathedral cities of Lincoln, Peterborough and Ely, opening up 240km of new and existing waterways. It is hoped the project will put the Fens on the map as a nationally recognised destination, as well known as the Norfolk Broads.
The map below outlines the sections of waterway that will be improved/created by the scheme. The Ouse Washes come into this area, as can be seen on the map. Not only are the Fens Waterways Link and the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Scheme closely related geographically, they also share common goals, aiming to promote heritage, conservation and community engagement. (See here for the aims of the Ouse Washes LPS.)
In detail, the aims of the Fens Waterways Link are to:
- Create opportunities for increased leisure, tourism and regeneration, attracting economic development and employment.
- Develop a unique image of the Fens Waterways as a world-class tourist destination, a place for healthy activity in the great outdoors, and place to escape.
- Open access to the rich heritage, culture and history of the fens through time.
- Benefit the natural environment, linking major wetland sites, creating new habitats and supporting the future of our unique fenland wildlife.
- Help improve water supplies and flood defences by improving our water storage, transfer and drainage infrastructure.
- Provide a regional water-based transport corridor for people and freight.
- Give local people a sense of ownership of their local waterways as a place of belonging with rich opportunities for recreation, enjoyment and healthy activities.
- Promote waterways as a venue for learning, training and skills development, providing opportunities for people of all ages to engage with their environment.
- Enable visitors, businesses and other community members to become champions for the waterways at the heart of local communities.
The project is divided into six phases. Phase 1, Boston Lock Link, was completed in 2009. This involved the opening of Black Sluice Lock (map item 1), thereby providing access to 35km of navigation which had been closed for 50 years. The disused lock cottages were turned into a visitor centre and café, and new moorings were created. Other improvements include picnic areas, footpaths/cycleways, fishing platforms, fish refuges and sand martin banks.
The Ouse Washes LP area is within Phase 6 of the project: ‘Peterborough to Denver Link – linking the River Nene across the Middle Level Navigations to the River Great Ouse’. Details have not yet been finalised, but it is hoped that the following developments will be possible.
- The Denver Hydro Hub would provide an array of information and activities for visitors. Using existing rights of way, a number of circular routes would be created. There would also be opportunities for bike, boat and canoe hire and boat trips.
- New Hundred Foot Tidal River moorings near Mepal and Welney, allowing access to attractions such as WWT Welney, and providing the opportunity for boat trips to operate.
- The Hermitage Lock Hydro Hub at Earith would involve commercial redevelopment of the lock keeper’s house, e.g. restaurant, holiday let, cycle hire, car parking.
- Improving navigation around Welches Dam to better connect the Great Ouse system with the Middle Level Navigations. Currently Welches Dam Lock is closed, so access between the Old Bedford River and the Forty Foot is not possible.
An implementation plan was created in 2004, and at that time the Link as a whole
was expected to take 15-20 years to complete. Construction costs were estimated at £130 million, partly funded by the Environment Agency and partly from other sources. In 2004 funds had been allocated for the initial stages of the project, and further funding was being investigated from possible sources such as local authorities, the Lottery and the European Union. Although the current economic climate has impacted on the delivery of the Link, work is progressing.
More information about the Link can be found at: http://www.fenswaterways.com/