Including the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP), there are currently four Landscape Partnership schemes in the East of England. They are:
- Managing a Masterpiece (Stour Valley; completed : summer 2013)
- Touching the Tide (Suffolk Coast; started delivery phase this spring)
- Breaking New Ground (The Brecks; in development phase)
- Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership
As there are synergies with what the OWLP scheme is trying to achieve, I thought it would be interesting to show what else is happening in the region. Over the last few months the central OWLP team has also been in regular contact with staff at the Breaking New Ground and Touching the Tide schemes, who have been very helpful with information exchange.
Each of the landscape Partnerships are very different in the type of landscapes it focuses on, ranging from the coastal landscape of the Touching the Tide, the dry scrubland of the Brecks, to the flood plain and Fenlands of the Ouse Washes, area. The Managing a Masterpiece manages the landscape as fabulously painted by John Constable who painted the old building and waterways of this landscapes. All have had a different story to tell; with the funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund each of the landscapes are brought back to life, with the involvement and help of the local communities and business.
Map of the existing Landscape Partnership schemes within East Anglia:
Breaking New Ground covers 1000 square kilometres in the Brecks, in the heart of East Anglia.
The climate here is semi-continental, which means that the weather is colder than the UK average during winter and hotter in summer. The Brecks can also experience extreme changes in temperature throughout the year with the possibility of frost during almost any month, which in conjunction with the low rainfall in East Anglia makes it the driest part of the UK.
The Brecks have nutrient poor soil however it is a good habitat for rabbits and there are ancient Pingos, formed at the end of the last Ice Age; these are not common across the UK as most have been built on or removed. The resulting Pingo ponds are home to some unique species of wildlife, many of which are rare and some of the beetles have survived here since the last Ice Age.
In the 1660s, the area experienced huge sandstorms what with the area being largely made up of sandy soils. As a result, sand dunes were formed on Lakenheath Warren in the 1660s. These were spread over a thousand acres and the sand was blown as far as Santon Downham and partially buried villages and blocked the Little Ouse River. Extensive planting of trees in the area has stopped sandstorms occurring. The last mobile sand dune system can be seen at Wangford Warren Nature Reserve.
The Brecks has the potential to support over 300 tourist-related business, however it is one of East Anglia’s hidden gems: it is obscured by trees, resulting in rail and car travellers passing by, generally not knowing what lies behind the line of trees en route to more well-know areas such as the Norfolk Coast and the Broads. The area behind the trees, nevertheless, is a world of forest adventure; miles of tracks and paths forming a great attraction with an amazing fun world of history for everyone to get involved in.
In late July 2013 The Brecks Partnership and Greater Anglia put an image of The Brecks on the side of a train travelling between Cambridge and Norwich, as this is the line which passes through the Brecks. The aim was to promote the area to a wider audience and the train will be running until the end of July 2014 promoting the Brecks along the way.
Touching the Tide
The Touching the Tide Landscape Partnership scheme is within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB area and is situated along the Suffolk Coast between Covehithe and Felixstowe.
The development phase was completed in November 2012 and funding was given to go forward with the delivery phase. The Touching the Tide Landscape Partnership has received £900k to support the 3 year project which started in spring 2013 and is due to end in spring 2016.
The scheme intents to invest in skills, businesses and the environment. The project money will be used to restore and conserve heritage assets which make the coast special, for example the Martello Towers as well as the shingle beaches which contribute to the sense of wildness that people value in the character of the landscape. The funding will also be used to work with local communities to inspire them to share stories of the area’s history to younger members of the community, as well as helping to conserve the local heritage by working with art projects and archaeological digs. All these projects encourage the local community to work together and to feel proud of their heritage. By the end of the 3 year project the aim is to have made a real difference to people’s understanding of this very dynamic coastline, so they can help in shaping its future.
Managing a Masterpiece
The Managing a Masterpiece Landscape Partnership scheme focused on the Stour Valley; it started in 2010 and ended in summer 2013. Their Vision is for a landscape cared for and celebrated by the local community, having been provided with knowledge, skills and opportunities needed to manage and enjoy it. The area has inspired generations of artists such as John Constable because of it natural beauty and historic structures, riverside trees, rich heritage of meadows and the field boundaries.
The objectives for Managing a Masterpiece were:
- Understanding the historic evolution of the landscape and the way traditional land management has shaped it;
- Conserving or restoring the manmade and natural features that create the historic character of the landscape;
- Celebrating the cultural associations and activities of the landscape area;
- Encouraging more people to access, learn about, become involved in and make decisions about their landscape heritage;
- Improving understanding of local craft and other skills by providing training opportunities.
There were 7 overarching projects (each with further projects within) which formed the Managing a Masterpiece Landscape Partnership scheme, all of which explored different parts of the landscape and which focused on: Landscape lessons; Historic Landscape Study; Building History; Slimy Posts and Brickwork; Hidden History; Stripping Back the Layers; and Medieval Masterpieces. Each of the projects were carried out by local communities: the more they contributed the more they appreciated its value and wanted to continue their involvement with the local heritage after funding stopped.
During the years of the Landscape Partnership over 3,500 volunteer working days were completed throughout all of the projects, half of which were carried out during several archaeological projects.
Legacy of the Landscape Partnership schemes in the region
All of the above Landscape Partnerships schemes are aimed at involving people in their local heritage and landscape and providing access to the area so that more people are able to enjoy the environment in which they live, while at the same time giving the project volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills. The Landscape Partnership schemes do not finish once the funding stops as it is hoped that after 3 years of funding people are more knowledgeable and inspired about the area and will continue to look after the environment in which they live.
At the Ouse Washes Conference at the beginning of September there were some inspiring comments showing that people want to continue the project work after the end of the 3 years of HLF support. One person commented “My enthusiasm has grown after today. Think about branding of the scheme and of a sustainable legacy” with another saying, “Overall an exciting project- Wish it was longer than 3 years”. The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme certainly aims to get more people interested, excited and proud of their local heritage and support people in looking after the Ouse Washes into the future once the 3 year project is finished.