Other Landscape Partnership schemes in East Anglia

Heritage Lottery Fund

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:

Map of existing Landscape Partnership in East Anglia

Map of existing Landscape Partnership in East Anglia

The Brecks

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.

Brecks Landscape Source: www.brecks.org

Brecks Landscape Source: http://www.brecks.org

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.

Train with the The Brecks logo  Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinkplunger/9730654292/

Train with the The Brecks logo. Would this also be an idea for Ouse Washes LP area, another hidden gem in the region – what do you think?
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinkplunger/9730654292/


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.

managing a masterpiece

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.

Landscape of Managing a Masterpieces Source; http://www.managingamasterpiece.org/

Landscape of Managing a Masterpieces Source; http://www.managingamasterpiece.org/


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.

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What is in a name? The Ouse Washes

Heritage Lottery FundHave you ever wondered where the Ouse Washes got its name? The Ouse is the name of the river, which has already been discussed in the previous Blog “The Ouses of Britain”. This blog looks at the meaning of the word “Washes”.

Natural England describes a washland as ”an area of flood plain that is allowed to flood or is deliberately flooded for flood management”; this is indeed the main purpose of the Ouse Washes; to stop the fens from flooding.

The Ouse Washes has been classified as a floodplain which is different from a water meadow, but both have water flowing over them seasonally. The difference is that in the Ouse Washes the water can often be stagnant for a period of time while in a water meadow the water is always moving over the land and never becomes stagnant.

Water meadows are often found where there is a spring or a stream flowing over land at a slow rate and these areas are not meant to be flooded. The water flows through the grasses which grow in the water meadows thereby reducing the impact of frost on the plants during early spring so enabling the grass to grow (and thus harvested) several weeks earlier than usual. In the summer, during dry spells, the water flows through the roots meaning that the plants are watered and are also able to get nutrients and silt from the flowing water which has a positive result in reducing the risk of the level of nutrients in the water becoming too high which could cause eutrophication. This also means that plants on water meadows are fertilised so increasing the growth of the grass and plants and making more and more nutritious grass available for livestock to feed on through the summer.

Most floodplains exist naturally and are areas where water is stored when rivers burst their banks. However, the man-made Ouse Washes is purposely flooded thereby reducing the amount of water in the Great Ouse River in times of high rainfall upstream, stopping the flooding of surrounding farmland and settlements. It is usually only flooded during the winter and during the summer it is used as grazing land for livestock (although recent years have seen many unseasonal flooding events – see e.g. this previous post photo). The Ouse Washes is able to hold 900,000 cubic metres of floodwater from the River Great Ouse which would otherwise flood the fields of the Fens.

Other Washes in the UK

The Nene and Ouse Washes are the only two washland areas in East Anglia; both are located in the Fens and were built to control the flooding of the Fens.

Nene Washes

The nearby Nene Washes are part of the River Nene which is the 10th longest river in the UK. The reason for the formation of the Nene Washes in the 18th century was to drain the Fens to allow the land to be suitable farming. The Nene Washes are used in the same way as the Ouse Washes, however it has a shorter length and only covers an area of 15 square kilometres, but it is still an important site for wildlife such as birds during the winter and summer and also prevents the Fens from flooding.

Washes and Nene Washes as ‘Core Areas’ within a Fen-wide ecological network source: http://www.lincsfenlands.org.uk/index.php?page=BiodiversityFensFuture

Washes and Nene Washes as ‘Core Areas’ within a Fen-wide ecological network source: http://www.lincsfenlands.org.uk/index.php?page=BiodiversityFensFuture

Shrinkage of the peat

The Land around the Nene and Ouse Washes has been sinking since the Fens were drained and the agricultural use of the resulting fields has caused a further decrease in the level of peat.

What are the main causes of the Fens subsiding? A relatively recent report provides several related reasons:

  • Shrinkage has occurred in the Fens as the removal of the water from the peat has meant that there has been internal shrinkage at a rate of 1.8 cm/yr.
  • Compression has happened after the removal of water, as the buoyancy effect has been reduced due to the removal of the water which held the weight up, so as the water was removed the peat shrank as the large weight was no longer partially suspended.
  • Oxidation of the peat caused when the water was removed as before the drainage the water did not contain oxygen so there were aerobic conditions underneath the peat which slowed the decomposition. By removing the water the speed of the decomposition of material increased causing the land to sink.

Others lesser components of wastage of the peat include

  • Wind erosion; loose surface soil due to strong winds
  • Accidental burning of dry peat

The Fens will continue to sink as it is continuously farmed and drained. The best evidence for the peat shrinkage is shown by the Holme Post: it was drilled through the peat down into the clay in 1851 in order to monitor the peat loss. The post now rises 4m above the ground and provides an impressive record of the ground loss in the Holme Fens. This area of the Fens is the lowest point of all land in Britain as it is 2.75 metres below sea level.

Holme Post over years from 1850 to 2000 Source: http://www.emgs.org.uk/files/local_geology/15(1)_holme_post.pdf

Holme Post over years from 1850 to 2000 Source: http://www.emgs.org.uk/files/local_geology/15(1)_holme_post.pdf

In the summer the Ouse Washes and the Nene Washes are used for grazing animals which has meant that most of the land has not been ploughed for centuries, which has resulted in both Washes being at a much higher level than the surrounding Fenland. This is clearly shown in the below image which demonstrates that the washes have preserved more of their original peat layers than the surrounding arable farmland.

The ranging depths of the peat across the Fenlands Source: http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/Fenlandpeatassessment_tcm9-236041.pdf

The ranging depths of the peat across the Fenlands Source: http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/Fenlandpeatassessment_tcm9-236041.pdf

What is in a name? – The Ouses of Britain

Heritage Lottery FundIf you thought that there was only one River Ouse in the UK you are going to need to read this article as I think you may be surprised to learn of all the different ‘Ouses’ around. To understand the reason why there are so many rivers called Ouse, it is the name that gives it away: the name Ouse is thought to have Celtic origins, meaning ‘water’; therefore when saying the River Ouse or the Great River Ouse you are actually saying the ‘river water’ or ‘great water river’.

There are 5 ‘Ouses’ around the UK, from high up in Orkney to the Ouse River down in Sussex; from north to south, these are:

  • The Ouse Orkney
  • The Yorkshire Ouse
  • The Great Ouse
  • The Little Ouse
  • The Sussex Ouse

The Sussex Ouse itself is 42 miles long, but with all its tributaries runs over 140 miles long. Although the Sussex Ouse is not one of the longest rivers, it is the only Ouse River to flow into the English Channel, through Newhaven. The River Ouse in the 18th century was navigable up to its tidal reach at Lewes, but at the end of the 18th century the UK economy was booming and the river was extended to Balcombe. Compared to other rivers and canals that were extended in the north or the midlands, the River Ouse does not flow through a large urban town as it was a rural canal, extended to reach  the clay land of The Weald to transport lime, chalk and manure along the River Ouse.

The Yorkshire Ouse is 52 miles long and flows between the River Ure and ends in the Humber. It flows through the city of York down to the Humber and is tidal between Naburn village and Goole. Some boats such as canal boats are unable to cope with the tidal changes because of their small engines. The Ouse River, when combined with the Ure River, is the 6th longest river in the UK.

The Ouse on Orkney Source  ;http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/492043

The Ouse on Orkney Source ;http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/492043

The Orkney Ouse is a tidal estuary which is at the mouth of a small river and an upland spring next to the village of Finstown. This is the smallest Ouse in the UK and is not a river, and is affected by tidal changes along the coast and enters into the North Sea. It is the most northerly Ouse in Britain.

The Little Ouse is a tributary to the Great Ouse River. The Little River Ouse is 37 miles long and it flows along the border between Suffolk and Norfolk and travels passed Blo’Norton which owes its name to the area, as the Fenland area around the village is called the Blo’Norton Fens. Just north of Littleport the Little Ouse River joins the River Great Ouse.

The River Great Ouse is the river which flows through the Ouse Washes and it is the 4th longest river in the UK with an overall length of 143 miles (only the Severn, Thames and Trent are longer). The source of the River Great Ouse is all the way in Wappenham in Northamptonshire and the mouth of the Great Ouse is in King’s Lynn where it flows into the Wash.

An interesting fact about the Great River Ouse is that in 1944 [during World War 2] the famous Oxford and Cambridge boat race was staged on the river between Littleport and Ely. This is the only time that the race was not held on the river Thames and the winner that Year was Oxford University. (To see Photos of the race in 1944 visit http://www.ely-news.co.uk/Nostalgia/SLIDESHOW-Do-you-remember-when-the-1944-University-boat-race-came-to-Ely-20130509094855.htm)`

The Ouse Washes are vitally important as, with all the water coming from the Midlands entering the Fens at Earith, the areas it cuts through are susceptible to flooding. The Ouse Washes stores water in times of high rainfall and releases it at a slower rate, thereby preventing the River Ouse from overflowing. See here for an overview of how the Ouse washes work and how they prevent vast amounts of land and settlements from flooding.

Watch this video to see how the Ouse Washes links in with the Great Ouse river (Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3cvCWnZMGQ):


Related posts:

New Heritage Lottery Fund projects in the Fenland area

Heritage Lottery FundIn East Anglia two other Heritage Lottery funded projects have started recently. As there are clear links with our work in both projects, I wanted to share this with you as well. These are Fenland Lives & Land and Eighth In The East; both projects are looking at the history of the area, with the Fenland Lives & Land looking at different aspects of life in the Fens in the past and the Eighth In The East looking at the history of the World War 2 US Airfields in East Anglia.

Fenland Lives & Land

With the Fenland Lives & Land project there are exhibitions going in a range of museums, communities and schools across the Fens, celebrating the extraordinary landscape of the area and which will be going for 3 years; its launch was last week Thursday.

The five exhibitions are focused on the following five themes:

  • Constructing the Past: Ancient Crafts and Engineering
  • The Wild Fens: A Journey back to Ancient landscapes
  • Living on Land & Water: Discover a World of Waterways
  • Trading Stories: A Century of Fenland Shops, Pubs and Trade
  • Bread or Blood

Each of these themes will be explored in different parts of the Fens, from the history of the ens to what was being sold in traditional shops and pubs throughout the centuries, to changes to Fenland farms over time with the effect of the Downham Riots of 1816 which resulted because of the hard economic hardship faced by farms, workers and soldiers who were returning from the Napoleonic Wars. These exhibitions will be going on for 3 years all across all Fenland museums.

For more information, see the project’s website (http://www.fensmuseums.org.uk/index.aspx) and this useful leaflet (http://www.fensmuseums.org.uk/documents/Fenland_Generic_Leaflet.pdf).

Eighth in the East

This project was recently awarded £575,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to record the history of East Anglia airfields used by the United States during World War 2. The project aims to work with local museums to get stories of Americans who served and the stories of local people who lived near the bases between 1942 and 1945.

The project will look at the 67 airfields in the East which provided bases for USAF bombing raids over Germany. About 200,000 US personnel served in East Anglia in what became known as the ‘friendly invasion’.

This is a 3-year project and hopefully by the end of the project there will be a large amount of information about that time in East Anglia. With this information there cycling and walking tours may be created to these sites and museums will have more information on want was happening in East Anglia during the ‘friendly invasion’ by the Americans.


World War II US airfields in East Anglia project to record history. Source:http: //www.idaventry.com/pin/world-war-ii-us-airfields-in-east-anglia-project-to-record-history/

Look here (https://ousewasheslps.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/hidden-heritage-mepal-airfield/) for an earlier blog post about the WW2 use of the airfield in Mepal, which is located within the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area.

Getting the Ouse Washes into the world of social media

Heritage Lottery FundThe Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) scheme wishes to spread its information to more people by using a wide range of social media and other online media; however each of the online media has its pros and cons. I did some research to find out what other Landscape Partnerships have been doing at this front, to get some information and inspiration.

Currently the Ouse Washes LP scheme is using this blog and Twitter; these are also linked so that when adding a blog it sends a direct link onto our Twitter page and vice versa, thereby increasing our online activity and visibility. We will also have our own website, once the HLF gives us the ‘green light’ (and money) for the delivery phase, i.e., in spring 2014.

Online presence of other LP schemes

Looking at the online presence of all 66 current Landscape Partnership schemes (including the 13 which – like ourselves – are in the development phase; and those schemes which have already ended), it is clear that the vast majority of the schemes have a website, about half have a Twitter account, but only six other schemes have a blog.

Other online media options

However, there are a few more options which are also being exploited by some other schemes: these include Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Vimeo, all of which have different way of getting information out to the public. The potential value of YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Vimeo is in getting more people engaged with the OWLP scheme and increasing the awareness of the landscape and its heritage to a wider audience.

facebookHaving a Facebook page for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme would also have potential. However, there are fewer options to directly link its contents with Twitter and the blog. There are some other Landscape Partnership schemes which make use of have Facebook including the Up on the Downs Landscape Partnership and the Tag Landscape Partnership, but they often get few likes (‘followers’), much fewer followers than schemes seem to get through Twitter. So the Ouse Washes could perhaps start a Facebook page once the scheme is in its delivery phase, but it will take some time to gain a large number of likes through this online medium.

New Picture (3)vimeo YouTube and Vimeo are both video sharing websites; these two platforms could help to inform the community about different projects and how they are developing. One Landscape Partnership scheme which has recently finished is the Neroche Scheme which has made videos throughout their project and by the end of the scheme – after 5 years – they used the video to show how the journey unfolded; see here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkqsDUqw-Wk).youtube

When creating such videos there clearly needs to be a continued use of this throughout the whole of the project in order to tell the whole story; for instance, this method can be used as a diary to show how events and projects are developing. The two websites which can be used as an option for uploading videos are YouTube which have a wider number of people using it, or Vimeo which has better quality videos but a much smaller audience.

flikFlickr is a photo sharing website which is good way to show how the area changes over time through the seasons, the conservation activities and community involvement all clearly captured in images. This is being done quite nicely, for instance, by the Heart of the Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme, managed by the Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/ccght.

What do you think we should do?

Each new online medium of course takes time to keep up; therefore we would like to make sure it is best ‘value for money’. For each of the above platforms we would like to be able to manage them and keep them up to date, and getting you involved in different ways. Each new online medium employed by the OWLP scheme will certainly also all be linked to the main website for the Ouse Washes once we can start our delivery.

We would like to have your option on what you think would be the best way for us for those media that we have not yet gone for, including Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr. Please leave suggestions for how you think we can best expand our online presence!