The new Ouse Washes LP Website is Live!!

Today is a very exciting day as we are finally able to share our new website with the world!

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Website screen capture home page 18 12 2014

Please pass on the message to others: www.ousewashes.org.uk

 

This website is intended to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for local people and visitors to explore the Ouse Washes Landscape:

  • Explore the Ouse Washes LP area’s tourist attractions, nature reserves and museums in more detail through our interactive Explore map;
  • Find out what’s going on in the area through our What’s on section;
  • Find out how you can get involved through our projects, events and our volunteering options in our Get Involved section
  • Find out what makes the Ouse Washes LP area special, by reading through our Discover section;
  • The Ouse News is our old WordPress blog incorporated in this new website – keep up to date of all new events, project development and information about the area though this newsreel
  • And a lot more – go on, find out for yourself!

 

Do let us know what you think about the new website – we want this to be useful for you, so please help us make things better – drop us a line through the Contact section.

 

Happy reading!

 

Press release: Press release_New website for Ouse Washes Landscape now live!

Denver Sluice Complex, one of the key hubs in the Ouse Washes Landscape area. Image: Kite Aerial Photography by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation

Denver Sluice Complex, one of the key hubs in the Ouse Washes Landscape area. Image: Kite Aerial Photography by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation

 

Sutton Gault Day – Sunday 29th June 2014

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Abby and Mark from OWLP are attending Sutton Gault Day on Sunday 29th June 2014, looks like lots of fun – poster here

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The Ely Standard piece about last year and photos are well worth a look, please accept my apologies for the brevity of this post but I must get on and organise the fishing game, wiggly worm contest and ‘wordle’ that we are taking with us!

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Our ‘Ouse Washes’ fishing game at a local event last summer

Other blogs on the area/ events:

The Sutton area and surroundings

Other events that we are attending

The Community Heritage Funds grants that we are promoting

Landscape Character Assessment for the Ouse Washes LP landscape

LogosLast year, as part of a series of works we commissioned during the development of the OWLP scheme, Sheils Flynn wrote an excellent Landscape Character Assessment for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area.

The report that came from this has been a prime source of information for the partnership to get a better grip on the landscape character, its historic development, significance and modern workings. It was certainly not an easy job for our consultants as the landscape changes are often very subtle; Sheils Flynn nevertheless have done an excellent job teasing out the area’s specifics and distinct elements and writing this up in very accessible prose. We would now like to share this important work with you in the hope that you will also find this information as captivating as I do.

The structure of the report is set out below:

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The main sections of Sheils Flynn’s Landscape Character Assessment report

This report gives a very detailed overview of the significant prehistoric and historic developments and sites in the area, before it moves on to a description of significant biodiversity, water management and heritage elements in the landscape – these sections would be of use to local heritage groups or anyone trying to find out more about how this landscape developed and what elements within the natural and historic environment are of prime significance.

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Cross section through the Ouse Washes, as published in Sheils Flynn’s Landscape Character Assessment, p. 36

Following this, an overview of landscape management recommendations are given – this section would be of particular use to people trying to understand the landscape value of certain parts of the OWLP landscape; for instance local communities that may be opposing certain types of development in their area may find rich information here to draw from.

The main body of the Landscape Character Assessment is an overview of the nine Landscape Character Areas, with a detailed description for each area, showing its:

  • distinctive landscape characteristics;
  • a description of the landscape character;
  • an understanding of what’s important and why;
  • a description of landscape sensitivity.
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The nine identified distinct Landscape Character Areas, in Sheils Flynn’s Landscape Character Assessment, p. 52.

The report is richly illustrated with photographs and line drawings, and with several interesting case studies woven in.

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Do you want your own copy? 

Please find a downloadable version in our Resources section, or download it here (note: this may take some time, 6MB, PDF): Ouse Washes LP – Landscape Character Assessment [low res]

 

Related posts:

OWLP: Our Plans for Delivery

LogosLately many people have asked me what exactly the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership has planned.

I am conscious that, so far, we have not given lots of details of the delivery phase activity programme. Following a year of research and community consultations, we have, so far, made it clear what we are trying to achieve; have told you who are involved in the OWLP scheme; and who we aim to target with this scheme.

Now the HLF has granted the partnership the money to get the delivery phase going, it is time to reveal more of what exactly we are now going to do.

The OWLP Partnership projects

First of all, an overview of the 25 projects the partnership will deliver as part of the OWLP scheme (click on the image to enlarge):

Projects overview listAs most of the 25 projects planned between now and March 2017 will already start this spring or summer, I will regular get information out to alert people of the partnership’s developments and of opportunities to get involved.

Scheme Summary Document

To start with, we have created a document which summarises the OWLP scheme to date. This condenses all research reports commissioned and our stage 2 application (including its main report, the Landscape Conservation Action Plan) into a 29-page document. This also gives a quick overview of all 25 projects: who is doing what, with a short outline of the projects. Please find it here to download (PDF, 3.5 MB):

Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme_March 2014

Let me know what you think. Do also contact me if you would like to know more about specific projects or would like to get involved.

OWLP Ditch Biodiversity Survey: Results

LogosAs part of the series of consultancy works we commissioned in 2013, extensive fieldwork has been carried out by two specialist consultants to define the biodiversity value of the ditches in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area (OWLP). The results of this work have been surprising and very useful.

OWLP’s ditches: key to area’s character, but poorly known

In the OWLP’s largely arable landscape there are numerous ditches; these form a key element of the area’s character. The ditches often have their own unique biodiversity, but their ecology is generally poorly understood. A survey was commissioned by the OWLP during the development phase and this was carried out by aquatic plant and invertebrate specialists Jonathan Graham and Martin Hammond. They investigated ditches from the Internal Drainage Boards (IDB) and field drains for their biodiversity value. To determine the conservation value of the OWLP ditches aquatic plant species were recorded; due to the sensitivity of invertebrates to water quality, aquatic Coleoptera were also chosen for this purpose.

Many rare species found

This work highlighted that the ditches in the agricultural zones of the area harbour a wide variety of species and include a very good number of important aquatic plant species; the OWLP ditches also support many nationally scarce and near threatened aquatic Coleoptera species. The consultants found that the biodiversity richness in some parts of the OWLP area is comparable to that of the SSSIs in the area.

Across 100 sample points, a grand total of 109 drain plants, 110 bank plants and 101 water beetles were recorded. Amongst the finds were many species of conservation concern; amongst these were: 2 Near Threatened, 3 Vulnerable and 1 Nationally Scarce plant species whilst water beetles included 4 listed as Near Threatened and 14 categorised as Nationally Scarce. Ditches in the study area are shown to provide an important habitat for several species of aquatic Coleoptera which have their British stronghold in the Fens such as Agabus undulatus, Hydrochus crenatus, Oulimnius major and O. rivularis.

Dytiscus dimidiatus

Dytiscus dimidiatus. Image: Jonathan Graham & Martin Hammond, for OWLP.

Agabus undulatus

Agabus undulates, a diving beetle (Dytiscidae); GB status: Near Threatened. Image: Jonathan Graham & Martin Hammond, for OWLP.

Observed differences between Internal Drainage Boards

The Internal Drainage Board (IDB) Districts of Over & Willingham IDB, Bluntisham IDB, Haddenham Level Commissioners IDB, Sutton & Mepal IDB, Manea IDB and Upwell IDB were surveyed. All 6 surveyed IDB areas had drains with quality ditch plant and Coleoptera indicator species, but ditches associated with gravel beds (within the Over & Willingham, Bluntisham, Haddenham and Sutton & Mepal IDB districts) were found to be of particular importance. Overall, two districts (Haddenham and Sutton & Mepal) had a considerable higher proportion of drains of high ecological value.

New Picture (8)

This figure shows the mean number of quality ditch plant and aquatic Coleoptera indicator species per IDB area for all sample points. B = Bluntisham IDB; U = Upwell IDB; M = Manea & Welney IDB; O = Over & Willingham IDB; S = Sutton & Mepal IDB; H = Haddenham IDB. Source: Interim report Jonathan Graham and Martin Hammond, Sept. 2013.

Spined Loach

Spined loach, Cobitis taenia, is a European protected species; this one was accidently netted whilst sampling ditch Coleoptera. Image: Jonathan Graham & Martin Hammond, for OWLP.

Other noteworthy fauna

Ouse Washes LP area drains are also shown to be important for other noteworthy fauna: the Common Frog, Common Toad, Smooth Newt, dragonflies and BAP species such as Water Vole and Spined Loach were also seen within the ditches whilst sampling.

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One of the biodiversity-rich ditches in the OWLP area. Dominant stands of Myriophyllum verticillatum associated with Potamogeton trichoides and Sagittaria sagittifolia in open water of IDB drain. Image: Jonathan Graham & Martin Hammond, for OWLP.

Correlations between ditch types and ecological richness

The research has provided indications that there may be correlations between ecologically rich drains (based on number of quality indicator ditch plant and Coleoptera species) and larger drains (between 3 and 5.5m), and between ecologically rich drains and early successional stage drains (those with open water and good light penetration).

Both factors (larger ditches between 3 and 5.5m; early successional stage with open water and good light penetration) may also be directly linked to intensity of management. The majority of the high conservation value drains are IDB controlled and their management involves regular weed clearance (often annually), mild scraping of the bed (often annually as part of dredging works or as part of weed removal) and controlling of high water levels during the summer months (principally associated with agricultural irrigation of crops such as potatoes and beans).

There is a strong correlation between number of ditch plant quality indicator species and number of water beetle quality indicator species, although it is important to note that some  important water beetle species were recorded in ditches without good plant assemblages. Whilst the species-richness and quality of the wetland plant assemblage is evidently closely linked to management, water beetle communities are more likely to reflect the quality of vegetation structure. For open water species such as whirligigs, algivorous water beetles and larger diving beetles, regular management will be important in maintaining varied and structurally-complex aquatic vegetation. Many other taxa are, however, associated with the edges of the channel and depend more on the maintenance of refugia amongst the emergent fringe.

What next?

The work has identified biodiversity ‘hotspots’ in the area; these can now be targeted through wildlife friendly farming initiatives. The work has also outlined possible links of biodiversity richness with certain types of ditch management.

If the OWLP’s stage 2 submission will be granted, the research will be continued this year. The above correlations will be verified and further refined through further research in the remaining IDBs to the east of the Ouse Washes. this fieldwork is planned for the summer of 2014.

Following that research, a final report will combine the results of the 2013 and 2014 research and clear recommendations for management of the ditches.

This will be followed by targeted training sessions in 2015 and 2016 for staff at IDBs, landowners and farmers in the area, thereby ensuring that those who are responsible for the management of these ditches on a day-to-day basis will be provided with the latest information on best-practice management to conserve the unique fauna and flora of the ditches of the OWLP area.

                                           

Related posts:

The new OWLP Landscape Boundary

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As part of the development phase works we have reconsidered the boundary for the OWLP scheme area. This was included in the work done as part of the Landscape Character Assessment , commissioned by the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership to Sheils Flynn.

Redrawing the boundary

For our stage 1 submission, back in early 2012, the boundary drawn was still relatively simple. Not anymore. Following the recent finalisation of the Landscape Character Assessment for the OWLP area and the Landscape Conservation Action Plan as part of our stage 2 submission, I can now show you the final results of this work.

First of all, spot the differences:

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Boundary as drawn for the OWLP’s stage 1 application, February 2012

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OWLP boundary as defined for the stage 2 submission, November 2013. Map created by Sheils Flynn for OWLP. Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2013 – not to be reproduced.

In their comments on our stage 1 bid, the HLF considered the OWLP area boundary somewhat vague and arbitrary; despite numerous hours of discussion between partners had already gone into this.

A coherent landscape

A requirement for the stage 2 submission was, thus, to come up with a better described, understood and more coherent boundary. The new landscape boundary is based on careful consideration of a number of related factors:

  • The boundary surrounds a strongly coherent landscape. The vast majority of the OWLP landscape is below the 5 m contour line.This is a distinct landscape, with a unique history, linear waterways, significant wetlands and which plays an important role in food production, drainage and flood prevention.
  • The boundary is driven by the landscape using natural boundaries.
  • The boundary is understood by local people – as part of the community consultations held during the Audience & Access work, people were shown draft versions of the new map, to which people responded positively, as the boundary line follows local landscape features such as roads, drains and other, locally recognised landscape features.
  • The boundary reflects historic patterns of land use: the ‘territory’ associated with the Fen Isle villages, including for instance historic field patterns, droveways and outlying farmsteads, together describe historic patterns of land use and the present-day sense of community in this part of the Fens. Settlements developed on ‘islands’ of higher land in an otherwise expansive and historically marshy landscape. The most productive arable fields were concentrated on the more elevated, relatively well-drained land surrounding the villages, with pasture on seasonally water-logged meadows. The marshy fenlands, which covered vast areas of the Fen Basin, were an important economic resource, used for cutting peat, reeds and sedge and to provide a constant supply of wildfowl, fish and eels.
  • The boundary contains a relatively empty landscape, with a scatter of settlements on the areas of higher land on and around the edge; relatively well-drained soils fringe the low-lying fen that was the focus of the Ouse Washes drainage scheme. The settlements function as individual gateways to the central, lower landscape.
  • The boundary coincides with the historic road pattern: the alignment of roads and causewayed tracks connects the villages and forms a loose ring around the Ouse Washes.
  • The boundary contains an internationally significant wetland landscape: recent wetland and fen restoration projects and opportunities for new wetlands as part of the Great Ouse Wetland and Fens Wetland Vision projects contribute to the international value of the Ouse Washes and have the potential to provide superb opportunities for public access, recreation and environmental education.

Crossing multiple boundaries

The OWLP area covers two Counties (Cambridgeshire and Norfolk), five different Districts (Kings Lynn & West Norfolk BC, Fenland DC, East Cambridgeshire DC, Huntingdonshire DC and South Cambridgeshire DC) and no less than 29 Parishes.

In the process of redefining the boundary for the OWLP landscape, the total area increased from 199 km2 at the stage 1 bid to 243 km2 now, stretching for 48.5 km between Denver and Downham Market at the northern end and Fen Drayton and St Ives to its south.

The OWLP residents

The OWLP area contains 25 villages/settlements which are either fully or partially within, or directly abutting the area’s boundary:

  • In Norfolk these are Denver, Salters Lode, Fordham, Nordelph, Ten Mile Bank, Welney, Tipps End and Lakes End.
  • The Cambridgeshire settlements are Manea, Pymoor, Wardy Hill, Coveney, Witcham, Mepal, Sutton, Earith, Aldreth, Over, Swavesey, Fen Drayton, Holywell, Needingworth, Bluntisham, Colne and Somersham.
  • Close by are also the settlements of Hemingford Grey, Willingham, Haddenham and Little Downham (Cambridgeshire) and Hilgay (Norfolk).

The resident population of the LP area is 33,010. Outside the Ouse Washes LP area the neighbouring towns within a c10km zone are Downham Market, Littleport, Ely, Chatteris, March, St Ives, Huntingdon and Cambridge; they have a collective resident population of 236,688. The OWLP scheme’s delivery phase focuses on both the local residents and market town residents.

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Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area – Location Map. Map created by Sheils Flynn for OWLP. Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2013 – not to be reproduced.

Click on the above map (X 2) to zoom in; the maps displayed here can also be viewed in our Resources section.

What do you think?

What do you think? Does this boundary indeed reflect local people’s perceptions of what makes a coherent landscape? Let me know your thoughts – click on the balloon at the top to leave a comment, or contact me directly. Thank you.

 

Related Posts:

 

Ouse Washes LP Conference: a great success

Heritage Lottery FundLast week Thursday the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) scheme held its first and long-awaited conference. This event was very well attended: with over 60 people we filled up The Maltings in Ely and had some very lively discussions going.

I would, first of all, like to thank everybody who attended. The good number and mixture of representatives from a wide range of local authorities, agencies, charities and community groups and other organisations meant that the two workshops held were very productive.

The two main presentations – by Kate Collins (Sheils Flynn) presenting the results of the Landscape Character Assessment for the area, and Rachael Brown (Cambridgeshire ACRE) those of the Audience & Access Planning work done – were also very well received, judging by the comments made on the day.

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Conference 5 September 2013: ‘Finding Character and Audiences’

Good feedback given

Cambridgeshire ACRE has been able to organise this event thanks to the excellent help before and during the day given by our four summer placement volunteers (Peter, Anna, Jessica and Chris). The overall impression left by the participants in the feedback forms was that they found this event useful and informative; see e.g. the below graph (where 1 means poor and 5 means excellent):

Picture for blog conference

Some quotes from the audience:

Really well structured and organised event. Excellent balance between presentations; thank you.

The presentations gave an excellent base for the workshops to explore. Good networking and sharing ideas.

Interesting presentations. Fascinating interactions round the table, much better than just being talked to. Everyone here has different interest /views

Useful information coming out of the day

We are currently going through the mountain of information written down during the workshops, as comments left on the feedback sheets, display comments sheets or on the logo voting sheets. Although all information will also be collated in a report later this month, to give you a bit of an understanding of what has come out of the conference, below are a few bite-sized bits of information:

* Some key barriers to access were identified: most people agreed that the following barriers to access, engagement and learning should be the primary barriers to be addressed through the OWLP scheme:

  • Limited provision of information about the landscape and its heritage;
  • Lack of coherent tourism promotion;
  • Lack of sufficient and varied tourism attractions & amenities in the area;
  • Limited public access points to the landscape.

* The workshops also highlighted some additional barriers, in particular:

  • Barriers for water recreation is limited throughout the area (e.g., access to water; slipways);
  • There are some linear walking and cycling routes, but people prefer and have a clear need for more circular routes close to their settlements;
  • Need for the creation of education packs for local schools about the heritage of the area, to be created in close co-operation with teachers.

A good number of ideas came forward how to address these barriers, with the creation of stronger links with education providers and local tourism business providers and local empowerment through skills training and other initiatives coming out clearly.

Leaving a sustainable legacy

The second workshop, where people provided ideas to ensure a sustainable legacy for the OWLP scheme also provided us ample food for thought. A good number of suggestions have been highlighted by people what the various organisations could bring to the partnership, helping the scheme to develop and work towards a sustainable legacy.

The central team and the OWLP partnership as a whole will take all ideas into account: there certainly is enough there for us to follow up on and to guide the further development of this exciting project through the next few years.

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Lively discussions during the workshops