Tales of Washes, Wildfowl and Water

Volunteers needed

One of the projects of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership is well underway and very keen to recruit more young volunteers to help make a short, animated film all about the creation of the Ouse Washes.

The details of who is eligible and how to get involved:Rosmini animation project A5flier jpeg

The film will be all about the archaeology, landscape heritage, natural heritage and the people who created the landscape and worked in the washes; it will lead those involved to explore the landscape heritage and how the Ouse Washes were created.

The Project

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The project is being run by the Fens Museum Partnership, in conjunction with a local volunteer community group linked to the Rosmini Centre in Wisbech. The volunteers involved in the project will shape the story and direction of the film, select the topics and then put the film together, thereby gaining a great sense of ownership over the project and final product.

Once the Ouse Washes Partnership scheme has completed its work, this film will continue to be used by various organisations, for example schools, youth clubs, libraries, local history groups and community groups, providing a concise story of the Ouse Washes to many more people and allowing them to learn about its heritage.

We will also promote the film at many of our partnership events, such as the Festival Fortnight during July 2015 and 2016, and other occasions when we showcase the Ouse Washes scheme to the public.

Previous films from the Fens Museum Partnership

To give you an idea of the wonderful films that are put together using this technique, follow this link to see some films that are part of a series of short, stop-frame animation Fenland Storiesfilms entitled Fenland Stories previously produced by The Fens Museum Partnership.

Once again, on this project, the film will be produced as a packaged DVD, allowing it to be widely distributed to the scheme partners, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other organisations. It will also be uploaded to the scheme’s website, social media and our YouTube channel.

How to Get Involved

If you are interested in getting involved in the project, please get in touch with Ruth Farnan at the Fens Museum Partnership directly on:

  • 07881 924374, or
  • ruth.farnan@Norfolk.gov.uk

Or you can contact the central team for the partnership using the details on our contact page.

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What is special about the OWLP area?

LogosThe OWLP landscape provides extensive wide views and contains huge skies, while being dominated by rivers, drains and ditches that cut across some of the most productive agricultural land in England. This landscape means different things to different people: some can find it featureless and intimidating whereas others find it exhilarating and value its tranquillity and distinctive lifestyles.

Now we have finalised the boundaries for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme and we have a defined area, the following question may need reconsidering: what is it that makes the OWLP area special?

In a previous post, I have set out what came out of workshops held regarding the unique qualities and ‘specialness’ and ‘distinctiveness’ of the OWLP area. As part of further discussions with our key partners, ongoing research and discussions with local community groups, we have been able to refine this information.

This then also fed into the Landscape Conservation Action Plan, a key document we recently submitted as part of our stage 2 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The below word cloud formed part of our ‘Statement of Significance’ and sums up what we believe makes the OWLP area special:

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Word cloud, summarising what makes the OWLP area special. Created using http://worditout.com

The OWLP landscape is of important for several reasons:

Internationally protected wildlife and wetlands

At 3,000 ha the Great Ouse Wetland network , which lies fully within the OWLP boundary, is one of the most extensive and most important wetland areas in the UK. It comprises of a network of nature reserves, many of which are owned by nature conservation bodies, including the WWT Welney, RSPB Ouse Washes nature, RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes and RSPB Ouse Fen reserves, with further schemes planned including those to be created by the Environment Agency near Sutton and Coveney. Within the heart of this landscape is the Ouse Washes itself, one of the most important areas of lowland wet grassland in Britain.

The expanding network of reserves form a crucial core area in the proposed Fen-wide ecological connectivity network of wetland habitats, crucial for the survival of many rare and endangered flora and fauna species. The restored wetland areas which incorporate a particular high percentage of lowland meadows and reedbeds provide for a tranquillity not easily found elsewhere.

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Fen Drayton Lakes. Image by Sheils Flynn for OWLP scheme.

Rich Archaeology

The OWLP area is of at least national significance for its repository of well-preserved, often waterlogged archaeological and palaeo-environmental remains. The OWLP area contains 18 Scheduled Ancient Monuments, including the well-preserved Earith Civil War Bulwark and several clusters of prehistoric barrows. The area contains especially rich prehistoric and Roman Period archaeology. The abundance of prehistoric remains in the southern part of the OWLP area demonstrate clear evidence for a major prehistoric ceremonial landscape, extending right across the floor of the Great Ouse valley.

Amazing engineering history

This man-made landscape lies largely below sea level demonstrating man’s amazing efforts in drainage engineering, executed here on a grand scale: with its abundant sluices, banks and dykes the whole landscape can be considered as a civil engineering monument. Human intervention regarding its management is as vital today as it was when, in the 17th century, the Ouse Washes in between the Bedford Rivers were created. The survival of the nationally significant Bedford Level Corporation archival collection, curated for by Cambridgeshire Archives, provides us with a unique insight in the historic developments of the drainage schemes in the area.

Unique Experiments

The landscape has also played host to some amazing social, economic and environmental experiments including the Flat Earth Society using the landscape to prove the earth is disc-shaped, the utopian social living experiment at Colony Farm in Manea in the mid-19th century, and the late 20th century hovertrain experimental track.

 

Related posts:

 

Summer events

Heritage Lottery FundIt is summer time, so many places in and around the Ouse Washes area have organised an events programme.

With the kids off school, a lot of venues are organising family friendly activities. Just a short selection of what’s going on:

Wildlife Reserves:

Museums:

New Fen book:

Cllr Mike Rouse will be in Burrows Bookshop, this Thursday, August 1st (11AM – 12:30 PM_ to sign his latest book, ‘The Ghosts of Fens End’.  See also this news article

Downham Market Water Festival: 11 August, http://www.downhamweb.co.uk/water-festival/

Hilgay Vintage Countryshow, 10-11 August: http://www.fensvintage.co.uk/shows/hilgay/Archaeology:

Archaeology:

An exciting tour is given this Wednesday (31 July; 7PM) at Earith Bulwark, the best preserved Civil War fort in the country. A unique change to see the earthworks up close (is on privately owned land, so access is not granted very often). See also Cambridgeshire County Council’s Archaeology Public Events Programme 2013

Events in the future

As part of our delivery phase (starting April 2014), we will have a dedicated Ouse Washes website. On this, we intend to have a comprehensive list of events in the area, providing people with a one-stop-shop to what’s on?

My question to you is: what kind of events are you after? Do let me know (click on the comments ‘balloon’ at the top, or send me an email). We will take your wishes on board when designing our website.

Barrows, Birds & Biodiversity: Exciting lecture in Earith – Tonight

Heritage Lottery FundTonight there will be a special lecture, jointly given by two well-known RSPB staff members, both working in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area:

Poster for RSPB Talk 16 April 2013

                      

RSPB TALK/ THE HANSON-RSPB WETLAND PROJECT STORY:

Barrows, Birds and Biodiversity – 3,000 BC to 2013

Chris Hudson, RSPB Project Manager and Robin Standring, RSPB Reserves Archaeology Officer

 Location: RECTOR’S HALL, Earith (Colne Road – next to Smartdrive)

 

Tuesday 16th April  – 7.30pm

Tickets £5 (Friends of Rector’s Hall £4.50) [to include a glass of wine]

Tickets available on the door.

For many years now, there has been a very fruitful cooperation between the RSPB, Hanson Aggregates and Cambridge Archaeological Unit; all three organisations are part of the Ouse Washes Partnership and play an active role in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, on the Board (RSPB), as deliverers of projects within the scheme (RSPB; Cambridge Archaeological Unit), or as part of our wider Partner Forum (Hanson Aggregates).

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Location map of quarried areas, with significant archaeological sites shown. Source: http://www.strideguides.com/unearthingthepast/web-content/map.html

As a result of extensive aggregate extraction, in advance of habitat restoration schemes in the area, numerous fascinating archaeological sites have been excavated. This research has revealed many sites from the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods, many of which are considered of national significance.

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Location of archaeological sites near Earith. Source: http://www.strideguides.com/unearthingthepast/web-content/delta.html

There is a whole range of information on the web relating to the archaeological finds from the different periods, all of which were done as a result of the RSPB – Hanson cooperation. look here for more information.

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Inhumation found in one of the Bronze Age barrows in the Over area. Source: http://www.strideguides.com/unearthingthepast/web-content/rites.html

Fenland History on Friday

Heritage Lottery FundThe well-known historian Mike Petty has organised a series of fascinating lectures for this winter period. The Fenland History on Friday Programme has become a well-established feature in the calendar year: the current series is already the 10th consecutive series of winter lectures.

Starting tomorrow and running until the end of March, each Friday a lecture will be given in Ely Library. Anyone with an interest in the Fens is more than welcome (£2,50 on the door). The time for each lecture is 10:30 – 12 noon.

Tomorrow’s (January 18) lecture will be given by Mike Petty himself and has the intriguing title ‘Fenland photographers: an illustrated presentation about the men and women who have photographed the fens since the 1850s’.

Future talks include such wide-ranging subjects as Thorney’s 17th century Huguenots who drained the Fens; archaeological excavations at Wisbech; and ‘views from above’, photographs from 19th and 20th century balloonists and aviators. Look at the Fenland History on Friday Programme for the full programme.

Mike Petty  is also closely involved in the Ouse Washes LPS project. He is a member of the Project Board, as President of the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History, and will also lead on the development of one of the projects, the intention of which is to create an interactive resource on Famous historic Figures of the Fens – more about this in due course.

Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership successful in first stage bid to HLF

Cambridgeshire ACRE has received an earmarked first-round pass of £995,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its Landscape Partnership (LP) programme for the Ouse Washes area, it was announced today. The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership aims to work with a wide range of partners to improve community interaction and participation to maintain the areas inherent beauty, natural and built heritage assets and international importance so that it is safeguarded for the future.

Development funding of £90,500 is included in this amount to help Cambridgeshire ACRE progress their plans to apply for the full grant at a later date.

The Landscape Partnership will undertake conservation work on the assets of the area; tell the story of the history of the landscape and how it has been managed; encourage local people to get involved in managing the area today; encourage visitors and local people to learn about and appreciate the landscape; and improve the skills of local people by providing volunteering opportunities and work placements.

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area stretches 48.5km between Fen Drayton Lakes and Downham Market. The main features include the Old and the New Bedford Rivers, and the area of wet grassland 20 miles (32 km) long between them. This washland is internationally important for the large populations of birds which feed on it in winter. The area includes the well-established Welney and Ouse Fen nature reserves, and newer reserves such as Fen Drayton Lakes. The rural communities within the area have a rich archaeological and industrial heritage. The history associated with the land drainage: riots, disputes, disasters and engineering successes are unique to this area.

Kirsten Bennett from Cambridgeshire ACRE said:

We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. The Ouse Washes may not be ‘pretty’ in a picture-postcard sense but they have a unique charm of their own. Their cultural and built heritage needs to be celebrated and understood, both by those who live and work here and those who come to visit the area. This funding will allow us to work with local people and organisations to make this happen. As the Rural Community Council for Cambridgeshire, we feel privileged to be leading the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership.

Explaining the importance of HLF’s support, Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said:

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership is designed to help protect and celebrate a wonderful and distinctive part of East Anglia. This landscape is very much shaped by water flow – sometimes not enough and at the moment a little too much! With the Heritage Lottery Fund’s initial support the scheme can start developing work to promote the area as a tourist destination whilst also encouraging local communities to learn more about its history and how best to conserve and manage it for the future.