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

Capture

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

Radio interview about the Ouse Washes scheme

Getting the word out

On Sunday 5th May, Mark Nokkert – Programme Manager of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme – was invited to join Bill Hensley on his County Matters Logosprogramme on Huntingdon Community Radio to be interviewed about the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme.

It was a very full interview which covered a lot of ground, and it included information which is interesting both for those who are familiar with the scheme, and for those who are finding out about it for the first time.

Covering all aspects of the scheme it gives an in-depth feel for what the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership could achieve for the area, from the skills and training 337-LA-10 - Parish Boundariesundertaken and the legacy this will leave, to the bringing together of partnerships of parishes, districts and counties. From the emphasis on community involvement to the over-arching aim of “putting the area on the map”, it tells what the project is about, where it is and what it will do.

 

Radio StarProgramme Manager Ouse Washes LPS

You can hear the interview in its entirety at the link below; it’s about 35 minutes long, so maybe get a cup of tea ready before you start!

As a result of technical restrictions we are not able to upload the interview to this blog for you to download, however if you would like a copy of the file please get in touch and we will happily provide one.

Ouse Washes LP scheme Launched

LogosApril 2014 has finally arrived and the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme has now officially been launched!

Tuesday night, representatives of the 26 key Partner organisations within the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership  came together for a celebratory event. This was held appropriately along the Ouse Washes itself at the base of the banks along the Old Bedford River. Under a beautiful and warm sky, partners shared experiences and further confirmed their excitement and willingness to cooperate to make the OWLP scheme a great success for the area and its local communities.

 

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Representatives from the key partners coming together near the Old Bedford.

 

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Projects will start very soon

Over the next few months, a whole range of projects will start delivering. Almost all of our 25 projects will already start in the next six months. To give you a flavour of what to expect this spring and summer from the Partnership:

  • Work will start on replacing and enhancing the signage and interpretation at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes – Our ‘Giving Nature a Home at Fen Drayton Lakes’ project, led by the RSPB.
  • Two community archaeological digs will be coordinated this summer near Earith – Our ‘Digging Environment and Ouse Washes Community Archaeology’ project, led by Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
  • Outdoor murals will be created at Mepal Outdoor Centre, WWT Welney reserve and the Denver Sluice Complex – our ‘Ouse Community Heritage’ project, led by ADeC.
  • Work will start on new interpretation, a new wildlife film and changes to the Pond Room at WWT Welney Reserve – our ‘Great Ouse Wetland Engagement’ project, led by the WWT.
  • A Pond dipping platform will be installed at Manea Pit – Our Manea Community Conservation project, led by Manea Parish Council.
  • A Biodiversity survey will be carried out in the arable regions to the East of the Ouse Washes – Our ‘Ditch Management to the East of the Ouse Washes’ project, led by Cambridgeshire ACRE in close cooperation with the Fenland Ditch Group.
  • We will launch our ‘Community Heritage Fund’ scheme – this will provide community groups with the opportunity to apply for grants between £500 and £2,000 to carry out additional projects in local communities.
  • A community group will create an animated film about the creation of the Ouse Washes and its natural history – Our project ‘Tales of Washes, Wildfowl and Water’, led by Fens Museum Partnership.
  • Our ‘Community Warden Scheme’ will start providing accredited training for young people and adults in wetland management – to be delivered by Green Light Trust, in cooperation with other organisations including NACRO and MIND.
  • Volunteer will be trained up to undertake recording of migrant work experiences and research into historic migration – Our project ‘Migrant Links’, led by Rosmini Centre.
  • Our ‘Fen Folk, Legends and Heroes’ project aims to work with all parishes in the area to encourage local communities to research stories of the local people who have shaped the area’s development in fact and fiction – led by Cambridgeshire Association for Local History, together with Mike Petty
  • Our ‘Hidden Story Trails: Virtual Geocaching Trails’ project will also bring together local communities in order to encourage further physical and intellectual access to the Ouse washes LP area – led by Cambridgeshire County Council.

Some more information about these and the partnership’s other projects can be found in our OWLP synopsis document, downloadable from our Resources pages

How to get involved

As you can see from the above, selective, list of projects there will be something for everyone. For a large number of the above projects, we hope that local people will get involved to deliver the scheme, in the process learning more about the unique Ouse Washes heritage and obtaining new skills in the process.

We will keep you up-to-date of what’s going on and how you can get involved through this blog, our website (due to appear in July), our Twitter pages and through news articles in the local and regional media and in parish magazines. Hope to see you soon.

 

Related posts:

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:

 

More Funding opportunities

Heritage Lottery FundCommunity puzzleAs discussed in a previous post, there are multiple opportunities for local community groups to obtain grants for heritage-related projects.

As part of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership we are keen to promote such opportunities, to empower local communities and to assure a sustainable legacy for the area.

Recently a very useful document has been produced by ‘the East of England Funders’, a group of 24 funding organisations. The resulting brochure highlights the latest information for funding opportunities in the East of England region; this is collated in a handy pdf which can be downloaded here:

EofE – funder list – web

 

Now is actually a good time to apply to get your ideas funded; an extract from the brochure which was launched at a conference held a few weeks ago makes this clear:

The purpose of this short publication is to confirm that despite the current economic

downturn we are still open for business and that funding is available for organisations

and projects that make a real difference to our communities and the lives of local

people. In fact many funders have actually increased the amount of money that they

have available in recognition of the tough times that the sector is facing

Ouse Washes Roads Flooded once more

Heritage Lottery FundJust this morning, the Welney Causeway was shut down for the third time this winter – this may well be an all-time record. As road closures due to flooding of the Ouse Washes affect local communities directly, I thought to get this message out quickly.

This winter has seen a particular high number of days in which the roads crossing the Ouse Washes have been closed off due to flooding. See my previous post on an earlier road closure this winter which turned out to be the second longest in history.

untitledWhen the Ouse Washes are flooded above a certain level, the road crossings at Welney and Earith will have to be shut down. The Welney Causeway was shut this morning, following a ‘severe’ flood warning. The Earith crossing currently has a ‘medium’ flood warning; according to the latest news from the Environment Agency the Earith causeway is still open. Check here for the latest updates.

To the right is an image of the current situation at Welney, as of 5:30 this morning. See here for more information, or see here for similar images for up-to-date information on other river level measuring points further south along the Ouse Washes (at Welches Dam and Sutton Ghault).

So, why do we get flooding in the Ouse Washes? The main reason is that – in times of high rainfall further inland – the water in the Great Ouse river rises. Once it reaches a certain level at Earith, water is automatically diverted and allowed to flow into the Old Bedford river, Vermuyden’s early seventeenth century masterpiece. From here, the washes in between the Old and New Bedford rivers are flooded. This prevents flooding of towns and huge stretches of agricultural land elsewhere.

More about how all of this works and the decision-making processes behind all of this in due course. For now, click on the below Environment Agency map to get a first idea of how the whole Ouse Washes water flow system works – it is rather complicated but also quite ingenious:

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Schematic layout of the Ouse Washes flood system. It also shows the relatively few crossings over the washes. Source: Environment Agency and http://www.ousewashes.info. Click on the map to enlarge.

Barriers to Access?

Heritage Lottery FundLast week, a colleague of mine was at a well-attended evening meeting organised by Cambridgeshire County Council concerning the future of parish paths. This was also attended by representatives from several Parish and District Councils as well as the Local Access Forum; the latter is the County Council’s Statutory Advisory body on countryside access issues.

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Walkers at Fen Drayton nature reserve. Image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE

My colleague had brought along a nice display explaining what the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme tries to achieve – this attracted a good deal of attention. As a result, she managed to talk to a lot of people about how they use the Ouse Washes area and what they would like to see changed.

Some interesting points came out of these conversations which I thought would be useful to share with you:

  • Rights of Way and public access to the countryside is clearly something people care deeply about.
  • People felt that maintenance of existing pathways should be a priority over the creation of new ones.
  • Promotion of the existing footpaths and bridle ways could be improved.
  • A surprising number of people mentioned that they find the area too linear/straight and generally ‘boring’; several people also thought that the area is only interesting if you are a birdwatcher. I did not expect that from this group which consisted of a large number of active walkers. Also, this seems to contradict what came out of the word association exercise reported on before.
  • Many people seemed, nevertheless, to be interested in the area’s history; they do want to get a better understanding of how the Ouse Washes area has been shaped and how it functions.
  • There also seems to be a need for more information about the reasons why the Ouse Washes are flooded regularly.

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme might well be perfectly placed to address several of the above points:

  1. As part of the delivery phase, we will set up a project through which we intend to help create active volunteer groups – these could then, for instance, help in the maintenance of local path networks.
  2. The website which we will create as part of the project’s delivery phase will bring together all information about circular and long-distance walks, cycle routes, horse riding trails and waterway links, and will also promote their use. I aim to start this process through this blog throughout 2013.
  3. High on our agenda is to educate people about their own environment, creating a better understanding of the landscape, its history and heritage assets. Providing an understanding of what the area has to offer, what is special about it and how it all functions will be at the core of what we will be doing over the next four years.
  4. Providing an understanding of the reasons for the frequent flooding is also one of the subjects that we want to explore throughout the Landscape Partnership scheme. There are multiple interlinked reasons behind this, which I will explore through this blog in due course.

The above is also encapsulated in two of our strategic objectives (see for the full aims and objectives our Resources Page):

• To make available, through varying multimedia, a range of information sources, that tell the story of the landscape past and present and open up new dialogue that inform debates about changing and adapting management processes in the future.

• To improve access to and to encourage people to visit, respect and appreciate the Ouse Washes nature reserves and historically important sites through enhancing interpretation and facilities.

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Sign with walking routes at the RSPB’s Ouse Fen nature reserve. Image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE

At the heart of the scheme is a wish to leave a sustainable legacy for the Ouse Washes landscape – getting the local people’s input into this will be crucial to the scheme’s success. The discussions and comments captured at last week’s meeting have already given us a good flavour of the stimulating discussions we hope we can encourage.

As part of the research we are carrying out during the development phase, we will conduct extensive community consultations in the local villages and surrounding market towns. Through this, we hope to capture what people know about the landscape, how they use and value it, and what people perceive as barriers to engagement with the Ouse Washes landscape. These community consultations are likely to happen in and around May this year – more about this in due course.

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Sign at Fen Drayton lakes nature reserve. Image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE