Impressions of the Ouse Washes LP conference

 

logosWe had a fantastic day last week in the Corn Exchange in St Ives. This excellent venue was the scene for the first annual conference for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme. With a range of speakers, 112 attendees – representing over 64 organisations – and 20 exhibitors on the day we were off to a good start.

This conference, ‘Conservation, Farming, Flooding: our Natural Landscape?’ – the first in a series of three taking place annually – explored the natural landscape of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area. The conference aimed to provide attendees with an overview of future management challenges including issues around biodiversity value, wetland habitat creation, farming challenges, water management and flood relief.

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Full house in the St Ives Corn Exchange. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP

A range of speakers from several key organisations (Natural England; RSPB; National Farmers’ Union; Environment Agency; and a consultant botanist who has carried out work for the OWLP scheme) provided for a rounded view of the central theme of the day.

This was followed by lively discussions focusing on the question which priorities  Ouse Washes Partnership need to set for this important landscape to ensure a sustainable future for this landscape. By bringing together local people and a range of partner organisations with a range of land-use interests we have encouraged stimulating debate and helped promote a wider appreciation and understanding of the challenges of living and working in this ever-changing landscape.

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Impression of conference. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

We have had a lot of good feedback, with the vast majority of people I have spoken to or received feedback from finding the day very enjoyable, highly informative, great for networking opportunities and with lots of food for thought as a result of stimulating round table discussions. In addition, there were 20 informative exhibitions from a range of organisations involved or associated with the partnership, great food, and an excellent walk to the nearby Holt island Nature Reserve at the end of the day.

Below are some images of the conference. If anyone, whether you attended or not, has any further questions, do drop me a line. Later down the line there will also be a report summarising the discussions on the day, and a short film will also be produced by NorthLight Media who took photographs and videos throughout the day – watch this space for further updates.

The results of the conference will feed into the ongoing legacy planning work of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership, with the recommendations and ideas generated helping the partnership’s work tremendously. Thank you all for your input!

 

Related posts and pages:

 

 

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The Mayor of St Ives starting the day. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP

 

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John Heading, farmer and IDB Chair, and OWLP Board member, Chairing the day. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alastair Burn, Natural England, setting the scene for the day, talking about the wetland vision for the Fens. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP

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Jonathan Graham, Consultant Botanist, providing data of new research on the biodiversity value of the fenland ditches in the OWLP area. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP

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Jonathan Graham, explaining the biodiversity value of the Fen ditches in the OWLP area. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

 

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Chris Hudson, RSPB, giving an understanding of the Ouse Fen nature reserve developments. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP

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Rob Wise, National Farmers’ Union, giving an overview of the Fen farmers’ challenges and opportunities. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP

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Peter Doktor, Environment Agency, explaining the reasons for the new habitat creation schemes next to the Ouse Washes. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP

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Peter Doktor, Environment Agency. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Round table discussions. Image: Bill Blake Heritage Documentation.

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Round table discussions. Image: Bill Blake Heritage Documentation.

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Round table discussions. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP.

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Round table discussions. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP.

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Round table discussions. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP.

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Round table discussions. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP.

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Round table discussions. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP.

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Round table discussions. Image: NorthLight Media, for OWLP.

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ADeC’s display of the three newly created murals. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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ADeC’s display of the three newly created murals. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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RSPB and Jonathan Graham’s displays. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Various displays in Corn Exchange. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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ACE’s display. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Bill Blake’s display of KAP imagery. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Athene Communication’s display of the results of the ‘Opening up the Ouse Washes to All’ workshops.Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Barn Owl Conservation Network’s display. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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East Anglian Waterways Association’s display. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Green Light Trust’s display. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Fens Museum Partnership’s brand new animated film about the Ouse Washes. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Guided walk on nearby Holt Island Nature Reserve, led by Ian Jackson. image: @TheBrecksBNG

 

Conservation, Farming, Flooding: Our Natural Landscape?

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up the level from pymoor wide view Copyright Bill Blake Heritage Documentation

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Annual Conference

Wednesday 19 November 2014  – 9am – 2pm

Anyone interested in the Ouse Washes area is invited to attend the first-ever Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Conference which is taking place on Wednesday 19 November from 9am – 2pm at The Corn Exchange in St Ives, Cambridgeshire.

This conference – the first in a series of three, taking place annually – will explore the natural landscape of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area. The conference aims to provide attendees with an overview of future management challenges including issues around landscape-scale conservation, biodiversity value, agricultural importance and flood relief. A background to wetland creation schemes in the area will be given through presentations with discussion facilitated in small groups regarding the future importance of the natural landscape.

The Ouse Washes landscape area has a multitude of different uses. It has an important role in flood risk prevention; it is made up of high quality agricultural land; and its internationally-renowned nature reserves provide a vital home for wildlife. This conference will look at whether these competing uses can be reconciled and balanced whilst making the area a great place to live and work.

The Partnership aims to increase awareness of the significant natural heritage of the area. Bringing together local people and partner organisations with a range of land-use interests will promote a wider appreciation and understanding of the challenges of living and working in this ever-changing landscape.

Download the Invitation and Programme , or see depicted below: Invite p1 Invite p2 Agenda p3 Time has been allowed for opinions to be aired, giving all attendees a chance to contribute to the wider debate about the future of the Ouse Washes landscape. Change will continue to be a feature of this rapidly evolving landscape and the views and ideas generated by attendees will feed into the OWLP legacy planning work, with clear recommendations and actions coming from this conference.

St Ives Corn Exchange, the site for the first Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership’s conference. Image source: http://thecornexchange.org.uk/about-us/

To book a place, please visit: www.ousewashesconference2014.eventbrite.co.uk

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership’s central team looks forward to receiving your booking, and information if you want to book a display/ exhibit space.

A Walk On The Wash Side

We (Myself, Jono and Abby) took ourselves out for a few hours to see (and lunch at!) a major reserve, WWT Welney Reserve, that is within the OWLP area and on the Ouse Washes to experience part of what we are promoting…

We were not disappointed! We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It is a direct experience on the washes itself that is only possible during the summer because in the winter it is flooded and flocked with birds.

LogosWe hadn’t even got out of the car park – with its good samples of their wetland wilderness – before we coincidently bumped into and chatted to Carolyn Ash, who is one of the artists working on the Ouse Community Murals Project as part of the OWLP scheme, and Carolyn was also with a colleague from Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire which is a key partner in the Partnership. We were also lucky to see a beautiful example of Carolyn’s large damselfly mural. After crossing a sustainably-made bridge and pond, we entered the airy building that afforded fantastic views of the landscape beyond and met a few of the friendly WWT staff team.

Carolyn Ash is working on the Ouse Community Murals Project

Carolyn Ash is working on the Ouse Community Murals Project

As we crossed the large foot-bridge we saw the introductory interpretation for children. There were sizable hides – one barer and more serious and the other family-friendly and informative with fun displays and colourful artwork. The landscape was filled with bodies of water, wildflower and greenery, and featured various species of wading birds and cattle in the distance. The lake itself had interesting banks, and trees dotted the scenery, so the diversity on the land under the large Fenland sky is immense.

As the Welney website says: “Immerse yourself in pathways of wildflowers at the heart of the washes, leaving the stresses of daily life behind. We followed the “Summer walk” route.

As the Welney website says: “Immerse yourself in pathways of wildflowers at the heart of the washes, leaving the stresses of daily life behind.
We followed the “Summer walk” route. Source:  https://ousewasheslps.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/wwtwelneymap.pdf

 

You can download a pdf copy of the Welney map here: WWTWelneyMap

We ventured out on the tracks – the wilderness of medium to tall vegetation and trees surrounded us for the first part. We came across several features of interest – a few tiny, combat-like hides, a vegetation-rich dragonfly pond area (with a table and seating), a popular and well-equipped pond dipping platform, a bird-ringing net structure and sticks with woven ends holding useful information.

It was Charlock!

Wildflowers such as Charlock and Purple Loosestrife were spotted, and the verge was varied into patches of Nettles and Reed. The path soon became a grassy drove populated with Silverweed and an occasional Forget-Me-Not and continued. Great blocks of different species like Reeds dominated our scenery, which was peppered with other species like Water Mint and Meadow Sweet. Butterflies like Gatekeeper

Sunbathing on a leaf

Gatekeeper sunbathing on a leaf

and Red Admiral fluttered past and rested, a possible grass snake slithered past, evidence of mammal browsing persisted and a dragonfly couple mated as we walked and talked.

Love in the air!

Love in the air!

The Summer Walk we took wiggled onto dense, enclosing surroundings that consisted of Reeds, some Sedge and a patch of scrub where a bench is, and the immediate landscape variegated into tall vegetation, water and trees. We reached the loop at the end of the walk, saw the wilderness beyond and around then strolled back as we discussed our work and other things, we took the opportunity to sit in a hide and then on our return to the centre, browsed in the shop which held a wide range of wildlife-related merchandise.

We reluctantly left the centre glorying under a hot sun, having seen a handful of other visitors whilst we were there, and returned to the office more knowledgeable and enthused about our work.

Goodbye lovely wildflowers

Goodbye lovely wildflowers

Summer placement volunteer started!

LogosHello, I am Lizzie Bannister and I am a new volunteer working for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership on a summer placement, which is a great way to get back into the environmental sector and make use of what I learnt during my degrees in conservation studies. I enjoyed working hard on Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve and Hinchingbrooke Country Park in past summers so this office-based landscape project management work is a great progression for me.

I believe in working to promote and preserve our countryside for its many uses and as a valuable resource, so am interested in the many aspects like recreation, nature and agriculture associated with the landscape. Promoting the landscape, which I will also be doing on this placement, is important to me because through education and awareness-raising, principles can be properly upheld.

My background includes horses, farming and healthcare so I have understanding of different interests and needs involved. My research I did for my degrees also demonstrate the importance of natural cover and features that can moderate some climate change impacts on nature reserves and farmland, which also support other benefits like providing larger areas of vegetation for wildlife movement. I am thrilled to continue to work for a landscape that is local to me and with local communities, which will create a healthier place for its people and wildlife that can last into the future. I hope to gain work experience and to learn more, so I can continue to help improve and maintain places for us to live in and work with. I really appreciate the washes’ extensive grasslands with its opportunities and uses like flood storage and grazing, and interesting features that catch the eye and increase the value of land conservation.

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Cattle grazing along the Washes at Mepal – image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Flood water contained away from houses at Sutton Gault – image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE

Me and my Irish cob enjoy the farmland and its tracks, tree lines, copses, ditches and hedgerows where we see plenty of wildlife. One of our favourite rides is an old railway track that now serves as a byway lined by trees – see more about this in another blog! Travelling between towns and villages brings me to great views and features of the Fenland countryside and to appreciate its valuable food production role alongside the retained natural features that could be enhanced. I like to see and encourage use of these multifunctional lands and natural resourses by various people like cyclists, dog walkers and fishermen and many local businesses and activities that support the economy and society.

I actively work for the bigger picture of integrated, multi-beneficial and sustainable land uses that work with the wider landscape and enable wildlife to thrive and people to lead healthier lives, which I experience personally and understand academically.

Fen Drayton: an Oasis of Tranquility

Heritage Lottery FundAfter a meeting with the RSPB at their office in Swavesey late last week, I took the opportunity to explore the southern end of the Ouse Washes LPS area, in and around Fen Drayton lakes.

This is a surprising tranquil area. Besides the numerous birds singing, there really are hardly any background sounds – a very rare and beautiful tranquil place. Tranquility is what sets a great part of the Ouse Washes apart from other landscapes, and can certainly be experienced here.

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Fen Drayton lakes

The Fen Drayton lakes, and nearby Ouse Fen – the former quarries near Needingworth -, both located alongside the river Great Ouse, are managed as nature reserves by the RSPB. Together, they provide for a bewildering variety of lakes, river meadows and other wetland habitats, attracting in particular huge numbers of birds.The Fen Drayton and Ouse Fen nature reserves form key elements in the Great Ouse Wetland Vision, a strategic programme jointly managed by the RSPB, WWT and WTBCN.

Like those in the Ouse Washes washlands further north, the nature reserves here have man-made origins. This is another key feature of the whole of the Ouse Washes LPS: engineered or otherwise man-made structures having become a haven for wildlife.

There will be several projects as part of the delivery phase for the Ouse Washes LPS project which will join up with the strategic Great Ouse Wetland programme: helping with improvements to conservation works, interpretation and access facilities in and around the wetland sites. This will include training volunteers to deliver these projects. I will let you know more about these projects in due course.

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Guided Busway stop in the heart of Fen Drayton, with cycle parking facilities and information shelter

The great access facilities at Fen Drayton mean that this southern end of the Ouse Washes LPS area can function as a prime area for community engagement activities throughout the three years of the delivery phase. The Guided Busway, which runs through Fen Drayton, has a stop in the heart of the reserve, from which several long walks can be made to explore the varied landscape and its wildlife. And with the cycle route (part of Sustrans Route 51) parallel to the guided busroute, a day out here can even be entirely free for people living in Cambridge or St. Ives.

Check out the events programme at Fen Drayton here: amongst others, guided walks and activities for children are held here regularly

Development Phase has commenced

Following the successful stage 1 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the next important step for the Landscape Partnership Scheme has now started: the Development Phase.

Flooded A1101 Wash Road near Welney

Flooded A1101 Wash Road near Welney, taken last week

With development funding of £90,500 in place, Cambridgeshire ACRE will now lead on the preparation of the stage 2 bid, which is scheduled for late 2013. As part of this, the 26 proposed projects will be worked out in more detail, resulting in clear plans for landscape conservation, participation, learning and access opportunities. A detailed Landscape Conservation Action Plan will also be prepared. All of this will be done in close cooperation with a large number of partner organisations.

In order to coordinate the various workstreams, Cambridgeshire Acre has just appointed a Programme Manager. And that’s me; my name is Mark Nokkert. My aim is to regularly write posts on this blog to keep you up-to-date of progress, and to invite partners to contribute with posts to share their expertise and experiences.

As part of the Delivery Phase (2014-2016), a specific website will also be developed. Until then, this blog will be the main source of information. So, if you would like to be kept up-to-date and you have not already done so, please subscribe to this blog (press ‘Follow’ on the right). Please also forward this to anyone else who might be interested.

Ouse Washes LPS Programme Manager at Welney

Ouse Washes LPS Programme Manager at Welney

Why the Ouse Washes?

We are just starting to develop the first round Landscape Partnership (LP) application building on the excellent work done by partners to make the Expression of Interest successful. As the partnership evolves, over the next weeks, it is important to remember why this area of Fenland has been chosen to centre a LP on. There are many reasons, one being it has so much to offer, and much of this rich, internationally important heritage is currently unknown and unexplored. 

This is a partnership approach and we have been working to raising awareness and gain support amongst key partners such as local authorities, parish councils and community/voluntary groups in the surrounding market towns and villages. It is hoped that LP will support the community stewardship of local assets such as historic places of worship, nature reserves, water resources and footpaths. We would want to leave a legacy of community engagement, with key partners and communities working together to co-produce effective conservation management, green space access, climate change mitigation and flood resilience schemes. This will protect and enhance the enjoyment and understand of the Ouse Washes in the future.

We would really like to hear from you – particularly your innovative project ideas that fit the overall aims of this LP. The success of the programme will be based around a portfolio of smaller projects, which together will provide long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for this rural area.