Come and join in for mural project at Denver Sluice – free and fun

logosA new mural is being created at Denver Sluice Complex this week – come and join in. It is free for all to help out.

Come and tell us what you think we should include in the mural and then create your artwork with the help of ADeC and its appointed artist, Carolyn Ash. See the mural develop as people are working on it this week – what is your opinion of and relationship with your local  environment? What is special about the Denver Sluice and its surrounding countryside?

The end-result will be visible for all at Denver Sluice – so, come and make sure you can show off your part of the mural to your friends and family later down the line.

See below for the times this week you can come and join in: every day until Saturday this week:

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Details of workshop dates for mural creation at Denver Sluice. Source: @DarrenTrumperEA

 

ADeC has also go a great Facebook page specifically to inform you about the latest updates on the mural project – do have a look: https://twitter.com/ceramiclover/status/510105597476614145

The project has had quite a bit of media publicity already; see below for a selection of recent news articles:

 

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The finished mural for Mepal Outdoor Centre, the first of the three outdoor murals created a few weeks ago. This will be hung up on an appropriate wall soon for all to admire. Source: ADeC/ Christine Pike, for OWLP.

ADeC murals workshop poster

 

Related posts:

 

Fabulous Community Murals Project

Arts Development East Cambridgeshire (ADeC) are kicking off this exciting project on Bank Holiday Monday 25th August 2014.

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Professional mosaic artist, Carolyn Ash will be working with the community, their pottery/ crockery items, some ‘spare’ museum pieces, found materials and mosaic-ware to create some fabulous permanent murals at Mepal Outdoor Centre, Denver Sluice and WWT Welney.  Postcards, and mini postboxes, will be placed at these sites for ideas for the murals or just turn up on any of the workshop days – it’s all FREE!

ADeC murals workshop poster

Download the poster here

All workshops are from 10 am till 3.30pm – wear clothes you can create in!

Mepal Outdoor Centre (Chatteris Road, Mepal, Ely, CB6 2AZ)

BH Mon 25th – Fri 29th August & Monday 1st September

Denver Sluice (PE38 0EQ/ 9QP follow the signs)

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th September

Whilst at Denver Sluice you may also want to sample the food and drink available at the Jenyns Arms (do check opening times though) and also at the wonderful Denver windmill.  There is also a golf and a sailing/rowing club in the area, a smattering of walking routes and some nice interpretation panels dotted around.  It would make a great day out with lovely lunches and afternoon tea available at the Mill which is only a short walk from the Environment Agency Sluice complex.  Spending a little time at Denver really helps highlight the man-made nature of this landscape.

WWT Welney (Hundred Foot Bank, Welney, Nr. Wisbech, PE14 9TN)

Monday 13th October – Saturday 18th October

The café and interpretation areas at Welney are excellent, with a charge for visiting the reserve proper (over the arching bridge – link to earlier blog post) but lots to see and do in the centre and shop if you have time or come back another day!

These practical, hands-on workshops mark the start of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme’s projects and activities, with the murals made with local people forming a lasting record of this landscape steeped in history and brimming with biodiversity that brings us bang up-to-date!  The murals will be mounted permanently at their making sites with related activities taking place during Festival Fortnight (20 – 31st July 2015 and in 2016 too).  Look out for more information on our activities via this blog.

Murals workshops: contact Nathan.jones@adec.org.uk for further information

See also the mural project’s own Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OWLPCommuntiyMurals

Picture Perfect

LogosWishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Denver Sluice_Image by Paul Bunyard, @wildaboutimages

Denver Sluice_Image by Paul Bunyard, @wildaboutimages

Hundred Foot River_Norfolkwren

Hundred Foot. Images by @Norfolkwren

December Dawn at Ouse washes_RSPB The Fens

December Dawn at RSPB Ouse Washes. Image by @RSPBFens

Damselfly Sutton Gault_Rob Mills

Damselfly at Sutton Gault_Image by Rob Mills, @Skully_Bob

eals on Great Ouse_Paul Separovic

Seals on River Great Ouse_Image by Paul Separovic, @PaulSeparovicEA

Common Crane at RSPB Ouse Washes_Jason Ward

Common Crane at RSPB Ouse Washes_Image by Jason Ward, @Jayward7

Cattle on reserve_Jon Reeves

Cattle on RSPB Ouse Washes reserve_Image by Jon Reeves, @jonriverside

Barn Owl_Paul Bunyard

Barn Owl_Image by Paul Bunyard, @wildaboutimages

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Lock keeper cottage at Welches Dam. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE

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Earith Bulwark. Kite Aerial Photography image by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, All Rights Reserved

The Ouse Washes in flood   Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, All Rights Reserved

The Ouse Washes in flood. Kite Aerial Photography image by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, All Rights Reserved

Ely Dry – Essex Wet: the Great Ouse Cut Off Channel

LogosIf you are regularly driving down the A10 between Ely and King’s Lynn, you may well have noticed, between Hilgay and Denver, a large sign next to a stream notifying that you are crossing the Cut Off Channel.

Have you ever wondered, like me, what’s the story of this relatively wide piece of water? Well, search no more, because here we will be lifting some of the mysteries.

Sign along A10, just north of Hilgay, when crossing the cut-off channel. Source: Google maps.

Sign along A10, just north of Hilgay, when crossing the Cut Off Channel. Source: Google maps.

In fact, the below information has been kindly supplied by Chris Holley, a Stretham-based local historian, who for many years has been researching engineering and other fascinating features in the Fen landscape. A few years back he wrote a substantial report just about the Cut Off Channel, from which the below information has been obtained. He provided me with a copy earlier this year, which has helped me to understand the history and functions of this intriguing canal.

Aftermath of the 1947 floods

A detailed study of drainage problems and ongoing flooding incidents in the Fens was carried out after a series of bad floods in 1936, 1937 and again in 1939, the Sir Murdoch MacDonald Report on Flood Protection published in 1940. Investment in flood prevention was, however, delayed by the Second World War. Following the very bad floods of March 1947 the MacDonald report was reactivated.

Vermuyden’s unbuilt solution

Cornelius Vermuyden, portrait, photo credit Valence House Museum. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/sir-cornelius-vermuyden-15951677-133559

Cornelius Vermuyden, portrait, photo credit Valence House Museum. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/sir-cornelius-vermuyden-15951677-133559

Despite Vermuyden’s 17th century large-scale drainage works, the Fens failed to remain dry, with bad flooding episodes happening regularly. This was not Vermuyden’s fault, since one of his proposals had simply never been built.  His drainage map, published in 1642, clearly shows a planned catchwater channel to collect flood waters from three rivers to the east of the Fens (the then-called Mildenhall, Brandon and Stoke Rivers) and divert them via a relief channel to north of his planned Denver Sluice.

The 1940 MacDonald report recommended building just such a cut off channel, collecting water from the same three rivers, now named the Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey.

A map from Cornelius Vermuyden, from his 1642 'Discourse Touching the Drayning of the Great Fennes'; Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC. Source: http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_low001200301_01/_low001200301_01_0016.php

A map from Cornelius Vermuyden, from his 1642 ‘Discourse Touching the Drayning of the Great Fennes’; Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC. Source: http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_low001200301_01/_low001200301_01_0016.php. The red arrow indicated Vermuyden’s proposed ‘cut off channel’. Note that north is to the right on this map.

In addition, this report also recommended building a new Relief Channel to take their surplus flood water away from the Fens and up to Kings Lynn, as well as improving the existing Ten Mile and Ely Great Ouse rivers from Denver to south of Ely.  Work on all three flood defence elements started in 1954 and finished ten years later, in 1964.

The Cut Off Channel’s functions

In short, the Cut-off channel was built to serve two functions:

  1. To relieve the River Great Ouse from the threat of rising floodwater
  2. To deliver excess water to reservoirs in Essex
Taken together, the two different uses of the Cut Off Channel serve to both keep Ely dry in winter and keep Essex wet in summer. Water flows northwards to prevent flooding during winter times, and flows southwards in summer times to deliver water in Essex.
Some amazing engineering has gone into ensuring that both functions can be carried out. The channel runs across 35 miles of fenland from Downham Market to Mildenhall, with numerous sluices along the way. The southern part also goes largely underground before arriving in Essex.

Great Ouse Cut Off Channel: northwards flow for Ouse flood protection

Since it is estimated that 40% of flood waters in the Fens come from the three eastern rivers (the Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey), the importance of the cut off channel for flood prevention becomes clear.

map showing cut off channel

Map showing the Cut Off Channel, in relation to the Great Ouse and its tributaries, the Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey. Source: report Chris Holley, 2005.

When the Great Ouse Cut Off Channel is flowing northwards for Ouse Flood Protection, the water flows starts at the Lark Head Sluice on the River Lark at Barton Mills, when the sluice is opened.  There are four weirs to control the water levels during the considerable fall between the Lark at Barton Mills and the Little Ouse at Hockwold.

River Wissey

At Stoke Ferry, the River Wissey flows in an aqueduct over the Cut Off Channel. Image by Chris Holley.

The Cut Off Channel then flows northwards and intersects the River Little Ouse at the Hockwold Sluice at Hockwold, and then intersects the River Wissey at the Wissey Sluice at Stoke Ferry, and thence to Denver Sluice.

Cut off Channel seen from A10, flowing west towards the Denver Sluice. Photo by Chris Holley

Cut off Channel seen from A10, flowing west towards the Denver Sluice. Photo by Chris Holley

At each of these intersections, the Cut Off Channel goes underneath the Little Ouse and Wissey rivers in a siphon or U-tube, and can draw water from the two rivers when the appropriate sluice gates are opened and closed.

The Relief Channel starts at Denver and takes water from the Cut Off Channel through the Impounding Sluice, and/or from the Ely Ouse through the A G Wright Sluice, down to the Tail Sluice at Saddle Bow near Kings Lynn.  The Relief Channel acts as an
additional flood water storage reservoir, which can be evacuated out to sea at
low tide.

Cut Off Channel

Section of the OS map showing where the Cut Off Channel joins other waterways at the Denver Sluice complex. Source: report by Chris Holley.

Denver Complex 2

Close-up of Denver Sluice complex, showing the various waterways coming together at this important node. Source: report by Chris Holley.

Great Ouse Cut Off channel: southwards flow for Ouse-to-Essex water transfer

Essex regularly suffers from droughts in summer. In 1964 it was realised there was insufficient water to support expansion, development and growing consumer demand in south Essex.  In 1968 it was proposed to reverse the flow and use part of the Cut Off Channel to take surplus fresh water southwards from the Great Ouse at Denver Sluice and  deliver it down to existing reservoirs in Essex.

The Ely Ouse To Essex Water Transfer Scheme was completed in 1971, taking water down to Abberton Reservoir 87 miles south, and to Hanningfield Reservoir 90 miles south.  Although existing watercourses are utilised for about two-thirds of the distance, a new tunnel and new pipelines and storage tanks all had to be built.

When the flow of the Cut Off Channel is reversed southwards for Ouse To Essex Water Transfer, water is diverted through the Diversion Sluice at Denver and flows up the Cut Off Channel, through the siphon under the River Wissey at Stoke Ferry, to Blackdyke Intake at Feltwell, between Stoke Ferry and Hockwold.

Black Dyke intake

Representation showing the physical layout of the shaft at Blackdyke Intake, the tunnel, and the uptake shaft at Kennett Pumping Station. Source: report by Chris Holley.

Water is extracted from the Cut Off Channel at Blackdyke Intake, where it plunges 90 feet down a huge shaft into a long tunnel under the hills and under the A11 near Newmarket, to Kennett Pumping Station.  At Kennett, water is pumped 280 feet up to the surface again, then by pipeline under the hills by the A14 to Kirtling Green Outfall and Kirtling Brook, where it joins the River Stour to Wixoe Pumping Station near Haverhill. From Wixoe Pumping Station, water flows by various means to three Essex reservoirs.

Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about the history of and engineering works along the Cut Off Channel, Chris Holley has produced a richly illustrated and detailed 92-page report, titled ‘Ely Dry – Essex Wet: the Great Ouse Cut Off Channel’. You can contact him for more information, or to purchase a copy through chrishcs@btinternet.com

A synopsis of Chris’ report can also be downloaded here: Cut Off Channel Synopsis 2

Interpretation board at the Denver Sluice, explaining the origin and function of the Cut off channel

Interpretation board at the Denver Sluice, explaining the origin and function of the Cut off channel. Image by Chris Holley.

How it all works

Heritage Lottery FundMy name is Anna Growns and, like Peter Stroud (see here for his previous post) I am also working as a summer placement volunteer for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Scheme.  Now in my second week I think I can safely say that I am beginning to get a feel for it all!  The scheme brings together a wide variety of projects, and it is fascinating learning more about what makes the Ouse Washes such a unique landscape.  There is so much to find out, and I am becoming aware of how little I really know about the area where I live – my reading list grows by the day!

I am currently focusing on water management in the area, which is of particular interest to me as I am hoping to work towards a career in flood risk management.  On Monday I visited the Denver Sluice Complex.  The morning started with a talk given by Dan Pollard, who works for the Environment Agency, based at the Denver Sluice Complex.  His job involves monitoring river levels and adjusting the sluices accordingly.  I also met John Martin, a local farmer who owns land immediately adjacent to the Ouse Washes.  He was involved in both the 1987 refurbishment of the Denver Sluice, and the Welmore Lake Sluice (which is now also known as the John Martin Sluice).

It was interesting to hear about the potential conflicts between those who use the area; farmers, conservationists, anglers and boaters, amongst others.  I will discuss these issues in more detail at a later date, but for now all I’ll add is that there is no perfect solution to managing the area, but perhaps by working together to understand the problems, a fairer outcome could be achieved.

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Dan Pollard (Environment Agency) explaining the complexity of managing the Denver Sluice Complex and its many waterways.

Anyway, I mustn’t get side-tracked – back to Denver Sluices!  Denver Sluice is just one of several in the area that make up the Denver Sluice Complex.  They play a vital role in controlling river levels, and are successful in stopping the low-lying fenland from flooding.  I suppose before discussing the sluices it makes sense to begin with a wider look at the function of the Ouse Washes.  The diagram below shows the area from Earith in the south to Downham Market in the north.  The Ouse Washes lie between the New Bedford River to the east, and the Old Bedford/River Delph to the west.  As previously mentioned in this post, these channels were created as part of Vermuyden’s scheme to drain the fens.

Ouse Washes overview

Ouse Washes overview: geography and names of main channels. Source: http://www.ousewashes.info/maps/washes-lrg.jpg

The first channel, the Old Bedford River, was cut in 1630, and the second, the New Bedford River or Hundred Foot Drain, was constructed 20 years later.  As can be seen from the diagram, this considerably shortens the route that water takes from Earith to Downham Market on its journey to the sea (where previously the water would have followed the course of the Great Ouse River to the east), thereby diverting water from the surrounding fenland and discharging it more quickly.

The purpose of having two parallel channels was to create a huge flood storage area, i.e. the Ouse Washes, which protects the surrounding land from flooding.  To put it very simply, when there is too much water in the River Great Ouse the water is allowed to flow onto the washes, normally through the Earith Sluice and the Old Bedford River, and stored there until it can be discharged.  The following diagram explains in more detail how this works (see also this previous post):

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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.

Next time I will look in more detail at particular aspects of how this system works.  More information on water management in the Ouse Washes can be found at the following useful websites: ousewashes.org and ousewashes.info