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

Have a meander along your river

Do you live in or near Welney, Denver, March or Ely? They have something in common… Can you guess what they all have? Rivers! They all have their own character and issues. Would you like to enjoy and learn about your local Fenland rivers?

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This is a chance to enjoy a lovely, informative and sociable walk along some of our local rivers whilst discussing and gaining an understanding of issues and impacts upon these and other Fenland rivers and on the Ouse Washes. It will be a laid-back endeavour with stops to view the scenery and features, or to chat and take photographs.

The Ouse Washes

The Ouse Washes. Image by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, all rights reserved.

A partnership (The Water Care Partnership) is working to investigate and work towards solutions for the problems these rivers face and which have been pointed out by the Environment Agency. This is where you and your ideas and involvement comes in! It is important to consider local communities’ perspectives and skills in the care and management of these valuable natural resources.

Everyone and anyone are welcome on these ‘Riverside Walks and Talks’ however the walks may not be suitable for some people like wheelchair users. Light refreshments will be provided and you can find out how to get involved with protecting your local environment.

There are four walks around the area, all of which will be approximately 2 miles and may take up to 2.5 hours.

Welney – Sunday 14th September 10am

“A catchment based approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment”

River at Welney

River Delph at Welney

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – Welney

Ely – Sunday 14th September 2pm

“Our part in the bigger picture”

River at Ely

River Great Ouse at Ely

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – Ely

Denver – Saturday 20th September 10am

“A catchment based approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment”

River at Denver

The Tidal River and New Bedford River at Denver

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – Denver

March – Saturday 20th September 2pm

“A catchment based approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment”

River at March

River Nene at March

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – March

Bookings are now being taken for the Riverside Walk and Talk events hosted by Cambridgeshire ACRE for the Water Care Partnership. Places are limited and so to book your place(s), please visit: www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/walkandtalk. For more information on the work of the Water Care Partnership please visit www.watercarepartnership.wordpress.com. If you have any questions regarding any of the walks, please contact Jennie Thomas (Jennifer.thomas@cambsacre.org.uk or 01353 865044).

Grants available for Community Projects: now open for applications

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Today we are launching our Community Heritage Fund, our small grants scheme!

 

Grants available for Community Projects

Have you got an idea for a small community heritage project in your local area?  Grants of between £500 and £2,000 are now available to help people look after, learn about, extend the understanding of and to celebrate the unique landscape and hidden heritage of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) area.

 

Who can apply?

Anyone living inside or outside the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area is eligible to apply, coming from organisations, groups in the voluntary and community sectors or individuals and local companies.

What can we finance?

Projects should have clear public benefits, support the OWLP scheme’s objectives, and provide some input into the partnership’s main events, the Ouse Washes Festival Fortnights planned for July 2015 & 2016.

Project ideas could, for instance, include the creation of a new circular walk/ village information panel, bringing an area’s heritage to life via an oral history project or walks-and-talks, heritage skills training or passing on land-based management skills to others, or perhaps a one-day community event focusing on the culture or natural heritage of your local area.

Many other activities could also certainly qualify for a grant; the above is just indicative of the kind of projects we think people might be interested in carrying out.

 

Do you have a project idea? Why not come and talk to us:

As part of the launch of our Community Heritage Fund scheme we will be touring the area: the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership team will be visiting four characterful pubs spanning the area to discuss your project ideas.

Please come and see us and enjoy a complimentary snack or two!

  •  Lamb & Flag, Welney – Monday 30th June 5.30 – 7. 30 pm
  •  Jenyns Arms, Denver Sluice – Tuesday 1st July 7 – 9 pm
  •  Three Pickerels, Mepal – Wed 2nd July 5.30 – 7.30 pm
  •  Old Ferryboat Inn, Holywell – Thursday 3rd July 5.30 – 7.30 pm

Please find our leaflet here, for the four above events: Community Heritage Fund A5 poster (PDF, 0.5MB) – please hang this up for people to see or pass on to others if you could as well; thanks.

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How to apply

The first two application rounds have deadlines of 20 August & 30 November 2014. Application forms and grant guidance can be found here (and also in our Resources):

 

We encourage you to contact us if you would like some feedback on your initial ideas; we are there to advise you on your project ideas and to guide you through the application process.

We are looking forward to your project ideas; hope to see you in the pub for one of our pub info sessions!

 

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.

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:

A4_Boundary

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

337-LA-10 - Parish Boundaries

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.

337-LA-001 - Location Map

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:

 

The John Martin Sluice at Welmore Lake

Heritage Lottery FundEarlier in the summer I visited the John Martin Sluice at Welmore Lake.  It is located at the point where the River Delph joins the New Bedford River, and can be accessed via a bridleway from Salters Lode.  This is the most northerly part of the Ouse Washes flood storage area (see here for a simple description of how the Ouse Washes work).  The location of the John Martin Sluice in relation to the Denver Sluice Complex can be seen in the diagram below (bottom left hand corner).

The Denver Sluices (Source – Environment Agency)

P1000559

Welmore Lake Pumping Station, opened 2010

The John Martin Sluice serves two purposes.  As levels rise in the Old Bedford/River Delph, water flows onto the Ouse Washes. This water spreads northwards across the washes, and is held back by the sluice. Water is discharged by gravity through the sluice when levels in the Old Bedford/Delph are higher than in the New Bedford River. In spring, gravity drainage is sometimes not sufficient to attain the desired water level on the Ouse Washes. When this happens the electrically powered pumping station is put into operation to pump the remaining surplus downstream of the sluice. The second role of the sluice is to stop tidal surges from the Tidal River entering the washes. This saline water would have an adverse environmental impact.

The current sluice, completed in 1999, was named after John Martin, a local landowner who over the years has made a large contribution to water management in the area.  It has three sets of gates and has a 50% greater discharge capacity than the previous 1933 sluice.

The John Martin Sluice at Welmore Lake

The John Martin Sluice at Welmore Lake

The old sluice was located 70 metres upstream of the outfall into the tidal river, which led to silt building up in front of the gates and stopping them from opening. To reduce the build-up of silt the current sluice is positioned closer to the tidal river and is also fitted with silt jetting equipment. However, in spite of these measures, frequency, duration and depth of flooding in the Ouse Washes is increasing, causing problems for both people and the environment, such as flooding of the A1101 at Welney and shortage of breeding grounds for wading birds.

There are multiple reasons for this increase in flooding.  One factor is the large amount of silt in the tidal river, which creates higher riverbed levels, resulting in higher water levels.  This reduces gravity drainage from the Ouse Washes, thereby causing water to drain more slowly than it did in the past.

Twice a day silt is carried in on the tide from The Wash. The outgoing tide travels more slowly than the incoming tide, and this causes silt to be deposited on the bed of the Tidal River. Good freshwater flows are needed to flush the silt out but, particularly during periods of winter drought, the silt accumulates.

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

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

The Environment Agency is responsible for managing this issue, but it is far from easy. Dredging to remove the silt is one option. In 2007 the Environment Agency employed consultants who found that 185,000 cubic metres of silt would need to be removed over a distance of 10km downstream of Welmore Lake. This is equivalent to the volume of ten football pitches filled to a depth greater than the height of the goalposts. Not only is this costly (estimated to be in the region of £4-5 million), but it is also not a long-term solution as silt can very quickly accumulate. It was found that in the same stretch of river between April and August 2007, 100,000 cubic metres of silt settled. There is also the problem of disposal of the dredged material, as well as significant environmental impacts.  (It is thought that the disturbance of aquatic ecosystems through dredging affects biodiversity and could reduce fish numbers.)

After several years of low river flows and increased silt build-up, last year’s high rainfall provided a well-needed flush of the system.  Bed levels of the Tidal River around Denver have now returned to circa the 2002 figures. In the future, rising sea levels caused by climate change are likely to have an increasing impact on how quickly water can drain off the washes, and so the problem of flooding is likely to increase.

Whilst the John Martin Sluice in itself works effectively, it can be seen that there are wider issues that reduce the rate at which the Ouse Washes can drain. This is an on-going problem for which there is no simple solution.

We would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the management of this complex system.