What do the Ouse Washes, the East Cambridgeshire landscape and Bradley Wiggins have in common? The last one probably gave it away: the relative flatness of the East Cambs landscape makes this – at least in theory – ideal cycling countryside. Since last year’s Tour and Olympic Games and certainly with the weather turning for the better recently, more and more people have been getting out on their bikes.
Ely Cycling Campaign
Ely Cycling Campaign logo. A partner in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership
Ely Cycling Campaign is one of the organisations active in our wider partner forum. Despite its name, it focuses on campaigning for better cycling facilities not just for Ely but also for most of East Cambridgeshire district. As such, this also includes a significant part of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership landscape area.
Before I go on, I’d better first declare an interest here. Born in The Netherlands, I could probably cycle before I could run; Living in Ely, I thus also naturally joined the Ely Cycling Campaign as a member when some people set up this organisation over a year ago.
Strategy & Cycling Network
OK, got that out of the way. So, what does the Ely Cycling Campaign have to do with the Ouse Washes? Well, the organisation has recently published an ingenious and well-thought out strategy setting out a vision for East Cambridgeshire for cycling as a safe, enjoyable, and practical way of travelling; this strategy does explain, for instance, the types of cycle infrastructure needed for the area to help encourage more people and a wider range of people to take up cycling.
The full Cycling Strategy can be downloaded here: Ely-Cycling-Strategy-v1-Feb-2013
The Ely Cycling Campaign’s Strategy also includes an interactive map showing the ideal future cycle network. In reality, many of the lines drawn on this cycle network are currently still unsafe or even a dream. But already it has won over councillors and other people with an interest in planning: the cycle network may well guide future planning of road changes in and around Ely.
Ely Cycling Strategy’s proposed cycle network for the East Cambridgeshire District. Use the link above for the interactive version.
Cycle Links with the Ouse Washes area
One of the many crucial links the Ely Cycling Campaign is campaigning for is the creation of a safe, direct, connected and segregated route between Ely and Mepal. As it happens, most of this route is already as a separate path next to the A142. There are, however, a couple of dilapidated stretches and some dangerous points along the route and – crucially – a small section is missing between Wentworth bus stop and Witcham Toll. Furthermore, there are some issues in particular with the crossings with major roads at various locations, such as those shown in the below pictures:
Cycle links within the Ouse Washes area
As you can see in the above cycle network, the Ely Cycling Campaign is also campaigning for an improved off-road cycle route between Mepal and Bates’ Drove at the border with Norfolk further north, along the Ouse Washes itself, thus also linking up with the Welney Wetland Centre. This is already a bridleway at the moment, but could be improved to make it better for cycling, to ensure that more people can enjoy the countryside in a sustainable way.
National Cycle route links
- Part of National Cycle Network Route 11 –
between Ely and Downham Market, via Welney Wetland Centre. Source: www.cyclestreets.net
The national cycle routes 11 and 51 do also cross through the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area. See also this previous post for part of the 51 route through Fen Drayton lakes.
Otherwise, there are surprisingly few cycle routes within the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area as a whole.
A characteristic feature of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area is that there are relatively few access points and limited public access opportunities. This has also previously been discussed in this post, and is being investigated and addressed through our Audience and Access planning work.
Part of National Cycle Network Route 51 -between Cambridge and St Ives, via the Guided Busway. Source: www.cyclestreets.net
Nevertheless, there are some good national resources where you can find other cycle routes for the area:
Coveney habitat creation scheme: new opportunities for public access
Only a couple of weeks ago, the Environment Agency put in a planning application for the first stage of the Coveney habitat creation scheme; the plans are now out for consultation and can be found here:
http://pa.eastcambs.gov.uk/online-applications [Then type in ‘Coveney’ in the search box and it will come on at the top of the list].
An Environment Agency leaflet also gives some information about this pic.twitter.com/aY8Bbflv94.
The scheme will see the creation of c180 hectares of new wetland, generated from former farmland.
The main aim is to address the ecological deterioration of the nearby Ouse Washes with the impact of that deterioration on the breeding waders and wintering wigeon. The Coveney scheme will provide wet grassland habitat to offset the deterioration of the Ouse Washes, thereby helping the Government’s legal obligation to address this issue. See some more on the issue of the Ouse Washes’ deterioration in this previous post.
New Green Space provision for growing population
With East Cambridgeshire having one of the fastest growing population nationally, and 2,500 new houses planned for Ely alone, there clearly is a need for further Green Space provision for local people. The new habitat creation scheme at Coveney does provide one, easily accessible area which – with the Ely Cycling Network outlined above – can also be reached by non-motorised transport means.
I will keep you informed of further developments in the area.