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

 

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New job with RSPB for Ouse Washes LP scheme – now open

logosFollowing from previous staffing posts created for the WWT, Green Light Trust and for the Rosmini Centre, a fourth position with the OWLP key partners is now made available through the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme – with the RSPB, who is looking for a Community Engagement Officer.

This is an exciting opportunity to work closely with local farmers and conservation organisations, to help promote and enhance wildlife friendly farming in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

This position will be crucial to the delivery of the RSPB project within the OWLP scheme called ‘Wildlife Friendly Farming & Community Engagement’; the main aim, of this project is to bring wildlife-friendly farmers together in the vicinity of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area, to deliver an integrated community engagement programme designed to promote awareness of, learning about and on-going access to the area’s unique farm wildlife and archaeological heritage.

 

The post, which went live on Monday, is described as such:

We are looking for an enthusiastic and engaging person to grow our farm wildlife conservation efforts in the Cambridgeshire Fens, by increasing awareness, understanding and support for nature-friendly farming in the local community.

The RSPB has been successful in securing Heritage Lottery funding as part of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership, to help local people reconnect with a rich natural and cultural farmland heritage.

You will work closely with local nature-friendly farmers to design and deliver a programme of events, talks and wildlife ID training for local residents, schools and farmers.

By encouraging people of all ages to engage with their landscape through farm walks and activities, you will build support for nature-friendly farming and local producers, and enable farmers to tell the story of their work and the benefits for wildlife, ensuring continued support in the future,

An excellent communicator, you will have demonstrable experience of organising public events, as well as in-depth knowledge of farm wildlife and the challenges it faces.

With an office base at Welches Dam, Manea, you will be expected to undertake regular travel in the local area and elsewhere within the Fens.

 

The closing date for applications is 20 October 2014.

For the full job details and finding out how to apply, go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/vacancies/details/383486-community-engagement-officer

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Families on a bug hunt on a wildlife-friendly farm. Image: copyright Niki Williamson / RSPB.

 

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.

Starting my volunteer summer placement…

logosHello, I am Emily Stacey and I have just begun a Volunteer Summer Placement with Cambridgeshire ACRE working on both The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership and The Water Care Partnership. Having always lived in a rural area I have a great passion for our local countryside and am strongly supportive of the conservation of its unique wildlife and habitats. This summer I graduated from the University of Reading with a degree in Physical Geography. I now dream of a career in environmental management where I can play an active role in promoting the importance of the environment as well as work closely with communities.

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The Old Bedford River at the RSPB Ouse Washes reserve. Images by Sheils Flynn for OWLP.

Alongside my position at Cambridgeshire ACRE I work for the National Trust at Wimpole Hall Estate where conservation of the property, land and the ‘Spirit of Wimpole’ is a key priority. With significant background in public interaction I believe this placement is a great opportunity for me to gain the relative experience I need to build my CV, and utilise the knowledge I have gained throughout my study.

My time at Reading…

At University I was able to shape my study to attain fundamental knowledge to support my interests in conservation, biodiversity and sustainable practices. I extremely enjoyed the practical side of my course including the opportunities to visit diverse areas of the UK including the Lake District and Pembrokeshire where sustainable land use was a key focus. Travelling to the Akamas Natura 2000 Conservation Area of Cyprus was a highlight and I was able to explore the vast landscape and learn about the continuing conflicts in land development experienced between developing interests of the local people and conservation interests of environmentalists.

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Cattle grazing causing bank erosion along the Ely Ouse.

My participation in such trips has not only allowed me to develop skills in data collection and surveys but also enabled me to experience the expansive habitats that our planet has to offer. Furthermore having worked closely with agricultural students on joint modules and through the University of Reading Agricultural Society my interest for sustainable land management and farming practices has grown.

My personal research project…

Like projects within both partnerships my final year dissertation took on aspects of land management. Through assessment of phosphate and nitrate concentrations along a stretch of the River Cam I developed an understanding of the effect of sewage discharge and agricultural input on the water quality.

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Typical Fen IDB Drainage Ditch

Primary data illustrated significant variation in river concentrations with changing land use. I found sewage effluents to have a particularly noticeable influence on phosphate loads which is a key issue that has arisen in the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment covered by The Water Care Partnership. Furthermore through communication with Cambridge Water I was able to obtain groundwater nutrient concentrations from which I concluded elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater to reflect the occurrence of landfill sites, both Historic and Authorised.

My study also investigated aspects of biodiversity. By method of percentage cover I aimed to understand the effect of water quality on the species present. With my previous study and experience relating to aims and interests of The Water Care Partnership I recognise this placement to be hugely valuable for my progression and interests.

My first few weeks here…

Within the few weeks of my placement I have already had the opportunity to attend meetings at the Brampton Environment Agency Office where I have developed deeper understanding of the projects underway and the issues the organisation is up against. Furthermore I now fully understand the importance of the creation of partnerships in enabling smooth interaction and clear communication between groups as well as in making full use of valuable local knowledge.

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Summer Walk at WWT Welney Reserve

Although enjoying the office based tasks I have undertaken I am excited for the chance to venture out of the office and to assist in the organised walks, aimed at educating people on the issues arising within the Ouse Washes. With the Fenland landscape very different from my local area in Hertfordshire I want to get involved in the local community of the OWLP area and enjoy the wide range of habitats and wildlife, identifying the native species as well as fenland non-native species that I have already learnt to be a current issue. I believe this placement is going to be a valuable experience and a great learning curve. I look forward to meeting more of the partners involved in the partnerships and the opportunity to play a practical role in the progression of current projects.

My future aims…

Having thoroughly enjoyed my degree course I aim for a career where I can use the knowledge and skills I have attained. Along the way I developed a deep interest in the environmental impacts of land use and measures taken to tackle these whilst ensuring benefit to all stakeholders. In turn conservation and land management is the route I want to follow.

Interaction with people is of huge importance to me and is a strong personal skill of mine. Therefore I would love my future career to feature great involvement with communities as well as work within a close-knit team.

Open Farm Sunday 8th June 2014

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A timely piece from the National Farmers Union (NFU) about school children wanting to visit farms leads us nicely into Open Farm Sundays (8th June 2014) in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area and the wider Fens: 


Open Farm Sunday Park Farm, Thorney

 

Check out Hainey Farm, Barway –http://bit.ly/1pI5XAb; Cornerways Lane, Wissington – http://bit.ly/1rOhM9N; Redmoor Fruit Farm, Wisbech –  http://bit.ly/UeLbLH; Manea School of Gardening, Manea – http://bit.ly/1i618sO; Park Farm, Thorney – http://bit.ly/1jV0bmJ 

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ENJOY!

New LEADER programme for Cambridgeshire Fens – come and have your say

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Those who live and work in the Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER area will have the strongest knowledge of challenges that need to be addressed in the local rural economy.

As such, Cambridgeshire ACRE is keen to involve local people, organisations and businesses in planning the Local Development Strategy for the 2014 – 2020 LEADER programme.

New Picture (17) We want people who might benefit from this funding to join us to explore the opportunity further and to contribute ideas to shape our bid, so that it reflects what the local rural economy really needs. To this end we are holding three workshops in June:

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Project part-funded by the Fens Adventurers LEADER programme

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Project part-funded by the Fens Adventurers LEADER programme

For those involved in farming, micro enterprise or small business:
Tuesday 3 June 2014, 3.30pm – 6.00pm
Lakeside Lodge, Fen Road, Pidley, Huntingdon, PE28 3DF

For those involved in tourism, cultural and heritage activities:
Tuesday 10 June 2014, 5.30pm – 8.00pm
Oliver Cromwell Hotel, High Street, March, PE15 9LH

For those involved in rural services and village renewal:
Tuesday 17 June 2014, 3.30pm – 6.00pm
E-Space North, 181 Wisbech Road, Littleport, CB6 1RA

To book a place at one or more of these workshops download the full Invitation below and follow the link to the booking form:

Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER Invitation

Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER Workshop Programme

 

To find out more about the previous, very successful Fens Adventurers LEADER programme, see: http://www.cambsacre.org.uk/fensadventurers/. A total of 66, all very different projects were part-financed with LEADER funding in the previous period which ended in December 2013 ; see http://www.cambsacre.org.uk/fensadventurers/projects.php for some case studies.

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Ouse Flooding: then and now

LogosComing back from a meeting in Peterborough earlier this week I crossed the Ouse Washes by rail, one of my favourite train journeys through the Fens.

Railway Bridge alongside Wash Road near Welney Reserve

Railway Bridge across the Ouse Washes. Source: http://keeppushingthosepedals.blogspot.co.uk/2010_11_01_archive.html

Best view over the Ouse Washes

By the way, the railway bridge over the Ouse Washes is quite an engineering feat in itself, spanning the Ouse Washes across one of the widest parts of the washes.

The bridge, rail line and surrounds have also been very creatively captured from the air by Bill Blake, one of the OWLP’s key partners. See for instance this image (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bblakecambridge/4101910909/in/set-72157622615800075/), or see more images within Bill Blake’s Flickr Ouse Washes photo stream.

The rail line between Ely and Peterborough opened in the late 1840s. For further historic information and some good historic images of the rail crossing, see Eddy Edwards’ research page on the Ouse Washes’ crossings, at http://www.ousewashes.info/crossings/bridges-and-causeways.htm.

By all means, also look at Eddy’s excellent slide show of the historic and modern elements of the Ouse Washes’ rail crossing: http://www.ousewashes.info/slideshows/railway.htm

Flood waters in Ouse Washes are receding

Back to the title of this blog post: as local people will certainly be aware of by now, the water within the Ouse Washes has been receding lately and the causeways at Welney and Sutton Gault are now open again.

This part of the UK has been lucky – although here we have received well-above average rainfall since Christmas, it has not been as bad as in the south-west. Also, the Ouse Washes, although not far off its maximum capacity, have proven to still function as intended over 350 years ago.

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Of course, there is no reason to be complacent, as some, localised flooding has indeed occurred along the Great Ouse further upstream and it would certainly have been a lot worse had we received the same amount of water as the southwest.

Despite the fact that the water on the Ouse Washes are receding, there nevertheless still is a fair amount of water on the washes, as these pictures I took from the train make clear.

Flooding now: multiple arguments

With all the discussions lately about the causes of flooding in the nation and how to prevent this in the future, a fair number of arguments have been thrown around over the last few weeks. I am not going into all of these now, but would like to highlight a few articles which show some of the arguments made:

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Proposed natural flood prevention measures. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25929644

Flooding then: same arguments?

Some people have been quick to blame others for the flooding, as we have seen over the last few weeks. Of course, there is no one single answer to these problems.

Looking at some historic flooding events in the Fens, most particularly the various flooding episodes in the Fens in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, similar arguments seem to have been used.

Below are two extracts from newspaper articles published around the time of the disastrous 1937 floods in the area: the arguments made are not much different from those made by some in the current flooding crisis (with special thanks to Mike Petty for providing me with these archival transcriptions):

Cambridge News, 23 March 1937:

The present flood conditions in the fens were raised in the House of Commons. A titanic struggle was going on between man and relentless nature. Children had been unable to go to school for months, housewives were marooned and unable to provide themselves with the necessities of life, crops had been destroyed bringing ruin to farmers and unemployment to farm workers. Half a million acres of the richest soil in the country were in daily peril during the winter. Much of the flooding had been caused to Government cuts in grants for land drainage, Arthur Greenwood declared

Cambridge News, 14 July 1937:

During recent floods the water in the Hundred Foot Washes had been held up causing great hardship to occupiers. Yet their drainage charges have greatly increased. The water is let into the Wash area through the Seven Holes Sluice at Earith. But Welmore Lake Sluice which had only been built about five years is unable to cope. The Hundred Foot should be dredged: at Littleport it was only 30 feet wide. Alternatively the water should be let through the Hermitage Sluice into the OldWestRiver and then out at Denver Sluice. But the washes were there for the express purpose of taking flood waters and grazing land was hired under those conditions. The problem is that rivers in the uplands have been cleared meaning water arrives in about a day, whereas it used to take a week.

How can you join the debate?

As part of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, we are keen to get people together so that more people will understand better what the causes are behind the problems such as flooding episodes, and to find solutions to these where possible.

To start with, why not let us know what you think about the different arguments made above? Click on the ‘balloon’ to leave a comment; thank you.

Related posts: