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.

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Trot on back to the Past this Weekend!

Heritage and Horses blog... Family shop to five minute of fame

Heritage and Horses blog… Family shop to five minute of fame – Sourced from Deborah Curtis of the Field Theatre Group

Littleport’s famous ironmongery shop – J H Adams – that had been unchanged since and restored to its 19th century state as a Heritage Lottery funded project is opening its doors again on Saturday 23 August from 10 am till 4pm.

The real Adams family is a welcoming bunch!

The real Adams family is a welcoming bunch! Sourced from J H Adams Heritage Centre

This Family Adams Project is a time capsule that documents the fascinating paraphernalia of the local shop and lives in Littleport and the Fens by displaying the items that were for sale to the shop ledgers used as well as the photographs and objects of the related past – including that of the horse, which played an important role back then. The J H Adams Heritage Centre of Main Street will be holding a second-hand book fair to raise its funds. Come and support it by having a browse through the fine selection of good quality books while enjoying teas and coffees with them! While there, you can see the paraphernalia, photographs and information of these beasts that tolled on the land and streets for man throughout the Fenland during the centuries. The shop was transformed into an old saddler’s shop that bustled with actors and a film crew back in April to create a community film about them.

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Film crew happily involved with the Horseman's Word

Film crew happily involved with the Horseman’s Word – sourced from Deborah Curtis of The Field Theatre Group

The Horseman’s Word is another recently finished but still continuing Heritage Lottery-Funded project ran by the Field Theatre Group, a community learning, inclusive and engagement organisation based in Littleport that combine performing arts with Fenland heritage and culture.

Under ADeC and in partnership with the Wisbech, Fenland and Ely museums, the Field Theatre Group got together film makers, researchers and experts to work on a good outcome of increased interest in the true stories about heavy horses from a previous Common Ground project that gathered and taught expression of local stories in sessions and workshops. People were invited to talk to horse experts and give in historical materials like memories and photographs in workshops. A travelling museum exhibition, an on-line archive, a history field day with a local primary school, a documentary DVD and drama workshops has been coming out of it all.

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire had aired an interview about this fascinating project on June 3rd last year, and the BBC took further interest in the heritage of the heavy horses lately. BBC Look East aired their filming of the Field Theatre Group’s filming on location for a production that includes/on heavy horses on the 6pm show on Tuesday 5th August this year, and the director, Deborah Curtis was interviewed by Kevin Burke about their activity and great work. The project has grew successfully from a previous one into its glamorous conclusions of being on BBC television air time, other location shoots like near Colchester earlier this month and promoting the learning, talents and skills of the local stars from Littleport.

The BBC film crew working with the heavy horses

The BBC film crew working with the heavy horses – sourced by Deborah Curtis of The Field Theatre Group

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World War I activities and events in Littleport

This autumn looks set to be a busy one in Littleport. The Field Theatre Group has joined forces with many other groups, organisations and individuals throughout the town to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

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These events have truly been a community-wide effort. Festival partners include: Littleport Parish Council, Littleport Primary School, Littleport WI, The Village Hall committee, The Grange Care Home, Littleport Lyrics, Littleport Rotary, Littleport British Legion, The Field Theatre Group and St George’s Church. With such a wide range of organisations on board, we can all look forward to a season of moving and memorable events this centenary autumn.

WWI soldier Littleport sign

Look out for our free programmes. These will be appearing in September, in the Barn, the Library, the new Adams Heritage Centre, and many other places throughout the town. Pick up a copy and see for yourself what is on offer.

There is still time to enter the Littleport Festival Fourteen poetry completion (new closing date 4 September) : Perspectives. Entry is free, and open to all who live, work or study in the East Cambs region, regardless of age, ability or background. Those not qualifying are still invited to contribute to our new anthology. We are inviting submissions of poems or prose, or letters which reflect on the First World War from the perspective of 100 years in time.

There are 2 categories, Under 16 & adult. The competition winners will receive a commemorative medal and a cash prize at our gala prize night on 15 November . All entries will be published in a new anthology also entitled Perspectives. Shortlisted entrants will receive a complimentary copy of the anthology. Join with us in creating a tribute in verse to those who sacrificed so much for us.

New poetry comp flier WWI littleport

We have been grateful to have had many offers of funds and support for these events. We are, however, still seeking donations provide further funds for some events.  If you would like to make a contribution, or volunteer your help in any way, we would love to hear from you!

We are looking for volunteers for help with displays, front-of-house, refreshments, transport and tasks of every kind. With your support we can make this once-in-a-hundred-year chance to commemorate the sacrifice of our forefathers, a very special time.  A proportion of Festival proceeds will be donated to the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes.

For full details of this and The Field Theatre Group’s other projects please visit our website or our Facebook pages: Field Theatre Group or Littleport WW1.

Deborah Curtis & Jennifer Stevens, The Field Theatre Group.

www.fieldtheatregroup.btck.co.uk; thefieldtheatregroup@hotmail.co.uk

Tel 01353 863595/862042

Fenland History on Friday Lectures programme 2014

Logos A new series of Fenland History on Friday lectures has recently started again!

Below is an overview of the remaining lectures which are planned over the next months.

Each lecture will take place in Ely Library on Friday morning, 10.30 to noon, £2.50 on the door. All are welcome.

  •  Jan 31        Hugo Brown – Spalding: the man who made directories
  •  Feb 7          David Jones – Hideous Cambridge: a city mutilated
  •  Feb 14        Jacqui Huggins – Life and times of a fen girl: songs of the strawberry fields and more
  •  Feb 21        Shirley Brown – Trumpington: researching and illustrating a village’s development
  •  Feb 28        Mike Petty – Fenland books, paper and digital: what’s been written, where are they
  •  Mar 7          Lorna Delanoy – Changes in a fen village over the last century
  •  Mar 14        Roger Mould – Warboys and fenland archaeology: a community project
  •  Mar 21        Mike Petty – From Littleport to the sea: reflections on the river
  •  Mar 28        Ken Rolfe – Geology and landscape of Cambridgeshire: an introduction
  •  Apr 4          TBC
  •  Apr 11        TBC
  •  Apr 18        no meeting
  •  Apr 25        Jonathan Spain – The Haslingfield shrine
  •  May 2         TBC
  •  May 9         Gordon Philips – Enid Porter and Cambridgeshire folklore: a project

The full programme, with contact details for Mike Petty, the organiser of these lectures, can be downloaded here (Word, .2 MB) : Fenland History on Friday 2014 spring programme revised

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Pope’s Corner, at junction of the Old West and the Cam, c1880. Reproduced with kind permission from Mike Petty.

What is special about the OWLP area?

LogosThe OWLP landscape provides extensive wide views and contains huge skies, while being dominated by rivers, drains and ditches that cut across some of the most productive agricultural land in England. This landscape means different things to different people: some can find it featureless and intimidating whereas others find it exhilarating and value its tranquillity and distinctive lifestyles.

Now we have finalised the boundaries for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme and we have a defined area, the following question may need reconsidering: what is it that makes the OWLP area special?

In a previous post, I have set out what came out of workshops held regarding the unique qualities and ‘specialness’ and ‘distinctiveness’ of the OWLP area. As part of further discussions with our key partners, ongoing research and discussions with local community groups, we have been able to refine this information.

This then also fed into the Landscape Conservation Action Plan, a key document we recently submitted as part of our stage 2 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The below word cloud formed part of our ‘Statement of Significance’ and sums up what we believe makes the OWLP area special:

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Word cloud, summarising what makes the OWLP area special. Created using http://worditout.com

The OWLP landscape is of important for several reasons:

Internationally protected wildlife and wetlands

At 3,000 ha the Great Ouse Wetland network , which lies fully within the OWLP boundary, is one of the most extensive and most important wetland areas in the UK. It comprises of a network of nature reserves, many of which are owned by nature conservation bodies, including the WWT Welney, RSPB Ouse Washes nature, RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes and RSPB Ouse Fen reserves, with further schemes planned including those to be created by the Environment Agency near Sutton and Coveney. Within the heart of this landscape is the Ouse Washes itself, one of the most important areas of lowland wet grassland in Britain.

The expanding network of reserves form a crucial core area in the proposed Fen-wide ecological connectivity network of wetland habitats, crucial for the survival of many rare and endangered flora and fauna species. The restored wetland areas which incorporate a particular high percentage of lowland meadows and reedbeds provide for a tranquillity not easily found elsewhere.

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Fen Drayton Lakes. Image by Sheils Flynn for OWLP scheme.

Rich Archaeology

The OWLP area is of at least national significance for its repository of well-preserved, often waterlogged archaeological and palaeo-environmental remains. The OWLP area contains 18 Scheduled Ancient Monuments, including the well-preserved Earith Civil War Bulwark and several clusters of prehistoric barrows. The area contains especially rich prehistoric and Roman Period archaeology. The abundance of prehistoric remains in the southern part of the OWLP area demonstrate clear evidence for a major prehistoric ceremonial landscape, extending right across the floor of the Great Ouse valley.

Amazing engineering history

This man-made landscape lies largely below sea level demonstrating man’s amazing efforts in drainage engineering, executed here on a grand scale: with its abundant sluices, banks and dykes the whole landscape can be considered as a civil engineering monument. Human intervention regarding its management is as vital today as it was when, in the 17th century, the Ouse Washes in between the Bedford Rivers were created. The survival of the nationally significant Bedford Level Corporation archival collection, curated for by Cambridgeshire Archives, provides us with a unique insight in the historic developments of the drainage schemes in the area.

Unique Experiments

The landscape has also played host to some amazing social, economic and environmental experiments including the Flat Earth Society using the landscape to prove the earth is disc-shaped, the utopian social living experiment at Colony Farm in Manea in the mid-19th century, and the late 20th century hovertrain experimental track.

 

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Upcoming events in and around the OWLP area

LogosThere are several interesting events in and around the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme area which I thought people might be interested in hearing about:

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WWT Welney’s swan feeds. Source: http://www.caravanclub.co.uk/

WWT Welney: Not only are the ever popular winter swan feeds back on the menu (see here for the scheduling of the regular, daily feeding sessions) , this Saturday and Sunday (16 & 17 November) will also see a special event, the ‘Festival of Swans’, with wildlife photography courses, storytelling, face painting, ‘guides in the hides’, nature detective walks and much more – see here for the full programme.

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Famous Fenland site Flag Fen. Source: http://pryorfrancis.wordpress.com

At the Brook in Soham the famous archaeologist Francis Pryor will give a talk this Friday evening, 15 November (18:30 – 21:00), about the ‘Mysteries of the Fens’. See here for further details. Francis writes:

The Fens are seen as a once-wet wilderness where the people have webbed feet and yellow faces, living in mud cottages and living off eels. In short, the reputation of the Fens is grim and bleak. The reality was altogether very different. In the Middle Ages the area was prosperous, largely due to the wool and textile trade, which is why it still boasts some of the finest churches in the land. The Fens have also produced vast quantities of Bronze Age metalwork, and the huge hoard of Iron Age gold from Snettisham is unrivalled anywhere in Europe

Mike Petty alerted me to the new series of Fenland History on Friday lectures, held in Ely Library from 10.30 to noon  every Friday throughout this winter; £2,50 on the door:

  • November 15: David Rooney, Henry Morris and the fight for the countryman’s college. The fascinating account of one man’s struggle for education for all, and the betrayal of his ideal.
  • November 22: David Edwards, Something about Gravestones. Some gravestone mainly in the March/Chatteris area which are either interesting in themselves, or the manner of the deaths of their occupiers, or their lives, from a boxing champion to a Major General.
  • November 29: Philip Saunders, Fen Drainage archives – documenting fenland’s past. A unique insight into the original sources for fen drainage available in Cambridgeshire’s Archives.
  • December 06: David Barrowclough Ely: the hidden history – the latest archaeological discoveries.
  • December 13: David Taylor, The Lancaster Bomber and Witchford Airfield – the new book.

For more details, contact Mike Petty – 01353 648106 or mikepetty13a@gmail.com

Also this Friday 15 November, a Lecture organised by the Ely branch of the local Wildlife Trust BCN, Fenland: That sinking feeling, by coastal ecologist Dr Pat Doody. 7:45pm – 9:30pm at Ely Museum. For further details, see here.

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On-going exhibitions about ‘Fenland, Lives & Land’ can be seen in the area’s many museums. For more information about the five travelling exhibitions, see here. See also this previous post.

What is in a name? – The Ouses of Britain

Heritage Lottery FundIf you thought that there was only one River Ouse in the UK you are going to need to read this article as I think you may be surprised to learn of all the different ‘Ouses’ around. To understand the reason why there are so many rivers called Ouse, it is the name that gives it away: the name Ouse is thought to have Celtic origins, meaning ‘water’; therefore when saying the River Ouse or the Great River Ouse you are actually saying the ‘river water’ or ‘great water river’.

There are 5 ‘Ouses’ around the UK, from high up in Orkney to the Ouse River down in Sussex; from north to south, these are:

  • The Ouse Orkney
  • The Yorkshire Ouse
  • The Great Ouse
  • The Little Ouse
  • The Sussex Ouse

The Sussex Ouse itself is 42 miles long, but with all its tributaries runs over 140 miles long. Although the Sussex Ouse is not one of the longest rivers, it is the only Ouse River to flow into the English Channel, through Newhaven. The River Ouse in the 18th century was navigable up to its tidal reach at Lewes, but at the end of the 18th century the UK economy was booming and the river was extended to Balcombe. Compared to other rivers and canals that were extended in the north or the midlands, the River Ouse does not flow through a large urban town as it was a rural canal, extended to reach  the clay land of The Weald to transport lime, chalk and manure along the River Ouse.

The Yorkshire Ouse is 52 miles long and flows between the River Ure and ends in the Humber. It flows through the city of York down to the Humber and is tidal between Naburn village and Goole. Some boats such as canal boats are unable to cope with the tidal changes because of their small engines. The Ouse River, when combined with the Ure River, is the 6th longest river in the UK.

The Ouse on Orkney Source  ;http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/492043

The Ouse on Orkney Source ;http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/492043

The Orkney Ouse is a tidal estuary which is at the mouth of a small river and an upland spring next to the village of Finstown. This is the smallest Ouse in the UK and is not a river, and is affected by tidal changes along the coast and enters into the North Sea. It is the most northerly Ouse in Britain.

The Little Ouse is a tributary to the Great Ouse River. The Little River Ouse is 37 miles long and it flows along the border between Suffolk and Norfolk and travels passed Blo’Norton which owes its name to the area, as the Fenland area around the village is called the Blo’Norton Fens. Just north of Littleport the Little Ouse River joins the River Great Ouse.

The River Great Ouse is the river which flows through the Ouse Washes and it is the 4th longest river in the UK with an overall length of 143 miles (only the Severn, Thames and Trent are longer). The source of the River Great Ouse is all the way in Wappenham in Northamptonshire and the mouth of the Great Ouse is in King’s Lynn where it flows into the Wash.

An interesting fact about the Great River Ouse is that in 1944 [during World War 2] the famous Oxford and Cambridge boat race was staged on the river between Littleport and Ely. This is the only time that the race was not held on the river Thames and the winner that Year was Oxford University. (To see Photos of the race in 1944 visit http://www.ely-news.co.uk/Nostalgia/SLIDESHOW-Do-you-remember-when-the-1944-University-boat-race-came-to-Ely-20130509094855.htm)`

The Ouse Washes are vitally important as, with all the water coming from the Midlands entering the Fens at Earith, the areas it cuts through are susceptible to flooding. The Ouse Washes stores water in times of high rainfall and releases it at a slower rate, thereby preventing the River Ouse from overflowing. See here for an overview of how the Ouse washes work and how they prevent vast amounts of land and settlements from flooding.

Watch this video to see how the Ouse Washes links in with the Great Ouse river (Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3cvCWnZMGQ):

 

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