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

 

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.

Tales of Washes, Wildfowl and Water

Volunteers needed

One of the projects of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership is well underway and very keen to recruit more young volunteers to help make a short, animated film all about the creation of the Ouse Washes.

The details of who is eligible and how to get involved:Rosmini animation project A5flier jpeg

The film will be all about the archaeology, landscape heritage, natural heritage and the people who created the landscape and worked in the washes; it will lead those involved to explore the landscape heritage and how the Ouse Washes were created.

The Project

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The project is being run by the Fens Museum Partnership, in conjunction with a local volunteer community group linked to the Rosmini Centre in Wisbech. The volunteers involved in the project will shape the story and direction of the film, select the topics and then put the film together, thereby gaining a great sense of ownership over the project and final product.

Once the Ouse Washes Partnership scheme has completed its work, this film will continue to be used by various organisations, for example schools, youth clubs, libraries, local history groups and community groups, providing a concise story of the Ouse Washes to many more people and allowing them to learn about its heritage.

We will also promote the film at many of our partnership events, such as the Festival Fortnight during July 2015 and 2016, and other occasions when we showcase the Ouse Washes scheme to the public.

Previous films from the Fens Museum Partnership

To give you an idea of the wonderful films that are put together using this technique, follow this link to see some films that are part of a series of short, stop-frame animation Fenland Storiesfilms entitled Fenland Stories previously produced by The Fens Museum Partnership.

Once again, on this project, the film will be produced as a packaged DVD, allowing it to be widely distributed to the scheme partners, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other organisations. It will also be uploaded to the scheme’s website, social media and our YouTube channel.

How to Get Involved

If you are interested in getting involved in the project, please get in touch with Ruth Farnan at the Fens Museum Partnership directly on:

  • 07881 924374, or
  • ruth.farnan@Norfolk.gov.uk

Or you can contact the central team for the partnership using the details on our contact page.

Get into Mosaic-making this Bank Holiday Monday!

logosThe Ouse Washes Community Murals Project starts at Mepal on Bank Holiday Monday! Mepal is the first of the three places in our special, but little-known, area of East Anglia which stretches from Downham Market to St Ives that will have outdoor murals made by you and others in the communities from across the landscape! For free! You can freely come to these crafty workshops whenever and for however long you want all the week until end of Friday 29th August, and the workshop is held for one more day on the following Monday the 1st September. Anyone can have a go regardless of age and ability at creating these wonderful outdoors art features.

Carolyn Ash and a great outdoor murals - sourced from Ely Standard 24 - http://www.elystandard.co.uk/what-s-on/arts/learn_how_to_put_together_a_mosaic_at_unique_workshop_1_3734029?usurv=skip

Carolyn Ash and a great outdoor murals – sourced from Ely Standard 24

Denver and Welney are the other two places and workshops will be held at these places for their murals later in September then October. It was all made possible by a Heritage Lottery Grant successfully applied to by ADeC under the Ouse Washes: The Heart of the Fens Landscape Partnership Scheme. The murals were commissioned to become a permanent and pretty landscape feature the local people can be proud of because of their involvement in the workshops of the project. The scheme was set up to raise awareness and encourage greater local engagement with the landscape of the Ouse Washes to celebrate and highlight it and its value. Your ideas are also needed – we will give you postcards at the three locations where you can write down what makes the landscape special to you for the designs.

Carolyn Ash with a fabulous example - sourced by Jono Jarvis

Carolyn Ash with a fabulous example – sourced by Jono Jarvis

It will be led by talented artist Carolyn Ash, who will guide you through all aspects of this popular activity – it is the fun, creative and original thing to do for the whole family and to do with friends! As promoted in the Ely Standard24, on the Thursday and Friday between 10am-3.30pm, Carolyn will transform the resulting mosaic into a large outdoor mural.

Related posts

A Walk On The Wash Side

We (Myself, Jono and Abby) took ourselves out for a few hours to see (and lunch at!) a major reserve, WWT Welney Reserve, that is within the OWLP area and on the Ouse Washes to experience part of what we are promoting…

We were not disappointed! We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It is a direct experience on the washes itself that is only possible during the summer because in the winter it is flooded and flocked with birds.

LogosWe hadn’t even got out of the car park – with its good samples of their wetland wilderness – before we coincidently bumped into and chatted to Carolyn Ash, who is one of the artists working on the Ouse Community Murals Project as part of the OWLP scheme, and Carolyn was also with a colleague from Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire which is a key partner in the Partnership. We were also lucky to see a beautiful example of Carolyn’s large damselfly mural. After crossing a sustainably-made bridge and pond, we entered the airy building that afforded fantastic views of the landscape beyond and met a few of the friendly WWT staff team.

Carolyn Ash is working on the Ouse Community Murals Project

Carolyn Ash is working on the Ouse Community Murals Project

As we crossed the large foot-bridge we saw the introductory interpretation for children. There were sizable hides – one barer and more serious and the other family-friendly and informative with fun displays and colourful artwork. The landscape was filled with bodies of water, wildflower and greenery, and featured various species of wading birds and cattle in the distance. The lake itself had interesting banks, and trees dotted the scenery, so the diversity on the land under the large Fenland sky is immense.

As the Welney website says: “Immerse yourself in pathways of wildflowers at the heart of the washes, leaving the stresses of daily life behind. We followed the “Summer walk” route.

As the Welney website says: “Immerse yourself in pathways of wildflowers at the heart of the washes, leaving the stresses of daily life behind.
We followed the “Summer walk” route. Source:  https://ousewasheslps.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/wwtwelneymap.pdf

 

You can download a pdf copy of the Welney map here: WWTWelneyMap

We ventured out on the tracks – the wilderness of medium to tall vegetation and trees surrounded us for the first part. We came across several features of interest – a few tiny, combat-like hides, a vegetation-rich dragonfly pond area (with a table and seating), a popular and well-equipped pond dipping platform, a bird-ringing net structure and sticks with woven ends holding useful information.

It was Charlock!

Wildflowers such as Charlock and Purple Loosestrife were spotted, and the verge was varied into patches of Nettles and Reed. The path soon became a grassy drove populated with Silverweed and an occasional Forget-Me-Not and continued. Great blocks of different species like Reeds dominated our scenery, which was peppered with other species like Water Mint and Meadow Sweet. Butterflies like Gatekeeper

Sunbathing on a leaf

Gatekeeper sunbathing on a leaf

and Red Admiral fluttered past and rested, a possible grass snake slithered past, evidence of mammal browsing persisted and a dragonfly couple mated as we walked and talked.

Love in the air!

Love in the air!

The Summer Walk we took wiggled onto dense, enclosing surroundings that consisted of Reeds, some Sedge and a patch of scrub where a bench is, and the immediate landscape variegated into tall vegetation, water and trees. We reached the loop at the end of the walk, saw the wilderness beyond and around then strolled back as we discussed our work and other things, we took the opportunity to sit in a hide and then on our return to the centre, browsed in the shop which held a wide range of wildlife-related merchandise.

We reluctantly left the centre glorying under a hot sun, having seen a handful of other visitors whilst we were there, and returned to the office more knowledgeable and enthused about our work.

Goodbye lovely wildflowers

Goodbye lovely wildflowers

Landscape Character Assessment for the Ouse Washes LP landscape

LogosLast year, as part of a series of works we commissioned during the development of the OWLP scheme, Sheils Flynn wrote an excellent Landscape Character Assessment for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area.

The report that came from this has been a prime source of information for the partnership to get a better grip on the landscape character, its historic development, significance and modern workings. It was certainly not an easy job for our consultants as the landscape changes are often very subtle; Sheils Flynn nevertheless have done an excellent job teasing out the area’s specifics and distinct elements and writing this up in very accessible prose. We would now like to share this important work with you in the hope that you will also find this information as captivating as I do.

The structure of the report is set out below:

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The main sections of Sheils Flynn’s Landscape Character Assessment report

This report gives a very detailed overview of the significant prehistoric and historic developments and sites in the area, before it moves on to a description of significant biodiversity, water management and heritage elements in the landscape – these sections would be of use to local heritage groups or anyone trying to find out more about how this landscape developed and what elements within the natural and historic environment are of prime significance.

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Cross section through the Ouse Washes, as published in Sheils Flynn’s Landscape Character Assessment, p. 36

Following this, an overview of landscape management recommendations are given – this section would be of particular use to people trying to understand the landscape value of certain parts of the OWLP landscape; for instance local communities that may be opposing certain types of development in their area may find rich information here to draw from.

The main body of the Landscape Character Assessment is an overview of the nine Landscape Character Areas, with a detailed description for each area, showing its:

  • distinctive landscape characteristics;
  • a description of the landscape character;
  • an understanding of what’s important and why;
  • a description of landscape sensitivity.
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The nine identified distinct Landscape Character Areas, in Sheils Flynn’s Landscape Character Assessment, p. 52.

The report is richly illustrated with photographs and line drawings, and with several interesting case studies woven in.

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Do you want your own copy? 

Please find a downloadable version in our Resources section, or download it here (note: this may take some time, 6MB, PDF): Ouse Washes LP – Landscape Character Assessment [low res]

 

Related posts:

What is Community KAP?

Logos– This is a guest post by Bill Blake, one of the key partners in the OWLP partnership ; the original version was published at http://billboyheritagesurvey.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/what-is-community-kap/

What is Community KAP?

This is an activity, open to all ages and abilities (subject to appropriate supervision) that is relaxing, fun and places one in the landscape in a unique way.

What is it? KAP stands for Kite Aerial Photography and was invented in the 19th cent by Artur Batut in France, it has caught on in the modern age as we have cheap digital cameras, we are no longer at the mercy of the  plate negative!

The benefit of the method is 2 fold, first the capture of images of the landscape from a new viewpoint, second the flying of kites is good way to spend some time outdoors learning the ways of the wind. Most of the time we tend not to raise our eyes to the sky, most of what concerns our lives is firmly earthbound.  Choosing to look at where we live from the sky can be as easy as browsing Google Earth but what we see there gets fuzzy and indistinct when we look closely at the details of the landscape, recording from the much lower viewpoint a kite offers us a much closer to how we experience the world, just different enough to be new and involving.

KAP groupHow is this a community activity? The best outcomes are from the combined efforts of teamwork: a kite flier and a photographer. As a group activity a variety of outcomes are possible: with patience and a good number of photos an aerial panorama is possible by building up a montage of images, large scale photo-maps are  also made by fitting a ‘carpet’ of images together. By flying several kites together (at a safe distance apart!) surprisingly rich records of the locale are achieved.

What’s special about kite aerial pictures? Simply put it’s the resolution. At the height of the kite patterns and textures are uniquely visible.

Aldreth Causeway High BridgeIs it safe? Because every site has different hazards KAP needs careful planning. This is where I come in: I have been doing this professionally for 5 years now and a risk assessment is made for each location prior to agreeing a safe method of working.  The risks are small but real, kites can give you line burn, make you run backwards into things and end up tangled in trees or worse. Depending on  group ability and desired outcome location and timing are chosen carefully to manage risk. Compared to playing in a football match flying a kite is safe!

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Backs of Houses

Why is this part of Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership? The opportunity to provide the project with arresting images of the landscape acquired by community groups is valuable: to see the landscape from above is revealing, to be part of the process is rewarding. As the project develops many images of habitat, land-use, art projects and event records, are needed to illustrate the landscape on sign-age, site interpretation and web pages.

Drying Washes PymoorCommunity KAP is a project funded by OWLP and is now live, so let’s get started, I’m available for demonstration, talks, risk assessment and project planning for your group!

 

Related OWLP posts:

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:

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

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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.

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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:

 

Other Landscape Partnership schemes in East Anglia

Heritage Lottery Fund

Including the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP), there are currently four Landscape Partnership schemes in the East of England. They are:

  • Managing a Masterpiece (Stour Valley; completed : summer 2013)
  • Touching the Tide (Suffolk Coast; started delivery phase this spring)
  • Breaking New Ground (The Brecks; in development phase)
  • Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership

As there are synergies with what the OWLP scheme is trying to achieve, I thought it would be interesting to show what else is happening in the region. Over the last few months the central OWLP team has also been in regular contact with staff at the Breaking New Ground and Touching the Tide schemes, who have been very helpful with information exchange.

Each of the landscape Partnerships are very different in the type of landscapes it focuses on, ranging from the coastal landscape of the Touching the Tide, the dry scrubland of the Brecks, to the flood plain and Fenlands of the Ouse Washes, area. The Managing a Masterpiece manages the landscape as fabulously painted by John Constable who painted the old building and waterways of this landscapes. All have had a different story to tell; with the funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund each of the landscapes are brought back to life, with the involvement and help of the local communities and business.

Map of the existing Landscape Partnership schemes within East Anglia:

Map of existing Landscape Partnership in East Anglia

Map of existing Landscape Partnership in East Anglia

The Brecks

Breaking New Ground covers 1000 square kilometres in the Brecks, in the heart of East Anglia.

The climate here is semi-continental, which means that the weather is colder than the UK average during winter and hotter in summer. The Brecks can also experience extreme changes in temperature throughout the year with the possibility of frost during almost any month, which in conjunction with the low rainfall in East Anglia makes it the driest part of the UK.

The Brecks have nutrient poor soil however it is a good habitat for rabbits and there are ancient Pingos, formed at the end of the last Ice Age; these are not common across the UK as most have been built on or removed. The resulting Pingo ponds are home to some unique species of wildlife, many of which are rare and some of the beetles have survived here since the last Ice Age.

Brecks Landscape Source: www.brecks.org

Brecks Landscape Source: http://www.brecks.org

In the 1660s, the area experienced huge sandstorms what with the area being largely made up of sandy soils. As a result, sand dunes were formed on Lakenheath Warren in the 1660s. These were spread over a thousand acres and the sand was blown as far as Santon Downham and partially buried villages and blocked the Little Ouse River. Extensive planting of trees in the area has stopped sandstorms occurring. The last mobile sand dune system can be seen at Wangford Warren Nature Reserve.

The Brecks has the potential to support over 300 tourist-related business, however it is one of East Anglia’s hidden gems: it is obscured by trees, resulting in rail and car travellers passing by, generally not knowing what lies behind the line of trees en route to more well-know areas such as the Norfolk Coast and the Broads. The area behind the trees, nevertheless, is a world of forest adventure; miles of tracks and paths forming a great attraction with an amazing fun world of history for everyone to get involved in.

In late July 2013 The Brecks Partnership and Greater Anglia put an image of The Brecks on the side of a train travelling between Cambridge and Norwich, as this is the line which passes through the Brecks. The aim was to promote the area to a wider audience and the train will be running until the end of July 2014 promoting the Brecks along the way.

Train with the The Brecks logo  Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinkplunger/9730654292/

Train with the The Brecks logo. Would this also be an idea for Ouse Washes LP area, another hidden gem in the region – what do you think?
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinkplunger/9730654292/

 

Touching the Tide

The Touching the Tide Landscape Partnership scheme is within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB area and is situated along the Suffolk Coast between Covehithe and Felixstowe.

The development phase was completed in November 2012 and funding was given to go forward with the delivery phase. The Touching the Tide Landscape Partnership has received £900k to support the 3 year project which started in spring 2013 and is due to end in spring 2016.

The scheme intents to invest in skills, businesses and the environment. The project money will be used to restore and conserve heritage assets which make the coast special, for example the Martello Towers as well as the shingle beaches which contribute to the sense of wildness that people value in the character of the landscape. The funding will also be used to work with local communities to inspire them to share stories of the area’s history to younger members of the community, as well as helping to conserve the local heritage by working with art projects and archaeological digs. All these projects encourage the local community to work together and to feel proud of their heritage. By the end of the 3 year project the aim is to have made a real difference to people’s understanding of this very dynamic coastline, so they can help in shaping its future.

Managing a Masterpiece

The Managing a Masterpiece Landscape Partnership scheme focused on the Stour Valley; it started in 2010 and ended in summer 2013. Their Vision is for a landscape cared for and celebrated by the local community, having been provided with knowledge, skills and opportunities needed to manage and enjoy it. The area has inspired generations of artists such as John Constable because of it natural beauty and historic structures, riverside trees, rich heritage of meadows and the field boundaries.

managing a masterpiece

The objectives for Managing a Masterpiece were:

  • Understanding the historic evolution of the landscape and the way traditional land management has shaped it;
  • Conserving or restoring the manmade and natural features that create the historic character of the landscape;
  • Celebrating the cultural associations and activities of the landscape area;
  • Encouraging more people to access, learn about, become involved in and make decisions about their landscape heritage;
  • Improving understanding of local craft and other skills by providing training opportunities.

There were 7 overarching projects (each with further projects within) which formed the Managing a Masterpiece Landscape Partnership scheme, all of which explored different parts of the landscape and which focused on:  Landscape lessons; Historic Landscape Study; Building History; Slimy Posts and Brickwork; Hidden History; Stripping Back the Layers; and Medieval Masterpieces. Each of the projects were carried out by local communities: the more they contributed the more they appreciated its value and wanted to continue their involvement with the local heritage after funding stopped.

During the years of the Landscape Partnership over 3,500 volunteer working days were completed throughout all of the projects, half of which were carried out during several archaeological projects.

Landscape of Managing a Masterpieces Source; http://www.managingamasterpiece.org/

Landscape of Managing a Masterpieces Source; http://www.managingamasterpiece.org/

 

Legacy of the Landscape Partnership schemes in the region

All of the above Landscape Partnerships schemes are aimed at involving people in their local heritage and landscape and providing access to the area so that more people are able to enjoy the environment in which they live, while at the same time giving the project volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills. The Landscape Partnership schemes do not finish once the funding stops as it is hoped that after 3 years of funding people are more knowledgeable and inspired about the area and will continue to look after the environment in which they live.

At the Ouse Washes Conference at the beginning of September there were some inspiring comments showing that people want to continue the project work after the end of the 3 years of HLF support. One person commented “My enthusiasm has grown after today. Think about branding of the scheme and of a sustainable legacy” with another saying, “Overall an exciting project- Wish it was longer than 3 years”. The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme certainly aims to get more people interested, excited and proud of their local heritage and support people in looking after the Ouse Washes into the future once the 3 year project is finished.

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What local residents have told us (so far…)

Over the past few months Mark, Peter and Anna and I have been out and about in the villages and parishes in or near the Ouse Washes Landscape area chatting to local residents.  We have been asking them to describe how they use the countryside around them, tell us what they know of its heritage and let us know how they value their local landscape.

Consulting with young people at Manea Gala

Consulting with young people at Manea Gala

We are very grateful for the views and opinions of those we spoke to and will be using them to shape the programme going forward. I will post a full report later in the summer but thought you might be interested in some of the ideas people have shared with us and what we have been told around the area.

‘’Everyone knows it is there but not everyone knows what it does’’ Welney resident.                                                                                                                         We have found this to be true although its existence is not always recognised in the Market Towns we surveyed and those Parishes not directly adjacent to the Rivers.

‘’I think it’s magical when it floods down the Gault.’’ Sutton resident                         ”I never really think about where I live, I just drive through it’’ 19 year old Welney resident.                                                                                                                 Attitudes towards the landscape also seem to vary depending upon the age of the resident.  We have found that older residents (50+) are more likely to understand the role of the Washes; will have been educated about it at school (if they were children in the area) and can generally talk knowledgeably about the environmental and historical heritage of the area.

’We need more points of interest marked and presented, with good information. These could be historical, environmental or businesses – for example, farm visits; links to people producing food, craft, art; cultural events; wildlife trails. We also need more circular footpaths, with information sheets.’’ Somersham resident.     This comment covers a number of commonly voiced opinions i.e. the need for more information about what is available and circular walks. I did however like this response to the question ‘’’ What would encourage you to visit the Ouse Washes area more often?                                                                                                                     Answer: ‘’A good pair of legs.’’

The surveys are still open:                                                                                             The local resident survey (for those living near to the Washes) can be found at:

http://www.smart-survey.co.uk/s/81251HOSCT

The market town survey for residents of March, Ely, Chatteris, Downham Market and St Ives is at:

http://www.smart-survey.co.uk/s/83190XOQKC