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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Ouse Washes LP Conference: a great success

Heritage Lottery FundLast week Thursday the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) scheme held its first and long-awaited conference. This event was very well attended: with over 60 people we filled up The Maltings in Ely and had some very lively discussions going.

I would, first of all, like to thank everybody who attended. The good number and mixture of representatives from a wide range of local authorities, agencies, charities and community groups and other organisations meant that the two workshops held were very productive.

The two main presentations – by Kate Collins (Sheils Flynn) presenting the results of the Landscape Character Assessment for the area, and Rachael Brown (Cambridgeshire ACRE) those of the Audience & Access Planning work done – were also very well received, judging by the comments made on the day.

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Conference 5 September 2013: ‘Finding Character and Audiences’

Good feedback given

Cambridgeshire ACRE has been able to organise this event thanks to the excellent help before and during the day given by our four summer placement volunteers (Peter, Anna, Jessica and Chris). The overall impression left by the participants in the feedback forms was that they found this event useful and informative; see e.g. the below graph (where 1 means poor and 5 means excellent):

Picture for blog conference

Some quotes from the audience:

Really well structured and organised event. Excellent balance between presentations; thank you.

The presentations gave an excellent base for the workshops to explore. Good networking and sharing ideas.

Interesting presentations. Fascinating interactions round the table, much better than just being talked to. Everyone here has different interest /views

Useful information coming out of the day

We are currently going through the mountain of information written down during the workshops, as comments left on the feedback sheets, display comments sheets or on the logo voting sheets. Although all information will also be collated in a report later this month, to give you a bit of an understanding of what has come out of the conference, below are a few bite-sized bits of information:

* Some key barriers to access were identified: most people agreed that the following barriers to access, engagement and learning should be the primary barriers to be addressed through the OWLP scheme:

  • Limited provision of information about the landscape and its heritage;
  • Lack of coherent tourism promotion;
  • Lack of sufficient and varied tourism attractions & amenities in the area;
  • Limited public access points to the landscape.

* The workshops also highlighted some additional barriers, in particular:

  • Barriers for water recreation is limited throughout the area (e.g., access to water; slipways);
  • There are some linear walking and cycling routes, but people prefer and have a clear need for more circular routes close to their settlements;
  • Need for the creation of education packs for local schools about the heritage of the area, to be created in close co-operation with teachers.

A good number of ideas came forward how to address these barriers, with the creation of stronger links with education providers and local tourism business providers and local empowerment through skills training and other initiatives coming out clearly.

Leaving a sustainable legacy

The second workshop, where people provided ideas to ensure a sustainable legacy for the OWLP scheme also provided us ample food for thought. A good number of suggestions have been highlighted by people what the various organisations could bring to the partnership, helping the scheme to develop and work towards a sustainable legacy.

The central team and the OWLP partnership as a whole will take all ideas into account: there certainly is enough there for us to follow up on and to guide the further development of this exciting project through the next few years.

20130905_093156

Lively discussions during the workshops

Proudly Presenting: Our Themes!

Heritage Lottery FundWe have just finalised our themes for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme. As you can imagine, quite a bit of brainstorming and discussion have gone into producing this, but – following recent approval of the final draft by the Project Board – we are now able to show everybody the themes that will be guiding our work.

Why do we need themes? From the start, it was clear that all partners felt that we needed themes to help focus everybody on what we want to achieve. It is, in fact, a logical development from our vision and strategic aims and objectives for the scheme.

As the landscape of the Ouse Washes LP area is far less known, understood and appreciated than other landscapes in the region – as set out in this previous post -, it was thought that the themes would also provide the partnership with an important tool to tell the ‘stories’ of this landscape, and help getting people to understand what this landscape is about.

The themes will:

  • Help our partners to develop their projects in more details;
  • Guide the way we will promote and deliver events throughout the scheme;
  • Help communities to find ways of engaging with the landscape’s heritage through the scheme’s projects and events;
  • Guide the way we want to promote the landscape and its heritage;
  • Help in the development towards a clear legacy for the landscape.

We are very curious to hear from you, our audience, what you think about our themes; do let me know. Ok, here they are, our 5 themes:

Themes

More details are provided in the below PowerPoint file, setting out: our five themes, with further explanation given, as well as a range of example subjects we feel could fall under each of the themes:

Themes PP_May 2013

More Funding opportunities

Heritage Lottery FundCommunity puzzleAs discussed in a previous post, there are multiple opportunities for local community groups to obtain grants for heritage-related projects.

As part of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership we are keen to promote such opportunities, to empower local communities and to assure a sustainable legacy for the area.

Recently a very useful document has been produced by ‘the East of England Funders’, a group of 24 funding organisations. The resulting brochure highlights the latest information for funding opportunities in the East of England region; this is collated in a handy pdf which can be downloaded here:

EofE – funder list – web

 

Now is actually a good time to apply to get your ideas funded; an extract from the brochure which was launched at a conference held a few weeks ago makes this clear:

The purpose of this short publication is to confirm that despite the current economic

downturn we are still open for business and that funding is available for organisations

and projects that make a real difference to our communities and the lives of local

people. In fact many funders have actually increased the amount of money that they

have available in recognition of the tough times that the sector is facing

Distinctiveness: a European Perspective

Heritage Lottery FundContinuing on from one of my more recent posts on distinctiveness in landscapes, I thought it might be useful to give a more European perspective on landscapes as well.

The most important document in this is the European Landscape Convention (ELC). This was the first international convention to focus specifically on landscape. Created by the Council of Europe, the convention promotes landscape protection, management and planning, and European co-operation on landscape issues. The document was created in 2000 and was subsequently signed by the UK Government in February 2006; the ELC became binding in the UK from March 2007.

What makes this document special is that it does not just focuses on those landscapes which are already well protected, such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Instead, the ELC defines landscape very widely, and includes all types of landscapes: rural and urban, inland, coastal or marine, outstanding, ordinary or degraded. All are deemed worthy of protection, pro-active management and planning: ‘all landscapes matter’.

The ELC’s definition of landscape is particularly interesting (ELC 2000, article 1):

An area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors

The above definition is well known; the Explanatory note to the ELC (para 38) further expands on this definition and is also worth a read:

A zone or area as perceived by local people or visitors, whose visual features and character are the result of the action of natural and/or cultural (that is, human) factors. This definition reflects the idea that landscapes evolve through time, as a result of being acted upon by natural forces and human beings. It also underlines that a landscape forms a whole, whose natural and cultural components are taken together, not separately

LandEastStackLo

What is landscape? The several layers which shape landscape. Source: Landscape East, http://landscape-east.org.uk/node/193

What does this mean? In my view there are three important elements to the ELC’s definition of what constitutes landscapes:
1. Landscapes are first and foremost perceived by people: landscapes are not just about their physical components, but even more about how people view and value these: landscapes are in the mind as much as they are real. One could even go as far as saying that without people there are no landscapes. Perceptions of a landscape may vary from person to person and from user group to user group, as my previous post and its reactions have already shown.

2. Landscapes are the result of the interplay between natural and human factors. Perhaps nowhere else than in the Fens is the hand of man so very clear: most land is below sea level and only exists because of centuries of tight control and active management. Nevertheless, natural factors (geology; soils; climate; biodiversity) also shape the landscape and give it its character.

3. Change is inherent in landscape. Landscapes are not static. Changes may not only be of a physical nature, but the way we perceive a landscape may also change over time. We can and should not try and stop change – we do, however, have a say on the direction and speed of change, and can also influence how people perceive a landscape.

As an aside, on the perception of landscapes a series of books have been written; just to highlight three of those here: William-Ellis Clough’s ‘England and the Octopus’ (1928); Simon Schama’s ‘Landscape and Memory’ (1995) and Matthew Johnson’s ‘Ideas of Landscape (2007):

England and the octopuslandscape and memoryideas of landscape

Natural England is leading the implementation of the ELC in England and has worked with Defra and English Heritage to produce European Landscape Convention: A framework for implementation in England, published in 2007. The importance of the ELC has also been reaffirmed more recently as part of Defra’s delivery framework through the Natural Environment White Paper, published in 2011.

The overarching aim is to strengthen the protection, management and planning of England’s landscapes. A wider understanding and appreciation of landscapes, improved knowledge and care, as well as a sense of inspiration, well-being and connection between people and place are at the forefront of what needs to be achieved, all of this through public engagement and stakeholder involvement.

How does the HLF’s Landscape Partnership scheme contributes to the ELC’s implementation in the UK? An evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme, carried out in 2011 by the Centre for European Protected Area Research at London University Birkbeck, shows that the Landscape Partnership programme is an important element in the delivery of the European Landscape Convention. An extract from their report makes this clear:

The legacy of landscape partnership working accords well with developing national priorities and policies both in broad terms (for example in securing local engagement and participation in delivery of ecosystem services) and as an important contributor to local and national targets (for example those contained in Biodiversity Action Plans). Landscape partnership activities are also congruent with a number of important initiatives in cultural and natural heritage conservation, particularly in terms of critical priorities such as climate change adaptation. In England, for example, the landscape partnership programme anticipated key elements of the recently published Natural Environment White Paper in its emphasis on empowering citizens, consumers and civil society as a whole, and on enabling local action.

Since its inception in 2007, 68 Landscape Partnership schemes have been set up across the UK. Last year, a record number of 13 new schemes were approved, one of which is the Ouse Washes LP scheme.

cropped-winter-fenland-istock1.jpg

So, if you have managed to get this far, you may wonder: what does all of this have to do with the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme? In my opinion, quite a lot. In particular the three elements which constitute landscape – perceptions; interplay between natural and human factors; and change – are very relevant to the Ouse Washes area. Just to mention a couple of the more obvious aspects:

  • The Fens have suffered from the perception of being a backwater; we aim to turn around this public opinion by showing what fantastic, unique and internationally significant assets can be found within this landscape;
  • The future of the landscape and the legacy of the Landscape Partnership scheme will be a red threat throughout all we will do over the next four years: we will actively encourage debates about the future of the landscape, be it new habitat creation schemes, changes in flood management, agricultural practices or public access opportunities.

Barriers to Access?

Heritage Lottery FundLast week, a colleague of mine was at a well-attended evening meeting organised by Cambridgeshire County Council concerning the future of parish paths. This was also attended by representatives from several Parish and District Councils as well as the Local Access Forum; the latter is the County Council’s Statutory Advisory body on countryside access issues.

Walkers - Ellie and Simon Trigg - permission granted

Walkers at Fen Drayton nature reserve. Image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE

My colleague had brought along a nice display explaining what the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme tries to achieve – this attracted a good deal of attention. As a result, she managed to talk to a lot of people about how they use the Ouse Washes area and what they would like to see changed.

Some interesting points came out of these conversations which I thought would be useful to share with you:

  • Rights of Way and public access to the countryside is clearly something people care deeply about.
  • People felt that maintenance of existing pathways should be a priority over the creation of new ones.
  • Promotion of the existing footpaths and bridle ways could be improved.
  • A surprising number of people mentioned that they find the area too linear/straight and generally ‘boring’; several people also thought that the area is only interesting if you are a birdwatcher. I did not expect that from this group which consisted of a large number of active walkers. Also, this seems to contradict what came out of the word association exercise reported on before.
  • Many people seemed, nevertheless, to be interested in the area’s history; they do want to get a better understanding of how the Ouse Washes area has been shaped and how it functions.
  • There also seems to be a need for more information about the reasons why the Ouse Washes are flooded regularly.

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme might well be perfectly placed to address several of the above points:

  1. As part of the delivery phase, we will set up a project through which we intend to help create active volunteer groups – these could then, for instance, help in the maintenance of local path networks.
  2. The website which we will create as part of the project’s delivery phase will bring together all information about circular and long-distance walks, cycle routes, horse riding trails and waterway links, and will also promote their use. I aim to start this process through this blog throughout 2013.
  3. High on our agenda is to educate people about their own environment, creating a better understanding of the landscape, its history and heritage assets. Providing an understanding of what the area has to offer, what is special about it and how it all functions will be at the core of what we will be doing over the next four years.
  4. Providing an understanding of the reasons for the frequent flooding is also one of the subjects that we want to explore throughout the Landscape Partnership scheme. There are multiple interlinked reasons behind this, which I will explore through this blog in due course.

The above is also encapsulated in two of our strategic objectives (see for the full aims and objectives our Resources Page):

• To make available, through varying multimedia, a range of information sources, that tell the story of the landscape past and present and open up new dialogue that inform debates about changing and adapting management processes in the future.

• To improve access to and to encourage people to visit, respect and appreciate the Ouse Washes nature reserves and historically important sites through enhancing interpretation and facilities.

Ouse Fen RSPB

Sign with walking routes at the RSPB’s Ouse Fen nature reserve. Image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE

At the heart of the scheme is a wish to leave a sustainable legacy for the Ouse Washes landscape – getting the local people’s input into this will be crucial to the scheme’s success. The discussions and comments captured at last week’s meeting have already given us a good flavour of the stimulating discussions we hope we can encourage.

As part of the research we are carrying out during the development phase, we will conduct extensive community consultations in the local villages and surrounding market towns. Through this, we hope to capture what people know about the landscape, how they use and value it, and what people perceive as barriers to engagement with the Ouse Washes landscape. These community consultations are likely to happen in and around May this year – more about this in due course.

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Sign at Fen Drayton lakes nature reserve. Image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE