Latest Lectures – on drainage and flooding – don’t miss these!

A short post, just to highlight some very interesting lectures coming up:

First of all, tomorrow evening, Wednesday 5th March, there will be a lecture in March at the library on the drainage of the Fens by Iain Smith of the Middle Level Commissioners. This is organised by the March Society. See for more details the leaflet below or the March Society’s Facebook page or check for the latest on Twitter at @MarchSociety.

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Another lecture will be held in Sutton-in-the-isle on Friday 11 April – Organised by Sutton Feast – this will be delivered by Mike Petty on the 1947 Fen floods. See flyer below (Source: http://ow.ly/i/4LeJu). Check for the latest at @SuttonIsle or @Sutton_Feast.

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Don’t forget, there are also the ongoing Fenland History on Friday Lectures – for information on the remaining lectures, still running each Friday morning until early May – see this previous blog post.

Related posts:

 

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Ouse Flooding: then and now

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

Railway Bridge alongside Wash Road near Welney Reserve

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

Best view over the Ouse Washes

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

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

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

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

Flood waters in Ouse Washes are receding

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

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

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

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

Flooding now: multiple arguments

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

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

Flooding then: same arguments?

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

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

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

Cambridge News, 23 March 1937:

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

Cambridge News, 14 July 1937:

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

How can you join the debate?

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

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

Related posts:

Flooding in the Fens: 1947 floods

LogosFlooding is a hot topic at the moment. East Anglia, unlike other parts of the UK, is thankfully still spared the worst of flooding.

Nevertheless, all waters in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area and the Ouse Washes itself are very high at the moment and the crossings at Welney and Sutton Gault remain flooded.

Article on 1947 floods

Mike Petty kindly sent me an article he wrote about historic flooding of the Fens. Mike Petty is one of the key partners in the OWLP Landscape Partnership scheme and is a well-known Cambridgeshire historian. He has a weekly column in the Cambridge News, reporting on the history of the area.

This week’s piece, 2014 02 03, showcases some dramatic images of the 1947 floods. The floods in February and March 1947 were devastating for the local communities. In all, 34 of England’s counties were affected by the 1947 floods, but the southern Fens were hit particularly hard.

Mike’s article focuses on the military efforts to save homes and lives and to try to restore breached banks. Images of the 1947 floods survive which were taken by the local press. However, a local man, Walter Martin Lane, an Ely shop manager had also joined the army on several of their expeditions in the area. Lane’s dramatic but beautiful pictures are now preserved in the Cambridgeshire Collection.

You can download Mike Petty’s full article here: 2014 02 03

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Image courtesy of Mike Petty/ Cambridgeshire Collection

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Image courtesy of Mike Petty/ Cambridgeshire Collection

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Image courtesy of Mike Petty/ Cambridgeshire Collection

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Image courtesy of Mike Petty/ Cambridgeshire Collection

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Image courtesy of Mike Petty/ Cambridgeshire Collection

As part of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership’s Delivery phase, Martin Lane’s photographs, some of which are in private collection, will be digitised and made publicly available, to commemorate this major event in the Ouse Washes 70 years ago in 2017, the end-date of our scheme.

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One of Martin Lane’s images, showing a submerged farm bungalow (Palmer’s Farm) during the 1947 floods. Photo courtesy of Lorna Delanoy.

Related posts:

Earith Bridge: modern and historic works to the structure

Heritage Lottery FundIn my last post I mentioned the recent closure of important crossing points over the Ouse Washes.

Limited or difficult access opportunities is a recurring feature of the Ouse Washes LP landscape, as shown in another, previous post.

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Flooded Earith causeway – earlier this year. Source: http://www.highwaysindustry.com/News/Raising-the-road-to-help-reduce-flooding-at-Earith-Bridge

Further exacerbating connectivity problems for local communities are the current works on Earith Bridge, one of the few crossing points over the Ouse Washes and Great Ouse River.

Although both Welney causeway and Sutton Ghault causeways have been down for traffic, Earith causeway is still unaffected. Nevertheless, this causeway is also prone to flooding and was shut for a prolonged period earlier this year.

Earith - Village Sign

Earith: village sign

Currently, a £350,000 project is being delivered to carry out repairs on the Earith bridge structure; this work started on March 1 and should take around six weeks to complete, with the bulk of the work carried out at weekends under a full bridge closure with off-peak working controlled by traffic lights during weekdays. 

The road will also now be resurfaced to raise the level and fill in low points which are the most prone to flooding. As a result, there should be a noticeable reduction in the number and duration of road closures caused by flooding. Some articles which provide more details on these works: http://www.highwaysindustry.com/News/Raising-the-road-to-help-reduce-flooding-at-Earith-Bridge and http://www.huntspost.co.uk/news/latest-news/earith_road_will_be_raised_to_help_reduce_number_of_floods_1_1969395

Earith Suspension bridge 1929

Earith suspension bridge c1929, the predecessor to the current bridge, originally built in 1865. Source: Mike Petty

This important crossing point over the Great Ouse river has a long history. Mike Petty recently wrote an interesting article about the history of the river crossing at Earith, with a succession of bridges at this spot going back to at least 1286. You can download a copy of Mike’s article here:Bridging the Gap – Mike Petty 25 03 2013 in Cambridge News

Flooding 1960 Earith

In 1960 an ex-army truck was mobilized to shuttle school children to Earith primary school through the flooded road. source: Mike Petty.

With an increase in traffic after WWII, the present bridge was built and was officially opened on 5th April 1963.

Fenland History on Friday

Heritage Lottery FundThe well-known historian Mike Petty has organised a series of fascinating lectures for this winter period. The Fenland History on Friday Programme has become a well-established feature in the calendar year: the current series is already the 10th consecutive series of winter lectures.

Starting tomorrow and running until the end of March, each Friday a lecture will be given in Ely Library. Anyone with an interest in the Fens is more than welcome (£2,50 on the door). The time for each lecture is 10:30 – 12 noon.

Tomorrow’s (January 18) lecture will be given by Mike Petty himself and has the intriguing title ‘Fenland photographers: an illustrated presentation about the men and women who have photographed the fens since the 1850s’.

Future talks include such wide-ranging subjects as Thorney’s 17th century Huguenots who drained the Fens; archaeological excavations at Wisbech; and ‘views from above’, photographs from 19th and 20th century balloonists and aviators. Look at the Fenland History on Friday Programme for the full programme.

Mike Petty  is also closely involved in the Ouse Washes LPS project. He is a member of the Project Board, as President of the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History, and will also lead on the development of one of the projects, the intention of which is to create an interactive resource on Famous historic Figures of the Fens – more about this in due course.