Starting my volunteer summer placement…

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

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

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

My time at Reading…

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

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Cattle grazing causing bank erosion along the Ely Ouse.

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

My personal research project…

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

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Typical Fen IDB Drainage Ditch

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

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

My first few weeks here…

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

Summer walk

Summer Walk at WWT Welney Reserve

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

My future aims…

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

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

Have a meander along your river

Do you live in or near Welney, Denver, March or Ely? They have something in common… Can you guess what they all have? Rivers! They all have their own character and issues. Would you like to enjoy and learn about your local Fenland rivers?

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This is a chance to enjoy a lovely, informative and sociable walk along some of our local rivers whilst discussing and gaining an understanding of issues and impacts upon these and other Fenland rivers and on the Ouse Washes. It will be a laid-back endeavour with stops to view the scenery and features, or to chat and take photographs.

The Ouse Washes

The Ouse Washes. Image by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, all rights reserved.

A partnership (The Water Care Partnership) is working to investigate and work towards solutions for the problems these rivers face and which have been pointed out by the Environment Agency. This is where you and your ideas and involvement comes in! It is important to consider local communities’ perspectives and skills in the care and management of these valuable natural resources.

Everyone and anyone are welcome on these ‘Riverside Walks and Talks’ however the walks may not be suitable for some people like wheelchair users. Light refreshments will be provided and you can find out how to get involved with protecting your local environment.

There are four walks around the area, all of which will be approximately 2 miles and may take up to 2.5 hours.

Welney – Sunday 14th September 10am

“A catchment based approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment”

River at Welney

River Delph at Welney

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – Welney

Ely – Sunday 14th September 2pm

“Our part in the bigger picture”

River at Ely

River Great Ouse at Ely

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – Ely

Denver – Saturday 20th September 10am

“A catchment based approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment”

River at Denver

The Tidal River and New Bedford River at Denver

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – Denver

March – Saturday 20th September 2pm

“A catchment based approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment”

River at March

River Nene at March

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – March

Bookings are now being taken for the Riverside Walk and Talk events hosted by Cambridgeshire ACRE for the Water Care Partnership. Places are limited and so to book your place(s), please visit: www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/walkandtalk. For more information on the work of the Water Care Partnership please visit www.watercarepartnership.wordpress.com. If you have any questions regarding any of the walks, please contact Jennie Thomas (Jennifer.thomas@cambsacre.org.uk or 01353 865044).

Ouse Washes LP scheme Launched

LogosApril 2014 has finally arrived and the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme has now officially been launched!

Tuesday night, representatives of the 26 key Partner organisations within the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership  came together for a celebratory event. This was held appropriately along the Ouse Washes itself at the base of the banks along the Old Bedford River. Under a beautiful and warm sky, partners shared experiences and further confirmed their excitement and willingness to cooperate to make the OWLP scheme a great success for the area and its local communities.

 

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Representatives from the key partners coming together near the Old Bedford.

 

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Projects will start very soon

Over the next few months, a whole range of projects will start delivering. Almost all of our 25 projects will already start in the next six months. To give you a flavour of what to expect this spring and summer from the Partnership:

  • Work will start on replacing and enhancing the signage and interpretation at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes – Our ‘Giving Nature a Home at Fen Drayton Lakes’ project, led by the RSPB.
  • Two community archaeological digs will be coordinated this summer near Earith – Our ‘Digging Environment and Ouse Washes Community Archaeology’ project, led by Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
  • Outdoor murals will be created at Mepal Outdoor Centre, WWT Welney reserve and the Denver Sluice Complex – our ‘Ouse Community Heritage’ project, led by ADeC.
  • Work will start on new interpretation, a new wildlife film and changes to the Pond Room at WWT Welney Reserve – our ‘Great Ouse Wetland Engagement’ project, led by the WWT.
  • A Pond dipping platform will be installed at Manea Pit – Our Manea Community Conservation project, led by Manea Parish Council.
  • A Biodiversity survey will be carried out in the arable regions to the East of the Ouse Washes – Our ‘Ditch Management to the East of the Ouse Washes’ project, led by Cambridgeshire ACRE in close cooperation with the Fenland Ditch Group.
  • We will launch our ‘Community Heritage Fund’ scheme – this will provide community groups with the opportunity to apply for grants between £500 and £2,000 to carry out additional projects in local communities.
  • A community group will create an animated film about the creation of the Ouse Washes and its natural history – Our project ‘Tales of Washes, Wildfowl and Water’, led by Fens Museum Partnership.
  • Our ‘Community Warden Scheme’ will start providing accredited training for young people and adults in wetland management – to be delivered by Green Light Trust, in cooperation with other organisations including NACRO and MIND.
  • Volunteer will be trained up to undertake recording of migrant work experiences and research into historic migration – Our project ‘Migrant Links’, led by Rosmini Centre.
  • Our ‘Fen Folk, Legends and Heroes’ project aims to work with all parishes in the area to encourage local communities to research stories of the local people who have shaped the area’s development in fact and fiction – led by Cambridgeshire Association for Local History, together with Mike Petty
  • Our ‘Hidden Story Trails: Virtual Geocaching Trails’ project will also bring together local communities in order to encourage further physical and intellectual access to the Ouse washes LP area – led by Cambridgeshire County Council.

Some more information about these and the partnership’s other projects can be found in our OWLP synopsis document, downloadable from our Resources pages

How to get involved

As you can see from the above, selective, list of projects there will be something for everyone. For a large number of the above projects, we hope that local people will get involved to deliver the scheme, in the process learning more about the unique Ouse Washes heritage and obtaining new skills in the process.

We will keep you up-to-date of what’s going on and how you can get involved through this blog, our website (due to appear in July), our Twitter pages and through news articles in the local and regional media and in parish magazines. Hope to see you soon.

 

Related posts:

Your chance to work in the OWLP team – recruiting now!

LogosWe are recruiting!

This is your chance to make a real difference to the landscape, wildlife, heritage and communities in and around the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme’s area.

These are exciting times for us. Having received the excellent news from the Heritage Lottery Fund only a week ago that the HLF grants the OWLP scheme its stage 2 bid, we are now ready to expand the central OWLP team. Cambridgeshire ACRE, as the lead partner in the OWLP partnership, is now recruiting two people:

  • Countryside Engagement Officer. This is a full-time post (37 hrs/wk); contract until March 2017.
  • Programme Support Officer. this is a part-time post (21 hrs/wk) post; contract until December 2016.

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Where to find more information and how to apply:

Closing date and interviews:

  • The closing date for both jobs is noon on Friday 4 April 2014.
  • Initial interviews will be held at Cambridgeshire ACRE’s offices in Littleport on Thursday 10 April (for the ‘Countryside Engagement Officer’ position) and on 11 April (for the ‘Programme Support Officer’ position).

You would like to know more?

Besides the information you can find in the various pages and posts on this OWLP blog, also visit the OWLP’s page on the Cambridgeshire ACRE’s website.

For an informal discussion, you can also contact me, the OWLP Programme Manager, at 01353 865030 or mark.nokkert@cambsacre.org.uk.

Nearly £1m granted to OWLP scheme!

LogosYes! It is in the bag!

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has just announced that the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme will indeed receive £905,100 of HLF funding!

Since the partnership’s stage 2 bid in November 2013, the three files of paperwork we handed in have been assessed by the HLF’s regional team. Following this, the HLF’s East of England’s Regional Committee convened late last week to make the final, very positive, decision.

The Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, Robyn Llewellynn said:

“What really impressed us about this project was the clear vision for celebrating the Ouse Washes. From working with people who live and visit the area, to developing innovative schemes to help wildlife thrive and flourish, our funding will connect the Fen stories of the past with opportunities for the future.”

Following the excellent news we have just received, we are now ready to start the partnership’s delivery phase, which will run until March 2017.

Watch this space: we will shortly get much more information out as to what is going to happen in your area and how you can get involved in our learning, access, conservation, engagement, volunteering, events and training programme.

We hope to see you soon at one of the many project activities and events we have lined up for you, to discover, protect and celebrate the unique Ouse Washes heritage.

See here the press release we sent out this week: Press Release_Ouse Washes LP_1 million from HLF (or download it from our Resources section).

Bill Blake Heritage Documentation All Rights Reserved

The Ouse Washes LP landscape; Kite Aerial Photography by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, All Rights Reserved

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.

Related articles

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.

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Lively discussions during the workshops