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

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:

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:

Fen Photography

Heritage Lottery FundThis time I would like to just share some pretty pictures. These were sent to me by Ely-based Patricia Kreyer. She kindly let me reproduce some of her remarkable images.

The Ouse Washes landscape – and the Fens as a whole – lends itself perfectly for photography, as this previous post also clearly demonstrated.

Fenlandia

Fenlandia. Photo by Patricia Kreyer, all rights reserved

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Four-spotted Chaser Dragonfly; taken at Wicken Fen. Photo by Patricia Kreyer, all rights reserved

Watery memories

Watery memories. Photo by Patricia Kreyer, all rights reserved.

I am happy to showcase other people’s work as well, to show people the beauty of the Ouse Washes landscape – feel free to contact me to discuss further.

Give exposure to the Ouse Washes: EA photo competition

Heritage Lottery Fund

I was made aware of the following photo competition organised by the Environment Agency. I am afraid there is no cash prize here, but one could nevertheless gain eternal digital glory, as the winning image will serve as the Environment Agency’s Twitter banner image for the East of England region. With over 3,000 followers already, your image would get a lot of exposure on a daily basis.

The Environment Agency describes the task at hand as such: “get creative and think of what you think represents the spring in the east of England.” The image has to be a landscape photograph, taken in the East of England.

There are loads of professional and amateur photographers out there who can see the natural beauty of the Ouse Washes landscape – you can help us in putting the Ouse Washes landscape ‘on the map’.

Water defines the Ouse Washes landscape, and spring is also a great season for seeing wildlife flourishing in and around the various nature reserves in the area. So, get out and take that picture!

The Environment Agency will announce the winning picture on the spring equinox, March 20. See here for details how to enter the competition.

If you would like to share your pictures with the world, why not use this blog as your podium? See for instance this previous post for some unusual images taken with the aid of a kite. I am more than happy to showcase people’s work through the blog; just send me an email with your ideas or images.

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River Great Ouse at Earith – photo by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE

High in the Sky: Heritage & Landscape photography from above

Heritage Lottery FundLast week I got into contact with Bill Blake, an independent heritage consultant who does an interesting range of work.

One of the things he has developed over the years is the creation of images of landscapes and structures including windmills and Martello Towers, all taken from the sky. This is not done in any conventional way, but he takes photographs with the aid of a kite, with a remote-controlled camera attached to it. This is also known as KAP, or Kite Aerial Photography. See for instance here on Bill’s Flickr site or here, on his blog, to get a better understanding of what KAP involves and how Bill makes his pictures.

The results of Bill’s work are absolutely amazing. No wonder his work has also been exhibited; see for instance this piece in last year’s Cambridge News.

The reason I want to share this information is that Bill is also fascinated by the Ouse Washes, and has made many pictures in this landscape over the last few years. A great number more of his pictures of the Ouse Washes can be found at Bill’s Flickr picture stream.

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Ouse Washes: unseasonal flooding in May 2012. Kite Aerial Photography by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, all rights reserved.

He kindly allowed me to replicate some of his stunning images which also feature on his Flickr picture stream of the Ouse Washes, giving more people a chance to see the amazing and high-quality imagery. Unlike photographs taken from an aeroplane which are taken from over 300 m high, the kite pictures are taken from about 60 m high, allowing for very good detail in the images.

Talking to Bill, it is clear that he loves this work and has a particular soft spot for the Ouse Washes landscape. He is struck by the strong structures of the landscape, in particular its linearity, evident for instance in the waters, the banks and the Ely – March trainline, all of  which feature regularly in his photographs. Creating one picture can take many hours, allowing Bill to really experience the landscape. It is the tranquility and serenity of the Ouse Washes landscape which are particularly appealing to him.

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The Earith Bulwark flooded, taken early January 2013. Kite Aerial Photography by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, all rights reserved.

He has also photographed the earthwork remains of the Civil War Bulwark at Earith, some of which are replicated here. As part of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, the history of this significant structure will be better revealed, with better access and interpretation forming part of the plans.

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Earith Bulwark from above. Kite Aerial Photography by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, all rights reserved.

As part of the Delivery phase we will probably work closely with Bill to create some unusual pictures of the landscape and public events held; we might also give school children and other community groups a chance to learn how to create similar images with the aid of a kite. Succesful community kite aerial photography projects have also been done in The Netherlands and Scotland; see for instance here for one such a project which could be replicated for the Ouse Washes.

You can see many more of Bill Blake’s images on Bill’s Flickr pages, and find more information on his blog and professional website.

Winter Wonderland

Heritage Lottery FundThis time I wanted to share some pretty pictures with you and take this as an opportunity to talk about another habitat creation scheme in the area. Both pictures were taken by a colleague late last week, just before the Ouse Washes area started receiving heaps of snow – with the frost on the trees and on the ground the landscape already looked in the grips of winter.

Mepal Outdoor Centre January 2013 029

These pictures were taken at Mepal Outdoor Centre. Cambridgeshire ACRE has recently taken over the management of this outdoors sports centre and will start running it as a varied and viable business this spring.

Mepal Outdoor Centre is located about a mile west from the Old Bedford River and comes with substantial grounds including a 20 acre lake. Not only is this a great location for the watersports and other outdoors activities on offer, there is also some woodland and the lake attracts a lot of wildlife as well.

In addition, across the road (the A142 between Ely and Chatteris) a large wetland area will be created over the next decades, Block Fen, which will eventually link this site with the Ouse Washes. Following aggregate extraction, part of the Block Fen area will be turned into an important wetland reserve including lakes and lowland wet grassland habitats. See for instance here to understand what is happening at Block Fen.

This will happen in stages over the next half century or so. The eventual results at Block Fen will have a dual function: additional water storage to reduce flood risk, and the creation of lowland wet grassland areas to compensate for the loss of similar habitats within the Ouse Washes itself, giving especially wintering and breeding birds the necessary environment being lost in the Ouse Washes washland due to more frequent unseasonal flooding. See also this previous post for a discussion of similar schemes at the south end of the LPS area. For some pictures of the lakes and wetlands already created at Block Fen, look here.

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Mepal Outdoor Centre: important for wildlife as well

With its convenient location pretty much halfway the extreme ends of the Ouse Washes LPS area, Mepal Outdoor Centre is also likely to play an important role in the delivery phase of the Ouse Washes LPS project. Several of the scheduled projects which will take place in and around the Ouse Washes between 2014 and 2016 will involve the provision of training days for volunteers in land management, biodiversity and archaeology. It is envisaged that many of these training sessions will be held at this centre, where most facilities for this are already in place.

By the way, if you have taken any nice pictures of the Ouse Washes in the snow and are happy for me to share these on this blog, please send them to me.