The Fens Waterways Link

Heritage Lottery FundThe Fens Waterways Link is one of the most significant waterway projects to take place in the UK for two centuries.  It will connect the Cathedral cities of Lincoln, Peterborough and Ely, opening up 240km of new and existing waterways.  It is hoped the project will put the Fens on the map as a nationally recognised destination, as well known as the Norfolk Broads.

The map below outlines the sections of waterway that will be improved/created by the scheme.  The Ouse Washes come into this area, as can be seen on the map.  Not only are the Fens Waterways Link and the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Scheme closely related geographically, they also share common goals, aiming to promote heritage, conservation and community engagement.  (See here for the aims of the Ouse Washes LPS.)

Fens Waterways Link Map

In detail, the aims of the Fens Waterways Link are to:

  • Create opportunities for increased leisure, tourism and regeneration, attracting economic development and employment.
  • Develop a unique image of the Fens Waterways as a world-class tourist destination, a place for healthy activity in the great outdoors, and place to escape.
  • Open access to the rich heritage, culture and history of the fens through time.
  • Benefit the natural environment, linking major wetland sites, creating new habitats and supporting the future of our unique fenland wildlife.
  • Help improve water supplies and flood defences by improving our water storage, transfer and drainage infrastructure.
  • Provide a regional water-based transport corridor for people and freight.
  • Give local people a sense of ownership of their local waterways as a place of belonging with rich opportunities for recreation, enjoyment and healthy activities.
  • Promote waterways as a venue for learning, training and skills development, providing opportunities for people of all ages to engage with their environment.
  • Enable visitors, businesses and other community members to become champions for the waterways at the heart of local communities.
Black Sluice Lock, Boston Photo courtesy of www.canalplan.org.uk

Black Sluice Lock, Boston
Source: http://canalplan.org.uk/gazetteer/5o1m

The project is divided into six phases.  Phase 1, Boston Lock Link, was completed in 2009.  This involved the opening of Black Sluice Lock (map item 1), thereby providing access to 35km of navigation which had been closed for 50 years.  The disused lock cottages were turned into a visitor centre and café, and new moorings were created.  Other improvements include picnic areas, footpaths/cycleways, fishing platforms, fish refuges and sand martin banks.

The Ouse Washes LP area is within Phase 6 of the project: ‘Peterborough to Denver Link – linking the River Nene across the Middle Level Navigations to the River Great Ouse’.  Details have not yet been finalised, but it is hoped that the following developments will be possible.

  • The Denver Hydro Hub would provide an array of information and activities for visitors.  Using existing rights of way, a number of circular routes would be created.  There would also be opportunities for bike, boat and canoe hire and boat trips.
  • New Hundred Foot Tidal River moorings near Mepal and Welney, allowing access to attractions such as WWT Welney, and providing the opportunity for boat trips to operate.
  • The Hermitage Lock Hydro Hub at Earith would involve commercial redevelopment of the lock keeper’s house, e.g. restaurant, holiday let, cycle hire, car parking.
  • Improving navigation around Welches Dam to better connect the Great Ouse system with the Middle Level Navigations.  Currently Welches Dam Lock is closed, so access between the Old Bedford River and the Forty Foot is not possible.

An implementation plan was created in 2004, and at that time the Link as a whole
was expected to take 15-20 years to complete.  Construction costs were estimated at £130 million, partly funded by the Environment Agency and partly from other sources.  In 2004 funds had been allocated for the initial stages of the project, and further funding was being investigated from possible sources such as local authorities, the Lottery and the European Union.  Although the current economic climate has impacted on the delivery of the Link, work is progressing.

More information about the Link can be found at: http://www.fenswaterways.com/

Advertisements

Ouse Washes Roads Flooded once more

Heritage Lottery FundJust this morning, the Welney Causeway was shut down for the third time this winter – this may well be an all-time record. As road closures due to flooding of the Ouse Washes affect local communities directly, I thought to get this message out quickly.

This winter has seen a particular high number of days in which the roads crossing the Ouse Washes have been closed off due to flooding. See my previous post on an earlier road closure this winter which turned out to be the second longest in history.

untitledWhen the Ouse Washes are flooded above a certain level, the road crossings at Welney and Earith will have to be shut down. The Welney Causeway was shut this morning, following a ‘severe’ flood warning. The Earith crossing currently has a ‘medium’ flood warning; according to the latest news from the Environment Agency the Earith causeway is still open. Check here for the latest updates.

To the right is an image of the current situation at Welney, as of 5:30 this morning. See here for more information, or see here for similar images for up-to-date information on other river level measuring points further south along the Ouse Washes (at Welches Dam and Sutton Ghault).

So, why do we get flooding in the Ouse Washes? The main reason is that – in times of high rainfall further inland – the water in the Great Ouse river rises. Once it reaches a certain level at Earith, water is automatically diverted and allowed to flow into the Old Bedford river, Vermuyden’s early seventeenth century masterpiece. From here, the washes in between the Old and New Bedford rivers are flooded. This prevents flooding of towns and huge stretches of agricultural land elsewhere.

More about how all of this works and the decision-making processes behind all of this in due course. For now, click on the below Environment Agency map to get a first idea of how the whole Ouse Washes water flow system works – it is rather complicated but also quite ingenious:

blogwashes-schematic_jpg

Schematic layout of the Ouse Washes flood system. It also shows the relatively few crossings over the washes. Source: Environment Agency and http://www.ousewashes.info. Click on the map to enlarge.