New job with RSPB for Ouse Washes LP scheme – now open

logosFollowing from previous staffing posts created for the WWT, Green Light Trust and for the Rosmini Centre, a fourth position with the OWLP key partners is now made available through the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme – with the RSPB, who is looking for a Community Engagement Officer.

This is an exciting opportunity to work closely with local farmers and conservation organisations, to help promote and enhance wildlife friendly farming in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

This position will be crucial to the delivery of the RSPB project within the OWLP scheme called ‘Wildlife Friendly Farming & Community Engagement’; the main aim, of this project is to bring wildlife-friendly farmers together in the vicinity of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area, to deliver an integrated community engagement programme designed to promote awareness of, learning about and on-going access to the area’s unique farm wildlife and archaeological heritage.

 

The post, which went live on Monday, is described as such:

We are looking for an enthusiastic and engaging person to grow our farm wildlife conservation efforts in the Cambridgeshire Fens, by increasing awareness, understanding and support for nature-friendly farming in the local community.

The RSPB has been successful in securing Heritage Lottery funding as part of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership, to help local people reconnect with a rich natural and cultural farmland heritage.

You will work closely with local nature-friendly farmers to design and deliver a programme of events, talks and wildlife ID training for local residents, schools and farmers.

By encouraging people of all ages to engage with their landscape through farm walks and activities, you will build support for nature-friendly farming and local producers, and enable farmers to tell the story of their work and the benefits for wildlife, ensuring continued support in the future,

An excellent communicator, you will have demonstrable experience of organising public events, as well as in-depth knowledge of farm wildlife and the challenges it faces.

With an office base at Welches Dam, Manea, you will be expected to undertake regular travel in the local area and elsewhere within the Fens.

 

The closing date for applications is 20 October 2014.

For the full job details and finding out how to apply, go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/vacancies/details/383486-community-engagement-officer

local kids on a bug hunt on a wildlife-friendly farm

Families on a bug hunt on a wildlife-friendly farm. Image: copyright Niki Williamson / RSPB.

 

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Ouse Washes Experience – What a great event it was

logosThis Sunday the long-awaited Ouse Washes Experience was held, a cycle, walk or run from WWT Welney reserve to RSPB Welches Dam.

What a great day it was! My colleague Abby was there all day with display and leaflets at WWT Welney, and then helping the main organisers, the Ely Hereward Rotary Club, with serving participants some well-deserved teas and biscuits at the end of the journey.

A total of c. 60 people participated, mainly on bicycle, some groups walking and a few runners. Not bad at all for an entirely new event and for an area where similar events have simply never been organised before. All in all, a great day out in the countryside, getting people to see a part of their world most participants had not seen yet (but, according to the people I spoke to, they certainly enjoyed!).

I also joined an interesting discussion with MP Steve Barclay who showed up in the morning at WWT Welney; he commented on how great such initiatives are for getting people to use the countryside and explore the wonderful landscape in this area.

I did the c. 6 mile run myself as well, on the Environment Agency maintenance track (specifically opened up for cyclists and walkers for this event) and partly on top of the bank along the Ouse Washes itself  – great views over the landscape and a wonderful tranquil experience.

Well done everyone and all organisations who have made this event possible – see you again next year!

Registration point (2)

Registration at WWT Welney Centre. Image: Emma Brand, WWT

Steve Barclay, Mark Nokkert and John Yates (8)

MP Steve Barclay, John Yates (Ely Hereward Rotary Club), and myself, ready to run. Image: Emma Brand, WWT.

Sharing some images of this great day with you here:

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Participants starting their cycle ride or walk from WWT Welney. Image: Emma Brand, WWT

 

 

 

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Arrival at Welches Dam, the RSPB Ouse Washes reserve.

 

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Ted Coney, our oldest participant, just arrived at Welches Dam.

 

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Group of walkers from Specsavers in March, walking for the Each Anglia charity just arriving after a long walk.

 

Upcoming events at the OWLP wetland reserves

LogosSpring is definitely in the air, and many new events are being organised in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area’s wetland reserves.

This Saturday 22 March (tomorrow, from 2-5, you can join the Warden at RSPB Ouse Fen for a ‘Reedbed Ramble’, to find out all about the ongoing conversion of the Hanson Quarry into a wetland habitat:

For more information, see: http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-354396

Next week Sunday 30 March, WWT Welney is organising a special Mother’s Day lunch; make sure to book early:

Mothers Day WWT Welney 2014

for more information, see also: http://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/welney/whats-on/2014/03/30/mothers-day-lunch/

More walking can be done at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes on Tuesday 4 April,  from 2 to 3 PM, for an organised Health Walk: http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-359203

Fen Drayton Lakes Great Crested Grebes @Neildethridge Mar 13 2014

Fen Drayton Lakes: Great Crested Grebes. Picture by Neil Dethridge @Neildethridge March 2014

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:

Barrows, Birds & Biodiversity: Exciting lecture in Earith – Tonight

Heritage Lottery FundTonight there will be a special lecture, jointly given by two well-known RSPB staff members, both working in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area:

Poster for RSPB Talk 16 April 2013

                      

RSPB TALK/ THE HANSON-RSPB WETLAND PROJECT STORY:

Barrows, Birds and Biodiversity – 3,000 BC to 2013

Chris Hudson, RSPB Project Manager and Robin Standring, RSPB Reserves Archaeology Officer

 Location: RECTOR’S HALL, Earith (Colne Road – next to Smartdrive)

 

Tuesday 16th April  – 7.30pm

Tickets £5 (Friends of Rector’s Hall £4.50) [to include a glass of wine]

Tickets available on the door.

For many years now, there has been a very fruitful cooperation between the RSPB, Hanson Aggregates and Cambridge Archaeological Unit; all three organisations are part of the Ouse Washes Partnership and play an active role in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, on the Board (RSPB), as deliverers of projects within the scheme (RSPB; Cambridge Archaeological Unit), or as part of our wider Partner Forum (Hanson Aggregates).

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Location map of quarried areas, with significant archaeological sites shown. Source: http://www.strideguides.com/unearthingthepast/web-content/map.html

As a result of extensive aggregate extraction, in advance of habitat restoration schemes in the area, numerous fascinating archaeological sites have been excavated. This research has revealed many sites from the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods, many of which are considered of national significance.

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Location of archaeological sites near Earith. Source: http://www.strideguides.com/unearthingthepast/web-content/delta.html

There is a whole range of information on the web relating to the archaeological finds from the different periods, all of which were done as a result of the RSPB – Hanson cooperation. look here for more information.

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Inhumation found in one of the Bronze Age barrows in the Over area. Source: http://www.strideguides.com/unearthingthepast/web-content/rites.html

Fen Drayton: an Oasis of Tranquility

Heritage Lottery FundAfter a meeting with the RSPB at their office in Swavesey late last week, I took the opportunity to explore the southern end of the Ouse Washes LPS area, in and around Fen Drayton lakes.

This is a surprising tranquil area. Besides the numerous birds singing, there really are hardly any background sounds – a very rare and beautiful tranquil place. Tranquility is what sets a great part of the Ouse Washes apart from other landscapes, and can certainly be experienced here.

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Fen Drayton lakes

The Fen Drayton lakes, and nearby Ouse Fen – the former quarries near Needingworth -, both located alongside the river Great Ouse, are managed as nature reserves by the RSPB. Together, they provide for a bewildering variety of lakes, river meadows and other wetland habitats, attracting in particular huge numbers of birds.The Fen Drayton and Ouse Fen nature reserves form key elements in the Great Ouse Wetland Vision, a strategic programme jointly managed by the RSPB, WWT and WTBCN.

Like those in the Ouse Washes washlands further north, the nature reserves here have man-made origins. This is another key feature of the whole of the Ouse Washes LPS: engineered or otherwise man-made structures having become a haven for wildlife.

There will be several projects as part of the delivery phase for the Ouse Washes LPS project which will join up with the strategic Great Ouse Wetland programme: helping with improvements to conservation works, interpretation and access facilities in and around the wetland sites. This will include training volunteers to deliver these projects. I will let you know more about these projects in due course.

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Guided Busway stop in the heart of Fen Drayton, with cycle parking facilities and information shelter

The great access facilities at Fen Drayton mean that this southern end of the Ouse Washes LPS area can function as a prime area for community engagement activities throughout the three years of the delivery phase. The Guided Busway, which runs through Fen Drayton, has a stop in the heart of the reserve, from which several long walks can be made to explore the varied landscape and its wildlife. And with the cycle route (part of Sustrans Route 51) parallel to the guided busroute, a day out here can even be entirely free for people living in Cambridge or St. Ives.

Check out the events programme at Fen Drayton here: amongst others, guided walks and activities for children are held here regularly