Rich Soil Rich Heritage – Free Film

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Opportunities to view the 45 minute film called “Rich soil, rich heritage” all about the district and how it has been shaped by the many different people who have come here over the past 350 years.

Leaflet HLF

Enjoy!

 

Sutton Gault Day – Sunday 29th June 2014

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Abby and Mark from OWLP are attending Sutton Gault Day on Sunday 29th June 2014, looks like lots of fun – poster here

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The Ely Standard piece about last year and photos are well worth a look, please accept my apologies for the brevity of this post but I must get on and organise the fishing game, wiggly worm contest and ‘wordle’ that we are taking with us!

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Our ‘Ouse Washes’ fishing game at a local event last summer

Other blogs on the area/ events:

The Sutton area and surroundings

Other events that we are attending

The Community Heritage Funds grants that we are promoting

Hidden Heritage: the disused Ely and St Ives Railway

LogosIt seems a long time ago that I wrote for the Ouse Washes LP blog, but in fact it was only last summer when I was working with Mark as a summer placement on the development phase of the scheme. I wrote some articles on the hover train and the airfield at Mepal and to continue the theme of hidden heritage I thought I would look at the disused Ely to St Ives railway.

1860s: construction of the Ely to Sutton line

The line opened between Ely and Sutton in on 16th April 1866 and was the idea of two local landowners, Frederick Camps of Haddenham and Oliver Claude Pell of Wilburton. The original route was to, logically, go along the ridge from Ely to Sutton via Witchford, but due to the fact that the two main backers were from Haddenham and Wilburton that route was dropped in favour of one that went south of the ridge. This change proved to be a vital factor in the lack of success of the line; more about this later.

The Ely, Haddenham and Sutton Railway Act was passed on 23rd June 1864 and the construction contract was given to W.S.Simpson, Park Farm, Ely for the sum of £48,000. Great Eastern Railway was contracted to run the service and provide the rolling stock and manpower for 50% of the gross receipts. A third class return fare from Sutton to Ely was 2 shillings and at the time was around one fifth of the average farm worker’s wage. In the first year income was very low with twice as much being earned from freight than from passenger services.

1870s: extension of the line to St Ives

In 1875 an application for an extension of the line to St Ives was put to parliament and permission was given on 7th April 1876, construction started in that year and the extension was opened on 10th May 1878.

The new line was originally due to have just one station between Sutton and St Ives at Bluntisham but an extra station was built at Earith on the request of a local landowner who sold the land at a reduced rate. The line opened on Friday 10th May 1978 although passengers did not take advantage of the new service until the following Monday when St Ives market was on!

Even after the new line was opened passenger traffic remained low and freight was the mainstay of the railway. The lack of passengers was probably due to the position of the stations; Stretham, Wilburton and Haddenham stations were all at the end of the village or considerable distance away, the same can be said for Earith as it was at the Hermitage where the marina is now.

The line running through Earith

Earith Station, with the rail line running around Earith

Post WWI: Falling passenger numbers

Freight increased during the First World War due to home-grown produce being carried but after the war passenger numbers decreased dramatically, which was also not helped by a bus service that started in 1919.

The numbers continued to fall during the 1920s and the service for passengers was finally closed in 1931, although goods traffic continued. There were some special passenger services put on for excursions; Mepal resident Roly Ransome, for instance, remembers day trips to Hunstanton from Sutton station on Sundays during the summer.

Closure of the line

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The Second World War saw an increase in freight to service the airfields at Mepal and Somersham, but after the war road transport became cheaper and more widespread and eventually the line closed from Sutton to Bluntisham in October 1958. Goods such as sugarbeet and vegetables continued to be carried from Sutton to Ely but the amount decreased and the whole line was shut in July 1964.

What’s left in the landscape?

There are still remains of the track bed and stations but much of it was put back to arable land and the stations became private dwellings or commercial premises. The line was always affected by a lack of income and was really only supported by the freight traffic for many years.

I wonder how popular a line from Sutton to Ely would be today?

Please let us know if you have any memories or stories of the line.

Related posts:

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:

 

The new OWLP Landscape Boundary

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As part of the development phase works we have reconsidered the boundary for the OWLP scheme area. This was included in the work done as part of the Landscape Character Assessment , commissioned by the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership to Sheils Flynn.

Redrawing the boundary

For our stage 1 submission, back in early 2012, the boundary drawn was still relatively simple. Not anymore. Following the recent finalisation of the Landscape Character Assessment for the OWLP area and the Landscape Conservation Action Plan as part of our stage 2 submission, I can now show you the final results of this work.

First of all, spot the differences:

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Boundary as drawn for the OWLP’s stage 1 application, February 2012

337-LA-10 - Parish Boundaries

OWLP boundary as defined for the stage 2 submission, November 2013. Map created by Sheils Flynn for OWLP. Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2013 – not to be reproduced.

In their comments on our stage 1 bid, the HLF considered the OWLP area boundary somewhat vague and arbitrary; despite numerous hours of discussion between partners had already gone into this.

A coherent landscape

A requirement for the stage 2 submission was, thus, to come up with a better described, understood and more coherent boundary. The new landscape boundary is based on careful consideration of a number of related factors:

  • The boundary surrounds a strongly coherent landscape. The vast majority of the OWLP landscape is below the 5 m contour line.This is a distinct landscape, with a unique history, linear waterways, significant wetlands and which plays an important role in food production, drainage and flood prevention.
  • The boundary is driven by the landscape using natural boundaries.
  • The boundary is understood by local people – as part of the community consultations held during the Audience & Access work, people were shown draft versions of the new map, to which people responded positively, as the boundary line follows local landscape features such as roads, drains and other, locally recognised landscape features.
  • The boundary reflects historic patterns of land use: the ‘territory’ associated with the Fen Isle villages, including for instance historic field patterns, droveways and outlying farmsteads, together describe historic patterns of land use and the present-day sense of community in this part of the Fens. Settlements developed on ‘islands’ of higher land in an otherwise expansive and historically marshy landscape. The most productive arable fields were concentrated on the more elevated, relatively well-drained land surrounding the villages, with pasture on seasonally water-logged meadows. The marshy fenlands, which covered vast areas of the Fen Basin, were an important economic resource, used for cutting peat, reeds and sedge and to provide a constant supply of wildfowl, fish and eels.
  • The boundary contains a relatively empty landscape, with a scatter of settlements on the areas of higher land on and around the edge; relatively well-drained soils fringe the low-lying fen that was the focus of the Ouse Washes drainage scheme. The settlements function as individual gateways to the central, lower landscape.
  • The boundary coincides with the historic road pattern: the alignment of roads and causewayed tracks connects the villages and forms a loose ring around the Ouse Washes.
  • The boundary contains an internationally significant wetland landscape: recent wetland and fen restoration projects and opportunities for new wetlands as part of the Great Ouse Wetland and Fens Wetland Vision projects contribute to the international value of the Ouse Washes and have the potential to provide superb opportunities for public access, recreation and environmental education.

Crossing multiple boundaries

The OWLP area covers two Counties (Cambridgeshire and Norfolk), five different Districts (Kings Lynn & West Norfolk BC, Fenland DC, East Cambridgeshire DC, Huntingdonshire DC and South Cambridgeshire DC) and no less than 29 Parishes.

In the process of redefining the boundary for the OWLP landscape, the total area increased from 199 km2 at the stage 1 bid to 243 km2 now, stretching for 48.5 km between Denver and Downham Market at the northern end and Fen Drayton and St Ives to its south.

The OWLP residents

The OWLP area contains 25 villages/settlements which are either fully or partially within, or directly abutting the area’s boundary:

  • In Norfolk these are Denver, Salters Lode, Fordham, Nordelph, Ten Mile Bank, Welney, Tipps End and Lakes End.
  • The Cambridgeshire settlements are Manea, Pymoor, Wardy Hill, Coveney, Witcham, Mepal, Sutton, Earith, Aldreth, Over, Swavesey, Fen Drayton, Holywell, Needingworth, Bluntisham, Colne and Somersham.
  • Close by are also the settlements of Hemingford Grey, Willingham, Haddenham and Little Downham (Cambridgeshire) and Hilgay (Norfolk).

The resident population of the LP area is 33,010. Outside the Ouse Washes LP area the neighbouring towns within a c10km zone are Downham Market, Littleport, Ely, Chatteris, March, St Ives, Huntingdon and Cambridge; they have a collective resident population of 236,688. The OWLP scheme’s delivery phase focuses on both the local residents and market town residents.

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Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area – Location Map. Map created by Sheils Flynn for OWLP. Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2013 – not to be reproduced.

Click on the above map (X 2) to zoom in; the maps displayed here can also be viewed in our Resources section.

What do you think?

What do you think? Does this boundary indeed reflect local people’s perceptions of what makes a coherent landscape? Let me know your thoughts – click on the balloon at the top to leave a comment, or contact me directly. Thank you.

 

Related Posts:

 

Hidden Heritage: Mepal Airfield Part 2

Heritage Lottery Fund

Thor Missiles at Mepal

Who realises that a modern industrial site just outside of Mepal hides so much history dating from the Second World War and that Mepal, Sutton and Witcham were in the front line of the Cold War and would have been a major Soviet target?

Project Emily

In 1957 a proposal from the USA was put to Britain to deploy Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) in the UK. The proposal was regarded favourably by Britain’s new Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. Final agreement on the deployment of Thor in Britain was reached at the Bermuda Conference in March 1957, when Macmillan and Eisenhower met to discuss key issues. On 1 April, Macmillan reported to Parliament that:

“The rockets will be the property of Her Majesty’s Government, manned by British troops who will receive their prior training from American experts. The rockets cannot be fired by any except the British personnel, but the warhead will be in the control of the United States – which is the law of the United States- and to that extent the Americans have negative control; but it is absolutely untrue to say that the President and not the British Government will decide when these missiles will be launched and at whom. So long as we rely upon the American warheads, and only so long, that will remain a matter for the two Governments”.

Project Emily was then born and twenty sites were chosen to house the new missiles. Construction started at Mepal in 1958 and was declared operational on 22nd July 1959 with the reformed 113 (SM) Squadron; the SM stands for ‘Strategic Missile’. Each site had three Thor missile pads and was part of a cluster of five sites under the command of one base. Feltwell was the first base to be operational in 9th January 1959 and Mepal was under its command. The missiles themselves were kept prone and invisible in specially made shelters such as the one in the picture below.

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Thor missile shelter clearly shown. Courtesy of Paul Bellamy at Airfield Information Exchange.

When the order came to launch, whether real or simulated, it would take up to 15 minutes to get the missile ready and the sequence needed the authority of both the British and Americans. The ‘dual key’ system meant that the RAF could initiate a countdown but the missile could only be launched after the Americans had armed the warhead. In fact the warheads (1.44 Megatons) were not even kept on site but  at Faldingworth, an old wartime airfield near Scampton, Lincolnshire.

Construction of the Thor missile hangar

Construction of the Thor missile hangar. Photo courtesy of the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum, Harrington.

The layout of a Thor launch pad

The layout of a Thor launch pad. Photo courtesy of the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum, Harrington.

The missiles were only put on a high state of readiness once in their history and that was during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

Thor missile in its launch position

Thor missile in its launch position. Courtesy of Paul Bellamy at Airfield Information Exchange.

Thor missile deployment to the UK was scheduled to end in November 1964; however it ended in 1963 when the US deployed its Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)
and the RAF’s own ‘V Force’ had the Blue Steel standoff weapon launched from
Valiant, Victor and Vulcan bombers.

Evidence left on the ground

There is very little evidence left of both the WW2 and Cold War heritage of Mepal airfield but if you know where to look there are some interesting relics. Part of the runways and perimeter track are still visible on the Sutton side of the A142, while the Elean Business Park and the straw burning power station cover much of the Eastern side but some elements can still be seen. In fact many of the buildings and access roads to the domestic site can be seen around Witcham and the sewage works  built for the airfield is still in use today! Martyn Chorlton’s excellent book Airfield focus 47: Mepal and Witchford has many interesting photos and maps. I took this photo on the old Sutton to Mepal road, it is actually part of the North West to South East runway!

Part of the old runway

Part of the old runway

The Thor missile bases where broken up before the power station was built but part of the southern base (LE10) can still be seen at the north-eastern edge of the Cheffins Auction site.

An aerial photo of Mepal airfield taken in January 1959

An aerial photo of Mepal airfield taken in January 1959. From Airfield Information Exchange

An overlay of the missile bases and runways on a recent aerial photo

An overlay of the missile bases and runways on a recent aerial photo. Courtesy of Paul Bellamy at the Airfield Information Exchange.

Another relic of the Cold War days is the trig point just off of the old road from Sutton to Mepal, each base had two of these built by the Royal Engineers Survey Squadron prior to construction as the missile pads had to be accurately surveyed. The second one has either been removed or more likely to be buried under the spoil dug out from the power
station when it was built.

Mepal South, Project Emily Trig Point.

Mepal South, Project Emily Trig Point.

I’m sure many people have memories or stories to tell of the history of Mepal airfield, we would be delighted to hear from you and will update the Blog with any new information. We aim to carry out a dedicated project on the history of the airfield over  the next few years, watch this space for more details.

I would like to thank the Airfield Information Exchange and the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum for helping out with pictures and information.

Meet the Team

Heritage Lottery FundMy colleagues at Cambridgeshire ACRE are carrying out a series of community consultations across the length of the Ouse Washes landscape area (see also Peter’s recent post here). In addition, we will also have a presence at stands at several local festivals over the summer period.

Sutton in the Isle Village Sign Side 1

Sutton in the Isle Village sign. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eaglekepr/5139578331/

To begin with, you can meet the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership team this Saturday (29 June) at Sutton Gault. As part of the Sutton Festival, this Saturday a great programme is planned for Gault Day.

Although focused on local residents and families, the festival would certainly have a wider appeal, with a focus on fun activities and Fenland life. I have reliably been informed that the programme will also include: the annual Duck Race; Pooh Sticks race; a bouncy castle; face painting; kite flying. There will also be Peter Carter, the last Eel Catcher, bringing his punt gun and firing it (apparently);  beehives; displays about old Sutton and village life; plus a remote-controlled helicopter, and a number of classic british motorcycles; and performances by local musicians. For more information about the events and the rest of the activities of the Sutton Feast, see here

So, come and meet me this Saturday to have a chat about what you like about the area or what you think could be improved, fill in one of our consultation surveys, or try to catch some Ouse Washes fish!

Our next display will be at Manea at the very popular Manea Gala. This event will be held two weeks later, Saturday 13 July.

See here for a first impression of what will be on offer that day at the Manea Gala

I hope to see you soon!