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:

Cycle participants starting (9)

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.

 

Walking for work: Mixing business with pleasure

LogosI took the day off from my summer placement with the Ouse Washes: The Heart of the Fens – A Landscape Partnership Scheme (OWLP) to mix pleasure and business. I went on the Woodman’s Way walk at March and Wimblington, which is just outside the OWLP area. I found this walk on the Great Fen Project’s website and wanted to attend as it was around where I live and ride my pony on and would like to become more involved and to meet and enjoy the countryside with other people.

I also wanted to promoted OWLP and unleash my journalistic powers so came with a camera for this blog. I had already written my blog on part of the walk.

Our starting point at iconic St Wendreda of March

Our starting point at the iconic St Wendreda church of March

We started off with a scenic and historic meeting and brief lecture at St. Wendreda Church in March with the walk leader, Adrian Kempster, who informed us of the importance of the church because of its saint, an Anglo-Saxon princess who had healing powers, and the angel roof carvings. Being of the local tribe with these ramblers who never or rarely have been in the area, I was asked about directions by Adrian and we all went off at a jolly energetic pace. I quickly met a local March Ramblers’ leader assistant whose responsibility was to supervise for those lagging behind and we talked a lot on our way round. I was taking the photographs and I never considered myself as an amateur photographer before, so skills were also expanded from this walking experience.

Jolly start off under Fenland skyline onto farmland to the dismantled railway line

Jolly start off up track past the Neale-Wade Academy of March under Fenland skyline onto farmland to the dismantled railway line

To set the scene, the Woodman’s Way brought us through ancient wooded islands of March and Wimblington, which is reflected by the names we came across – Eastwood, Linwood, Hatchwood and Coneywood. From the unsteady track that took us away from the town, we entered the dismantled old railway line that is now a densely and diversely wooded and vegetated all along except when separated by tracks that remind us of the surrounding expansive arable landscape. We spotted interesting features along the way, including a horse paddock and variation in the track.

Down into an important and economic area of mixed land use

Down into an important and economic area of mixed land use near Hook Lane, Wimblington

We then took a detour into the industrialised farming area next to the Fengrain plant, down interesting enclosed footpaths, next to a plant nursery, into a village rife with farming activities followed by a lovely long and tree-lined loop back towards the path alongside the arable field next to the plant. Such tours offer a view of the important farming and horticultural economy in the Fenland. We then moved onto another diverse but not so densely wooded and vegetated track that has more challenging terrain.

In the real working and living Fenland countryside

In the real working and living Fenland countryside

We soon crossed the busy A141 bypass and were given sanctuary in the lovely St Peter church of Wimblington by the friendly people at the church and rested in the graveyard.

Exploring the Wimblington church of St Peter during our rest

Exploring the Wimblington church of St Peter during our rest

Refreshed and relieved, we set off at that same pace which puts strolling to shame into the village of Wimblington, which has a comprehensive range of services, across a large green then down a footpath into the outside village area (of Wimblington) towards March. We were soon travelling behind the houses (one of which is mine!) down another dense and diversely wooded and vegetated but narrower and grassier track, which is a byway. We came across a modern farmstead and lovely golf course, passed horse places and a deer farm before we crossed another byway with busy traffic. The track then lead us from farming and horses into a housing area of March. We interestingly went on a footpath alongside a house which led us onto a well hedged farmland with a ditch full of reed and other plants.

On the way back over farmland and next to different field boundaries

On the way back over farmland and next to different field boundaries next to March

From this, we worked our way behind urban settings to cross the graveyard church of St Wendreda and back to our cars.

My new friend kindly gave me and my worked legs a lift to our much needed refreshments at Weatherspoons in March.Afterwards, the tour was led to explore the March town. It had been a hot day but with a reasonable breeze and cloud cover so was favourable weather that encouraged a good turnout on this monthly (Wednesday) walk – the next Great Fen Local Group Ramble is on 12th November at Holme Fen!

I enjoyed the experience as I learnt more about my local environment, had some endorphins-boosting and rather energetic exercise and met some lovely people. This is all of the photogenic group modelling for me at our resting point in Wimblington!

The gang

The gang at St Peter church of Wimblington

Other related posts on nearby circular walks:

Mepal

Manea

Other circular walks in the area (near Wimblington):

Doddington

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

Circular Walks in OWLP area – part 2 : Manea

Series of circular walks and ridesLogos

So here it is, the second instalment of the series of circular walks and rides! Following on from Mark’s excellent first blog of the series all about a circular walk in Mepal, this second entry in the series looks at a walk which starts and finishes in Manea.

Manea

Manea is a village which is found at about the half way point along the Landscape Partnership area, and it is a place with a surprising amount of history; for example Charles I had designs to build a new Capital City here (although, it has to be said, it was never built!). Welches Dam, just outside Manea, was also host to another Fenland oddity: The Floating Church, which used to travel the Fenland waterways offering religious services to local communities. It was moored at Welches Dam for two years from 1904. And then there are the fantastic stories surrounding the 19th century utopian Manea Colony.

The Walk

As always with Fenland walks, this one gives you the opportunity to experience the traditional Fen landscape with its massive skies and flat horizons.

Distance 6.3 miles (10.1km); Minimum time 3hrs; Ascent/gradient Negligible; Level of difficulty Medium; Paths Lanes and hard farm tracks; Landscape Wide, flat fields separated by ditches and drainage channels; Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 228 March & Ely. (All information and detailed description of the walk can be found on the AA Website from which the map below is taken).

As an alternative at point 3 on the map, you can turn left to take you along the route of the former light railway used to transport earthwork reinforcements to the flood banks of the Old Bedford River. All the details of this walk can be found by following this link to the AA website.

Alternatives

There are several footpaths in and around Manea (as you can see on the map below) so it is quite possible to find your own circular walk. Be warned though, some footpaths marked on the map may be closed for part of the year (during the bird breeding season),

Manea map showing the position of Interpretation Panels.

Manea map showing the position of Interpretation Panels. Source: Cambridgeshire County Council Rural Group

although you should always be able to find an alternative route if you find you are confronted by a shut gate!

A copy of this map is available to download from here.

This map also has marked on it the position of some interpretation panels which will be installed as part of the Manea Community Conservation Project, which is one of the projects of this Landscape Partnership Scheme. (You can see all the partners and link through to their websites on the OWLP Partnership page.) These interpretation panels have been deliberately placed along the route that is taken by the local children between the school and The Pit.

I hope that this blog will inspire some people to take the opportunity to visit Manea and take a stroll through its local countryside. It’s certainly inspired me – keep an eye out for updates to this post with pictures from my trip.

Circular Walks in OWLP area – part 1 : Mepal

LogosOne of the things that came out clearly out of the community consultations we held last year in the parishes of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme area was that people would like more information about possible walks in their area.

Access to circular routes: the problem identified

People are especially after circular routes which they can follow, starting from their own village. Although a lack of joined-up rights of way in many parts of the OWLP area has been identified, we have also noticed that part of the problem seems to be the lack of access to the information about existing opportunities to access the countryside. Where this information is available, people also do not always know about its existence: often, existing walking and cycling routes are only available in paper versions or are available online but people are not necessarily aware of their existence.

Our solution

So, we are going to do something about this: over the next months, we aim to publish a series of blog posts advertising existing opportunities for exploring the countryside, be it for walking, cycling, horse-riding, canoeing or boating.

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Mepal’s circular walk. Source – http://www.visitcambridge.org/dbimgs/MepalWay(1).pdf

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The Three Pickerels Public house along the New Bedford River. Source: http://www.visitcambridge.org/dbimgs/MepalWay(1).pdf

Mepal circular walk: the Ouse Washes, Wildlife and the Gault Hole

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Front page of the Mepal Walk leaflet. Source: http://www.visitcambridge.org/dbimgs/MepalWay(1).pdf

 

A very good example is the route published for a tour through and around the village of Mepal. Even though this leaflet has been available for over a year and hard copies have been distributed in Mepal, not many people know of this very good route. For instance, when I showed several Sutton residents the leaflet nobody had seen it before, even though the route passes very close to the Sutton-Mepal parish boundary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The leaflet with the Mepal walk can be downloaded here

This leaflet, by the way, together with several other routes published for Cambridgeshire, was funded through a grant distributed through the previous LEADER programme (see previous blog post).

 

Do you know of any good walks in the area?

I have started this series of blog posts to showcase the existing walks and cycle rides in the area – by all means pass on any information to me about other sources of walks or rides, whether published online or not. We are keen to let more people know about the options and get you out and about in this very special landscape!

 

Related posts: