Walk to Better Health

The Great Fen Local Ramble at March I went on recently had people who regularly attend 1 hour long health walks in their Fenland towns. logos

The NHS recommends that walking can become part of a healthy routine through integrating it into your daily schedule, for example walking the children to school or walking to work. To keep walking interesting and sociable, you can cover different routes and distances, set goals and join local walking groups.

Examples of walking organisations and their walks near Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area

Walking for Health is a relatively recent health-related initiative that is aimed at people who do little or no exercise but who would like to become more active. Based at Cambridgeshire ACRE in Littleport, I found many different health walks within 15 miles, many of which are also in or around the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area:

  • East Cambridgeshire: Heart Beat at Littleport (10:30 am, Harley-Davidson Sculpture, Church Lane, CB6 1PT) and Ely (2 pm, Ely Cathedral, Minster Place, CB7 4D) every Tuesday; Littleport (Evening Walk, 6:30 pm, St George’s Medical Centre, Parsons Lane, CB6 1JU) on Thursdays.
  • Mytime Active Cambridgeshire Walks at Littleport (6.30pm, St George’s Medical Centre every Wednesday) and Wisbech (2.15pm, Chapel Road) every 2nd Tuesday and March (10am, Merceford House) every Tuesday; (10.30am, Cornerstone Surgery) every Thursday; (12.30pm, George Campbell Leisure Centre) every Thursday.

Organisations and resources for health walks

Ramblers organises group walks for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, including previously inactive people, people with a specific health condition and people with wheelchairs. They hold walks in towns, cities and the countryside to promote walking for health, leisure and as a means for getting around.

The Fenland Ramblers gathering up in Swaffham for a walk in the surrounding Norfolk countryside. Source: Lizzie Bannister
The Fenland Ramblers gathering up in Swaffham for a walk in the surrounding Norfolk countryside. Source: Lizzie Bannister

There are several Ramblers groups local to the OWLP are: Cambridge and Peterborough,  Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, and Cambridge and Huntingdon. Keep posted on these Ramblers’ websites to see if you can enjoy the Ouse Washes via walks at places in and around the scheme area. Remember that organisations like the Great Fen Project also hold walks in the area, information about which may be available from local walking group, nature conservation groups, and leisure or health centres. Other national initiatives such as Walk4LIfe supports the activity of walking and changes to better lifestyles for health benefits, this interactive map from Walk4LIfe shows some of the local walking opportunities around the Ouse Washes, including at the Welney WWT reserve.

Squeezing alongside houses can be part of a walk, as it was for Woodman's Way route  near March - sourced by Lizzie Bannister

Squeezing alongside houses can be part of a route near March – sourced by Lizzie Bannister

Health benefits

Walking has become a popular health-related activity advocated by health professionals. Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of various illnesses and have many positive benefits. Cambridgeshire Mind recommends being active and taking more notice of the world to enhance wellbeing, which can be met by walking outdoors. To get the health benefits from walking, it needs to be faster than a stroll, which raises your heart rate and makes you break a sweat. Walking is an ideal exercise for most people – one that can be built up slowly in pace and distance as suitable.

two friends from the Great Fen Local Ramble group enjoying their walk while in conversation

Two friends from the Great Fen Local Ramble group enjoying their walk while in deep conversation

Walk anywhere!

Also, remember the countryside isn’t the only place to walk – towns and cities offer interesting walks including parks, heritage trails, riverside paths, commons, woodlands, heaths and nature reserves. Ely’s Country Park, for example, produced leaflets on walk routes, which involve trails that pass by the River Ouse, Roswell Pits, the Hereward Way and through an ecological and geological Site of Scientific Interest, and include magnificent views of Ely Cathedral. Your local towns and villages often have walks and routes – see your parish or local newsletters or magazines and parish council resources like websites for them.

The Great Fen Local Ramble group on The Woodman's Way near March on the way to Wimblington

The Great Fen Local Ramble group near March on the way to Wimblington – source: Lizzie Bannister

Walking is great for giving to charities, community involvement and social inclusion

Walking is a popular way for raising money for charity – whether through sponsorship to achieve great distances and individual aims for a charity that is close to the heart, or as a fun, collective activity where monies are generated by contributions and entry charges. The charities can be illness-related – for example, there is a 5km circular Walk for Macmillan in March. The emergency medical organisation of Magpas is one of many charities being supported by the Ouse Washes Experience (organised by the Ely Hereward Rotary Club), which people can choose to walk 8.5km or 17km, run 8.5km or cycle 11.5km, 17km or 32km on the 21st September.

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Have a meander along your river

Do you live in or near Welney, Denver, March or Ely? They have something in common… Can you guess what they all have? Rivers! They all have their own character and issues. Would you like to enjoy and learn about your local Fenland rivers?

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This is a chance to enjoy a lovely, informative and sociable walk along some of our local rivers whilst discussing and gaining an understanding of issues and impacts upon these and other Fenland rivers and on the Ouse Washes. It will be a laid-back endeavour with stops to view the scenery and features, or to chat and take photographs.

The Ouse Washes

The Ouse Washes. Image by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation, all rights reserved.

A partnership (The Water Care Partnership) is working to investigate and work towards solutions for the problems these rivers face and which have been pointed out by the Environment Agency. This is where you and your ideas and involvement comes in! It is important to consider local communities’ perspectives and skills in the care and management of these valuable natural resources.

Everyone and anyone are welcome on these ‘Riverside Walks and Talks’ however the walks may not be suitable for some people like wheelchair users. Light refreshments will be provided and you can find out how to get involved with protecting your local environment.

There are four walks around the area, all of which will be approximately 2 miles and may take up to 2.5 hours.

Welney – Sunday 14th September 10am

“A catchment based approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment”

River at Welney

River Delph at Welney

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – Welney

Ely – Sunday 14th September 2pm

“Our part in the bigger picture”

River at Ely

River Great Ouse at Ely

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – Ely

Denver – Saturday 20th September 10am

“A catchment based approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment”

River at Denver

The Tidal River and New Bedford River at Denver

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – Denver

March – Saturday 20th September 2pm

“A catchment based approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment”

River at March

River Nene at March

Riverside Walk and Talk Invitation – March

Bookings are now being taken for the Riverside Walk and Talk events hosted by Cambridgeshire ACRE for the Water Care Partnership. Places are limited and so to book your place(s), please visit: www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/walkandtalk. For more information on the work of the Water Care Partnership please visit www.watercarepartnership.wordpress.com. If you have any questions regarding any of the walks, please contact Jennie Thomas (Jennifer.thomas@cambsacre.org.uk or 01353 865044).

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

What local residents have told us (so far…)

Over the past few months Mark, Peter and Anna and I have been out and about in the villages and parishes in or near the Ouse Washes Landscape area chatting to local residents.  We have been asking them to describe how they use the countryside around them, tell us what they know of its heritage and let us know how they value their local landscape.

Consulting with young people at Manea Gala

Consulting with young people at Manea Gala

We are very grateful for the views and opinions of those we spoke to and will be using them to shape the programme going forward. I will post a full report later in the summer but thought you might be interested in some of the ideas people have shared with us and what we have been told around the area.

‘’Everyone knows it is there but not everyone knows what it does’’ Welney resident.                                                                                                                         We have found this to be true although its existence is not always recognised in the Market Towns we surveyed and those Parishes not directly adjacent to the Rivers.

‘’I think it’s magical when it floods down the Gault.’’ Sutton resident                         ”I never really think about where I live, I just drive through it’’ 19 year old Welney resident.                                                                                                                 Attitudes towards the landscape also seem to vary depending upon the age of the resident.  We have found that older residents (50+) are more likely to understand the role of the Washes; will have been educated about it at school (if they were children in the area) and can generally talk knowledgeably about the environmental and historical heritage of the area.

’We need more points of interest marked and presented, with good information. These could be historical, environmental or businesses – for example, farm visits; links to people producing food, craft, art; cultural events; wildlife trails. We also need more circular footpaths, with information sheets.’’ Somersham resident.     This comment covers a number of commonly voiced opinions i.e. the need for more information about what is available and circular walks. I did however like this response to the question ‘’’ What would encourage you to visit the Ouse Washes area more often?                                                                                                                     Answer: ‘’A good pair of legs.’’

The surveys are still open:                                                                                             The local resident survey (for those living near to the Washes) can be found at:

http://www.smart-survey.co.uk/s/81251HOSCT

The market town survey for residents of March, Ely, Chatteris, Downham Market and St Ives is at:

http://www.smart-survey.co.uk/s/83190XOQKC