It’s exciting times for our “New Life on the Old West” project. Project Manager, Howard Jones, joined at the start of January. Howard has been busy putting a talented project team together, applying for consents and permissions for the work we plan to do, and engaging our local communities, project partners and stakeholders. A former solicitor, Howard completed an Environmental Conservation & Management MSc in 2012, before working with nature and conservation bodies, such as National Trust and South & West Wales Wildlife Trust. He recently managed a major National Lottery supported orchard survey, restoration and creation project in the East of England.
At the start of June, Howard was joined by Laura Allen as Natural Heritage & Communities Officer. Laura gained a BA (Hons) in Geography from Keele University and recently completed an MA in Heritage Management at Bath Spa University. She is passionate about protecting and enhancing our natural heritage, and the positive value of connecting with nature during a time of biodiversity decline. She is looking forward to working with communities in the Cambridgeshire Fens and will be delivering a programme of public events for local people to engage with their natural heritage, improve habitats and monitor species across the Old West landscape.
Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s financial support, brought about by the generosity of the National Lottery players, we will be delivering 92 planned habitat enhancements for our threatened fenland wildlife, at 34 different sites across 9 rural parishes – Cottenham, Willingham, Wicken, Haddenham, Over, Little Thetford, Stretham, Wilburton and Rampton. The team will work to create multiple habitat stepping-stones in the area around the Old West River; between its confluence with the River Cam to where it meets the Ouse Washes at Earith Junction. These will link two large internationally known nature reserves, at National Trust’s Wicken Fen, and RPSB’s Ouse Fen and Ouse Washes. Our fenland wildlife should be able to move more readily though the landscape, travelling from and between these two nature-rich areas.
This will include work to make around 4km of drainage ditches (the famous watery hedges of the Fens) more wildlife friendly, by adding berms to create long strips of shallow water within the ditches; shallow water with up to 10cm depth is the most important freshwater habitat for wildlife. Berms will help many different animals, such as the water vole, toads, eels and grass snakes, as well as rare ditch-dwelling plants and beetles.
We’ll create 25 new ponds and scrapes of differing sizes and depths, helping provide homes and feeding opportunities for waterfowl and wading birds, thirsty turtle doves, amphibians and fish.
Additionally, there will be about 82ha of new wildflower-rich areas, hay meadows on farms and community green spaces, plus flower plugs tolerant of mowing on more heavily managed green space. We’ll also plant orchard trees, rare black poplar trees and species rich hedges, install bat boxes and bug hotels… and much more!
You can read more about the project on its new website.
New Life on the Old West is very kindly supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery players.