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A Mini Guide to the Ouse Washes Landscape

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) have produced this guide to support those working in tourism and customer focused businesses across the Ouse Washes Landscape. The guide is intended to provide an overview as to what makes this area so unique and special and to highlight some of the attractions within the area. It isn’t an exhaustive list but a list of useful websites and tourist information offices in the area can be found at the end of the guide. It does hopefully provide a flavour about what is on offer and will help those working in businesses in the local area to recommend other businesses and encourage people to stay, spend more and explore for longer. The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership is immensely proud of this area and its tourism offer

and we hope this guide provides a brief overview as to why. We hope you find it useful, please do get in touch or visit our website if you have any further questions. Mark Nokkert Programme Manager Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Edition 1 November 2016

Dawn over the Ouse © Andrew Sharpe


There are several towns and villages near the Ouse Washes Landscape each worth a visit and some offering something quite unique. Some highlights include: Downham Market – is one of Norfolk’s oldest market towns and it retains an intimate feel. It is known for its fine historic buildings and has a popular craft and collectibles market. It provides a good base for exploring the Ouse Washes Landscape area with good train links to the wider region.

Denver Sluice Complex

March – a pretty market

town following the course of the old River Nene which winds its way through the town centre, past the park and pretty riverside gardens. The town is a popular stopping off point for boaters with free moorings in the town centre, close to shops and places to eat.

WWT Welney Wetland Centre

RSPB and Wildlife Trust BCN Ouse Washes nature reserve

Mepal Outdoor Centre

• RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes and Ouse Fen nature reserves

St Ives – The Old Riverport, St Ives is a beautiful historic town on the Great Ouse that offers a wealth of recreational opportunities including riverboat trips, a fascinating heritage and a great range of independent shops. Famous for its ancient chapel bridge, one of only four in the country, it is a bustling market town at the southern entrance to the Ouse Washes. Markets are held every Monday, Friday and on bank holidays and its farmers’ market was voted the nation’s best in 2015 (FARMA). Cambridge is 30 minutes away on the Guided Busway and with a good range of accommodation, restaurants and cafes, St Ives is a great base for exploring the Ouse Washes Landscape. 2  BE AN AMBASSADOR FOR THE OUSE WASHES LANDSCAPE

Ely – boasting one of

the most magnificent cathedrals in the UK, Ely is also home to great independent shopping, regular weekly markets (including a fortnightly Farmers’ Market recently voted one of the best nationally (‘Observer Sunday Readers Survey Oct 2016’) and a good selection of high street brands. It has plenty of restaurants and eateries and a good range of accommodation in the City. It is also home to 3 museums all within walking distance of each other. The riverside area is perfect for walking, relaxing, dining or water based activities.

Images, top to bottom: Denver Sluice © Sheils Flynn/ OWLP; Ouse Washes North from Mepal © Bill Blake Heritage Documentation; Dawn over the River Great Ouse © Andrew Sharpe; Sunset in St Ives © Sam Palmer

Ouse Washes North from Mepal © Bill Blake Heritage Documentation

How to Access the Ouse Washes Landscape




The Ouse Washes area is north of Cambridge and reaches from St Ives in the south up as far as Downham Market in the north. It is in the heart of the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk Fens and include the RSPB Ouse Washes, Fen Drayton Lakes, Ouse Fen wetland reserves and WWT Welney Wetland Centre which are of international importance to wildfowl.

The Ouse Washes Landscape is very accessible with Ely, Downham Market, March, Manea and Littleport train stations providing easy connections from Cambridge, Norwich, Peterborough and beyond (www.thetrainline. com). The area is also well served by a local bus network ( and the southern part including St Ives, is accessible via the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway (www.thebusway. info). Walking and Cycling is also very popular and the Ouse Washes website has some helpful information about long distance routes and circular walks ( getting-around). Cambridgeshire County Council also produces some great cycling maps for the area –

The rural landscape, skies, fabulous sunsets and straight lines generate a feeling of remoteness and tranquillity and the area offers a wealth of opportunities to explore this.

Images, top to bottom: Ouse Washes Experience 2015 © Ely Hereward Rotary Club; Wildlife safari at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes, OuseFest 2016 © Adam Finch/OWLP


Sun and Sky, RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes © Mark Bunting

Why should I visit the Ouse Washes Landscape? 1. Landscape & Countryside Enjoyment This beautiful, largely unspoilt, rural landscape provides a peaceful environment for walking, exploring and getting close to nature. The landscape changes with the seasons, providing a continually changing backdrop and seasonally changing wildlife spectacles. Step outside anywhere within the area and you won’t be far from countryside walks, waterways and nature. Some of the highlights in the Ouse Washes Landscape where you can explore the landscape include: RSPB Ouse Washes – a tranquil walk allowing stunning views across a vast wet grassland site. There are lots of hides to spot unique wetland birdlife and the area is a hotspot for rare and protected farmland birds in surrounding arable land. More: RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes – Lakes, riverside, traditional meadows and hedges linked by a network of paths. Perfect for walking and cycling around, various circular walks are possible. You can cycle along the route of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway right into the heart of the Fen Drayton Lakes. On the bus route there is also a stop for Fen Drayton Lakes, making it very accessible without a car. More: RSPB Ouse Fen – A range of moderate to more challenging trails are currently available with public rights of way passing through the area too. Cycle and horse-riding routes are being developed as well. The reserve has been designed from the outset to create wildlife rich habitats and will soon become the UK’s largest extant of reedbed, with the booming bittern having returned to this site already. More:

Denver Sluice Complex – Run by the Environment Agency using a number of sluices to control river levels in the cities of Ely and Cambridge. Denver Complex has two locks, a slipway and plenty of moorings which is a popular destination for boating and visiting the local landscape. More: denver-sluice-complex Mepal Outdoor Centre – is a purpose-built outdoor activity centre offering a wide range of adventurous activities in the heart of the Ouse Washes Landscape. Currently catering more for corporate events than public bookings; more information is available on their website. More: Skylark – is Fenland’s largest garden centre located in Wimblington with a great line up of events throughout the year including the Maize Maze and Funyard in the Summer, Easter and Halloween events and a Santa’s Grotto in Winter. More: WWT Welney Wetland Centre – Get really close to the Ouse Washes and watch thousands of wintering birds from the comfort of a visitor centre and heated observatory. In the summer explore the wetlands in search of breeding birds, dragonflies and wildflowers. More:


Images clockwise from left: Water Rail © Graham Hann/WWT; Mepal Outdoor Centre Trust Trail © Williams Photography Ltd; Cyclists at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes © Pete Johnstone

2. Wildlife Spectacles The Ouse Washes Landscape contains one of the UK’s most extensive network of wetland habitats and has within it the expanding ‘Great Ouse Wetland’ network of wetland nature reserves. The area’s wetlands provide home to many species of rare birds, plants, fish and invertebrates. Rare species like Bewick’s swans, bitterns, black-tailed godwits, greater water-parsnip, spined loach and scarce chaser dragonfly find sanctuary here. Some of the highlights in the Ouse Washes Landscape where you can explore the wildlife close-up include: RSPB and Wildlife Trust BCN’s Ouse Washes reserve near Welches Dam is a huge area of washlands home to thousands of wintering ducks and breeding waders in spring. More:;

WWT Welney Wetland Centre – explore this extensive wetland area where incredible wildlife encounters take place daily. This is one of the largest wetland habitats in the UK where you can see swans, cranes and many more beautiful birds as well as hares – there are seasonal spectacles to be seen all year round, with for example, swan feeds in the winter and walks available on the Ouse Washes in the summer. More:

The RSPB Ouse Washes, Ouse Fen and Fen Drayton Lakes sites are all worth exploring for their wildlife offer – many offer activities like pond dipping and other family-orientated fun in the summer months. More: ousefen;; Manea Pit – an old gravel pit that has been transformed into a wildlife-rich and active local conservation project area. More: Images clockwise, from left: Pond dipping at Manea Pit, OuseFest 2016 © Adam Finch/OWLP; Barn Owl near Welney © Simon Stirrup; Manea Pit © OWLP; Welney Wash © Martyn Savage

Whooper Swan at WWT Welney © Allan Dean


3. Waterways Usage The Ouse Washes Landscape is renowned for its waterways. Whether you fancy taking a boat and being your own captain or joining a guided tour – you have plenty of options starting in Ely, St Ives or March. Rowing boats and family dinghies can also be hired from Denver Sailing Club. The waterways in the Ouse Washes Landscape have been at the top of anglers’ “must fish” for many years. There are over 200 miles of waterways and purpose-built lakes offering excellent fishing opportunities for the family all year round. Some of the highlights in the Ouse Washes Landscape where you can explore the waterways include: Hiring a Boat – Spend the day, weekend or longer exploring the waterways. Fox Narrowboats, based in March, offer a selection of boats suitable for day or overnight trips. More: If you would like to sail from Ely on either a narrowboat or cruiser then check out the collection of boats available at Bridge Boatyard. More: Fishing – There are a variety of streams, rivers, lakes and drains, all holding good stocks of roach, bream, rudd, tench, pike and zander and commercial fisheries well stocked with carp and silver fish. More: Fourwinds Leisure – a B&B, with campsite, canoe hire, fishing and archery instruction on site. Backing onto the old River Nene and set in five acres of farmland. More: Enjoy a boat trip with the St Ives Electric Riverboat Company. More:

Ely has a beautiful waterside where you can enjoy a boat trip or a riverside walk. As well as an art gallery and the region’s largest antique centre, the riverside is home to a variety of eateries. There is also the Ely Eel Trail – a circular walk that connects the city with the riverside and Jubilee Garden. More: Images clockwise, from left: River Great Ouse © Matthew Thomas; Rowing Taster with West Norfolk Rowing Club © OWLP; Ely Marina © Andrew Sharpe; Rowing at Denver Complex © Phil Bancroft


4. History & Cultural Heritage The Ouse Washes Landscape is very important for its archaeology because of its good wetland preservation. It is full of interesting historic remains, rich in prehistoric, Roman and more recent archaeological sites including well-preserved ancient settlements and ritual monuments and magnificent engineering drainage. You can learn about the strategically important drainage channels which work together to keep the Fens from being flooded. Some of the highlights around the Ouse Washes Landscape to explore archaeology and history include: Ely Museum – the history centre for the Isle of Ely & the Fens, taking you on a journey through time from prehistory to the twentieth century. More: The Norris Museum in St Ives is the museum of Huntingdonshire telling the story of the County through the ages and is great for the story of Fen Skating. More: Chatteris Museum has a huge collection of local fossils and Stone Age through to Bronze Age artefacts preserved by the fen soils. Nearly a million years of human history on show. More: Prickwillow Museum and its collection of diesel engines tells the story of the drainage of the Fens, the people who ran them and the history of the local area. More: Flag Fen Archaeology Park near Peterborough is home to a unique Bronze Age wooden monument. More: heritage/flag-fen Oliver Cromwell’s House in Ely where you can experience what domestic life would have been like in the 17th Century. More: Images clockwise, from top: Ouse Washes Molly Dancers at OuseFest 2015 © Paul Constable/OWLP; Ely Cathedral from RSPB Ouse Washes © Takeshi Kino; © Prickwillow Museum

The Stained Glass Museum in Ely is an inspirational collection of stained glass, from medieval to modern. More: Downham Heritage Centre tells the story of the area and its people through the ages. More: Festivals and Events – Across the Ouse Washes Landscape are a number of festivals and events celebrating the area’s history and heritage. There are food festivals, plough Sundays, open studios, feast weeks, craft fairs, village fairs and others to enjoy. Molly Dancing is very alive in the area, linked to the Plough Monday celebrations held in January across the Fens. The Ouse Washes website has a great What’s On Guide to keep you informed. More: Ely Cathedral, known as the “Ship of the Fens” is a magnificent Norman Cathedral founded in 673 as a monastery by a Saxon princess. More: Churches – within and around the Ouse Washes Landscape area there are some beautiful medieval churches. Visit the parishes of Holywell-cumNeedingworth, Swavesey, Over and Bluntisham which are in the Ouse Valley on the southern fringes on the Fen Basin. A second cluster of medieval churches occurs in the fen island parishes of Sutton, Witcham, Coveney and Mepal. BE AN AMBASSADOR FOR THE OUSE WASHES LANDSCAPE  7

Bug hunting at WWT Welney Wetland Centre © Bob Ellis/WWT

Where can I find more information? Great websites to find out more about: Things to do, Eating, Drinking, Staying Over and travelling into the area include: Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership website What’s On Calendar and Interactive tourist attraction map Fens Museum Partnership Visit Cambridge & Beyond Visit Cambridgeshire Fens Visit Ely St Ives Town

Downham Market

Cycling In Cambridgeshire

Visit West Norfolk

Cycling and walking in the area getting-around

Visit Norfolk Visit East Anglia Public Rights of Way and Bridleways rightsofway

Stagecoach in Cambridgeshire National Train Services Cambridgeshire Guided Busway Sustrans National Cycling Network

Local Tourist Offices are: Ely Tourist Information Centre Oliver Cromwell’s House 29 St Mary’s Street Ely, CB7 4HF 01353 662062 SUMMER OPENING TIMES 10AM – 5PM WINTER OPENING TIMES 11AM - 4PM

Cambridge Visitor Information Centre The Guildhall Peas Hill Cambridge, CB2 3AD 01223 791500

Downham Market Tourist Information Centre The Priory Centre 78 Priory Road Downham Market Norfolk, PE38 9JS 01553 763044 OPEN MONDAY TO FRIDAY AND SATURDAY MORNINGS (EXCEPT BANK HOLIDAYS) ALL YEAR

Please note Downham Market is a tourist information point with leaflets and brochures to take away, not a staffed information centre.



If you are visiting St Ives, the Town Council can help you make the most of your stay, please contact them using the following details: St Ives Town Council Town Hall Market Hill The Old Riverport, St Ives Cambridgeshire, PE27 5AL 01480 388929 OPEN MONDAY TO THURSDAY 9AM – 5PM AND FRIDAY 9AM – 4.30PM

Ouse washes landscape mini guide (nov 2016)  

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Ouse washes landscape mini guide (nov 2016)  

Mini Guide to the Ouse Washes Landscape: B2B tourism promotion Our B2B Mini Guide has been produced as a tool for businesses in the area to...