The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) scheme is a Heritage Lottery Fund grant-aided scheme in the heart of the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk Fens focusing on the distinctively rural, open and tranquil landscape surrounding the Ouse Washes and its unique heritage.
In the summer of 2012 Cambridgeshire ACRE received development funding of £90,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its Landscape Partnership programme; with this in place Cambridgeshire ACRE led on the development of the partnership‘s plans. The full details for the activity programme of the delivery phase were subsequently proposed to the HLF in November 2013. In March 2014 the HLF granted the partnership £905,100 to deliver the scheme. This grant is further matched by the partnership with over £200,000 worth of match funding and in-kind contributions.
The area targeted by the OWLP scheme is a large area of wetlands and washland set within productive agricultural land. The area focuses on the Old Bedford and New Bedford Rivers in the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk Fens and includes the RSPB nature reserves to its south, near St Ives and Fen Drayton. This unique landscape area includes or abuts a large number of vibrant small settlements and is close to the market towns and cities of Downham Market, Chatteris, March, Littleport, Ely, Cambridge and St. Ives.
With a wide partnership of government, business and civil society organisations including 26 key organisations, the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership aims to strengthen partnership working across all levels and all land use interests; develop strong community involvement and empowerment; and promote the OWLP area as a visitor destination in its own right.
The OWLP programme is based around a portfolio of smaller projects, which together will provide a better understanding and awareness of the distinctiveness of this landscape, its heritage and communities, and provide long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for this rural area. This portfolio of projects, delivered by the partnership between April 2014 and March 2017, focuses on the four main strands of any LP scheme: Conservation – Participation – Learning & Access – Training.
For the OWLP area this means:
- Conservation works on the natural and historic assets of the area, to enhance the landscape character and strengthen habitat connectivity;
- Involving communities to bring unknown stories about local people and historic events alive, thereby making people more aware of what is special about the landscape and its unique heritage;
- Improving physical and intellectual access to the landscape, with the provision of new interpretation and learning opportunities for locals and visitors;
- Providing a range of new volunteering and training opportunities and work placements for local people, thereby creating a knowledgeable workforce to look after the landscape long-term.