Sutton natural areas (under construction)
Local Environ

Natural England has published a series of "character area" articles that describe distinct geographical regions throughout the UK. Sutton falls within are 46, "The Fens". The articles can be viewed and downloaded at Natural England Character Areas

The Ouse Washes
For a detailed look at many aspect of the Ouse Washes see the website maintained by Eddy Edwards at


The Ouse Washes are a 30km (19 mile) long flood storage area stretching from Earith to Welney created by Cornelius Vermuyden in the 17th century as part of the wider drainage of the Fens to allow the land in the Bedford Levels to be farmed.

The Washes are bordered by the Middle Level Barrier Bank to the west and by the South Level Barrier Bank to the east. When high river flows come down the Great Ouse from St.Ives and beyond, water is allowed to flood on to the Washes through Earith sluice. This protects 880 properties and 29,000 hectares (72,000 acres) of farmland from flooding.

Up to 60 million m3 (cubic metres) of water can be stored until conditions are suitable for gradual release or pumping into the New Bedford River through Welmore Lake sluice at the northern end of the Washes.

The Ouse Washes are of national and international significance for wildlife and nature conservation. They are designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive, a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive, a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under UK legislation.

Since the 1970s there has been a dramatic decline in the numbers of certain bird species using the Ouse Washes. This is due to a change in the pattern of flooding on the Washes; especially more frequent flooding in spring and early summer together with longer and deeper flooding in winter. This directly affects the birds by destroying their nests and indirectly by changing the character of the vegetation, making it less suitable for nesting and feeding.

As the UK Government has a legal obligation to protect the site from damage or deterioration it set up a steering group in 2004 to consider the problems of the Washes and the potential solutions. The group agreed on a proposal to create “replacement” wet grasslands near to the Ouse Washes to provide alternative habitat for the threatened species. This scheme is called the Ouse Washes Habitat Creation Project (OWHCP). The aim is to initially create 500Ha of habitat.

At the same time the Cambs & Peterborough Minerals and Waste Strategic Plan (see Development tab) also aims to provide additional wet grassland area which will be additive to the OWHCP though over a longer timescale.

Background documents relating to these schemes are presented below;

CPMW Block Fen Wetlands plan

For more background on the flood control strategy etc covering the Ouse Washes see: Great Ouse Tidal River Strategy Review

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