This month we welcomed the National Lottery Heritage Fund to visit our project and to explore first-hand the range of new habitat enhancements and community activities that we will deliver through the New Life on the Old West project.
This visit included a 30-minute presentation about what our project will deliver, followed by a site visit to two landholdings that are scheduled for enhancement for both people and wildlife.
Joined by our project partners including Cottenham Parish Council, the Fen Edge Archaeology Group, and Natural England, we first visited a parish council-owned community green space (The Cottenham Old Rec).
At this site, we have planned to create a 0.4-hectare wildlife pond complex containing a range of habitat features to support a variety of wildlife species include water voles, wading birds, and wildfowl. Around the perimeter of this pond complex, we will recruit local volunteers to help us plant a hedgerow to create new feeding and nesting habitat for birds, mammals and reptiles, and also to prevent dogs from running into the pond. Finally, at this site, we will also install an interpretation board to help local people to learn about the habitats that we have created, and how they will be managed and looked after in the future.
At the Old Rec, we were lucky enough to be joined by a barn owl hunting overhead.
Next, we crossed the road to explore a fenland farm site that we will also enhance for wildlife through the NLOW project (Oldfield Farm). At this site, we will create 1,200m of submerged berms cut into the side of the existing land drain network. This will create new and valuable shallow water habitat in the steep-sided drains, and this habitat is widely recorded as being the most wildlife-rich area for freshwater plants and animals. In addition, w will also create a new in-ditch pond that will provide important access to drinking water for farmland birds such as the turtle dove.
Eels in the classroom
We are pleased to announce that Cambridgeshire ACRE has received Anglian Water’s Flourishing Environment Fund grant to deliver a project that offers Primary School children a hands-on experience of rearing endangered eels in their classrooms in order to create a long-term legacy of eel conservation in the region.
European eels once thrived in the UK’s rivers, but their numbers have declined by over 95% since the 1980s and the species has been classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN since 2008. Constructed weirs, tidal gates and dams all act as barriers to migration, while pollution, climate change, overfishing and habitat loss all have a negative impact on eel survival. Specifically, in the River Ouse, the number of elvers (young eels) trapped through Environment Agency (EA) monitoring has declined every year since 2013 (2018 populations were down 83% compared to 2013). This ‘Eels in the Classroom’ project will help more eels to reach their adult life stage in the Cambridgeshire Fens, contributing to their future viability.
Working in partnership with the EA and Over Primary School and Little Thetford Primary School in the Old West river catchment, two Primary School classes will be given a hands-on experience in rearing endangered eels in their classrooms, releasing them into local rivers and streams after 5/6 weeks to help boost eel populations in the fens. In addition, the project will provide an opportunity for the children to learn about the fascinating life cycle of the eel, and the current environmental issues they face.