Fens celebrating pioneering three-year project that has brought 12 wildlife-friendly farmers together to establish the new Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone.

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos releas

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos released this week by the RSPB - Credit: Archant

Farmers, nature conservationists and communities in The Fen are celebrating the culmination of a pioneering three-year landscape partnership project that has brought 12 local wildlife-friendly farmers together to establish the new Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone.

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos releas

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos released this week by the RSPB - Credit: Archant

The Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone comprises 12 Fenland farmers, whose combined land covers an impressive 4,000 hectares of the Fens – an area that would cover more than a third of the city of Cambridge – in a part of the country that is particularly rich in nature, and especially farmland birds.

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos releas

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos released this week by the RSPB - Credit: Archant

Patrick Allpress of Allpress Farms, near Chatteris, joined the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone in 2015:

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos releas

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos released this week by the RSPB - Credit: Archant

He said: “It’s important to have nature in mind when farming as everything we do can affect the balance of nature.

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos releas

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos released this week by the RSPB - Credit: Archant

“As well as cultivating the fields we’re responsible for looking after miles of ditches, many trees and hedges, field grass margins, conservation headlands, wild bird mixed covers and over-wintered stubbles, which all can create a habitat and have a positive impact on nature.

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos releas

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos released this week by the RSPB - Credit: Archant


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“The Fens is a special area with big large open spaces and we should be doing everything we can to encourage nature.”

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos releas

Work of the RSPB in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Images taken from one of two videos released this week by the RSPB - Credit: Archant

Farming is an important wildlife habitat and a wide variety of plants and animals have come to depend on it. However, in the last few decades, farmland wildlife in the UK has been struggling.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Lionel Walden school, Year 4.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Lionel Walden school, Year 4. - Credit: Sarah Coulson

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This year’s State of Nature 2016 report found that farmland birds such as turtle doves and tree sparrows have declined by over 90 per cent since the 1970s, and a quarter of arable plants are threatened with extinction in the UK.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Lionel Walden school, Year 4.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Lionel Walden school, Year 4. - Credit: Sarah Coulson

Part of the solution to the challenges faced by farmland wildlife may lie in the spread and increasing uptake by farmers of nature-friendly farming practices.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Patrick Allpress

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Patrick Allpress - Credit: RSPB

As well as being committed to managing areas of their land specifically for wildlife, the Nature Friendly Zone farmers have helped the project engage with more than 2,000 local people in the Fens through a range of community outreach events, from wildlife workshops to farm walks and school visits, all with the aim of generating local support for wildlife-friendly farming.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Pictured: Lionel Walden school, Year 4 with Sarah Coulso

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Pictured: Lionel Walden school, Year 4 with Sarah Coulson at Englands and Eatons Charity Farm - Credit: RSPB

RSPB Community Engagement Officer Gemma Wells has worked closely with the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone farmers to raise awareness of wildlife-friendly farming and why it is needed:

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Bats Wildlife Workshop

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Bats Wildlife Workshop - Credit: RSPB

She said: “I’m really proud to have been involved in this project and played a part, however small, in helping generate more understanding in the Fens of what wildlife-friendly farming is and why it’s needed.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Ouse Washes NFZ Farmers meeting at WWT Welney, February

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Ouse Washes NFZ Farmers meeting at WWT Welney, February 2016 - Credit: RSPB

“Three quarters of our land in the UK – even more in Cambridgeshire – is farmed. It goes without saying that farmland is an important home for wildlife, as well as being the source of the food we eat. Sadly, some of our fastest declining species, such as turtle doves and tree sparrows, make their homes in farmland.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: OWNFZ farm walk. Pete Johnstone

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: OWNFZ farm walk. Pete Johnstone - Credit: Pete Johnstone

“Farmers like Patrick Allpress and others in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone are on the front line, and by helping spread wildlife-friendly farming practices and techniques they are giving vulnerable farmland wildlife a lifeline.”

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Pictured: Family Farm Walk, pond dipping

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Pictured: Family Farm Walk, pond dipping - Credit: James German

The establishment of the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone and the delivery of the project’s community outreach work were made possible by the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, of which this project is a part.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Family Farm Walk, cows

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Family Farm Walk, cows - Credit: James German

Funded primarily by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the scheme focuses on the promotion of the area surrounding the Ouse Washes, the heart of the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk Fens, and on encouraging community engagement with the area’s diverse heritage.

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Family Farm Walk, pond dipping

Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. Pictured: Family Farm Walk, pond dipping - Credit: James German

Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership launches wildlife-friendly farming films

As the three year project comes to a close, it is launching two short films about wildlife-friendly farming as part of the continuing campaign to build public awareness of and support for the efforts of nature friendly farmers like those in the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone.

One of the films is an animated introduction to wildlife-friendly farming, and the other features children from a local school during one of the project’s school outreach sessions as well as the manager of the RSPB’s Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire speaking about the work being done on the farm to test real world solutions to farmland wildlife decline.

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