Biodiversity Boom on Fenland Waterways

Biodiversity Boom on Fenland Waterways

Kingfisher 2 Kingfisher 3 Kingfisher 4 Kingfisher

Five years of working towards biodiversity targets have produced real gains for wildlife in the districts of 36 Drainage Boards in the Middle Level Biodiversity Action Plan Partnership. The Partnership’s annual meeting on 2nd December 2015 will include a review of targets achieved.

One much-loved species that has benefitted from Drainage Board Biodiversity Actions is the kingfisher. To provide nest sites for these jewels of our waterways 150 holes have been drilled during the last five years through steel, brick and concrete structures at 80 Internal Drainage Board (IDB) sites. When a 50 to 70mm diameter hole is drilled through steel piles or concrete headwalls that have soil behind them an opportunity is created for kingfishers to establish very safe nesting tunnels and chambers. Natural nest sites in riverside soil cliffs are often quickly eroded and only last a few years but sites like these behind steel piles will remain available for more than 20 years. 2015 has been a boom season for kingfishers in the Middle Level with many more sightings than usual reported from drains and rivers throughout the area.

See the full report and meeting details here:

Biodiversity targets 2015 press release 2

Other species that have benefitted in the five year biodiversity plans of the 36 IDBs have been bats, barn owls, water voles, otters and black poplars.

Barn Owl 1 Barn Owl 2 Bat box 1 Bat box 2

82 large panel bat boxes have been attached to pumping stations and 26 bat bricks have been installed in culvert tunnels.

During the first five-year IDB Biodiversity Action Plan period 91 barn owl boxes have been erected in the 36 Drainage Board Districts, consolidating the Middle Level of the Fens as a stronghold for the species.

The 70,000 hectare Middle Level catchment is also a national stronghold for water voles. 1,770 meters of coir rolls pre-planted with native marginal water plants have been installed at 23 sites to create ‘instant habitat’ for water voles, provide pollen for insects and to stabilise bank margins.

Otters have benefitted from the construction of 79 otter holts (dens) in the banks of Middle Level waterways and spraints (signs of their presence) have been recorded at over 60 bridges throughout the 120 miles of drains and rivers in the catchment.

The black poplar is the UKs rarest timber tree and traditionally grows in damp locations beside water. 140 black poplars have been planted from cuttings taken from local trees and have been established at new sites throughout the Middle Level.

All photo credits: Cliff Carson

For further information contact:

Cliff Carson
Environmental Officer
Middle Level Commissioners
85 Whittlesey Road
PE15 0AH

Office 01354 602965
Mobile 07765 597775

The Middle Level Commissioners
The Middle Level is the central and largest section of the Great Level of the Fens, reclaimed by drainage during the mid-17th Century. Its river system consists of over 120 miles (190 kilometres) of watercourses most of which are also navigations and has a catchment of just over 170,000 acres (70,000 hectares).

The Commissioners, together with local drainage boards, operate a complex flood protection and water level management system to balance the various water uses and requirements and to alleviate the risk of flooding of land and properties.

The efficient operation of the system is vital to the safety and prosperity of over 100,000 people who live and work in the area. But for the operations of the Commissioners and boards, the majority of the fen land would be under water for much of the year, accesses from higher ground would be cut-off and many of the present land uses, which are taken for granted, would be impossible.

The Middle Level IDB Biodiversity Action Plan Partnership is a grouping of 35 Internal Drainage Boards, District Drainage Commissioners and the Middle Level Commissioners.

They are – Benwick IDB, Bluntisham IDB, Churchfield & Plawfield IDB, Conington & Holme IDB, Curf & Wimblington Combined IDB, Euximoor IDB, Feldale IDB, Holmewood & District IDB, Hundred Foot Washes IDB, Hundred of Wisbech IDB, Manea & Welney DDC, March & Whittlesey IDB, March East IDB, March Fifth DDC, March Sixth DDC, March Third DDC, Needham & Ladus IDB, Nightlayers IDB, Nordelph IDB, Ramsey (2nd & 5th) IDB, Ramsey First (Hollow) IDB, Ramsey Fourth (Middlemoor) IDB, Ramsey Upwood & Great Raveley IDB, Ransonmoor DDC, Sawtry IDB, Sutton & Mepal IDB, Swavesey IDB, Upwell IDB, Waldersey IDB, Warboys, Somersham & Pidley IDB, White Fen DDC, Whittlesey IDB, Woodwalton DDC. Recently Haddenham Level Drainage Commissioners and Over & Willingham IDB joined the Partnership.

The ML IDB BAP Partnership has an annual meeting on the first Wednesday of December. Speakers give presentations on a range of natural history and historical topics. This year’s meeting is being held on the morning of Wednesday 2nd December 2015 at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel, March. Presentations will be given on the History of Whittlesey Mere, the Great Fen Project, the ML BAP Partnership Targets Achieved and the Must Farm Bronze Age Archaeological Discoveries. A full attendance of sixty delegates is booked. The meeting agenda is attached below.

The Middle Level IDB Biodiversity Action Plan Partnership Meeting

Wednesday 2nd December 2015 9:30am – 12:30pm

The Oliver Cromwell Hotel, High Street, March. PE15 9LH


9:20 Arrival. Tea and coffee available

9:30 Introduction. Jonathan Brown, Vice Chairman Middle Level Commisioners

9:35 The Draining of Whittlesey Mere. Iain Smith, CEO Middle Level Commissioners
Whittlesey Mere was the largest of the Fenland meres to be drained with the advent of steam power. Conservationists may mourn its passing but its history and the story of its drainage is a fascinating subject.

10:05 The Great Fen Project. Helen Bailey Great Fen Restoration Officer
While Whittlesey Mere is gone but not forgotten, the creation of a landscape scale area of wetland habitats is being pioneered by a partnership of organisations led by the Wildlife Trust and including the Middle Level Commissioners. Helen Bailey describes what has been achieved and aspirations for the future.

10:35 The Middle Level IDB Biodiversity Action Plan Partnership targets. Cliff Carson, Environmental Officer
With the completion of five years of Middle Level IDB Biodiversity Action Plans, Cliff Carson reviews the targets achieved.

11:05 Tea break – general circulation and discussions.
The usual experts will be on hand with information and to discuss any queries or news you may have.
Barn owls – Peter Wilkinson, Alan Palmer & colleagues.
Bats – Conservation Constructions
Fens Farm Conservation Adviser – Andrew Holland

11:45 Must Farm archaeological developments. Martin Redding, Environmental Officer and Assistant Engineer at Witham Fourth IDB Making a welcome return visit to speak at our meeting, Martin will update us with the latest findings at Must Farm in Drysides IDB, one of, if not the most important Bronze Age sites in Europe. He will also tell us about how he discovered the site originally.

12:25 Closing Remarks. Jonathan Brown, Vice Chairman MLC

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