Report of Ditch Biodiversity Workshops 20/21 July 2016.
Haddenham Conservation Society, after arranging with Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership to host along with Haddenham Level Drainage Commissioners this event, the original day was oversubscribed. It was thought 50 was the optimum but about 100 applied to come so a second day was quickly arranged partly funded by Middle Level Commissioners.

Both days programmes were that in a morning session there would be presentations by Mark Nokkert on behalf of OWLP (first day only) then Michael Church, chairman of HLDC who explained the history and work of managing and operating the system in an area covering the drainage of 3034 hectares (7500 acres) . Within that there was a light touch programme for the main section of the Adventurers and Galls and Division Drain County Wildlife Site so designated because of an important assortment of scarce and rare aquatic plants. This operation was a programme of “slubbing out” removing mainly the dead amount of herbage once in every three years. This enables plants to thrive normally. Failure to do so would probably kill off many of the species. That the unusual aquatic species were in this particular system was due to the bottom of these drains being on a base of gravel and sand whereas most fen drain bottoms were clay or other alluvial soils.

Cliff Carson, who is Conservation advisor to HLDC as well as being Conservation Manager to the much larger Middle Level Commission which stretches from around the Ouse Washes to almost Kings Lynn spoke about how he and his staff had improved the wildlife generally within the total drainage area which drain many 1000s of hectares of prime agricultural land. There had been a notable return of otters and many breeding sites for Kingfishers had been created and subsequently used by the birds. A programme to assist Water Voles was put into practise with good results. A similar plan of action to eliminate Mink is in operation and sightings are becoming less of this non-native predator.

Jonathan Grahame, a botanist studying aquatic plants gave an enthusiastic presentation on the species likely to be found here along with trays of those plants in water. He then asked the audience to gather round the two lines of trays and he and a colleague Dr Charles Turner discussed them. He also said there had recently been a study with a fellow Coleopterist of all the drains in the Haddenham and Middle Level orbit and together they had published, with funding from OWLP, a paper entitled “Investigating ditch biodiversity and management practises in the arable landscape of the Ouse Washes landscape Partnership Area—a survey of vegetation and aquatic Coleoptera” by Jonathan Grahame & Martin Hammond (23 September 2013).

After a lunch provided on the first day by OWLP attendees moved on to two sites in the Haddenham drainage area. The first was at Galls Bridge where Shining Pondweed and Broad-leaved Pondweed along with Water Violet, Water Plantain and the Rare Great Water Parsnip were demonstrated and discussed. They then moved on to Claytons Bridge where Whorled Water Milfoil and Fan-leaved Water Crowfoot were extracted and discussed. Arrowhead leaves and flowers were much in evidence as was Flowering Rush.

The party then returned to the hall to discuss what they had seen and the proceedings closed around 4.30.p.m. It was agreed that the whole two days had been a resounding success and well worthwhile and unique.

1. Class inspecting specimens in trays.

2. Fan-leaved Water Crowfoot being inspected.

3. Whorled Water Milfoil out of water. 4. Whorled Water Milfoil in water

5. Adventurers Drain showing Arrowhead rising out of the water.

6. Ditch Workshop party at Galls Bridge.

7. Group around Galls Bridge.

8. At Claytons Sluice studying aquatic plants demonstrated by Jonathan Grahame.

See below for original poster information:

Learn about the fascinating under-water wildlife in your area – FREE Ditch Biodiversity Workshop in Haddenham on 20 July
Email:   Mark Nokkert

Through a whole-day workshop you will be exploring the extraordinarily rich biodiversity of the aquatic plants and invertebrates in the ditches in the Ouse Washes Landscape.

In-depth training will be delivered by botanic Fenland specialist Jonathan Graham, in close cooperation with the Haddenham Conservation Society and the Haddenham Level Drainage Commissioners, amongst others. This will be a combination of presentations and hands-on handling of the many rare and beautiful aquatic plants that can be found in the area around Haddenham. To find out more about the work done by specialists Jonathan Graham and Martin Hammond in the Ouse Washes Landscape see their excellent Report
Investigating ditch biodiversity and management practises in the arable landscape of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Area : a survey of vegetation and aquatic ...

The event will take place in the Arkenstall Village Centre in Haddenham (Main Hall) on Wednesday 20 July, from 10AM – 4PM. The day will include a field trip to nearby ditches of high biodiversity value in the afternoon.
Places are limited to 50 people. Please express your interest by sending an email to Mark Nokkert. Priority will be given to members of the Haddenham Conservation Society and other local interested people, so please make it clear in your email if you are included in either category.
This workshop can be offered with generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, distributed through the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme. To find out more about the partnership’s work in your area, see  

This event will be part of tens of events taking place during OuseFest in the Ouse Washes Landscape, this year to take place everyday from 18 to 31 July 2016 – see here for more details, or watch out for hard copies of the exciting 2016 OuseFest programme in local libraries and other venues from the middle of May onwards.

Photograph: ‘Previous Ditch Biodiversity workshop with botanic specialist Jonathan Graham, held in the Ouse Washes Landscape’