We can't control the rain - but we CAN control the environment

PUBLISHED: 11:37 05 July 2007 | UPDATED: 12:35 04 May 2010

I CURRENTLY live in Ely and own a small business on Forehill. I relocated to Ely last autumn after a fairly extensive search around England and Wales for a good place to live and run a business. I could have chosen any town or city in the country, but Ely

I CURRENTLY live in Ely and own a small business on Forehill. I relocated to Ely last autumn after a fairly extensive search around England and Wales for a good place to live and run a business.

I could have chosen any town or city in the country, but Ely came out tops for me and here I am, and here I hope I will stay until, as we say in my family, the day my wheels fall off. Why? Well, the train station with links to Cambridge and London is great, certainly. Ely Cathedral and many of the city's buildings are beautiful. The riverside marina area is a lovely place to stroll. But the main reason I decided to pick up stakes and move here was that I sensed something special about Ely, something expressed well in a quote that I read somewhere in my research. It said that the city of Ely stands in a unique situation in all of the country. Behind it lies all of civilization, before it lies a vast wilderness of emptiness in the Fens.

Those words intrigued me. The combination of interesting old streets, a beautiful cathedral, nice restaurants and shops, a lively community, and trains at the ready to take one on to further adventures was most appealing.

But the extraordinary thing about Ely was that one could have all that 'civilisation' but not have to sacrifice the 'wilderness' and countryside.

First as a visitor, and now a newcomer to Ely, I have been keen to explore its unusual environment. I saw 'Roswell Lakes' marked on a map and wandered down that way one day to investigate. I know now that the correct terminology is 'pits' rather than 'lakes', but whatever they are called I was instantly delighted to have such a piece of nature on the very doorstep of the city. Since moving here I walk down there whenever I want to enjoy a bit of quiet nature. It never fails; I always come back in a better mood.

Not long ago, I stood on Cuckoo Bridge at sunset watching as a swan swam under the bridge with four fuzzy cygnets riding on her back protected by her wings, and a fifth chugging along behind trying to get on board. It was absolutely magical. I've stood early in the morning watching a great crested grebe feeding silvery fish to its young. I've seen the kingfishers and herons, and heard the warblers and cuckoos. I haven't yet heard the 'pig-like shrieks' of the secretive water rail as mentioned on the sign by the bridge, but I keep listening.

I'm no Bill Oddie - far from it I assure you - but even with my dodgy eyesight and cheapo binoculars I have seen these wonderful things - not on television but right in front of my eyes. Having said that, I'm sure one can briskly walk around the pits and see very little in terms of wildlife. It isn't laid out as a petting zoo. We need to slow down, listen, stop for a moment, or maybe take a walk with someone who knows about these things. But even a little knowledge and interest goes a long way, and the funny thing is, once you begin to see a little, suddenly you find yourself seeing more and more. At least that's been my experience.

I have nothing against boats - I enjoy looking at them painted in their jolly colours moored along the river - and I'm sure being on a boat is great fun. But Roswelll pits are not the place for a marina development. The thought of numbers of boats churning along under Cuckoo Bridge really saddens me because it will mean the loss, perhaps forever, of a wildlife habitat that appeals to some special birds that need peace and quiet. Some writers have commented that birds will still be around when the area is a marina. They have noted that some wildlife is attracted to areas with people, which is of course true. Pigeons saunter along busy London pavements without batting an eye, and Ely's geese, Muscovy ducks, and mallards are perfectly at ease weaving around river traffic. I don't believe the same came be said of bitterns though, or marsh harriers.

Wildlife has a tough time trying to hold its own these days.

This past week's Ely Standard, for instance, reported on the recent rains and subsequent summer flooding of the Ouse Washes at Welney which sadly destroyed many of this year's eggs and chicks. While we can't control the rain, we can control development. We should be helping wildlife whenever we can, not thoughtlessly dismissing environmental concerns.

Whatever the past history of the pits - here we are in 2007. Somehow this area has managed to evolve into the little pocket of wildlife habitat that it is right now. Mr Tyrrell purchased one of the pits for marina development but has said he might consider selling it. I submit that he has the chance to make himself a real 'hero' instead of a perceived 'villain' if he will. I believe the money required can be raised. A campaign to gauge public support is just being initiated. Now is the time to protect this little bit of wildness that lies on our doorstep.

DEB KEENER

Forehill

Ely

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