LETTER: Owner’s intention ‘not to exclude the public’ from Roswell Pits

Roswell Pits, Ely

Part of Roswell Pits, Ely - Credit: Archant

Reading your letter concerning signs which have recently been put up at the Roswell Pit at Ely.

And at the large area of reedbed to its immediate north-east, I would like if I may to clarify, on behalf of their owner, their intention. 

They read: ‘This woodland, lake and reedbed habitat is under conservation as a breeding sanctuary for bittern, otter, kingfisher, nightingale, marsh harrier and other endangered wetland species.  

Admission to the reserve is by written arrangement at warden@rosewellreserve.co.uk. Please keep to the legally designated statutory public footpath. Thank you.’ 

Roswell Pit sign that has appeared

Roswell Pit sign that has appeared - Credit: Tali Iserles

Your correspondent notes that the email address ‘does not exist’.  

Regretfully, this is because the domain name has been hacked and altered, thereby preventing naturalists, historians, schoolchildren and responsible others from enjoying this extraordinary place, which is in direct contrast to the wishes of its owner. 

The reasons for which it has been necessary to put them up are threefold, and urgent. 

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First: you will be aware of Network Rail’s ‘consultation’ of the general public regarding their putative closure of the unmanned railway crossing on Kiln Lane, which separates the two SSSI sites in Rosewell Reserve’s ownership.  

In Network Rail’s representation of two weeks ago, which went online without any notification to the private landowners concerned, the public was ‘invited to comment’ on a number of proposals necessitated by the need to honour vehicular rights of access to a small peninsula on the other side of the level crossing. 

In all variants, these arrogated to Network Rail the right not only compulsorily to purchase the land required for construction, but to build (in one instance, a full-scale road bridge) directly through the reedbed. 

And this is to which bittern, nightingale, marsh harriers and Chettis Warbler have returned, and upon which the landowners are not allowed to drive so much as a tent-peg without the approval of Natural England. 

That these Roswell reserves are a vital link in a green corridor of wetland sanctuaries which has over the past decades carefully been established south of the Wash, all along the banks of the Ouse, and of which these proposals make a mockery, adds to the urgency of the issue. 

Natural England has sent a strongly-worded representation of their opposition to the scheme to Network Rail.  

Our legal advice is to make ourselves as identifiable a body – the Rosewell Reserve – as we may, in the battle which we suddenly face. 

(There is in our view a preferred solution, which is a win-win for all parties. That is, that Network Rail compulsorily purchase instead the small peninsula - which would be considerably cheaper than the construction of any road bridge - together with its rights of vehicular access, and allow it to revert, as has the rest of the area, to SSSI.) 

Secondly: the notices are there to protect ourselves, as landowners, from legal liability should accident befall trespassers: the main danger being drowning, but also bearing in mind that sadly there have in the last year alone been one suicide and one accidental death within the immediate vicinity. 

Thirdly, it is our devout wish to protect these two SSSI reserves, and their wildlife, from harm.  

In the last year alone, we have witnessed an encampment by heroin addicts who have scattered needles, illegal anglers, dumpers of supermarket trolleys, drivers of hunting dogs through the reedbed breeding sites, damagers of trees, fossil-hunters and metal-detectors trampling rare flora, and vandals to fencing, hedging and nests. 

Our intention is not to exclude the public, but to ensure that the reserves are protected, both from malfeasants and the shareholders of railway companies.  

It is clear I hope from the notices that there is an acceptable route by which responsible visitors can enjoy the protected areas of the reserves.  

The public footpaths are open to all.  

Kneejerk saboteurs do the precious wildlife no good, and themselves no credit. 


I remain, Sir, 


Yours sincerely,