Work begins on first stage of 500-acre wetland habitat

Ouse Washes work starts

Ouse Washes work starts - Credit: Archant

Work began this week on the first stage of a new 500-acre wetland habitat near the villages of Coveney and Witcham.

Ouse Washes work starts

Ouse Washes work starts - Credit: Archant

Diggers and other heavy machinery have started excavating a lake that will form the centre piece of the Ouse Washes Habitat Creation Project.

The lake will feed a series of surrounding wetland habitats that officials from the Environment Agency hope will help preserve species including the black-tailed godwit, snipe, ruff and wintering wigeon.

Peter Doktor, from the Environment Agency, said: “What people are seeing at the moment is the excavation of the lake and that work will continue until about October. There will be a break over winter and work will pick up again in March.

“A pumping station will also be built and that will pump water from the lake out into the habitat to create the wet grassland. We hope to see birds established on the site by the end of 2015.”

The first stage of the project will include about 220 acres and is on target to be up and running by the end of next year.

A small car park, viewing points and walkways will also form the first stage of work.

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Eventually, the project will include 500 acres of wet grassland habitat site and will become a breeding ground and refuge for rare birds and other insect and amphibian species.

The project was first mooted in 2011 in response to the continued “deterioration” of the washes, which date back to the 17th century, by flooding and nutrient enrichment from agriculture.

The Government said it would fund the creation of additional habitat to offset the damage caused and the Environment Agency was tasked with purchasing land from farmers and various landowners.