Media Release 7 MAY 2020
BRINGING BACK THE TREES TO THE GREAT OUSE VALLEY
Landscape project links local groups to restore Huntingdon, Godmanchester and Hemingford Abbots Commons in our beautiful river valley
We are delighted to announce the start of a major new initiative that results from a partnership of stakeholders in the landscape of the Great Ouse Valley. It is a visionary proposal that will restore the commons between Huntingdon, Godmanchester and Hemingford Abbots to their former glory. It brings together the Great Ouse Valley Trust (GOVT), the Freemen of Godmanchester, who have leased the land for sheep and cattle grazing for centuries, Huntingdonshire District Council and the Godmanchester Pollarding Society.
At the beginning of the 20th century the banks of the Great River Ouse, Cooke’s Stream and the other water courses across the flood plain would have been lined with willows, black poplars and mature hedgerows. With the advent of the First World War the normal regular pollarding of the willows largely ceased as a result of the depleted manpower available. Even after the war was over much of the traditional rural industries died with it. Ancient willows fell into decay and many were removed. There was very little planting of new trees. Similarly old hedgerows were largely replaced with fencing.
In the 1980s the Godmanchester Freemen started a project to plant new oak trees. These were needed to provide the timber for the substantial protection required for replacement young trees from the impact of grazing cattle. The oaks have matured and now form an important feature of Eastside Common adjacent to the bridleway that connects Cow Lane in Godmanchester with Common Lane in Hemingford Abbots. They also provide shelter from sun for cattle on hot summer days.
In the 1990s Huntingdonshire District Council commenced a project to restore the decaying ancient willows and plant new ones, but this was eventually abandoned due to funding issues.
What are the objectives?
The new landscape enhancement project will further improve the beautiful Ouse Valley meadows. The main aims are to restore many of the ancient willows, plant many new willows on the banks of the water courses, plant new black poplars and reinstate lost hedgerows.
This year GOVT has experimented by planting two willow pollards along the bank of Cooks Stream on Westside Common. The pollards have come from the white willows which were planted a few years ago as a project between Godmanchester Town Council, the Pollarding Association and Godmanchester Community Association.
With lessons learnt from these trial plantings it is hoped that the full landscape project can begin next winter. Consultations are now ongoing with all the stakeholders and GOVT will also be engaging with the Environment Agency and the Wildlife Trust.
The Great Ouse Valley meadows and commons are a wonderful and treasured landscape - to be valued even more during this difficult period. The Great Ouse Valley Trust aims to promote, protect and enhance this special place for future generations. With Huntingdonshire District Council and the Freeman of Godmanchester we hope this project will bring even more attention to the special benefits of the Great Ouse Valley.
To learn more about the Great Ouse Valley Trust visit www.greatousevalleytrust.org.uk
The Great Ouse Valley Trust (GOVT) is a charity (registration number 1179977) formed in October 2018 with the charitable objective:
“To promote for public benefit the conservation, restoration, and enjoyment of the landscape, wildlife and heritage of the Great Ouse Valley and environs in the county of Cambridgeshire.”
Members include local councils, the local Wildlife Trust, individuals and environmental groups.
The Trust’s Vision recognises the Great Ouse Valley is a fantastic place to live and visit, with off the beaten track areas to explore by foot, cycle or horse. The area is nationally recognised and valued for its wildlife, leisure, natural and heritage attractions which contribute to the county’s natural green spaces. This is achieved by GOVT being the catalyst which brings national organisations, local communities and individual people together for the common good.
GOVT’s mission covers:
- Enhancement of landscape – increased biodiversity
- Promotion - sense of place, tourism and local economy, health benefits
- Protection – active conservation and campaigning
- Access for all – residents and visitors, disabled
- Partnerships and alliances: groups working together
- Increased engagement – education, volunteering