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Currently there are about 1300 hectares (ha) of man-made lakes formed by sand and gravel extraction. This will increase to over 2000ha of water over the next twenty years (The Norfolk Broads has a total area of 915ha of water).
There are six sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), two Wildlife Trust reserves and 24 County Wildlife sites. There is a large RSPB reserve at Fen Drayton. The area is contiguous with the Ouse Washes - a site of international importance for wildlife.
The built environment boasts over 700 Listed buildings including more than 25 Grade I and II*. The National Trust owns Houghton Mill, the last working watermill on the Great Ouse. Ancient churches, medieval bridges, manor houses and picturesque thatched cottages in the market towns and villages are part of the historic interest and vernacular charm.
photo © Sue Cassell
Whilst no overall figures are collected, the area attracts many visitors. For example the NT Car Park in Houghton records annually c 120,000 cars; the Great Ouse Boating Association counts 2400 boats on the river; the two museums in St Ives and Huntingdon each have an average of over 12,000 visitors a year.