The Great Ouse Valley is a distinct landscape area with individual characteristics. It is quite different to the surrounding claylands with their intensive agriculture which cover much of Cambridgeshire.
The sequence of great flood plain meadows in the area is of national importance. One of these – Portholme meadow – is the largest surviving traditionally-managed flood plain meadow in the UK, with an area of 104 ha of alluvial flood meadow. It accounts for 7% of the total UK resource.
Smaller fields of pasture and hay meadow are found in the valley beyond the flood meadows. Historic ridge and furrow is found throughout the area, showing where land above flood level has been ploughed centuries earlier.
The large lakes, formed after gravel extraction, are now given over to wildlife sites Fen Drayton Lakes will comprise 1200ha of reed bed over the next 20 years; this valuable habitat for domestic and migrating birds will be of international significance.
Hemingford Abbotts in flood © S Deakin
There is a surprising amount of woodland ranging from pockets of ancient woodland, to groupings of mature specimen trees around the villages. There are traditional beds of osier planting and areas of carr (wet woodland) along the river and on its islands.