Emma Brand of Welney’s famous Wetland Trust gives you some great insight and interesting information about this wonderful sanctuary in our neighbouring village.
In what is the 50th year of WWT Welney, we are still in the middle of some challenging times. The continuing pandemic means that we are thinking about ways to allow visitors to enjoy the winter wildlife of the washes, without gathering together in large numbers. This winter we are spreading the swan feeds throughout the day so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy this experience, but not at the same time. From Sunday 1 November we will be feeding the swans at 11am, 12.30pm & 3.30pm daily. With 6.30pm floodlit feeds on Saturdays and Sundays only. We have made viewing areas along the screen bank between the hides to give extra areas to look across the washes, which are not enclosed spaces. If the water levels remain low, we will be opening up the basement to the main hide as an extra area for visitors to watch the swan feeds from. During lockdown restrictions swan feeds will pause and hides closed, with footpaths and trails remaining open.
In addition to the changes on the reserve side, we will be opening up a self-guided route around Lady Fen, with a 3.6km loop, and a 4.6km optional extra loop. This will give visitors the opportunity to get a good walk in, even if the reserve is flooded, and to enjoy views of hares and wetland wildlife from a different vantage point.
If we had been in a normal year, we would have also been looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Welney Wetland Centre with supporters, both local and from further afield. In the late 1960’s Sir Peter Scott received donations of land on the Ouse Washes to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, and in 1970 the site was officially opened to visitors. During the decades that have passed, the centre has grown from 100 acres of wetland reserve and visitors being welcomed from the front room of the warden’s home to now managing 1,300 acres and sharing this with over 30,000 people passing through the visitor centre doors.The first warden Josh Scott began the winter tradition of feeding swans to draw them, and a selection of ducks, closer to the main hide for people to enjoy and appreciate. At the time Bewick’s swans were the more abundant of the swan species with only a few whooper swans taking up the wheelbarrows of grain. Fast forward to present day and the Bewick’s swans are far fewer in number, and it is a notable event if they are in front of the hide feeding. This winter we are still awaiting the first Bewick’s swans arriving back, but have been treated to a flock of up to 12 cattle egrets around the reserve – this is probably a sign of things to come as we experience milder winters, more frequently.
Many wardens, teams and volunteers have looked after the wetlands and the wildlife over the years, and without this teamwork we wouldn’t have been able to achieve as much as we do for wetland conservation, as well as connecting visitors to the amazing wildlife that call wetlands home. Within the last decade we have seen the creation of new wetlands on Lady Fen, crane numbers increasing in the Fens, the partnership of Project Godwit in the hopes of saving the breeding population of black-tailed godwits from extinction and more people getting out to enjoy the seasonal spectacles that make this place so special.
A Holiday with a difference at Wigeon House!
Harking back to the first days of Welney, we are now offering accommodation from Wigeon House again. One of semi-detached cottages on site has been redecorated and prepared to welcome guests, it sleeps up to four people and has all homely amenities provided including optional log burner and free wifi. We have listed it on the Airbnb website, and any bookings should come through here. We have already welcomed the first few groups to Wigeon House, and look forward to many more people enjoying staying on the reserve in the future.
We hope that we are still here for the next 50 years, working to improve the fortunes of the wetlands and wildlife that we all enjoy. If this year has taught us anything, it is to cherish the things close to you, on your doorstep, as these are the places you can regularly access to help you through the difficult times.