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Middle Level Transfer Scheme


Introduction


This is or was a scheme to allow a measured amount of water to flow from the Great Ouse (Bedford Ouse) into the Old Bedford River at Earith Sluice, then abstract the same quantity from the Old Bedford further downstream and pump it into the Forty Foot Drain for summer irrigation purposes within the Middle Level area.

The earliest reference I've found to this is a notice dated April 1985 in which the Anglian Water Authority applied for an abstraction licence under the Water Resources Acts of 1963 and 1971. Whether the scheme is still operable or not is unclear as the EA have issued conflicting information about the current status. For example:

The EA drought plan for Anglian Region Central Area in April 2010 stated:
"transfer is technically feasible, as the equipment including the diversion valve has recently been refurbished. However the licence that authorises the transfer has expired and is due for a review".
Yet the EA's Mr Ryan Ely wrote in a report to Earith Parish Council in 2011:
"the centre gate reinstalled and the damboards removed .... the redundant water transfer system below the centre gate has been removed".

Abstraction from Bedford Ouse at Earith

Abstraction was/is by gravity via three 300mm (12 inch) inlet pipes under the centre gate at Earith Sluice. When water for irrigation was required and if the level in the Bedford Ouse was above 2.13m AOD, control valves could be opened to allow a metered flow to pass under the bottom of the gate. When viewed in 2011 and 2012 the pipes were in place but appeared to be blanked off.
pipes at Earith in 2011 by Eddy Edwards Photo: EE, May 2011
Centre gate removed & temporary damboards fitted, transfer pipes clearly visible below.
pipes at Earith in 2012 by Eddy Edwards Photo: EE, April 2012
Centre gate re-installed after repairs, pipes still in position apparently contradicting Mr Ryan Ely's statement above.

If you are unfamiliar with or confused about the watercourses surrounding or adjacent to the Ouse Washes, my features page explains the overall situation on the rivers section, or go to my CD/OBR page for a more detailed account of this particular river.

Abstraction into Middle Level via Forty Foot River near Welches Dam

This is achieved by a small pumping station at grid ref TL 471859 which draws water out of the Old Bedford River via a pipe laid over the barrier bank situated south (upstream) of Welches Dam Pumping Station. The pipe then goes under the Counterdrain, over the low (outer) bank of the Counterdrain into the Forty Foot River by the side of the Forty Foot/Welches Dam lock. A new section of pipe has been fitted in recent years.
pumphouse near Welches Dam by Eddy Edwards Photo: EE, April 2011
Looking south. Extreme left is the Old Bedford River (which becomes the Delph River); in centre is the barrier bank and the wooden pumphouse; on the right is the Counter Drain (which becomes the Old Bedford River).
satelite view by Googleby Satelite view by Google
Coming in on the left is the Forty Foot river and lock into the Counterdrain. Centre is the wooden transfer pumphouse on the Middle Level barrier bank. Right is the Old Bedford River and a Bailey bridge leading into the Washes.

 
abstraction point near Welches Dam by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE, April 2011
Seen from the Bailey Bridge, inlet is at centre left, pump-house is top right, joined by pipe laid on surface of barrier bank.
new pipes by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE, Feb 2012
new shiny-black section of inlet water pipe with small blue pipe below

the transfer pumphouse by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE, Feb 2012
entrance end of pumphouse
sign by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE,
sign on door

 

Discharge into Forty Foot River

The pipes and controls on the far side of the Forty Foot lock all look quite new. As well as providing irrigation water, the pipe could be used simply to re-water the Forty Foot for leak-testing and boating
discharge into 40 Ft by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE, Apr 2011
Small blue pipe and large black pipe below coming out of the low bank. Grey/white control box (?) on lock wall.
discharge (2) into 40 Ft  by Eddy Edwards
Photo: EE, Apr 2011
As seen from other side of the Forty foot

Notes, sources and bibliograhy

ref notes, sources and glossary used in text and tables throughout this page
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9 m3/s = cubic metres per second, commonly called cumecs
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