Welcome to my independent research project on at

Website visitor's comments


I receive many emails about the site and the Washes, some merely expressing thanks for explaining some of the area's mysteries, others giving or seeking information. I try to deal with all but know I have often failed and I apologise to those I've seemed to ignore. I also receive a small amount of spam.

How to contact me

Each of my pages has or had a clickable link to enable site visitors to mail me. Unfortunately that also allows spammers to "harvest" my details and fill my in-box. I use Kaspersky internet security (anti-virus) to check all incoming mail and delete anything nasty and it performs that very well, but nevertheless I've decided to remove the links on each page (which will take quite a long time) and show how to contact me here. It does entail some typing, but it is safer and I hope you will not be detered. Use one of the methods shown on the image below, preferably the first. Update: please email me as per navigation menu on left, bottom item.

What do I do with information or comments received?

My aim has always been to add information or corrections supplied within or immediately following the appropriate text with due acknowledgment. Since Feb 2016 I have also shown some general comments on this dedicated page, and am working backwards adding some earlier messages partly as an aide-memoire to me and also so other readers may find items of interest and/or be able to answer some questions I couldn't, or add further detail.

Quite a few show that my project has been worthwhile and I'm grateful to all who've written.
I could have extracted just the thanks and compliments, making it a "testimonials" page, but that was not what I wanted and would have defeated the idea of a memory-aid and more importantly one of the aims of my project.

Page layout, indexing and cross-referencing will change as the page grows.


  7th February 2017, Susan Oosthuizen PhD FSA, Reader in Medieval Archaeology, University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education, Madingley
"I am writing to whether you will allow me to use one of your images in a lecture I am giving next week? It's such a great photograph of cattle on the Washes."

  2nd Feb 2017, Susannah Collison
"I came upon your website this evening as I was starting to look for a dissertation project for my MA in History. I was initially looking for any information on the colony at Manea and just wanted to say thank you, your website was really interesting to read. I'm not sure if I will proceed to look further into the Washes or Manea, I'm more St Ives end of the area, but I didn't want to 'read and run' and felt the need to pass on my appreciation."

  23/9/2016, Kasia Gdaniec, Senior Archaeologist, Historic Environment Team, Cambs County Council
regarding an information board to be erected at Earith.
"have been looking online to find a better version of a photo that I took of the crest above the door of the Ely office of the BLC. You have a fantastic one on your website! I wonder if you would permit me to use it on the board?"

  10/05/2016, Clare Phillips, Freelance researcher, BBC TV East.
"I’ve been looking at your extremely informative website about the Ouse Washes and wondered whether you might be able to spare the time to have a brief chat on the phone to help me with some research I am doing for a BBC documentary please?"

  Chris Holley, 19th Feb 2016, re website face-lift:
"Like your home page face lift, particularly the changing pictures, love them.
Still by far the best Ouse Washes web site, by a country mile."

  Richard Humphrey, 15th Jan 2016, re link from his photo collection to this website,
"Just thought you may like to know I have sorted out all my photos of the Ouse Washes and linked them all to a single shared description which has a link to your great web site at the end and not the £1m waste of money one :-)) See http://www.geograph.org.uk/snippet/14375 If you have a spare couple of minutes would you be able to check my description is factually correct"

  John Trench, 22nd Nov 2015, more thanks
"Thanks for replying. Because so many of my questions had been answered as a result of your legwork and researches I felt I owed you a debt of gratitude! I live in Scotland but my daughter moved to Ely a while ago so I come down several times a year. I was down a few weeks ago with a 'shopping list' of places to visit (my daughter thinks I'm mad) and we did the Denver complex, the roddons on the A 1101 between Littleport and Shippea Hill - very exciting to see them so clearly from ground level, and the Holme posts. To begin with I was interested in the post-glacial development of the peatlands and the vegetation that went with them. The only really good and accessible reference that I found (apart from academic papers) was Harry Godwin's book 'Fenland: its ancient past and uncertain future' (CUP, I noticed that Toppings had a copy a few weeks ago, at a price). The shop at Wicken Fen had some helpful stuff too, including 'Wicken Fen, the Making of a Wetland Nature Reserve' (pub. Harley Books 1997). The other one I've found helpful is The Lost Fens by Ian Rotheram (2013, the History Press), partly because he talks about the Humber wetlands, too, I didn't know anything about them. It was a sight of the flooded washes in March 2014 that got me wondering about the amazing drainage structures. It was soon obvious that the whole system made no sense at all as it stands, without some sort of historical understanding - so I began googling and found your website. It's the details you give (levels etc) that are so helpful, as well as the history of development. I think I'm beginning to see what's going on......(??).
  John Trench, 21st Nov 2015, thanks
"Terrific website, thanks so much, I’ve been trying to make sense of the Washes for a year now (as an occasional visitor) and nobody else does it so clearly or fully."

  Chris Howes, 7th Nov 2015, re Welches Dam Lock-keepers and cottage
"I read your article on the Ouses Washes Web Site. After talking to the Mr Richardson at Hundreds Farm, I think that there is a correction to your description:-
“The west bank of the Counter Drain looking South. From left to right: in the distance is the lock entrance with a bridge over it; next is the old Lock-keepers Cottage; then ?; nearest is a house named Princess Victoria, once a pub.”
The house next to Welches Dam Lock was not the lock keepers cottage, but a second pub called the three fishes. The house in the middle is new, and the nearest house was indeed the pub “Princess Victoria”. According to Mr Richardson, from Hundreds Farm, the lock keeper's cottage was on the East bank of the Counter Drain (“High Bank”), his Grandmother was lock-keeper from 1919 to around 1923, when the toll was 3d for a barge and 1½d for a flat bottomed punt."

  Alan Taylor, 20th Feb 2015, re Adventurers, Swavesey
"I came across your interesting history concerning the Bedford level whilst researching a document which recently came into my possession. It concerns a petition from inhabitants of Swavesey to the newly formed BLC in Dec 1663 concerning grievances about the work of the Adventurers in the Bedford Level and asking for compensation for the loss of valuable farmland. I have attached below a transcript. If you are interested I will scan original document."

  Peter Whitwell, 18th Oct 2014, publicans at Welches dam & Purles Br
"Ive only just found your Web site this morning i am finding it most interesting, may i ask if you know if records exist to publicans at welches dam/ Purles bridge i am looking at my family tree and found they were running a drinking house / public house around 1800 to 1850 i was told it was the three fishes but i have not found any information regarding this at present although i have names baptisms etc can you offer any help. I live at Ramsey, studying the movements of the Whitwell's it seem we didn't move very far across the fields.

  Jerome Tiller, 27th April 2014, Re Hovertrain
"just read your page on the RTV31, excellent stuff, this is really detailed work. Thanks for mentionning my name a couple of times on your article, for a couple of videos and pictures I put online a while back. Please feel free to use and abuse it ! Now I've got something interesting for you. I read many times before that this hangar towards the south of the old experimental track (that brick building with a company using the facility nowadays) was used during the few months of the tests. I even heard people at the Hovercraft Museum (Lee-on-the-solent), who used to have the RTV31 prototype itself for a few years (was given to them by Cranfield University in the first place) before they gave it to Peterborough's Railword. I went back to the Earith area back in 2011 with a friend, we saw both the RTV31 and the hangar the same day (especially the little strange-shape building at the end). We didn't manage to take measurements, but I'm sure the two pictures attached will show you the RTV31 is too big to fit in that Hangar. It may be a tight fit and with the track slightly dug under ground level, but absolutely not on the track (remember the RTV31 has lateral hull falling slightly beneatch the concrete track)."

  James Anderson, 1st March 2014, re dredging
"I see Fenland MP Steve Barclay is calling for the Old Bedford river to be dredged to help relieve the flooding at Welney, but surely it's the New Bedford river that needs dredging as this is the Tidal river and the one prone to silting up, I tried contacting him to check whether he had got his facts wrong but have not yet received a reply. Do you know him?.He has I believe arranged a meeting with various stakeholders for March. Do you think the New Bedford needs dredging?. It seems the floodwater is taking longer and longer to go down."
Following the above, James and I corresponded on this and other matters several times.
  David Lowe, 15th May 2013, re Old Bedford split at Welches Dam
"Have just discovered your very interesting website. My original interest in the Washes was through skating - in 2010 I skated most of the way from Welney to Welches Dam - and a fair bit of the way from Welney to Denver, on the Delph. I was interested to learn about the history of the OBR and the splitting at Welches Dam. Presumably there was originally a bank on the original eastern side of the subsequently truncated southern length of the OBR, to enclose it as a watercourse, when it was built? Was this bank on the eastern side removed, to allow flooding on to the Washes, when the NBR was built, or some other time? Also, why was the original OBR 'split'?"
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  William Foot, 26th April 2013, ref spigot motars and machine gun turret at Earith
"Just found your most interesting web site. There is a spigot mortar pedestal at Sutton Gault, the top just above the grass verge (TL 42917963). Incidentally the gun was swung on a pintle (the shiny metal you see at the centre of the pedestal top): the spigot was part of the working of the gun itself. I didn't know about the Allan Williams turret at Earith and will pay it a visit. As you say, it should be preserved."

  Jon Moore, 22nd Feb 2013, width of rivers
"Hi just stumbled across your website, i've always been interested in why the forty, hundred etc has been named that. I've asked a lot of people, the closest i got was by asking in the march museum, a old gentleman said he had a relation who was around many years ago and he believed it was to do with the flow of the river, i.e it would take a float forty foot within a certain time. To me this seemed plausible, a lot better then the other myth i heard, like it is forty foot deep, which i immediately laughed and said "you know how tall a house is, right?" Just seen [an] article (http://www.welney.org.uk/fens-rivers-washes/overview.htm) and it has got me thinking about the hundred foot, i've always googled the forty foot, a recent change in location made me google the hundred foot, at which it said 'because of the distance between the tops of the two embankments on either side of the river'. So am i right in taking this a the correct information then, the forty was at time of being built forty foot wide? "

  Kelvin Allen, 19th Feb 2012, re Wate Framework Dircetive, OWWLMP
We are attempting to resolve many of the remaining issues impacting on the Old Bedford and Ouse Washes and to this affect we have raised it within the Water Framework Directive programs in 2011. We have just been allocated £5,000 from Defra to bring together all the stakeholders and look at a new building a catchment restoration project to overcome the outstanding issues many left from the previous Ouse Washes Management Plan from 2002. We have picked this up following the EA fishery survey report from 2011, which reported a 92% loss in average fish density since 2008. It looks like you have much history on this subject, so I would welcome your input and support as listed on your web site http://www.ousewashes.info/ Our findings are contained in a document hosted at http://waterforum.co.uk/about-eastern-regional-fishery-forum/forum-publications/download-project-reports
  Heather Wilson, 17th Oct 2012, re Earith lock-keepers
"Just wondering if you could help me out with any history you have of the lock keepers at Earith. My Great great great Grandfather, back in the early 1800’s apparently was a lock keeper there. Do you know if there are any records kept anywhere."

  Nikki DiGiovanni, 31st Aug 2012, thanks
"Fascinating website! Thank-you for finding, preserving and sharing all this wonderful history."

  James Lander, 16th Aug 2012, re Great Ouse experimental model
"I chanced upon your interesting website while I was searching for information about Mr. E.J.A. Kenny (1909-??), who interests me mainly because of his involvement with Photographic Intelligence at Medmenham during the Second World War. But I saw a mention in R.V. Jones' book, "Most Secret War", that a PI interpreter ( whom he doesn't name, but I know for a fact he's referring to E.J.A. Kenny) worked before the war with "a river Catchment Board". I guessed it might be the Great Ouse River Catchment Board, and just found some report in the National Archives online catalogue that mentions "Great Ouse Catchment Board: experimental work on model carried out by E J A Kenny" (dating "1947-1952"), which may locate Kenny there after the war, but does not prove he was there earlier. Further searches led me to your site, and it occurred to me that you might be able to tell me how I might find out more about Kenny's connection with the Catchment Board. Any clues would be helpful.

  Gillian Kendrigan, from Australia, 10th July 2012, re her ancestor's work on the Great Dyke
"Thank you for your interesting website. My question is....whether you knew of any particular active drainage scheme that would account for my ancestor Henry Chapman's move to Littleport in the late 1820's. Henry was a millwright by trade and lived in Littleport from the late 1820's for about 10 years, during which he described himself as a carpenter in the Parish records. I think he had been in business with his brother Adam Chapman also a carpenter who lived at Nordelph & who was involved in building & maintaining various sluices such as the Great Dyke Sluice. It appears he lost a lot of money in 1827 on the Welmore Lake sluice. Unfortunately this document from the CRO about Adam was being temporarily stored at Norfolk RO when I visited the UK 2 years ago so I don't know the exact details. Loved your photos-I can see that there was a lot of millwrighting skills involved in sluice & slacker building. I do know that when he moved to Sussex in the early 1840's he eventually became involved in contracts for the railways. Obviously this wasn't very satisfactory as the family emigrated in 1851."
We exchanged further emails, and Gillian supplied copies from the Bedford Level Corporation archives to add to my Great Dyke/Mepal Canal webpage.

  Graham Nunn, 29th May 2012 re Old Croft River
"I’ve just found and read your very interesting article on the Old Croft River, I am the Foreman on Upwell IDB and as such have control of the Welney slacker and Old Croft maintenance. I was involved with installing the new slacker, unfortunately the firm who made the slacker door decided to have Welney Drain stamped on it. To us it has always been known as the Old Croft slacker and will remain so. From Welney to Tipps end the centre of the Old Croft river is the border between two IDB’s, Manea and Welney IDB and Upwell IDB. At Tipps end Upwell IDB take sole control. Oddly Upwell IDB doesn’t go into Upwell, it finishes at Three Holes, I’ve been on here twenty five years and still haven’t got my head around that. On the outlet end at Three Holes the old slacker door has not been used for years as two channels have been welded on the front and we use overspill boards to control the water level. The reason the outlet side is in such a state is that our board [IDB} actually finishes at the outlet door, the other side belongs to the Middle Level Commissioners."

  John Ruff, 15th May 2012 (again), re railway across Washes.
"Two for the price of one ! Just got to look at your wonderful railway pics, You seem to be quite knowledgeable on this subject describing the loco's, DMU's and even the old brake van down to the letter. It is no big deal but I think the correct term for the Class 66 running solo would be running "light" Sorry but I had to get that one in. Railways are another of my passions but in minature ie 1:148 but modeled on the 12" to the Foot variety. Lovely pictures many thanks

  John Ruff, 15th May 2012, thanks and general comments
"I thought that I would write to you to thank you for all the time and effort you must have gone to in order to put everything you have found out to date on the Internet for all to see. I live on the edge of the fen in Warboys but Tick Fen is actually in the Parish of Warboys. I am no authority of the history in general but I do find the subject fascinating and undertook trips last year to Welches Dam, The Locks near Downham Market and of course to Denver Sluice. I have also read several books on the subject in the recent past and your website has helped to fill in the gaps. One of the things I have read about are the Roddings which are to be seen in various parts of the fens, it is quite amazing that people who live and work in the area know that some fields have a hump of silt running across them but they don't have a clue as to how they got there. The history of how the Fens have been drained over the centuries is also a very fascinating subject. What of the future ? The peat soils are now wasted away to such an extent in some places so that the soil consists of only clay in the greater part and is very difficult to farm. It is probably taking a very pessimistic view but what of the continuing rise in sea levels which are predicted to rise even further with the ice melting at the poles? it won't happen in my lifetime (coming 72) but there could well come a time when it will become impossible to keep the sea out. Once again many thanks."

  John Lagrue, 4th May 2012, re broken links
"On the bridges-and-causeways page, most of the images are not working. Fascinating site; keep up the good work."

  Ed Harris, 22nd Nov 2011, re Water levels and irrigation
"I am a student at the University of Nottingham and am researching the Ouse washes for a project, which led me to your very informative website. The information you have provided so far has been of great help, and I am wondering what information you have on the sections which a re not yet complete. Might you be able to send me any further information you may currently have, at any stage of completion? I am particularly interested in the water levels over the year, and which areas tend to flood first/last/least/most etc, as well as the depths of the flooding. I am interested in the irrigation of the washes, and also where the water table tends to lie within them during the periods when it is not flooded. If you happen to know anything about the RSPB cattle pens and their function, times of use or capacity, might you be able to tell me about these too? Sorry for all the questions, I'm just trying to understand a bit more about this area and information is difficult to come across as I'm sure you know! I would be extremely grateful if you could help me with my project by giving me any information at all."
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