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Ouse Washes

A huge areas of washlands home to thousands of wintering ducks and breeding waders

The parallel rivers, ditches and banks of the Ouse Washes form a distinctive feature in this flat landscape. The washes themselves are long, narrow strips of grass that flood in winter. They were created nearly 400 years ago to retain flood water from the Ouse and prevent it from inundating the surrounding land, and they still perform this function today.

Over the years the Washes have also provided high quality summer grazing for cattle and sheep and have developed into an internationally important place for wildlife that is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. In winter when the water is high, the turf banks are covered with flocks of grazing wigeon, while dabbling ducks search the water for floating seed and buried roots. Large flocks of geese, including bean and white-fronted, and thousands of visiting whooper and Bewick’s swans use the reserve as their base for foraging among the fields. 

Spring and summer also offer plenty of wildlife. Garganey, avocet, black-tailed godwit, redshank, snipe and yellow wagtail all breed on site, and to catch a glimpse of lekking ruff is a treat. New species arrive each year; little egret, spotted crake and crane are recent residents.

Around the visitor centre, autumn brings flocks of farmland birds including tree sparrow, corn bunting and yellowhammer. Kingfishers swoop up and down the river. In addition to birds, the Ouse Washes are good for insects and plants. Dragonflies and damselflies hunt over the rivers and ditches in summer, including rare species like the scarce chaser. More than 300 kinds of plant have been recorded, including fringed water lily and flowering rush.

 There are hides for birdwatching along the embankments. The site is managed to provide the best conditions for migrating and overwintering birds.

 

The map below is for indication purposes only and does not show the Wildlife Trusts definitive land boundary.

Nearby nature reserves

Chettisham Meadow
5 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Roswell Pits
7 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Doghouse Grove
7 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire

Nature reserve map

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012. For indicative purposes does not show exact boundaries.

Reserve information

Location
3.5 miles from Manea, off Purl's Bridge Drove at Welches Dam
Manea
Cambridgeshire
PE15 )NF
Map reference
TL 470 860
Great for...
birdwatching
overwintering birds
spring migrant birds
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
Facilities
Visitor centre
Size
186.00 hectares
Access
Yes

Surfaced paths to first (ramped) hide, other hides have steep steps and are quite far to walk.
Walking information
Surfaced paths to first (ramped) hide, other hides have steep steps and are quite far to walk.
Parking
Park at RSPB visitor centre
Dogs
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Grazed with cattle and sheep
Reserve manager
Tel: 01954 713500
cambridgeshire@wildlifebcn.org