The River Great Ouse begins its journey in the rolling hills of South Northamptonshire, near the last remnants of the ancient royal forest of Whittlewood. After passing through Buckinghamshire the river meanders gracefully through the heart of Bedfordshire before entering Cambridgeshire where it heads across the wide fens towards its eventual conclusion at the Wash in Norfolk. In places intensively managed and in others quite hidden and mysterious, the Great Ouse is unique, beguiling and well worth exploring.
The Great Ouse is Britain's 4th longest river at 143 miles with a catchment area of over 5000 sq miles.
The huge catchment of the Great Ouse connects notable places like Milton Keynes, Bedford, St Neots, Huntingdon, St Ives and Cambridge while providing a wonderful natural network for wildlife. Despite habitat loss through agricultural intensification and urban development, parts of these waterways are still lined with reedbeds, willow trees, alder carrs and wetland plants, creating natural havens for wildlife, while beneath the water's surface freshwater fish and invertebrates swim through the nourishing waters and underwater vegetation.
The Ouse Valley Living Landscape scheme will expand and link existing nature reserves by working in partnership with local authorities, local communities, landowners and other organisations. We’re also working directly with the owners of Local Wildlife Sites, helping them to manage their land with nature firmly in mind.
Initiatives already under way, such as encouraging the creation of wet grassland for breeding and wintering waterbirds, plus co-ordinating a seed harvesting initiative, taking seed from established old meadows and using to restore flower-rich meadows, mean that the Great Ouse Valley becomes a wildlife stronghold throughout its length.