Welney is a reserve that is very close to my heart because it is where I started my career in nature conservation when I was twelve years old, cycling 12 miles from my home to work as a volunteer there most weekends.
In winter my job was mainly checking visitors tickets at the entrance gate or talking with visitors and helping them to identify birds from the hides. I was also given time off from school to assist with trapping swans and ducks to ring them to help with research into there migration patterns.
In summer I spent more time assisting with practical management tasks such as mowing paths and pollarding willows. Pollarding is a very old tradition which involves removing limbs at a height at which grazing animals can not eat the regrowth. The resulting material (depending on its age) could be used for making eel traps, baskets, fire wood and fodder for livestock.
The Ouse Washes was designed as a water storage facility to help drain the surrounding fen and in normal years it would flood in winter and then dry out in summer and graziers would then put livestock on to graze the lush vegetation. Unfortunately these days, for a variety of reasons the site can have flood water on for most of the year. To find out more about the Ouse Washes visit;