Ouse Washes RSPB reserve, general landscape, panoramic view

Washed away - Ouse Washes

André Farrar, Planning and Strategy Manager, discusses how climate change has affected Ouse washes.

Experiences at Ouse Washes

"I've been visiting the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire on and off for more than 30 years. At their best, they can host a peerless wildlife spectacle. Thousands of winter wildfowl set against a fenland sky or a spring morning animated by lapwings in their tumbling display flight and drumming snipe in numbers unrivalled in the UK. 

I remember a winter visit with my father to the RSPB's Ouse Washes nature reserve, so cold we could barely speak - frost encrusting every leaf and lines of white winter swans drifting down to settle in family parties on the floods.

'Shirt sleeve' winters 

That visit was sharp in my mind when I was there again in a more recent January, on one of our new 'shirt-sleeves' winter days.

I was taking part in an interview for the BBC about a major scientific study revealing that if the worst predictions for our rising temperature come to pass, 1 million species worldwide will be committed to extinction by 2050. 

The Ouse Washes was created to hold floods, silver meadows of a winter wetland which are the reason the place is of international importance for wildfowl. But weather patterns are changing.

Now, in most years, devastating spring floods destroy the nests of lapwings and snipe, birds which once found the protected washes an ideal place to raise their young."

Creeping up on us

"Climate chaos has crept up on us. For me, a long association with one place gives me the perspective to see how the science of climate change really is affecting the wild place I love. 

I hope that this is only temporary. I hope I will be able to take my sons to the Ouse Washes on a cold, cold day to see the Arctic swans which visit us each winter. I hope they can hear the sounds of dozens of drumming snipe as they walk from horizon to horizon in a fenland spring."

André Farrar, Planning and Strategy Manager for the RSPB.