The Ouse Washes were created in the 17th Century by the Dutch waterways engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden - a man of considerable genius but much hated by the people of The Fens at the time. Stretching for almost 40km between the Old and New Bedford Rivers, and a kilometre wide, the Ouse Washes form a huge flood storage reservoir. When the local river system cannot cope with heavy flows, the water is allowed to overflow into the Washes (primarily over the bank of the New Bedford River close to Mepal, but at many other points as well). For more than 20 days most years, the whole area is completely flooded and residents have to make a journey of more than 40km on other routes.
The flooding happens gradually but care needs to be taken in the days after heavy rain if out walking in the area because you may end up separated from your car with a long, long walk to get back to the other side. However, it could become dangerous if you try to wade through flooded roads or paths.
When the water level is high, but ebbing from the field again, it is possible to see the heavy load of peat in the water from the fields. The very last photo shows the black water from the fields as it mixes with the silty water in the Old Bedford River.
Access to the Washes is difficult as no paths run through the meadows, but footpaths do run alongside the northern bank of the Old Bedford River and both banks of the New Bedford River.
To the north-east of Welney, in the Ouse Washes, is the Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre: it's a centre owned by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust huge area of low-lying meadows which attracts vast numbers of birds. The Ouse washes are fairly safe from future development as the whole area between the Old Bedford and New Bedford Rivers is a floodwater storage area. At certain times of year, when water levels are particularly high and there is a risk of either of the drainage canals flooding populated areas, the water is allowed to flow into the Washes (primarily at a 'low' point on the New Bedford River near Mepal). The two rivers also flow over into the Washes at other places. The photos here show the situation a full week after heavy rainfall in the last days of May 2007: the fields are still partly flooded.
The Welney Wetlands Centre also has an excellent visitor centre demonstrating sustainable living.
The Flag and Lamb pub sits right in the middle of the village, covered in ivy. The staff are friendly and there is a garden out at the back with tables and a couple of tables at the front and side as well. It's a tied pub (to the local Elgood's brewery).
Standard (i.e. excellent) country pub food.
Getting to Welney by public transport is not easy. Bus route 61 runs twice a day from March to Downham Market (morning and lunchtime) and three running the other way (the extra journey is mid-morning).
Check the East Anglia Travel Line for exact timings.
Basically, these days, rural buses are timed for those living in the countryside going to towns, not for going *into* the countryside!
Just to the east of the village is the River Delph, alongside the Old Bedford River. Just to the north is one of the control sluices.
Alongside the river here, behind the village hall, is the now abandoned Three Tuns pub. It's a lovely old building, but now derelict. It's sad to see these old buildings and old businesses disappearing.