Over the past year, Ouse Fen Warden Hannah Bernie, and Assistant Warden Richard Taylor have been leading the mighty Ouse Fen volunteers in one of their tasks to remove willow from reedbeds (to stop them turning into wet woodland) and using the wood to create brash bundles: 

They have also been filling an enormous amount of sand bags:


Image credits: Debra Royal

Why, you might wonder? It’s all in the name of providing experimental fish habitat along one of the fish survey routes on Cell 3, aka Lock Keepers Mere (which can be found on the reserve map, which I have put a link to here

The site team are trying to increase the availability of underwater refuges in order to increase the quantity of fish on site. Fish are an important element of the wetland system, and incidentally, they make good bittern food!

As Senior Project Manager for the Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project, which, over 30 years, is creating RSPB Ouse Fen, I spend a lot of my time in my office, or someone else’s office, having a meeting or looking at a computer screen, just like now in fact! Luckily, at the RSPB, we are encouraged to take a ‘volunteer day’ once a year where we can help colleagues, try new skills or see how other parts of the organisation work.  Recently, I chose to use my volunteer day to join Hannah and Richard at Ouse Fen for a day, where I would try and be more help than hindrance as they used the bundles and sandbags to build the fishy underwater utopia.

Our gallant heroes had not done this before, but there was a plan…………….

First we had to shift the sandbags, here’s Richard in action getting them on the trailer.:

All images from now on credited to Matt York

Then we had to get the boat ready. I was excited to be going out onto the water, and the misty morning and mournful flocks of golden plovers overhead added atmosphere:

I might well have been excited, and at this stage still dry, but there was no time to rest. On the boat they go…

And off again at our destination ….

After a couple of boat trips to ferry the bags, we practiced our knot tying before moving them into position. Hannah made light work of shifting sandbags!!

We floated the volunteers’ brash bundles into the water…

Thank you very much to Debra and Matt for sharing their images with us (editor!)

Floated them into position, and then, from the safety of the boat, tied a bag to each end…..

Before letting go, sinking them. Success!

So how did we get on? Well, we managed 25 bundles and 50 sandbags, completing one transect of 100 metres. No one fell in, Hannah and Richard claimed I didn’t get in the way too much, and even verged on being useful, and I had a great day out on Ouse Fen, fortifying me for office days to come. I also had a great reminder of the hard work that volunteers and wardens do every time they go out on site.

Thanks to Hannah, Richard, and all the volunteers who tied the bundles and filled the sandbags, and then let me have the fun of sinking them!

Matt York – Senior Project Manager