Washland or washes are areas of land adjacent to rivers which are deliberately flooded at times when the rivers are high, to avoid flooding in residential or important agricultural areas.[1][2][3] They often provide for overwintering wildfowl, and several include important nature reserves.[4][5]

Examples of washlands include:

The Ouse Washes - geograph.org.uk - 1189086
The Ouse Washes between the Old and New Bedford River
Making a splash on Whittlesey Wash - The Nene Washes
Car on the A1040 crossing flooded Whittlesey Wash, part of the Nene Washes
Bridge, Guyhirn Wash - The Nene Washes - geograph.org.uk - 1425639
Guyhirn Wash, part of the Nene Washes


  1. ^ "Collaborative Landforms Gallery". The Geograph Project. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  2. ^ Wheeler, William Henry (1896). A History of the Fens of South Lincolnshire. 2nd Edition (facsimile edition, 1990 ed.). Stamford: Paul Watkins. ISBN 1-871615-19-4.
  3. ^ "The River Ouse project". The River Ouse project. University of Sussex. Such areas are known as 'washlands'
  4. ^ "About Ouse Washes". RSPB. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  5. ^ "Trent Valley Washlands". National Character Areas. Natural England. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
Clifton, Rawcliffe and Poppleton Ings

Clifton, Rawcliffe and Poppleton ings are temporary storage area (washland scheme) for water that flows down the River Ouse in York, England.

Approximately 2.3 million cubic metres of water is able to be stored here which lowers the flood level by about 150mm in the city.

Sluice gates on the north and south side allow water to enter and leave.

During the summer months the grassland is used by local farmers to graze their cattle.In 1982, £1.25 million, was spent on increasing the height and adding sluice gates as well as heightening the embankments to allow greater storage of water.The design of the ings allow for accommodation of water for a medium order flooding.

In the event of a higher order flooding, the embankments allow overflow thus increasing capacity of the ings.

Fenn Washland

Fenn Washland is a 4.9 hectare Local Nature Reserve in South Woodham Ferrers in Essex. It is owned by Essex County Council and managed by the Council as a part of the nearby Marsh Farm Country Park.The site is undeveloped wetland in a valley surrounded by housing. It has grassland, swamp, scrub, ponds and reedbed, providing diverse habitats for wildlife.There is access to a footpath round the site from Inchbonnie Road, but no formal paths within the site itself.


Kilnhurst is a village in South Yorkshire, England, on the banks of the River Don and the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation. It grew up around the coal mining, ceramics, glass, brick-making and locomotive industries; none of these industries remain in the village.

List of Local Nature Reserves in Essex

Essex is a county in the east of England. It is bounded by Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Greater London to the south-west, Kent across the River Thames to the south, and the North Sea to the east. It has an area of 1,420 square miles (3,700 km2), with a coastline of 400 miles (640 km), and a population according to the 2011 census of 1,393,600. At the top level of local government are Essex County Council and two unitary authorities, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock. Under the county council, there are twelve district and borough councils.Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are designated by local authorities under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The local authority must have a legal control over the site, by owning or leasing it or having an agreement with the owner. LNRs are sites which have a special local interest either biologically or geologically, and local authorities have a duty to care for them. They can apply local bye-laws to manage and protect LNRs.As of August 2016 there are forty-nine Local Nature Reserves in Essex. Nine are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), three are also Scheduled Monuments and four are managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust. The largest is Southend-on-Sea Foreshore with 1,084 hectares (2,680 acres), which is part of the Benfleet and Southend Marshes SSSI, an internationally important site for migrating birds. The smallest is Nazeing Triangle at 0.5 hectares (1.2 acres), which is a small pond and wildflower meadows surrounded on all three sides by roads.

Nene Washes

Nene Washes is a 1,522.1 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest on the bank of the River Nene east of Peterborough in Cambridgeshire. It is also a Ramsar internationally important wetland site, a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area and a Nature Conservation Review site. An area of 280 hectares is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.This is described by Natural England as one of Britain's few remaining areas of washland which are vital for the survival of wildfowl and waders. Wintering wildfowls include wigeons, teals, pintails and Bewick's swans. The rich flora in ditches include uncommon species such as frogbit, water violet and flowering rush.There is access to the RSPB reserve immediately east of the B1040 road from Nene Way. The western end is private land with no public access.

New Bedford River

The New Bedford River, also known as the Hundred Foot Drain because of the distance between the tops of the two embankments on either side of the river, is a man-made cut-off or by-pass channel of the River Great Ouse in the Fens of Cambridgeshire, England. It provides an almost straight channel between Earith and Denver Sluices. It is tidal, with reverse tidal flow being clearly visible at Welney, some 19 miles (31 km) from the sea.

New River (Fens)

The New River is a drainage system in the South Holland district of Lincolnshire, England. Rising just east of Sisson's Farm near Crowland it flows very roughly eastwards, following the general line of the River Welland but a little to the south. It skirts the settlements of Crowland and Cowbit before flowing into the Welland at Cradge Bank near Little London.

The land enclosed between the Welland and the New River is referred to as Washland, Crowland Wash and Cowbit Wash being the principal areas. Washland was designed to be sacrificially flooded as a relief of high river levels. The current land usage, and the rights of the drainage authorities to flood it can be traced back at least to an act of parliament of George III, and amended in 1847. The arrangement is not theoretical. Cowbit Wash was flooded annually to protect Spalding until the creation of the Coronation Channel allowed excess water to bypass the town. Even now the option to overspill onto the Wash is available.Although it is customary to say the washes lie between the Welland and the New River, it is more accurate to say that there is an extra bank to the Welland to the south of the New River. It is this bank that restrains the spreading floodwaters: the New River lies in the bottom of this basin to remove the waters. This earthen bank can be seen on the left of the Cloot House photograph above. The availability of a suitable geological feature on which to build this bank determined the shape of the washes, and its location can be traced back through antiquity. To quote Wheeler:

The right bank of the Welland between Crowland and Spalding is placed at a distance from the channel of the river varying from a quarter to half a mile leaving an area of about 2500 acres which is covered with water whenever the Welland is in flood. The depth of water in this land in high floods is as much as 5 feet. Originally, no doubt, the land by the side of the Wellland was little better than a Morass, and the banks were placed on the nearest firm ground.

Old Bedford River

The Old Bedford River is an artificial, partial diversion of the waters of the River Great Ouse in the Fens of Cambridgeshire, England. It was named after the fourth Earl of Bedford who contracted with the local Commission of Sewers to drain the Great Level of the Fens beginning in 1630.

The idea of an artificial river running, as the Old Bedford River does, from Earith to Denver was not a new idea; it had been proposed as early as 1604 by the engineer John Hunt. The work on the Old Bedford River was financed by the Earl of Bedford and several other investors and was undertaken between 1630 and 1636, but the supervising engineer is not known.Artificial drainage of low-lying wetlands generally involves one or both of two different practices: excluding water flowing from high areas from entering the low-lying area, and pumping out water which does manage to get into the low-lying area. The Old Bedford River was constructed on the first principle, as were most of the drainage works constructed in the seventeenth century in the English fens. Both the Old Bedford River and the New Bedford River (constructed 20 years later in 1650) were intended to reduce or eliminate flooding of the fens of the Great Level by carrying the bulk of the water from the Great Ouse River from the uplands of Huntingdonshire to the sea in a straight channel, rather than allowing it to meander (and flood) the fens of the Great Level.

The flow in the Great Ouse is maintained for navigation, fisheries and aesthetic reasons but when there is excessive flow, the excess is diverted along the Bedford Rivers of which there are two, the Old and the New. Between them lies the Ouse Washes. This is not to be confused with the estuarine feature of The Wash towards which all this water is flowing. The Ouse Washes is an area in which excess fresh river water is stored until low tide permits its release or until flood levels elsewhere allow. The two rivers have raised banks (which in some parts of the world, would be called levees), so as to keep the flow within them but the outer bank in each case is higher so that when the flow becomes too great, the rivers fill the wash between them but not the farmland of the Middle and South Bedford Levels outside the banks.

To facilitate the drainage of the washland, there is a third, unembanked river between the two Bedford Rivers, alongside the Old Bedford River and known as the River Delph. It drains into the New Bedford River 2 to 3 kilometres (1.2 to 1.9 miles) south of Denver Sluice.

The names of the three waterways are rather inconsistent. At Welches Dam (where the 1651 Forty Foot drain enters from the West) the Old Bedford river moves to the East and the Forty Foot actually enters the Counter Drain. It is the latter waterway which exits into the River Great Ouse just below Salters Lode. The actual Old Bedford River swaps identities in the Welches Dam area and becomes the River Delph. This dates back to when Forty Foot drain (also called Vermuyden's Drain) was cut. The latter sometimes caused water to flow back up the Old Bedford river to Earith. To alleviate this a dam was built by Edmund Welche across the Old Bedford river just upstream of the junction of the two waterways. Unfortunately this caused the wash area between the Old and New Bedford rivers to flood so a new waterway was cut to link the stub of the Old Bedford River (from the point of the ex-dam) straight into the New Bedford river further upstream at Welmore Lake sluice. This new waterway (which kinks to the right at Welches Dam before continuing parallel with the Old Bedford River) was named the River Delph and a flood bank was also built between it and the Old Bedford river to maintain the integrity of the Wash area.

Ouse Washes

Ouse Washes is a linear 2,513.6 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest stretching from near St Ives in Cambridgeshire to Downham Market in Norfolk. It is also a Ramsar internationally important wetland site, a Special Protection Area under the European Union Birds Directive, a Special Area of Conservation, and a Nature Conservation Review site, Grade I. An area of 186 hectares between March and Ely is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, and another area near Chatteris is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust manages another area near Welney.

Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme (OWLP) is a 3-year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund which runs from 2014 - 2017. The scheme focuses on the promotion of the area surrounding the Ouse Washes, the heart of the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk Fens, and on encouraging community engagement with the area’s diverse heritage.

A Landscape Partnership scheme (LP) is a Heritage Lottery Fund grant-aided programme which is delivered in a partnership made up of local, regional and national organisations with an interest in an area. The main aim of such schemes is to conserve the UK’s distinctive landscape character areas. A Landscape Partnership is based around a portfolio of smaller projects, which together provide long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for the landscape and its communities. These projects focus on the following outcomes:

Conserving or restoring the built and natural features that create the historic landscape character;

Increasing community participation;

Increasing access and learning about the landscape;

Increasing training opportunities in local heritage skills.The area targeted by the OWLP scheme focuses on the distinctive rural, open and tranquil landscape surrounding the Ouse Washes; this landscape includes important wetland and washland habitats set within productive agricultural land. The project focuses on the area around the Old Bedford River and New Bedford River in the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk Fens and includes the RSPB nature reserves to its south, near St Ives and Fen Drayton. This unique landscape area includes or abuts a large number of vibrant small settlements and is close to the market towns and cities of Downham Market, Chatteris, March, Littleport, Ely, Cambridge and St. Ives.

With a wide partnership of 28 key organisations, the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership aims to strengthen partnership working across all levels and all land use interests; develop strong community involvement and empowerment; and promote the OWLP area as a visitor destination in its own right.

RSPB Dearne Valley Old Moor

RSPB Dearne Valley Old Moor is an 89-hectare (220-acre) wetlands nature reserve in the Dearne Valley near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It lies on the junction of the A633 and A6195 roads and is bordered by the Trans Pennine Trail long-distance path. Following the end of coal mining locally, the Dearne Valley had become a derelict post-industrial area, and the removal of soil to cover an adjacent polluted site enabled the creation of the wetlands at Old Moor.

Old Moor is managed to benefit bitterns, breeding waders such as lapwings, redshanks and avocets, and wintering golden plovers. A calling male little bittern was present in the summers of 2015 and 2016. Passerine birds include a small colony of tree sparrows and good numbers of willow tits, thriving here despite a steep decline elsewhere in the UK.

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council created the reserve, which opened in 1998, but the RSPB took over management of the site in 2003 and developed it further, with funding from several sources including the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The reserve, along with others nearby, forms part of a landscape-scale project to create wildlife habitat in the Dearne Valley. It is an 'Urban Gateway' site with facilities intended to attract visitors, particularly families. In 2018, the reserve had about 100,000 visits. The reserve may benefit in the future from new habitat creation beyond the reserve and improved accessibility, although there is also a potential threat to the reserve from climate change and flooding.

River Dearne

The River Dearne is a river in South Yorkshire, England. It flows roughly east for more than 30 kilometres (19 mi), from its source just inside West Yorkshire, through Denby Dale, Clayton West, Darton, Barnsley, Darfield, Wath upon Dearne, Bolton on Dearne, Adwick upon Dearne and Mexborough to its confluence with the River Don at Denaby Main. Its main tributary is the River Dove, which joins it at Darfield. The river was one of those affected by the 2007 United Kingdom floods.

The course of the river is accessible to walkers, as the Dearne Way long distance footpath follows it from Dearne Head to its junction with the River Don. Places of interest along the Dearne include the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton Hall, and Monk Bretton Priory. The lower Dearne Valley, below Barnsley, is now also called Dearne Valley and is a regeneration area.

The river has been the subject of channel engineering, to ease the problem of flooding. A new channel was constructed for it near its mouth in the 1950s, as the old route had been affected by subsidence. Washlands, which can be progressively flooded as water levels rise, were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. A flood relief channel and a regulator to restrict the flow was built at Bolton upon Dearne. During the 2007 United Kingdom floods, all of the washlands filled to capacity, but the regulator could not be operated as it had been vandalised.

With the development of industry and the Dearne and Dove Canal, the river became grossly polluted in the early nineteenth century, and fish populations died. The West Riding River Board tried to address the problems as early as 1896, with limited success, and much of the river remained dead until the 1980s, when concerted attempts were made to clean industrial effluents before they were discharged, and to improve sewage treatment processes. Despite some setbacks, fish populations had been partially reinstated by the early 1990s. Channel engineering was carried out at Denaby in the 1990s, to re-introduce bends, deep pools and shallow gravel riffles, to assist fish spawning. In June 2015, salmon were reported in the river for the first time in 150 years.

River Dove, Barnsley

The River Dove is a river that extends through the Low Valley in Barnsley, England. It flows from Worsbrough Reservoir to its confluence with the River Dearne.

River Freshney

The River Freshney is a river in the English county of North East Lincolnshire. The town of Grimsby stands on its banks. It rises from at least four springs on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, although local folklore and oral tradition has it springing from Welbeck Hill. Originally it entered the tidal River Humber at Pyewipe, north west of Grimsby, but has been re-routed and now supplies Grimsby Docks.

There was an existing haven within the borough of Grimsby but this suffered greatly with silting problems so in 1669 landowners agreed to the diversion of the Freshney through the town to the haven to provide fresh water and improve the flow. It is believed the work was completed in the very early 18th century.

River Great Ouse

The River Great Ouse () is a river in the United Kingdom, the longest of several British rivers called "Ouse". From Syresham in central England, the Great Ouse flows into East Anglia before entering the Wash, a bay of the North Sea. With a course of 143 miles (230 km), mostly flowing north and east, it is the one of the longest rivers in the United Kingdom. The Great Ouse has been historically important for commercial navigation, and for draining the low-lying region through which it flows; its best-known tributary is the Cam, which runs through Cambridge. Its lower course passes through drained wetlands and fens and has been extensively modified, or channelised, to relieve flooding and provide a better route for barge traffic. Though the unmodified river probably changed course regularly after floods, it now enters the Wash after passing through the port of King's Lynn, south of its earliest-recorded route to the sea.

River Rother, South Yorkshire

The River Rother, a waterway in the northern midlands of England, gives its name to the town of Rotherham and to the Rother Valley parliamentary constituency. It rises near Clay Cross in Derbyshire and flows in a generally northwards direction through the centre of Chesterfield, where it feeds the Chesterfield Canal, and on through the Rother Valley Country Park and several districts of Sheffield before joining the River Don at Rotherham in Yorkshire.

From the 1880s, the water quality deteriorated rapidly, as a result of coal mining and its associated communities. The river became unable to sustain life, and by 1974, was the most polluted of the rivers within the River Don catchment. The pollutants came from coking plants, from inefficient sewage treatment plants, and from the manufacture of chemicals. Major investment in upgrading the sewage treatment works took place, and in the treatment of industrial effluent before it was discharged to the river. The closure of the main coking plants has also aided the recovery of the river, and enabled restocking with fish to begin in 1994. By 1996 there was evidence for self-sustaining fish populations, and that the river could support organised angling.

A short section of the river in Chesterfield was once navigable, and may become so again as part of a development project, while there are plans to use the course from Rother Valley Country Park to Rotherham for the Rother Link, which would connect the Chesterfield Canal to the River Don Navigation. The lower river is managed because of flood risk: three regulators can restrict its flow. Their operation normally causes flooding of washlands, rather than of centres of population, which might otherwise be inundated.

River Till, Lincolnshire

The River Till is a river is the county of Lincolnshire in England and is ultimately a tributary of the River Witham. Its upper reaches drain the land east of Gainsborough. The middle section is embanked, as the water level is higher than that of the surrounding land, and pumping stations pump water from low level drainage ditches into the river. Its lower reaches from the hamlet of Odder near Saxilby into the city of Lincoln were canalised, possibly as early as Roman times, as part of the Foss Dyke.Much of the channel is managed by the Environment Agency as it is classified as a main river, while the upper river and the land drainage ditches which border the river are managed by the Upper Witham internal drainage board. In order the help protect the city of Lincoln from flooding, a sluice has been built across the channel at the Till Washlands site. When flooding is a possibility, the sluice is closed, and other sluices allow the surrounding farmland to be inundated until water levels start to fall again. The defences were first used in 2000, and successfully prevented flood damage in Lincoln in the summer of 2007.

There are issues with water quality on much of the river, caused by run-off from agricultural land, physical modification of the river channel, and discharges from sewage treatment works. In 2011, a stretch of the river near Saxilby was affected by the invasive aquatic fern Azolla. An environmental project to control the fern saw some 8,000 Azolla weevils (Stenopelmus rufinasus) released into the river. As they feed exclusively on the fern, once the fern has been consumed they die out naturally without affecting native species.

Witham First District IDB

Witham First District IDB is an English internal drainage board which was set up under the terms of the Land Drainage Act 1930. The Board inherited the responsibilities of the Witham General Drainage Commissioners, who were first constituted by an Act of Parliament of 1762. They manage the land drainage of an area to the west of the River Witham, between Lincoln and Dogdyke, which includes the valley of the River Slea to above Sleaford.

The district is divided into a number of compartments, as it is intersected by embanked rivers which cross the area, carrying water from the Car Dyke, which acts as a catchwater drain at the western boundary, to the Witham on its eastern edge. Most of the parishes were enclosed in the late 1700s, by separate Acts of Parliament, and steam-powered drainage was introduced from the 1830s. Steam engines were gradually replaced by oil and diesel engines, and most have since been superseded by electric pumps. The Witham First District IDB maintains thirteen pumping stations and 165 miles (266 km) of drainage channels.

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