Cultural markers in the East of England

Month: November 2014

Water Buffalo
and Reed Beds

Kingfishers Bridge Wetlands Project

Looking across the project…

A small group of Fellows were this week able to take advantage of an invitation to visit and see the work of the team at Kingfishers Bridge Wetland Project .

Situated close to Wicken Fen, this sanctuary, developed from privately held land, is both a successful conservation area and a test-bed for experimental conservation methodologies.

James Page and Andy Dunn gave fellows a guided tour through the conservation landscape, which was both informative and telling about the efficacy of landscape management of this high order. Some of the insights we gained are offered below.

The Project team manage a wide variety of habitats in a relatively small area. The topography of the site falls away from a limestone ridge, which itself is an ancient coral reef, through chalk grassland areas and peat deposits. There is a plethora of lake-side, dyke margin and reed bed coverage across the site too.

Clay banks are used to prevent site inundation, the area being part of the River Cam flood plain. There is an interesting spoil mound, with a track rising to the summit, where viewing ‘hides’ are to be found and the view from the top offers great views of both the whole of the wetlands project area, but also across the surrounding fen and river network.

This surrounding area is typical grass wetland, with some of the tree cover being recently removed, and the new development includes ponds which are linked to the agricultural drainage ditches. The whole water course development is designed to remove straight lines from the landscape. These betray the sites farmland origins, but the additional work also denies predatory birds a clear flight path to their prey.


Inquisitive buffalo…

One really interesting aspect of the grazing management is the deployment of Konic horses, the Polish primitive horse, as well as a small herd of Water Buffalo. This latter creature is adept at exploring the reed beds across the conservation site, and its dietary habits keep the reed beds appropriately cropped and seasonally refreshed…with appropriate site management control, of course.

As a closed site, water management is a key aspect of managing the rise and fall of levels across the seasons. The setting clay banks and ‘elbow pipe’ systems simply divert water which is drawn from a nearby limestone quarry, a simple system which regulates levels and flow across the reserve.

This aquatic draw down from their neighbour allows Kingfishers Bridge to draw in alkali water, which is nutrient free, stimulating the growth of the site’s invertebrate population. The entire site is surrounded by an impressive electric fence, which serves to keep predators away from the reserve areas.


Looking through the reed-beds…

It is clear that this thoughtful, well managed approach to conservation across the bio-chain is a significant constituent to the success of the reserve. This ‘sanctuarial’ approach, with a well managed predator control/exclusion programme, see herons nesting on the site and a wide variety of birds, bats and plant life proliferating to interest the invited visitor.

One wonderful example of how this management expertise can transform the landscape is the Water Germanda (Teucrium scordium L.) The Kingfishers Bridge site held the last twelve plants of the species in the East of England. Water management techniques on the site now see, it is currently estimated, over two million specimens growing in the wider landscape.

We understand the site is keen to develop their support of educational visits from schools. it was profoundly satisfying to hear that the conservation team at Kingfishers Bridge actively engage children and young people in site measurement and surveys. A process which enables children to actively contribute real data to the site management process.

To explore educational visit opportunities further you can find the Kingfishers Bridge Contact Us page here –

The adult volunteer and supporter is not left out either. Supporters of the project can gain exclusive access to project services, as well as make their own contribution to site surveys and measurements.

The Project does seek donations to keep the good work going and you can find both work party information and how to donate as a Project Supporter here –

Specific development projects are dependent upon sponsorship and the ‘Kingfishers’ team would be happy to explore their current opportunities with interested supporters.

Whether as a Fellow with a bio-science specialism, or as a passionate general supporter of eco-conservation projects, there is much to delight and do in concert with the Kingfishers Bridge team. (We really enjoyed our morning in the Fen..Ed).

Kingfishers Bridge Wetland Creation Trust,
Kingfishers Bridge, Wicken, Ely, Cambs. CB7 5XL
Charity No 1078882
Discover the project on-line –



Fellows in the East of England are able to take part in a range of events and occasions. Visit our pages regularly, subscribe to our newsfeed or bookmark our regional events programme web page here…


Licensed to create?

This interesting new RSA Animate looks at a revolution that is needed in teacher development. Work consigns teachers, it argues, to becoming victims who are trapped by the systems they operate within.

The goal should be to make change-makers, who are authors of their own pedagogy.

The essay collection which supports the argument posits that schools are conditioned by a command and control culture, which ignores creativity in delivery. The teacher, it argues, strives to educate whilst coping with a top down culture of compliance.

Creative Education Reports, ov. 2014

Get the essays here…

To best serve learners, and the professional development needs of teachers, there should be a methodology available that echoes and supports the research which shows students, who have the best teachers, can learn at twice the rate of other students.

This accompanying essays, Licensed to Create: Ten essays on improving teacher quality is edited by Joe Hallgarten, Louise Bamfield and Kenny McCarthy.

The final essay from the collection is by Tristram Hunt, Shadow Secretary of State for Education. In the introduction to The Rationale for Revalidation: a movement to transform teaching, Hunt states…

The teaching profession is changing. One year into this job there are few things of which I am more certain. If this collection of essays achieves nothing else then it will be to highlight how the energy unleashed by this cultural shift has the potential to become a force for far-reaching education reform.

Whether you are just beginning your professional teaching career, ending it or are just passionate about education…there is much to think about in this RSA report.


To echo the perceptive analysis in this collection of essays, and to underscore how the change in pedagogy, the re-processing of education in general for the benefit of future generations is an ongoing project. We re-looked at Ken Robinson’s TED Talk How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.

Robinson, speaking and living in the USA, argues for change to support young people who drop out of school, and those who remain it, but who stay disengaged from the education process.

This is not a new message from Ken Robinson, but it is witty and discursive as well as telling, placing the young person at the centre of change in education.

A nice counterpoint to, and contextualision of, the thought processes and ideas revealed in our RSA essay collection above.

(Narrative updated 15:05 / 26.11.2014)


Shakespeare TV?

The Globe Theatre in London has just launched a new electronic service. The Globe Player.

It is part subscription service, partly an encyclopedia of reflection about Shakespeare and his work, but mainly it is a delight to discover the Bard whilst seated at your own screen and keyboard.

The service enables you, after registration, to rent or buy over 50 films of Shakespeare productions at The Globe Theatre.

You can also explore the Muse of Fire resource. This is a film in itself, but is made up of extracts from a wide variety of interviews with major Shakesperean actors of our day.

The interviews are available on the web site and offer fascinating insights into both the deep knowledge of the actors, but also their subtle and insightful take on the works they interpret.

One interesting part of the site content is access to performances of The Sonnets, but set in contemporary New York settings…

The project piece above is an interpretation of Sonnet 3, set in Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn. A great way to listen to the language of Shakespeare, but framed by immediately recognisable modern contexts.

This service is truly ‘…a window of thine age…’.

Whether you are a long time resident in the world of Shakespeare, or just beginning to explore the universe of love, loss, drama and comedy that The Globe creates, then we think this is a wonderful resource.

William and the Web. Perfect partners in the 21st Century?

Human Centred Design
– a toolkit

A little while ago a group of Fellows in Suffolk undertook a Human Centred Design course using the resources of (…see our archive of entries on our regional events page for more details).

IDEO have long had success with their Human Centred Design toolkit, which is an enabling mechanism for those interested in community development. The on-line course, which Suffolk Fellows undertook, has seen over 40,000 individuals from 148 countries wrangle with a specific problem in the last two years. That is poverty.

There is now a new development. IDEO have recognised that where the problems are most significant, then take-up of web resources can be limited. This may be to the complete absence of any technological infrastructure to engage toolkit users, or that the technology that is available is far beyond the community’s ability to acquire it.

Their solution is to create a printed book, the ‘old fashioned’ way of disseminating knowledge.

Supporting Human Centred Design on KickStarterYou can get involved and support the HCD book project. They are raising funds on KickStarter, where for very modest sums you are able to support the creation of this new medium, to the benefit of communities around the globe.

A pledge of 25 dollars will see you receive a pocket guide to Human Centred Design, with a 50 dollar or more pledge getting you a full copy of the toolkit in bound form.

With only 27 days to go till the close of the IDEO campaign see what the team are trying to do and you can pledge your contribution here on the pages fo KickStarter.

Don’t forget that you can use KickStarter to support RSA driven projects too. Visit this RSA web page to see a wide variety of Fellow led projects – from hand printed sustainable textiles to creating community circus teachers. See more here.

If you do support this IDEO project, or any of the worthwhile RSA initiatives…thank you.


Walking out of Autumn

With the unseasonably mild autumnal weather seeming to persist, now is a great time to get out and about into the East Anglian countryside. Our region is blessed with some wonderful ‘perambulatory’ landscapes.

Fellow event:

Our Fellows are looking forward to their re-scheduled visit to the Kingfishers Bridge Wetland Creation Project on 27th. November 3014. You can see more details here.

The National Trust:

Another great source of regional walks is the National Trust web page of walks for the Eastern Region.  There is much to delight the autumnal walker here.

The pages of the National Trust offer over 70 downloadable walks in the Eastern region, across the counties of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex.

Sheringham Park

(National Trust web page here)

We particularly like the Tremendous Trees walk at Sheringham Park in Norfolk, where the trees are at their finest in the autumn, but where the views across the landscape are great at any time of the year.

You can take a virtual tour of the Sheringham Park vista on this National Trust web page here. Can even smell the sea when the wind is in the right direction?

You can park dawn to dusk and if visiting at the weekends then the Courtyard Cafe and Visitor Centre will be open.

You can even download and install a Humphrey Repton at Sheringham Park smartphone app from from iTunes or the Android store  – adding to the pleasure of ‘finding out’ if you are a first time visitor to the estate. See more here.

Dunwich Heath

(National Trust web page here)

Another office favourite is the coastal walk at Dunwich Heath in Suffolk. Even at this late time of year there is much to see, including a  walk on the beach. Best be well wrapped up, just in case.

You can enjoy the Birch Walk, the Heather Walk or the Gorse Walk – each having their own attractions and visual delights throughout the year. See more here.

Dunstable Downs

(National Trust web page here)

Finally, the last item that caught our eye on the National Trust walks page was the potential of a visit to the Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire. Ideal if your really want to blow those cobwebs away.

You can visit the outstanding chalk and grassland Area  of Outstanding Natural Beauty throughout the year. Circular walks, medieval rabbit warrens and other ancient monuments are all on the ‘to visit list’ of any walk. The view from the ridge is tremendous, there may even be kite flyers up there too.

Don’t forget to check out our Regional Events page regularly here, there may be something of interest coming up soon from the RSA East team too.




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