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Children make their voice heard in Wenny Meadow campaign

More than fifty children aged between 4 and 13 have written to Fenland District Council to ask them to save Wenny Road Meadow from development. Plans to build 93 houses on the former Manor Park are due to be considered by Fenland District Council soon.

Last month, Girl Guide Evelyn Patterson urged Chatteris Town Council to object to the proposals but felt as though she had been ignored. Determined to give children a voice, she created letter templates and spoke to Rainbows, Brownies, and Guides about the fate of the much-loved meadow. Meanwhile, Jacob Patterson, Henry Cole, and Ruan Potgeiter spoke to 2nd Chatteris Beavers and Cubs. They also urged their school friends to write to the council.

Fenland District Council has now been sent in excess of fifty letters from local children. 

On Saturday 2nd October, children representing Glebelands Primary Academy, Kingsfield Primary School, Cromwell Community College, 1st Chatteris Guides, 6th Chatteris Brownies, 3rd Chatteris Brownies, 3rd Chatteris Rainbows, Chatteris District Rainbows, 2nd Chatteris Cubs, and 2nd Chatteris Beavers met to talk about their campaign.

The children were joined by Cllr Hilary Cox Condron, vice-chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s “Communities, Social Mobility and Inclusion” committee and a board member of Natural Cambridgeshire.

Cllr Condron listened to each of the children talk about their views on the meadow, why they think it’s important, and what it means to them. She spent an hour in Wenny Meadow talking to parents and passing walkers about the plans while the children searched for conkers, climbed trees, and splashed about in heavy rain.

One passing dog walker, speaking with emotion, told Cllr Condron how during lockdown walking on the meadow “saved her”.

Photographs

Please check the attribution details for individual photographs (by clicking on the photograph), as multiple photographers were present.

Cllr Hilary Cox Condron said:

“How wonderful to meet these young campaigners in Chatteris and hear about the letters, council speeches, leafleting and petitioning they have been doing to share how important Wenny Road Meadow is to them as they fight to save it from development. They give me hope, but I left with a heavy heart.”

“As an artist I work with children to explore, connect with and celebrate the nature on our doorsteps. We know how important being in nature is for the development of our children: for wellbeing, for health, for connections to the environment and to start to understand (to really feel) our place in the ecosystem. Being in nature impacts on education, crime reduction and social mobility. Children run and climb trees – they learn to take risks, build resilience, make up fantastical stories and look out for each other. They learn to take care of the nature they love… isn’t that what we are telling them all the time? Isn’t that what they HAVE to do?”

“We talk about the importance of loving where you live, taking care of neighbours, developing a strong sense of ‘place’. Then so easily dismiss local concerns and campaigns as NIMBYism, when taking care of our back yard is exactly what we should be doing. Or as Roy Hopkins wrote – don’t be a NIMBY, be a SWIMBY – and fight for Something Wonderful In My Backyard.”

Quotes from children’s letters:

  • 8-year-old Amber wrote: “I do not want the meadow to be built on because it will make me unhappy if we lost this lovely open space.”
  • 12-year-old Jessica wrote: “I love Wenny Meadow because I can run and climb, which is something I don’t do at the local park. It’s unsafe to have another estate on a already busy road near the college and new primary school. My peaceful place will be gone and I will stay home more and not get so much fresh air and exercise.”
  • 7-year-old Dolcey wrote: “I want a space to walk that is safe”.
  • 7-year-old Poppy wrote: “It is a green open space with lots of bugs and creatures. I went there on a school trip and I loved it.”

    7-year-old Tyler wrote: “Where will the animals go?”
  • 7-year-old Darius wrote: “I love Wenny Meadow because I found cool flowers and leaves. I love the trees and the birds.”
  • 9-year-old Hubert wrote: “I do not want the meadow to be built on because there are not many green natural spaces left for nature to thrive.”
  • 9-year-old Flynn: “We need to keep green space… the lungs of the earth will slowly disappear and our children will suffer the pollution, heat and floods.”
  • 9-year-old Eleanor wrote: “I do not want the meadow to be built on because… the bats will have no insects to eat and not even have a home.”
  • 10-year-old Chloe wrote: “I’ve had lovely walks there and climb my favourite tree. I also do my homework there as well.”
  • 8-year-old Jacob wrote: “I love Wenny Meadow because it is the best place to discover nature.”
  • 12-year-old Caitlin wrote: “We should preserve the meadow for future generations as it is our only space like it in Chatteris.”
  • 11-year-old Evelyn wrote: “I love Wenny Meadow because I can use my bird app that identifies the birds that are singing.”
  • 11-year-old Amelie wrote: “There are plenty of places to build on other than the meadows.”
  • 12-year-old Oak wrote: “I love climbing trees and picnics and hanging out with friends.”
  • 11-year-old Honey wrote: “I like smelling the flowers and I like seeing the butterflies.”
  • 11-year-old Holly wrote: “During Covid we needed to exercise as we couldn\t go to the gym, so Wenny Road Meadow was a great place to exercise. I have made great memories there. Why would you take that away from someone?”
  • 5-year-old Maicee wrote: “I have a great time making adventures there with my dad.”
  • 6-year-old Beatrice wrote: “It is the best place to listen to birds and crickets.”
  • 13-year-old Samantha wrote: “I like to walk our dogs in the natural environment, and late at night we go wildlife watching. I try to use these meadows for homework and reading as they are quiet.”
  • 10-year-old Antonia wrote: “Wenny Road has a secondary school, a new primary school, a cricket club, and football playing fields all of which are opposite the planned development site. Increased traffic on this road could make access to the school site and sports facilities more dangerous.”

Save Wenny Road Meadow group inundated with volunteers as bid to save green space steps up (press release with gallery)

More than fifty Chatteris residents took to the streets this weekend in the hope of saving Chatteris’ former Manor Park, now known as Wenny Meadow, from development.

People of all ages handed out leaflets that sought to bring the plight of the meadow to the attention of others. While some people leafleted alone, many parents were joined by children eager to save a favourite local landmark. Since Girl Guide Evelyn Patterson’s heartfelt intervention at a meeting of Chatteris Town Council on Tuesday 7th September, many of the Guides and Scouts who volunteered have decided to make the campaign part of their “community impact” or “campaigning” badges.

Kirsty Patterson, who coordinated the volunteers, said: “People couldn’t wait to do something proactive to support the campaign. People have felt helpless and let down. One parent told me her seven-year-old son had been in tears after finding out during a school visit to the meadow that it might be developed. Children have been begging their parents to help.”

Kirsty added: “I’ve been totally overwhelmed. We only planned to target the roads nearest the meadow, but we had so many people come forward that I couldn’t find something for them all to do. We ordered twice as many leaflets as we thought were needed and they’ve all gone. I had people deliver to one road and then come back for more. Everyone was asking if we were expanding to other parts of the town, so we’ve now got a list of people waiting for another batch of leaflets to arrive. The strength of Chatteris lies in its community, and that has been proven yet again by their efforts this weekend.”

Volunteer Sarah Woods said: “My 10 year old daughter, Milly, feels very connected to the meadow – she picnics, walks our dog, and practices her photography there. She sobbed when she heard about the plans and insisted on being part of trying to save it.”

Sarah and Milly leafleted two streets and have offered to do three more.

Sarah explained why she thought the meadow was important, saying: “Only one in four children play outside in the UK, but the children of Chatteris have the wildlife-rich green space of Wenny Meadow to tempt them away from their consoles and screens”.

The Fenland District Council planning website already records well over 100 objections after just one weekend, and the group says that it is still early days for their campaign. Some of those volunteering with the group are making time to write a more comprehensive objection to the plans, so they expect the number of objections to increase further still.

A spokesperson for The Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign said: “Something we’ve noticed in the last few days is the extent to which those who are coming forward to try and save the meadow represent a diverse cross-section of Chatteris. They include the young, the old, those who’ve recently moved to Chatteris, and people who were born and bred here. It just goes to demonstrate the broad appeal of this amazing place.”

 

Supporters gather to protest Wenny Road Meadow development

More than 40 people braved water-logged conditions to gather at Wenny Road Meadow on Saturday 18th January to protest development of the site which is ear-marked for 800 houses. Dog walkers, photographers, children and local councillors were among those who visited the meadow to show their support for the “Save Wenny Road Meadow” campaign. The demonstration comes as the petition of local residents tops over 1,000 signatories.

Councillor Daniel Divine (independent) and Councillor Robert White (Green Party) attended the group photo to show their support for the campaign and reiterated their opposition to development of the green space. Cllr Divine said “the issue of whether or not to build on Wenny Road Meadow transcends politics. History, ecology and local amenity makes this green space unique and must be taken into account. There is nothing else which would act as a substitute for Wenny Road Meadow within our lifetime. It is irreplaceable.” Meanwhile Cllr White, who also supports the Save Wenny Road Meadow group, is driving a campaign for tree planting in Fenland which will help to mitigate climate change.

Chatteris based photographer, Rob Morris, who photographed the proceedings, took to social media after the photoshoot saying “I was able to get some pictures to highlight what a wonderful natural resource it is for the town. This is something we cannot afford to lose.”

President of Chatteris in Bloom, and former Chatteris Mayor, Susan Unwin took time out from a busy morning of weeding in the town’s flower beds to attend the photo shoot with three generations of her family. Mrs Unwin said “My sons used to play and make dens as children as did many of the children living close by. It’s a lovely habitat for wildlife and a nice place to walk your dog.” She urged fellow town’s folk to “become a tree hugger for the New Year and save the meadow. We are turning into a concrete town – notice how many trees and open spaces we have lost over the years.”

The gathering was organised by the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign group to highlight the diverse use of the Meadow and the amenity that it provides to residents. Many of those who attended the protest were dog-walkers who spend hours in the meadow in all weathers and all seasons. Campaigner and mother of three, Kirsty Patterson, said: “the children are never bored in the meadow and what I love is that there is not a screen in sight. In the summer we had picnics and played on the rope swing, this morning it is all about splashing in puddles and climbing trees.” Ms Patterson went on to suggest “This would be the perfect place for a Chatteris-based Forest School so all our children could benefit from building confidence and learning social skills in the great outdoors.”

 

Consultation process on Fenland Local Plan review is underway

The process of reviewing the Fenland local plan is underway, and the initial period of consultation (“Issues and Options”) is running until November 21st. This is your opportunity to make your views known.

Full details are available here: you can read and comment on the Issues and Options plan, view all supporting documents and download the comments forms.

You can either reply using the (lengthy) online survey, or use the downloadable forms. Question 25 (open green space) is crucial, and you can use Question 27 (any other comments) if you don’t want to plough through every section.  Also crucial is Form C: nomination of Local Green Space. We’ll be offering further suggestions of how to use this process to save the meadow in coming days.

There is also a consultation exhibition taking place at Chatteris Library on Monday 4th November, 10:00 – 16:00.

ITV Anglia feature

Our campaign was featured on ITV Anglia News on 15th November 2018. Thanks for Mandy, Laura and Kirsty for braving the camera to spread the word about our campaign, and to Lawrence for creating this video.

The Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign was featured on the local ITV News show this evening. Here's the piece!Find out how you can help at: savewennyroadmeadow.orgFacebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/336493206775031/

Posted by Lawrence Weetman on Thursday, 15 November 2018

The Landscape History of Wenny Road Meadow – public lecture by Dr S Spooner (UEA)

On Friday 12th October, Dr Sarah Spooner, Senior Lecturer in Landscape History at the University of East Anglia gave a talk in entitled “A Landscape History of Wenny Road Meadow”. The event was co-hosted by CPPF (Chatteris Past, Present and Future, the Civic Society) and the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign.

Dr Spooner spoke with passion and authority to a full house.  She used historic maps, recent surveys and photographs to compare Wenny Road Meadow to other 18th and 19th century manor parks. Bringing in references to the Enclosure Acts, the Napoleonic Wars and even Jane Austen novels, the talk was informative and entertaining. Perhaps most revealing was the LIDAR image (shown here), which clearly exposes the “ridge and furrow” earthworks, which date back to early medieval (15th century) agricultural practices. Dr Spooner explained that because the land has never been developed, it can reveal its own story to those able to interpret the landscape. Once built on, the meadow’s history will be lost. Summing up, Dr Spooner said ““Wenny Meadow is special. It’s the only thing like it in Chatteris. It’s an important 18th and 19th Century designed landscape; not only has it not really changed since the 1820s when it was first created, but like the ridge and furrow earthworks there just are not that many parks like that in the Fens. It’s also really significant because it preserves that medieval origin. Here you have got not just the 18th Century Georgian and Regency period, but medieval Chatteris as well.”

We’d like to express our deep gratitude to Dr Spooner for her time preparing and delivering the talk.  We feel it has given us further ammunition to resist the proposed development, and will be sharing her findings with Fenland District Council shortly.