Canoe safari is a hit in the Fens

PUBLISHED: 18:45 29 August 2009 | UPDATED: 09:14 02 June 2010

Canoe safari in the fens at Welney with John Knowles, Pictured: John Knowles leads the safari goers through the reeds. 
PHOTO: IAN BURT
COPY:Chris Bishop
FOR:EDP News
EDP pics © 2009
(01603)772434

Canoe safari in the fens at Welney with John Knowles, Pictured: John Knowles leads the safari goers through the reeds. PHOTO: IAN BURT COPY:Chris Bishop FOR:EDP News EDP pics © 2009 (01603)772434

Archant © 2009

MILES from the nearest road lies a landscape which has changed little since Sir Cornelius Vermuyden first drained the Fens. And now an adventure lover s new canoe safari venture is to offer a chance to glimpse parts of the Fens that few people ever get to

MILES from the nearest road lies a landscape which has changed little since Sir Cornelius Vermuyden first drained the Fens.

And now an adventure lover's new canoe safari venture is to offer a chance to glimpse parts of the Fens that few people ever get to see.

Little has changed in 300 years on the Ouse Washes at Welney Wetland Centre. The huge expanse of low-lying land was created to store water when the land was drained as a safety valve to prevent flooding along the course of the tidal river.

Once the preserve of punt gunners, most of the washes are now owned and looked after by conservation groups like the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

When the waters retreat, a network of dikes and drains offers the best way to explore - and get up close and personal with the area's rich wildlife.

"I didn't realise until I came and did these things what a wild place this is," said safari guide John Knowles, who leads groups on three hour trips in two-person Canadian canoes.

"It's quite an adventurous experience, you're bashing your way through the reeds, you're going to come away a bit muddy. It's also a beautifully calm way of travelling."

"The person in the back does the steering and the person at the front is the engine," Mr Knowles explained after showing safari-goers how to hold their paddles. "You also want the heaviest person in the back of the boat."

Mr Knowles, who runs a company called Highline Adventure based at Beachamwell, near Downham Market, explained how a thirst for adventure had taken him on expeditions to Outer Mongolia and the depths of the Amazon.

"I worked on a farm and I ended up doing a few pigs. After three years that was making more than my job so I moved to Norfolk to farm pigs, I was selling 43,000 a year at one point.

"Then I got a bit sick of it, we had foot and mouth, that hammered us, then swine flu. In the end I thought: 'I've had enough of this.

"So I went on an outdoor pursuit's course at the College of West Anglia and learned to be an instructor."

Trial safaris with Mr Knowles this summer proved a sell-out. The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust is hoping to repeat them next year.

"It's worked really well," said Welney reserve manager Leigh Marshall. "It's another way to get people to interact with the wildlife."

For more information log on to www.highlineadventure.co.uk


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