Unique local project realised thanks to a committed partnership and collaborative working across the community.
A beautiful green space to unwind and connect with nature has been fully unveiled at the Mill Steps in Godmanchester.
On Thursday 9 June, a group of over 30 partners gathered at the site to celebrate the completion of the Mill Steps project. This collaborative venture has been led by Huntingdonshire District Council and delivered in partnership with the Environment Agency, Highways England, Godmanchester Town Council, Godmanchester in Bloom and a local working group, the Godmanchester Community Liaison Group.
Benefiting the local community, local environment and local ecology in equal measure, the former mill site was previously an unattractive scene of broken concrete and steel fencing. The Godmanchester Mill Steps project has transformed the area into a beautiful riverside green space for local residents and visitors to unwind and connect with nature.
The newly improved section of river frontage space, close to the former mill site, was part of a wider ecological project to improve fish and eel migration along the Great Ouse.
Godmanchester holds a critical position on the Great Ouse, with the man-made weirs and sluices impacting the migration of all species of coarse fish, including eels. Installation of the new fish pass at Godmanchester has opened up 100km of the Ouse to the sea at King's Lynn. Carefully designed to ensure access by all species, fish and eels of all sizes can now migrate freely upstream and downstream of Godmanchester.
Cllr Sarah Conboy, Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, said: "The Godmanchester Mill Steps project is a great example of collaborative working with partners coming together to deliver a community-led initiative that leaves a lasting legacy for local people.
"The project not only benefits the local community by creating a brand-new space for recreation and leisure, but also offers environmental and ecological benefits for our local wildlife. We look forward to welcoming residents and visitors to explore the new surroundings and hope they enjoy all it has to offer."
Environment Agency’s Fisheries Specialist, Kye Jerrom, was closely involved in the fish pass development, and describes the impact of the project:
"Godmanchester and its sluices, weirs and locks had been a barrier to fish for decades. With migration through the town now possible, fish and eels can access important habitats - essential for spawning, feeding and dealing with weather extremes. The Environment Agency was delighted to support the project with environmental funding and fishing licence income. The fish pass doesn’t just create a better environment, it also improves the local ecology and benefits anglers and local visitors. While this has been a priority project for us for many years, it was only possible with the investment of all of the partners involved. Collaboration like this is a great way to invest in the environment, get value for money and deliver what is needed locally."
The project’s wider improvement works focused on creating a location with naturalised landscaping, carefully selected planting and unique wildlife-friendly features. New signage offers visitors the chance to understand how the fish pass works, as well as learn about the history of the Mill Steps and discover more about the birds, insects, mammals and fish found within the area.
Cllr Simone Taylor, Executive Councillor responsible for Leisure, Waste and Street Scene at Huntingdonshire District Council said: "It is fantastic to see the fish and eel pass at Godmanchester Mill Steps completed. This much-needed project will not only help fish migration, but will also have a positive impact on the wildlife which rely on our rivers. Residents and visitors can enjoy the beautiful green space and watch to see if any of the local grey wagtails, known to return to this spot to nest each year, will make their home in the nest boxes built into the walls of the fish pass! Well done to everyone involved."
National Highways/ A428/A14 Legacy Fund lead on the project, Joshua Smith commented: "The completion of the fish pass is an excellent accomplishment that National Highways is pleased to have been able to support. The fish pass will deliver both environmental benefits and give the community of Godmanchester a brilliant new space. This project couldn’t have been delivered without the partners and members of the local communities, showing the importance of collaboration."
Godmanchester Town Council, one of the four major project partners commented: "The Town Council was proud to be at the opening of the Godmanchester Mill Steps Fish Pass on 9 June 2022. This project - which has been many years in the planning – provides a wonderful new facility for the town. While the ground cover is understandably sparse at present, the Town Council is confident that this will ‘naturalise’ over time. Meanwhile, it has removed another bar to spawning fish and eels migrating up the River Great Ouse, and helps to make our town yet more environmentally friendly. The Town Council is very proud of what our citizens have achieved."
The project celebration on 9 June was attended by a range of representatives from the project’s many stakeholders and partners, along with key individuals from the local community. This truly collaborative way of working has been instrumental to the project’s success.
Local residents have shown great interest in the works over the last year and are now invited to come and explore this newly enhanced river frontage, and enjoy the associated health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in the natural environment.