40 years of celebrations at Grafham Water

CELEBRATIONS take place this weekend to mark 40 years of Grafham Water. The year Grafham opened, The Beatles were taking the world by storm, Barclays had just introduced the first ever credit card to the UK, and England was about to win the World Cup. I

CELEBRATIONS take place this weekend to mark 40 years of Grafham Water.

The year Grafham opened, The Beatles were taking the world by storm, Barclays had just introduced the first ever credit card to the UK, and England was about to win the World Cup.

In July 1966, 2,400 acres of farmland in Grafham were flooded to supply water to thousands of new homes in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.

Without Grafham Water, Milton Keynes could not have been built. The project also marked a new practice of using reservoirs for recreation.


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And the recreation will continue this weekend with events that include a competition to bag a monster fish, with a prize tag of £1,000 for the person who catches it, exhibitions, boat rides and cake.

Kenneth Saxton, formerly chief engineer of the Great Ouse Water Authority, was the man who oversaw the venture.

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He said: "The work we did at Grafham attracted national and international attention."

It also attracted royalty to its opening as Prince Philip was the guest of honour.

Grafham Water, set in 1,570 acres, is now an official Site of Special Scientific Interest, attracting 500,000 visitors a year for water sports and fishing. It has a visitor centre, a 10-mile cycle track, a nature reserve and restaurant.

Its sailing club is used for Olympic training and the trout fishery regularly hosts international events.

Anglian Water's chief operating officer Peter Simpson said: "Grafham Water really is a jewel in the Cambridgeshire countryside.

"While being core to Anglian Water's resources strategy, Grafham has developed into a magnificent recreation centre."

But before Grafham Water existed, the land, which is now submerged, was farmed. The decision to flood the land obviously caused some upset.

Some 14 farmers were obliged to submit to compulsory purchase orders to make way for the reservoir. The last of these to bring in a harvest was Jamie Hart, then aged 18. He still farms in Grafham but says it took decades to build up his farm again.

Mr Hart said: "My father and I had 240 acres and we were left with 40.

"I will take part in the celebrations. I have no grudge against Anglian Water, I get on well with them, but the compensation at the time was not fair, and the system still isn't today to anyone giving up land, for roads, for example.

"At the time, farmers who owned their land were paid £100 an acre and tenants £10 an acre. If they had been paid what the land was worth, they could have upped-sticks and begun somewhere else.

"As it was, only two of those farmers continued farming."

Now 58, and a grandfather, Mr Hart farms 900 acres with his son, Dan. His daughter, Maxine is a landscape gardener.

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