Fowlmere RSPB reserve

Fowlmere is a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds nature reserve between Fowlmere and Melbourn in Cambridgeshire.[2] It is designated a 39.9 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest called Fowlmere Watercress Beds.[1][3][4]

Fowlmere's reedbeds and pools are fed by natural chalk springs and a chalk stream runs through the reserve. It has three hides, one of which is wheelchair-accessible. Special birds include kingfishers, water rails, sedge warblers, reed warblers and grasshopper warblers plus a roost of corn buntings in winter.

Fowlmere Watercress Beds
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Fowlmere Nature Reserve
Fowlmere from the Reedbed Hide
Area of SearchCambridgeshire
Grid referenceTL 406 454[1]
Area39.9 hectares[1]
Location mapMagic Map

History of Fowlmere Nature Reserve

The reserve was bought by the RSPB in 1977 using money raised in a sponsored birdwatch by the RSPB's junior branch. The name Fowlmere comes from the nature of the site before 1800 when it was an area of open water which was a habitat for large numbers of wildfowl. In 1850 attempts were made to drain the area but failed. In the 1890s watercress began to be grown and ponds were dug and lined with clay. The watercress growers gained more control over the water levels by driving pipes into the ground from which the water bubbled to the surface and still flow when the water table is high enough. However due to extraction of water for people in surrounding areas, the water flowing out of the spring is decreased over its 19th-century levels, and during dry periods the Environment Agency provides extra water. The watercress was washed and packed on site before being taken by horse and cart to Shepreth station and thence to Covent Garden Market in London. Watercress growing continued until the 1960s. The abandoned cress beds became overgrown with reeds and the site is now managed to preserve a wide variety of habitats.

Picture of Fowlmere from nature trail

More details of the site

The site covers 40 hectares. There is a 3 km nature trail and certain sections are wheelchair accessible. Pond dipping can be organised by arrangement with the warden. On sunny days from spring until late autumn adult dragonflies and damselflies can often be seen.

If the reedbeds were not managed, they would eventually dry out. To prevent this, every autumn a small section of reed is cut and the reeds burnt or removed.

Other areas are being managed to restore chalk grassland. One area is grazed by cattle and sheep, which is helping to bring back wildflowers such as cowslips, southern marsh orchids and goatsbeard. Another area is mown in late autumn and the cuttings raked off to prevent the soil from becoming richer and thus allowing stronger plants to take over.


There is access from the road which goes from the cemetery on Shepreth Road to Cambridge Road.


  1. ^ a b c d "Designated Sites View: Fowlmere Watercress Beds". Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Fowlmere". Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Map of Fowlmere Watercress Beds". Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  4. ^ "Fowlmere Watercress Beds citation" (PDF). Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 6 December 2016.

Coordinates: 52°05′21″N 0°03′03″E / 52.08910°N 0.05076°E

Bran Ditch

Bran Ditch or Heydon Ditch is generally assumed to be an Anglo-Saxon earthwork in southern Cambridgeshire, England.

Most of the ditch has been lost to agriculture over time, but its line its marked throughout by both hedgerow and the route of the Harcomlow Way and Icknield Way paths. It would have consisted of an earth bank and ditch running for approximately 5 km (~3 miles) north-west from higher land at Heydon through what is now the golf course at Heydon Grange, crossing the A505 road and to Black Peak at the southernmost tip of Fowlmere RSPB reserve. At this northern terminus of the ditch is an iron-age enclosure. This whole length of the ditch, and the enclosure, is classified as a scheduled ancient monument. Beginning on the fringes of Heydon Village, the ditch's course quickly descends from the higher ground (120m) to the flatter agricultural landscape below (55m). On the hill the earthworks are lightly wooded and it is at this higher point at which the dyke's course and workings are best viewed. Its line to the north can be seen through gaps in the trees in the fields below and what remains of its banks are best preserved there. For a short distance the workings are several metres high as the footpath descends the hill through the ditch and onto the flatter ground below. Down here only a slightly raised straight path and a hedgerow line are clues to former glories.


Cambridgeshire (abbreviated Cambs.) is a county in the East of England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the north-east, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west. The city of Cambridge is the county town. Modern Cambridgeshire was formed in 1974 as an amalgamation of the counties of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely and Huntingdon and Peterborough, the former covering the historic county of Cambridgeshire (including the Isle of Ely) and the latter covering the historic county of Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough, historically part of Northamptonshire. It contains most of the region known as Silicon Fen.

Local government is divided between Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, which, since 1998, forms a separate unitary authority. Under the county council, there are five district councils, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Huntingdonshire District Council and Fenland District Council.


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