Wicken Fen is a 254.5 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest west of Wicken in Cambridgeshire. It is also a National Nature Reserve, and a Nature Conservation Review site. It is protected by international designations as a Ramsar wetland site of international importance, and part of the Fenland Special Area of Conservation under the Habitats Directive.
A large part of it is owned and managed by the National Trust. It is one of Britain's oldest nature reserves, and was the first reserve cared for by the National Trust, starting in 1899. The first parcel of land for the reserve was donated to the Trust by Charles Rothschild in 1901. The reserve includes fenland, farmland, marsh, and reedbeds. Wicken Fen is one of only four wild fens which still survive in the enormous Great Fen Basin area of East Anglia, where 99.9% of the former fens have now been replaced by arable cultivation.
|Site of Special Scientific Interest|
|Area of Search||Cambridgeshire|
|Location map||Magic Map|
|Official name||Wicken Fen|
|Designated||12 September 1995|
Although Wicken Fen is often described as if it were a natural wilderness, it is neither natural nor wild; humans have been closely involved in the fen for centuries, and the reserve is still managed intensively to protect and maintain the delicate balance of species which has built up over the years.
Much of the management tries to recreate the old systems of fen working which persisted for hundreds of years, allowing species to become dependent on the practices. For example, the sedge plant, Cladium mariscus, is harvested every year and sold for thatching roofs. The earliest recorded sedge harvest at Wicken was in 1414, and ever since then, sedge has been regularly cut. The sedge-cutting has allowed an array of plants and animals to colonize the area that depend on regular clearance of the sedge in order to survive. (Many plants and animals are dependent upon regular management of vegetation in this way to keep their habitats intact.) As part of the management plan for Wicken Fen, Konik ponies and Highland cattle have been introduced to some areas in order to prevent scrub from regrowing.
The present appearance of Wicken Fen is the result of centuries of management by human beings. Many of the practices now undertaken have changed little since medieval times. In surrounding areas, the landscape has changed so completely that it is almost impossible to imagine how it must once have all looked. Only a very few places survive where it is possible to experience this primitive landscape first hand; Wicken Fen is one of these.
Tracks in and around Wicken Fen became visible on Google Street View before many towns and urban areas in Britain were covered.
Wicken Fen features the last surviving wooden windpump in the Fens. It is a small smock wind pump, which was probably built about 1912 at Adventurers' Fen for land drainage. The pump was moved to its present site and restored in 1956 by the National Trust. The Windpump now pumps water from the drainage channel up into the Fen to maintain a high water table. The nearby museums, Stretham Old Engine and Prickwillow Museum tell the story of how windpumps were succeeded by steam engines in the nineteenth century and diesel engines in the twentieth century.
The Fen has been long associated with natural history. Charles Darwin collected beetles on the site in the 1820s. Many eminent Victorian naturalists collected beetles, moths and butterflies at Wicken Fen; some of their collections can still be found in museums. From the 1920s onwards the fathers of modern ecology and conservation, the Cambridge botanists Sir Arthur Tansley and Sir Harry Godwin carried out their pioneering work on the reserve. One of the world's longest running science experiments, the Godwin Plots, continues at the Fen to this day. The Fen’s long association with science, especially nearby Cambridge University, continues to the present day with scientists actively involved in the management of the reserve, and many hundreds of research papers published about the fen over more than a century. A Bibliography can be downloaded from the Wicken website and the latest Newsletter.
The Fen is open to the public. The site is open all year round from dawn to dusk except for Christmas Day. Some paths are closed in very wet weather, and some areas are inaccessible. However, there is a boardwalk, leading to two bird hides that is open all of the time. There are several bird hides and many miles of trails for visitors to follow. There is a visitor centre, shop and café. The visitor centre has a permanent exhibition of information about Wicken Fen, its history and ecological importance. The Fen Cottage is open on Sundays, showing the life of fen people at the turn of the 20th century.
On 1 May 1899, the National Trust purchased two acres (8094 m2) for £10, and by 2016 it was over 800 acres.
The Wicken Fen Vision is a project of the National Trust to, over a 100-year period, expand the fen to a size of 56 km2 (22 sq mi). It was launched in 1999 to mark the 100th anniversary of the first acquisition. In 2001 a major acquisition was made with the purchase of Burwell Fen Farm (1.65 km2). In 2005, a 100 ha turf farm, to be called Tubney Fen, was purchased. Other purchases include Hurdle Hall Farm and Oily Hall Farm in 2009, and St Edmunds Fen in 2011. The National Trust aims to acquire further land as it becomes available, paying the market prices. As a result of the increased area of wetlands, the populations of skylarks, snipe, grey partridge, widgeon and teal have all increased with a major increase in barn owls and short-eared owls. Buzzards, hen and marsh-harriers have returned, and bitterns began breeding by 2009 for the first time since the 1930s.
The Wicken Fen Vision has great support from many people and organisations. Large sums of money have been raised from grant-awarding bodies, and from individual donors. Enlargement of the reserve has faced criticism from some residents of nearby settlements. An on-line petition entitled 'SaveOurFens' stated "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Stop the National Trust flooding or junglefying our Cambridgeshire Fens!". Concerns centred on the issues of loss of agricultural land and increases in levels of local traffic and mosquito populations. A petition named 'wickenfenvision', in favour of the scheme, was also held. The two petitions ended in 2010, with a two to one vote in favour of the Wicken Fen Vision.
As part of the Vision project, the National Trust, in conjunction with Sustrans, opened a sustainable transport route connecting Wicken Fen with Anglesey Abbey and Bottisham. Work on the paths and bridges began in 2008 and was scheduled for completion in 2011. The new walking, cycle and horse riding route is 9 miles (14 km) long, and includes a number of minor roads as well as new paths and bridges to link the gap in the existing Sustrans National Cycle Route 11 between Cambridge and Ely. The project, originally called the Wicken Fen Spine Route, includes the construction of a series of new bridges over the man-made waterways known as Lodes. In July 2008, the new Swaffham Bulbeck Lode bridge and a half-mile cycle and bridleway path across White Fen were opened. Upgrades to the crossing of the River Cam at Bottisham Lock and the bridge over Burwell Lode are planned. A new bridge over Reach Lode was opened in September 2010 and an upgraded cycle way across Burwell Fen is nearly complete. The total cost of the scheme is £2 million, £600,000 of which are from Sustrans's Connect2 scheme.
Naturalists were originally drawn to Wicken because of its species richness and the presence of rarities. The Fen has therefore received a great deal of recording effort and as a result, huge species lists have accumulated. Many nationally rare species have been recorded, including the swallowtail butterfly until its decline and eventual loss from the fen in the 1950s. Surveys continue to the present day. In 1998 over 20 species new to the Fen were recorded for the first time and in 2005 another 10 were added.
Many of the species lists can be downloaded from the Fen website (see below). Wicken Fen was established as a nature reserve because of its invertebrate and plant interest. Over 8,500 species have so far been recorded on the fen, including more than 125 that are included in the Red Data Book of rare invertebrates.
The reserve supports large numbers of fly, snail, spider and beetle species. Damselflies found here include the emerald, azure, large red, red-eyed, variable and common blue; together with dragonflies such as the southern and brown hawkers, emperor, hairy dragonfly and black-tailed skimmer. The Lepidoptera fauna is very rich also, especially moths with over 1000 species including the nationally rare reed leopard and marsh carpet. Other local moths include cream-bordered green pea, yellow-legged clearwing and emperor. China-mark moths such as the small, brown and ringed are also seen here. Local butterflies include the green hairstreak, brown argus, speckled wood and brimstone. There are a range of freshwater and land snails including the Red Data Book species Desmoulin's whorl snail.
Notable plants include the fen violet, great fen sedge Cladium mariscus, marsh pea, greater spearwort, marsh orchids and milk parsley. There are also a number of stonewort species present in the ditches and ponds, along with flowering rush, water millefoil, and yellow and white water lilies.
The site is mainly noted for its plants and invertebrates, but many birds also can be seen, and these are particularly popular with visitors as they are often easier to observe than the more elusive insects and plants. Bird species recorded living at the site include great crested grebe, cormorant, gadwall, teal, sparrowhawk, water rail, kingfisher, snipe, woodcock, great spotted and green woodpeckers; and barn, little, tawny, long-eared and short-eared owls. Visiting birds include bittern, whooper swan, golden plover, garganey, pochard, goosander, marsh harrier, hen harrier, merlin and hobby. In season, it is most unlikely that visitors will fail to hear the 'drumming' of snipe.
Wicken Fen is divided by a man-made watercourse called "Wicken Lode". The area north of Wicken Lode, together with a smaller area known as Wicken Poors' Fen and St. Edmunds Fen, forms the classic old, undrained fen. The designated national nature reserve of 269 hectares also includes the area around the Mere, to the south of Wicken Lode. These areas contain original peat fen with communities of carr and sedge. They support rare and uncommon fenland plants such as marsh pea, Cambridge milk parsley, fen violet and marsh fern. This part of the Fen can be enjoyed from a series of boardwalks (made from recycled plastic).
The area south of the Lode is called "Adventurers' Fen" and consists of rough pasture (grading from dry to wet grassland), reedbed and pools.
The dykes, abandoned clay pits and other watercourses carry a great wealth of aquatic plants and insects, many of which are uncommon elsewhere.
The Cambridgeshire Lodes are a series of man-made waterways, believed to be Roman in origin, located in the county of Cambridgeshire, England. Bottisham, Swaffham Bulbeck, Reach, Burwell, Wicken and Monks Lodes all connect to the River Cam, while Soham Lode connects to the River Great Ouse. All have been navigable historically, but some are no longer officially navigable.
Bottisham Lode was navigated throughout the 19th century, and although the flood gates at its mouth were replaced in 2001, it carries a "No unauthorised vessels" notice. Swaffham Bulbeck Lode has been rendered unnavigable by the removal of the lower lock gates, and the replacement of the upper lock gates with a guillotine gate which provides little headroom. Reach Lode is quite deep, as a result of the surrounding land sinking, and the banks being built up. The lower gate of the entrance lock has been replaced by a guillotine gate, enabling boats up to 63 feet (19 m) long to use it.
Burwell Lode is a tributary of Reach Lode, and is another deep lode. Barges were built and maintainted at Burwell until 1936, and it was used commercially until 1963, when carriage of sugar beet ceased. Wicken Lode is another tributary of Reach Lode, and was important for the carriage of peat and sedge. It runs through Wicken Fen, one of the oldest nature reserves in England, as the National Trust bought their first part of it in 1899. Soham Lode is more recent than most, probably dating from the 1790s. It ran by Soham Mere, a large inland lake which was drained in the late 18th century.
In 2007 a strategy plan considered options for the management of the lodes which included rebuilding most of them at a lower level, but concluded that maintaining the banks at the existing level was a better long-term solution.Fen
A fen is one of the main types of wetland, the others being grassy marshes, forested swamps, and peaty bogs. Along with bogs, fens are a kind of mire. Fens are minerotrophic peatlands, usually fed by mineral-rich surface water or groundwater. They are characterised by their distinct water chemistry, which is pH neutral or alkaline, with relatively high dissolved mineral levels but few other plant nutrients. They are usually dominated by grasses and sedges, and typically have brown mosses in general including Scorpidium or Drepanocladus. Fens frequently have a high diversity of other plant species including carnivorous plants such as Pinguicula. They may also occur along large lakes and rivers where seasonal changes in water level maintain wet soils with few woody plants. The distribution of individual species of fen plants is often closely connected to water regimes and nutrient concentrations.Fens have a characteristic set of plant species, which sometimes provide the best indicators of environmental conditions. For example, fen indicator species in New York State include Carex flava, Cladium mariscoides, Potentilla fruticosa, Pogonia ophioglossoides and Parnassia glauca.Fens are distinguished from bogs, which are acidic, low in minerals, and usually dominated by sedges and shrubs, along with abundant mosses in the genus Sphagnum. Bogs also tend to exist on dome-shaped landmasses where they receive almost all of their usually-abundant moisture from rainfall, whereas fens appear on slopes, flats, or depressions and are fed by surface and underground water in addition to rain.
Fens have been damaged in the past by land drainage, and also by peat cutting. Some are now being carefully restored with modern management methods. The principal challenges are to restore natural water flow regimes, to maintain the quality of water, and to prevent invasion by woody plants.Fen Rivers Way
The Fen Rivers Way is a long distance footpath that spans a distance of 50 miles (80 km). The path runs between the City of Cambridge and the town of King's Lynn in West Norfolk. It follows the course of the River Cam and River Great Ouse across the fenland landscape into the Wash. It provides a small part of European Long Distance Path E2 which goes from Nice to Galway.Fenland SAC
Fenland is a multi-site Special Area of Conservation in the Fens (a region in eastern England).
It was designated in 2005 to protect three wetland sites in Cambridgeshire with an area of 619 ha:
Chippenham Fen (52.298°N 0.415°E / 52.298; 0.415)
Wicken Fen (52.307°N 0.278°E / 52.307; 0.278)
Woodwalton Fen (52.445°N 0.193°W / 52.445; -0.193)Godwin Plots
The Godwin Plots are one of the world's longest running science experiments. They can be found at Wicken Fen nature reserve, Cambridgeshire, England.Five experimental areas of vegetation were established in the 1927 by Prof. Sir Harry Godwin. The first plot is never cut. The second is cut every four years, the next every three years and so on. Godwin completed his experiment in 1940, and the plots were left uncut, but the same plots were restored in 1954, and have been managed in accordance with Godwin's original methodology since that time.
The cutting is undertaken in November/December every year. This management has, over many years, produced different vegetation patterns. Godwin used the experiment to demonstrate that management alone can change plant communities - an idea which is almost universally accepted today, but was quite radical in the early 20th century. Because of this work, the Plots, or Wicken Fen generally, are sometimes referred to as 'The birthplace of modern ecology'.Hypsosinga
Hypsosinga is a genus of orb-weaver spiders first described by Anton Ausserer in 1871. The genus name is derived from the greek "hypso", meaning "high", referring to the higher clypeus than those of the genus Singa.In 2015, female Hypsosinga heri spiders were identified at the RSPB Radipole Lake nature reserve in Dorset, England. The previous recorded sightings of the species in the UK were in 1898 and 1912 at Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire.Landwade
Landwade is a parish in west Suffolk, England, four miles north of Newmarket. One of the smallest parishes in the county, it is only 1 kilometre from north to south and at most 500m from east to west.
The village is crossed by New River (formerly known as Monk's Lode), a small river that flows through Wicken Fen and reaches the River Cam at Upware. The village's name probably derives in part from gewaed an Old English word meaning "ford".Lantern man
A lantern man is an atmospheric ghost light, in the folklore of The Fens of East Anglia, seen around Wicken Fen and other areas. According to the stories, first collected by folklorist L.F. Newman, the lights, believed to be evil spirits trying to draw victims to their death in the reed beds, were drawn to the sound of whistling and could be evaded by laying face down on the ground with your mouth in the mud. The phenomenon, which seems to be a variation of will-o'-the-wisp folklore, is now dismissed as the result of combustible marsh gas.List of windmills in Cambridgeshire
A list of all windmills and windmill sites which lie in the current ceremonial county of Cambridgeshire.Max Walters
Stuart Max Walters (born Oughtibridge, Sheffield, Yorkshire 23 May 1920 – died Grantchester, Cambridgeshire 11 December 2005) was a British botanist and academic. As a conscientious objector in the Second World War, he worked as a hospital orderly in Sheffield and Bristol. He was Curator of the Herbarium, Botany School, University of Cambridge 1949-73, Lecturer in Botany 1962-73, and for the ten years up until his retirement, 1973–83, Director of the University Botanic Garden in Cambridge, of which he wrote a history. He was a Research Fellow at St John's College, Cambridge 1948-51 and Fellow of King's College, Cambridge 1964-84.
He was the author of numerous books on plants and flowers, most notably the 1964 Atlas of the British Flora (with Franklyn Perring) and as a co-editor of Flora Europaea. He wrote two well-known books for the New Naturalist library, Wild Flowers (1954, co-written with John Gilmour) and Mountain Flowers (1956, with John Raven). He was much involved in the research and management of Wicken Fen. After his retirement, he wrote a biography of Darwin's teacher and friend, John Stevens Henslow, Darwin's mentor (2001).
Walters was a committed Christian who was much involved both in the local life of the Church of England (he was a churchwarden at Grantchester for many years) and in the application of Christian principles to national and social life: he was a Christian socialist and also a Christian pacifist, and as such was a leading member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and also active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.Meathop Moss
Meathop Moss is a raised bog in Cumbria, England. Protected as a nature reserve by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Meathop Moss is notable for its insect life.
In 1965 it was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Along with two other raised bogs near the Kent estuary, it has been included in the Witherslack Mosses Special Area of Conservation which was designated in 2005.National Cycle Route 11
NCN Route 11 is a Sustrans National Cycle Route connecting Harlow in Essex to King's Lynn in Norfolk.National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, commonly known simply as the National Trust, is an independent charity and membership organisation for environmental and heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The trust describes itself as "a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces—for ever, for everyone". The trust was founded in 1895 and given statutory powers, starting with the National Trust Act 1907. Historically, the Trust acquired land by gift and sometimes by public subscription and appeal, but after WW 2 the loss of English country houses, resulted in many such properties being acquired either by gift from the former owners, or through the National Land Fund later the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the National Lottery. Country Houses and Estates still make up a significant part of its holdings, but it is also known for its protection of wild landscapes such as in the Lake District and Peak District, historic urban properties, and nature reserves such as Wicken Fen. In Scotland, there is an separate and independent National Trust for Scotland.
The National Trust has a unique special power to prevent its inalienable land being sold off, although this can be over-ridden by Parliamentary procedure.The National Trust has been the beneficiary of many large donations and bequests. It owns over 500 heritage properties, which includes many historic houses and gardens, industrial monuments, and social history sites. Most of these are open to the public, usually for a charge. Others are leased to tenants on terms that manage to preserve their character whilst providing for more limited public access. The Trust is one of the largest private landowners in the United Kingdom, owning over 248,000 hectares (610,000 acres; 2,480 km2; 960 sq mi) of land, including many characteristic sites of natural beauty, most of which are accessible to the public free of charge.The Trust, one of the largest UK charities financially, is funded by membership subscriptions, entrance fees, legacies, and revenue from gift shops and restaurants within its properties. It has been accused of focusing too much on country estates, and in recent years, the Trust has sought to broaden its activities by acquiring historic properties such as former mills, early factories, workhouses, and the childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.In 2015, the Trust undertook a governance review to mark the 10th anniversary of the current governance structure. The review led to the downsizing of the council and limitation of tenure to two terms.Stretham Old Engine
Stretham Old Engine is a steam-powered engine just south of Stretham in Cambridgeshire, England, that was used to pump water from flood-affected areas of The Fens back into the River Great Ouse. It is one of only three surviving drainage engines in East Anglia, and is a Grade II* listed building.Wicken, Cambridgeshire
Wicken is a small village on the edge of The Fens near Soham in East Cambridgeshire, ten miles north east of Cambridge and five miles south of Ely. It is the site of Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve.Wildlife management
Wildlife management attempts to balance the needs of wildlife with the needs of people using the best available science. Wildlife management can include game keeping, wildlife conservation and pest control. Wildlife management draws on disciplines such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, ecology, climatology and geography to gain the best results.Wildlife conservation aims to halt the loss in the Earth's biodiversity by taking into consideration ecological principles such as carrying capacity, disturbance and succession and environmental conditions such as physical geography, pedology and hydrology with the aim of balancing the needs of wildlife with the needs of people. Most wildlife biologists are concerned with the preservation and improvement of habitats although rewilding is increasingly being used. Techniques can include reforestation, pest control, nitrification and denitrification, irrigation, coppicing and hedge laying.
Game keeping is the management or control of wildlife for the well being of game and may include killing other animals which share the same niche or predators to maintain a high population of the more profitable species, such as pheasants introduced into woodland. In his 1933 book Game Management, Aldo Leopold, one of the pioneers of wildlife management as a science, defined it as "the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use".
Pest control is the control of real or perceived pests and can be used for the benefit of wildlife, farmers, game keepers or safety reasons. In the United States, wildlife management practices are often implemented by a governmental agency to uphold a law, such as the Endangered Species Act.
In the United Kingdom, wildlife management undertaken by several organizations including government bodies such as the Forestry Commission, Charities such as the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts and privately hired gamekeepers and contractors. Legislation has also been passed to protect wildlife such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The UK government also give farmers subsidies through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to improve the conservation value of their farms.William Warren (entomologist)
William Warren (1839, Cambridge – 1914) was an English entomologist who specialised in Lepidoptera.
William Warren was first educated at Oakham School, and subsequently graduated from the University of Cambridge, taking first-class classical honours. He then taught at Doncaster Grammar School. He collected extensively in the British Isles, notably at Wicken Fen and on Micro-lepidoptera. After leaving Doncaster School he lived in Chiswick, London where he worked on Pyralidae and Geometridae in the British Museum (Natural History) and later, by the intervention of Albert Günther for the Tring Museum.Warren made collecting trips to the Punjab, Brazil and Japan.
He was a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society of LondonWoodwalton Fen
Woodwalton Fen is a 209 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest west of Ramsey in Cambridgeshire. It is a Ramsar wetland site of international importance, a National Nature Reserve, a Special Area of Conservation and a Nature Conservation Review site, Grade I. The site is managed by Natural England.