Holme Fen NNR, specifically Holme Posts, is believed to be the lowest point in Great Britain at 2.75m (9ft) below sea level. It also contains the largest silver birch woodland in lowland Britain. The fen is home to a variety of birds, including the Eurasian siskin, nightingale and lesser redpoll, and in summer, warblers, tits and woodpeckers nest in the woodland, which is home to around 450 species of fungi. Burnham’s and Boston’s Meres attract wildfowl in large numbers during the winter months. These include greylag geese, mallard and coot, along with smaller numbers of gadwall, teal, tufted duck, shoveler and wigeon. Great crested grebes display in the spring and cormorants raise their young in nests on the islands. A rich variety of insects thrive in the woodland, meres and fragments of ancient fen. Around a third of the UK’s dragonfly species are found here, and the open patches of grassland support a large population of small copper butterflies. White admiral butterflies can also be seen gliding along the woodland rides.
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About the area
To the west of East Anglia is Cambridgeshire, a county best known as the home to the university that makes up the second half of ‘Oxbridge’ (the other half is Oxford). As well as its globally renowned educational credentials, it also has a rich natural history; much of its area is made up of reclaimed or untouched fens. These are low-lying areas which are marshy and prone to flooding. The lowest point in the UK is at Holme Fen, which is some 9 feet (2.75 metres) below sea level. Some of the fens had been drained before, but it was in the 19th and 20th centuries that wide-spread, successful drainage took place, expanding the amount of arable and inhabitable land available.
Ely Cathedral was built on an island among the swampy fens, but now sits among acres of productive farmland, albeit farmland criss-crossed by miles of flood-preventing watercourses. Oliver Cromwell was born in Ely, and his family home can still be visited. Cambridge itself is a beautiful and historic city, with any number of impressive old buildings, churches and colleges, and plenty of chances to mess about on the River Cam which gave the city its name.
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