Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve
Wicken Fen, the first nature reserve owned by the National Trust is a unique remnant of ancient un-drained fenland which once covered the vast lowlands of East Anglia. An internationally renowned wetland, the reserve is home to over 9000 recorded species, including rarities such as hen harriers and bittern, plants and insects, as well as grazing herds of highland cattle or konik. The reserve consists of a variety of habitats, sedge fields, reedbeds, fen meadows, open water, wet grasslands and man-made waterways, known locally as Lodes. Explore the reserve via the network of walking trails, hire a bike for an exciting cycle ride through the wider reserve, or take the Lodes Way cycleway to nearby Anglesey Abbey. Spend a night or two at the reserves wild campsite, or take a boat trip in the spring or summer months along the local waterways. Dating from the early 18th century, Fen Cottage, with its low beams and period features offers a unique insight into how fen folk lived and earned their livings cutting sedge, peat digging, wildfowling and eel catching. The Wicken Fen Vision is a major project to expand the reserve, creating a reserve covering 53 sq km, stretching to the outskirts of Cambridge.
Facilities – at a glance
- Parking onsite
- Boardwalk Trail 0.75m circular walk suitable for wheelchairs, both hides on this trail have wheelchair access
- Facilities: Push wheelchairs and disability trikes available for hire
- Accessible toilets
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Reserve, Visitor Centre, cafe and shop open all year daily 10-5. Cycle hire Easter-Oct, daily 10-5 (last hire 3)
Also in the area
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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