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Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve

Cambridgeshire

Location Guide

Managed by the National Trust it is one of Britain's oldest Nature Reserves, a remnant of the once massive Cambridgeshire Fens wilderness. There are more than 8,000 species of wildlife and it is a haven for over 200 bird species, plants, insects and 29 species of mammals.

In the middle of the reserve are wild habitats of fen, water and woodland. The wetland was an important part of the social and economic life of the area providing materials for thatching local houses, bedding and feed for animals as well as peat for fuel. It has been managed by the National Trust since 1899, and on site you will find wildlife trails and hides, a visitor centre and cafe as well as Fen Cottage, showing a way of life from around 1900.

It is also home to wild ponies (Koinks), otters and rare butterflies. Insects are particularly abundant with thousands of species of moth, butterfly, beetle and almost 2,000 different species of fly and 20 species of dragonfly. It is home to the Emperor Dragonfly, the largest of a species that has been around longer than humans, and the Four-Spotted Chaser and several varieties of Damselfly.

It can be explored by wide droves (wide mown tracks with borders of grasses and rushes) and lush green paths and a circular boardwalk nature trail gives access to several hides and allows easy access to a landscape of flowering meadows, sedge and reedbeds. The Boardwalk is a three quarter mile walk around the site and is accessible all year round, benches are provided at regular intervals all around the walk. The hides overlook reed-beds, marsh and open water.  While The Nature Trail with it's Tower Hide (thought to be one of the oldest in the country) and Adventurers Trail take you through over 2 miles of the reserve through the last area of undrained fenland in Britain. Watch out for mosquitoes during the summer months.

A look at some of the flora, fauna and wildlife on offer

The Sedge Fen (fields) have a diverse range of plants and you will find Milk Parsley flowering in July, Marsh Pea (a rare plant) flowering June and July. Also look out for stacks of Sedge waiting for collection by Thatcher's, particularly Saw Sedge which is harvested in the summer. It is still used for thatching, other uses include, as a floor covering and to light fires. Marsh Harriers visiting in Summer and Hen Harriers in winter. It is also home to the only working wooden windpump remaining on the Fens. It was known as (Bill) Normans Mill and when it was originally on the Adventurers Fen (moved in the 1950's) it was used to drain and control water levels in turf (peat) digging pits. It no longer carries out this task, but is used to pump water onto the Sedge Fen.

The Meadow areas are dominated by grasses and wild flowers with purple and yellow loosestrife flowering from June to August, marsh thistle (up to 2m tall) and Devil's Bit Scabious from June to October. Snipes nest in the Fen meadows and both Hen Harriers and Owls can be seen in the winter months.

Within the Droves look out for plantlife such as Ragged Robin flowering May to August, early Marsh and Southern Marsh Orchids flower in June, Yellow Rattle in July. Whilst the Common Comfrey is loved by bumble bees and you may see common lizards.

Amongst the ditches, lodes and drains you may see kingfishers, reed warblers, grass snakes swimming in hot weather, dragonflies and damselflies, many species of fish and yellow and white water lilies can be seen.

There is also a woodland and Carr (which are areas of bushes and small tress up to 5m tall) where you may see flocks of Fieldfares in September feeding on buckthorn berries, woodcocks, you may hear nightingales singing and woodpeckers tapping at their respective times of year. While the Guelder Rose, a type of honeysuckle, will have white flowers in June and red berry clusters in winter.

While at the Adventures Fen, Mere and reed-beds you may see flocks of lapwings, wigeons, teals, shovelers, bitterns and bearded tits in the reeds around the Mere in winter and Marsh Harriers during the summer months. The Reed beds are harvested throughout the year except during the winter months. Reed is also used as a thatching material and is used on the sides (pitch) of the roof. It is made up of a wide variety of grasses and herbs and was traditionally used for bedding and fodder for cattle. Most modern cattle will not eat such rough hay, and so much litter is piled up in heaps to rot.

Wild Ponies and Highland Cattle

Wicken Fen has 39 wild ponies called the Koniks, one of the closest relatives to the primal ponies that once roamed across Europe, originally from Poland. It is a small, stocky, hardy, breed with a placid character and is a direct descendant of the now extinct Tarpan. They are an ideal grassland and wetland breed ideally adapted to year-round grazing. There are two groups on the Fens a breeding herd on Adventurers Fen where they can range freely across about 120 hectares. A non breeding herd on Verrall's Fen at the west end of the reserve are used for managing the fen vegetation. They love to graze on weeds, reeds and grass, so helping to stimulate wildlife diversity in their fenland habitat. There are also a herd of Highland Cattle which can be found grazing around the Mere on Bakers Fen and Adventurers Fen.

There is so much going on at this site and to find out the latest information available, organised events, latest developments and monthly bird spotting reports visit it's dedicated website.


Further information Grid

 

Location:

Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire

Ceremonial County: Cambridgeshire

Grid Reference:

TL 565706

Map Link:

VIEW MAP

Aerial photo:  

Route(s):

 

Best Times to Visit:

Any time of year, the outline above gives you some idea of the highlights to be found as specific times.

E-mail:

wickenfen@nationaltrust.org.uk

Website:

www.wicken.org.uk/index.html 

Other useful websites:

National Trust Visitors Info

National Nature Reserve www.ecoln.com/wicken_fen/

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:  
 

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Planning Grid

Location:

Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire

Grid Reference:

TL 565706

Getting there:

South of the A1123, 3 miles west of Soham, 9 miles south of Ely, 17 miles north east of Cambridge via A10.

National Cycle route 11 from Ely.

Access:

Visitor Centre is accessible, as are the raised boardwalk and adapted bird hides. Level entrance, 2 wheelchairs. Three quarter mile broadwalk route.

Fen cottage: limited access

Parking:

120 yards from entrance costs £2 90 (pay & display).

Disabled Parking within 20yrds

Facilities:

Visitor Centre, Shop, Cafe, Hides

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Wicken Fen is Britainís version of a tropical rain forest see wading birds, butterflies, amphibian life, freshwater fish. Fen Cottage

What to take:

Waterproof clothes and footwear, binoculars.

Hot Days: Hat, Suncream and plenty of drinking water - there is little shade on the Fen outside the hides. Mosquito repellent during summer.

Nature highlights:

Dragonfly watching, bird spotting, Konik pony watching and pond dipping. Best season: All year round.

Address:

Wicken Fen

Lode Lane

Wicken

Ely

Cambridgeshire

Postcode:

CB7 5XP

Telephone:

01353 720274

Opening times:

Reserve: All Year 10am-5pm or dusk during winter months - closed December 25th.

Fen Cottage: 27 Mar-Oct Sat & Sun 2pm-5pm only

Visitor Centre and cafe is usually open 10am to 4:30pm Wed-Sun through winter months. Summer months (Mar-Oct) open 10am to 5pm daily.

Charges:

National Trust members FREE

Non members - Adults £5.20; child £2.65;  Family £13.25

Photo Restrictions:

 

Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Three quarter mile level boardwalk route.
Special Needs Facilities: Disabled WC in Visitors Centre (Wren Building) and Car Park requires RADAR key to access car park facilities.
Children Facilities: Baby changing facilities. Pushchairs admitted, children's quiz/trail and activities in the visitor centre.
Dogs Allowed: On leads only

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

 


By: Tracey Park Section: Wildlife Key:  
Page Ref: Wicken_Fen Topic: Wildfowl & Wetland Spaces  Last Updated: 03/2010

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