The Great Fen is one of the most important conservation projects in Europe. It will link two of the last fragments of wild fens - Woodwalton Fen and Holme Fen - between Huntingdon and Peterborough.
The Great Fen will create a stunning landscape for wildlife and people, providing opportunities for recreation, business and tourism, as well as flood protection for surrounding farmland and communities. See also About the Great Fen.
Yes. There are a number of places to visit in the Great Fen, including Woodwalton Fen and Holme Fen National Nature Reserves, as well as the Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre. See the Visit section for more information.
There are also many events and activities throughout the year at the Great Fen. See the Events Programme for more details.
In the future, there will also be new walking, cycling, horse-riding and waterway routes. Plans are also underway to build a visitor centre. See Plans for the Future.
From peaceful walks and activity trails, to community events and picnics, there is plenty to see and do at the Great Fen. See Events and Activities.
There are many activities and new visitor facilities planned for the future Great Fen, including new cycling and walking routes, and a visitor centre. See Plans for the Future to find out more about the Great Fen Masterplan.
The Great Fen is between Huntingdon and Peterborough, near Ramsey town. You can access parts of the Great Fen by bus, by bike, by car or on foot. Some areas, such as Woodwalton Fen and the Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre have better bus services. See Directions and Access for more information.
Yes. Different parts of the Great Fen have different levels of access. There are also a range of facilities and equipment for free hire to aid people with disabilities, including portable hearing loops, a tactile mp3 player for audio guides, and an all terrain access buggy.
The Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre provides a wide range of facilities, including blue badge holder parking spaces, toilet (including an accessible toilet and baby changing) and an 800m Discovery Trail on grass paths, which has no steps, gates or stiles.
The Great Fen has been made possible thanks to the generosity of many individuals, organisations and funders.
In 2007 the Great Fen was awarded a grant of £7.2 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund - the largest ever given for an environmental project in England. Funds for work across the Great Fen, including land purchase, restoration and people and communities work have come from a variety of funders, organisations and sources. This includes landfill tax, European funding such as Interreg and LIFE, business sponsors, resources from within the five Great Fen partners’ budgets, and individual and private donors.
See also the Partners and Supporters page.
The Great Fen is open-ended. The Great Fen Masterplan illustrates a 50 year vision of what the Great Fen could look like. Some aspects of the Masterplan, such as the proposed visitor centre, may be possible to develop in the not too distant future, subject to funding.
Other elements, such as the full network of paths and facilities, will take longer and require close co-operation with other land owners and organisations in the area to achieve.
It is likely to take a number of decades to acquire all the land due to the scale of the area, cost, and the need to wait until landowners voluntarily wish to sell their land.
However, a huge amount has already been achieved, even in the first decade of the Great Fen. More than 50% of the land is now owned by the Great Fen partners. See History of the Great Fen project for more information.
See also the Great Fen Masterplan for plans for the future.
Wicken Fen, along with Woodwalton Fen and Holme Fen in the Great Fen area, is one of the few remaining fragments of what was previously 1,350 square miles of wild fens. More than 99% of the ancient fens have disappeared.
The history of Wicken Fen and Woodwalton Fen are linked as they were both established as nature reserves and protected from drainage in the early 1900s after they were acquired by Sir Charles Rothschild. The Wicken Fen vision to expand the reserve is being led by the National Trust.
Both projects deliver a variety of benefits, including wildlife conservation, a space for people, and flood risk management. Together, and alongside other restoration initiatives such as the RSPB/Hanson project at Needingworth, and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s project at Thurlby and Baston, they will significantly raise the profile of the Fens in East Anglia and East Midlands. Best practice is shared across the projects.
See also Local Attractions for information on Wicken Fen.
Woodwalton Fen and Holme Fen protect many thousands of species of plants and animals, some of which are very rare, such as the Fen Violet and Fen Woodrush.
The reserves are too small in their current size and are affected by the way land around them is managed. To attract a variety of wildlife, a mosaic of fen habitats will be created, including meadows, reedbed, woodland and open water.
Species that will benefit include mammals (including Otters and Water Voles), birds (including nationally declining birds such as Snipe and Lapwing) and insects including dragonflies, butterflies and moths, and water beetles.
In the future, we hope that new species will establish in the Great Fen, such as Common Crane, which disappeared from the area few hundred years ago due to hunting and loss of habitat.
See the Wildlife section for more information.
Actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry has been the President of the Great Fen since 2006. He is joined in this role by other project Patrons including Royal Patron, HRH Prince of Wales, as well as Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project, Beth Rothschild, Sir John Major and TV presenter and wildlife enthusiast Nigel Marven.
See President and Patrons for more information.
The Great Fen is creating a mosaic of wildlife habitats, including meadows, reedbeds, woodland and open water. Each type of habitat requires a slightly different process of restoration.
No. The Great Fen will actually help to reduce the risk of flooding in the local area. The Great Fen will provide extra water storage during extreme rainfall, helping to protect local houses and farms. Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve is currently used as a flood storage area.
See the Flood Protection page for more information.
Within the Great Fen area, where land is being restored, water is carefully controlled to create a range of wildlife habitats and to protect surrounding farms, houses and infrastructure.
In some areas, dry meadows will be created, and pockets of scrub and woodland will develop. To create open water, reedbed and wet meadows, the water level below the surface will be raised in those areas. In a wet meadow, for example, the raising of the water level will create more moisture and some pools, particularly in the winter, providing feeding grounds for birds.
See also the Great Fen Masterplan for a plan of wildlife habitats and proposed floodwater storage areas.
Yes. Restored land across the Great Fen will still generate produce, just not as intensively as arable farming, and in ways that will preserve the important peat soils.
For instance, Great Fen land provides high-quality hay for livestock feed from the meadows. Local farmers also graze sheep and cattle on the land. Farming these products preserves the peat soils and aids the restoration for wildlife.
In the future, the Great Fen may also able to grow a local source of willow, and reed for thatching houses. The majority of thatch in Britain is imported from Eastern Europe or China because phosphate pollution has weakened our own reed.
The Great Fen also provides opportunities for existing farmers to diversify. See Business and Tourism.
The Great Fen partners recognise how important food production is and that a careful balance across the UK needs to be achieved to protect both food production and other national objectives, including the protection of threatened UK wildlife, a recreational space for people, and flood water management.
The land used for the Great Fen will not only be a vital place for wildlife, but it will also provide a wide range of benefits for people. For example it will:
The Great Fen presents a rare opportunity to provide many benefits for wildlife and people.
Arable farming of onions and root vegetables has been successful in the fens because of the peat soil, known as 'black gold' which formed over thousands of years. Tilling the soil causes the peat to oxidise (erode away) - at a rate of about 2cm each year.
If this continues, most of the peat in the Great Fen area will eventually be gone forever and the land will become less productive for root crop farming as a result. By providing natural plant cover, the Great Fen will stop this peat loss.
No. We can only achieve the Great Fen’s aims either by buying land or working in partnership with existing landowners. Landowners do not have to sell their land if they do not wish to. This is why the project is a long-term one, as opportunities for purchasing land do not come up very often.
We want to make sure that the Great Fen benefits local people and feel that it is vital that we seek the views and advice of local people.
The team have been consulting local people about many aspects of the Great Fen, including activity programmes and the Great Fen Masterplan. The team have been asking for the views of the general public, and have also been running meetings with specialist groups, including farmers, people with disabilities, young people, local horse-riders, business and tourism specialists, and local schools.
The Great Fen will attract more visitors to the area, boosting business for local facilities, such as shops and pubs. It will also provide opportunities for new ventures, training and jobs.
There are many ways to get involved and support the Great Fen. You can come to an event, volunteer, donate and much more. See the Support Us section to find out more.
You can try and find the answer to your question by using the Search facility at the top right of the Great Fen website pages, or please do Contact Us if you cannot find the answer to your question.