Artist: Richard Allen
Shiro Studio Ltd
Imagine a place you could walk, cycle or horse-ride for a whole day, away from busy roads, where you can explore wildflower meadows, reedbeds and woodland, or enjoy the view from a café in the visitor centre. This is part of the vision laid out in the Great Fen Masterplan (published in 2010).
The Masterplan set out how the Great Fen project will re-create 14 square miles (over 9,000 acres or 3,700 ha) of ancient fenland landscape over the coming years and decades and how it will deliver a wide range of benefits for the surrounding area. Hundreds of people of all ages, interests and abilities contributed their ideas and comments on the draft Masterplan, helping to shape the published version and its subsequent implementation.
Over the coming years, there will be more and more places and activities to enjoy. As the landscape develops, you will be able to explore miles of walking, cycling and horse-riding routes. New footpaths, cycleways and bridleways will link local communities.
There will be a visitor centre, with natural play areas for children, events and the potential for boating and canoe trips.
The Great Fen's size will mean that it will provide an area large enough to support threatened fen wildlife, such as Bitterns and Otters.
A mosaic of different wetland habitats will support a wide variety of speciality wildlife, such as dragonflies, butterflies and amphibians.
It will also provide a home to some flowers and other plants found almost nowhere else in the UK, such as the Fen Violet (found in only two other locations) and the Fen Woodrush (found nowhere else in the UK).
Zoning will encourage access to some areas while protecting the most sensitive areas from heavy disturbance.
The Great Fen will help to reduce the risk of flooding in the locality. Particular areas will provide extra water storage after heavy rainfall, helping to protect surrounding towns, villages and farmland from the risk of flooding.
The Great Fen will help reduce peat loss, saving an estimated 325,000 tonnes of CO2 from being released each year.
Education and outreach programmes will focus on the heritage of the fens.
The aims of the Masterplan may take 50 years to fulfill. A shorter-term plan was drawn up and you may view and download it here. Great Fen Action Plan 2011 - 2016. 389kB.pdf
In 2012 a Design Ideas Competition for the Great Fen Visitor Centre was launched in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects. Over 200 submissions were received from across the UK and Europe. This was whittled down to a shortlist of five architects who submitted more detailed designs. Eventually, in May 2013 the design of Shiro Studio Ltd was accepted and full details can be seen here.
Even given the necessary funding, it will be several years before the Visitor Centre will open its doors.
You can see a larger version of the above artist's impression here: Great Fen future map.pdf