The Project Manager has informal first meetings with landowners and local people. A programme of walks and talks for the community begins. In summer, school visits are supported by a part-time member of staff, funded by the Wildlife Trust.
Renowned artists from around the world visit the Great Fen and create artwork inspired by its wildlife and landscapes.
The first restored area of the Great Fen opens to the public via Woodwalton Fen. Signs and leaflets are produced showing the new access route.
Amateur photographers, local schools and colleges are involved in this partnership project with the Museum of Zoology. They see their photographs in the final exhibition, judged by Chris Gomersall.
In preparation for a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, a wide consultation is carried out with local people, schools and community groups to plan future school and community services, as well as visitor improvements across the Great Fen. This includes consultation with people with disabilities to discuss access improvements. The outcomes of the consultation form part of the funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Ramsey Heights Countryside Classroom (now called the Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre), just half a mile from Woodwalton Fen, receives a makeover so that it can be used by schools and community groups throughout the year. The old Victorian brickworks are renovated to include toilets, an accessible toilet and small kitchen area. Insulation and other energy-saving features are installed. This work is funded by Communities and Local Government and Grantscape.
Funded by Heritage Lottery fund with one of its largest ever awards, with match funding from many other organisations and more than 1,200 donors, this grant enables the purchase and restoration of 3,200 acres of land, surrounding Holme Fen. Six members of staff will be employed over a five-year period to carry out the work, including restoration, monitoring, and schools and community work. There will be improvements to disabled access across the Great Fen.
With education and community staff funded by the Holmewood Estate Project, a programme of new community events and activities begins. There are family and community events, such as ‘Dens in the Fens’ and ‘Fen Heritage Day’, guided walks, storytelling evenings, workshops and new volunteering opportunities.
More than 1,000 school children visit the Great Fen. School groups meet an eel catcher and make willow hurdles in the 'Fen Time Travellers' school programme, and dress up as a pond creature to learn about adaptations. There are programmes and education services for all ages, from pre-school to ‘A’ Level and higher education.
Youth groups learn about animal homes through shelter building, discover fen history through props, and learn to use tools while volunteering. Ramsey Chaos Youth Group travel to the Great Fen by canoe and Huntingdon Youth Centre and Great Fen Greenwatch create an animated film.
A Great Fen Wildlife Watch weekend club is launched for ages 7-12.
More than 2,000 people are reached through talks about the Great Fen.
There are new opportunities for volunteers and part-time Volunteer Officers begin working at the Great Fen on six-to-nine month placements, gaining experience for a future careers.
Business BGL Group, a major employer in the region, pledges to support the Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre for three years, including supporting a part-time member of staff and bringing their employees for volunteering days to help develop the surrounding nature reserve for school groups.
Wildlife and ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ presenter, Nigel Marven, heads to Woodwalton Fen with a local school group, the winners of a Great Fen schools poster competition. Nigel also raises money by means of a talk for families and the public, called ‘Swamps I’ve been in - Past and Present’.
The Papworth Trust and other disability groups and individuals visit the Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre to provide advice on proposed access improvements, and test out an all-terrain access buggy.
Based on consultation, access improvements begin. These include new paths, benches, a wheelchair-accessible outdoor shelter/ bird hide, disabled parking, a freely available all-terrain buggy and indoor and outdoor portable hearing loops.
This national government campaign encouraged people of all interests to become volunteers.
Local school children spend time on the Great Fen capturing the sounds of the wild with their microphones . The project – Fen Soundscapes, part of the Great Fen Concerts work – aims to inspire young people to create their own music inspired by the natural world around them.
The Great Fen team, concert composer, Jane Wells, and soundscape composer, Mike Challis, take the children on walks through the Ramsey Heights Nature Reserve listening to birds singing and reeds rustling in the spring breeze. The work continues back in the classroom, where children recreate the sounds of the fen through their own musical compositions. Youth groups also visit the Great Fen and lead in recording, selecting and editing sounds. The work culminates in an interactive audio experience exhibition that recreates the sounds and atmosphere of the Great Fen. This includes live performances from the children and Britten Sinfonia musicians.
The Draft Masterplan includes plans for a visitor centre to attract tourism and business to the area, locations of different wildlife habitats, as well as new cycle routes, walking routes, bridleways and boat access. Consultation is undertaken across the area with the public, including local villages, schools, young people, disability groups, wildlife specialists, access specialists and tourism and business specialists.
The final version of the plan is published and wins a top national planning award.
These include a wide range of talks including wildlife, photography and local history.
The Great Fen Local History Group is formed with Great Fen volunteers and staff, working with Ramsey Rural Museum volunteers. This group aims to set up an Archive and celebrate the links between local history and changing landscapes in the fen. The group begins recording local stories, including memories of farming, wartime, and changing landscapes and lives in the fens.
2010: ‘Local Memories Day’ event launches oral history project
Work begins on creating Fen Memory Boxes for loan in the community and for reminiscence visits to day centres and sheltered housing. The oral history project will include creating booklets and audio, and running an intergenerational film project, where students interview local people and re-enact their memories.
Two Great Fen Young Champions begin working with top UK wildlife photographers Chris Gomersall (judge of Wildlife Photographer of the Year) and David Tipling. The Young Champions present a stunning exhibition of Great Fen photography and get involved with running youth activities at the Great Fen.
A group of volunteers form to fundraise, run events and volunteer at the Great Fen. Activities include a programme of rambles and talks run by the group. The group produce their first newsletter.
Over the course of a year local students worked with the Great Fen team and a professional film-maker to create a stunning film celebrating local stories of farming, wartime and childhood in the area of the Great Fen. The film includes student interviews with local people, dramatisations of their stories and archive footage and photos, including video of the now extinct Large Copper butterfly. You can see film clips in the Fen Stories and Memories section.
Topics include memories of farming, dramatic fen floods and fen blows, family life, wartime and childhoods playing outdoors and growing up in Holme Fen and Woodwalton Fen. The Memories Albums are entitled 'Growing up in the Fens' and '100 Years of Woodwalton Fen'.
The Great Fen team work with local contractors to create an information point, just off the main road through the Great Fen.
There is car park and picnic area fringed with bog oak and illustrated information about the restoration, history and wildlife. A way-marked path leads to a unique bird hide made from straw-bales.
Plans are made for a visitor centre off the main route (the B660) through the Great Fen. The first stage, planned for the coming decade, will include a new centre, including café, offices and a variety of activities and events for visitors. A competition is hosted by the Royal Institute of British Architects invites design ideas for the new visitor centre. Shiro Studio's designs are chosen in April 2013.
A tower hide on the northern edge of Holme Fen opens and gives visitors the opportunity to watch the major changes to the landscape that are being made to recreate Rymes Reedbed on the site of Trundle Mere, an offshoot of Whittlesea Mere before it was drained.
This is a long distance path from Wicken Fen to Woodwalton Fen and commemorates the early conservation work carried out by Charles Rothschild at the two reserves.
The group brings together experienced and budding archaeologists to explore beneath the surface on the Great Fen area. Working with Jigsaw, Cambridge, field-walking was carried out on part of Engine Farm, the site of Whittlesea Mere.
The Great Fen Education and Community team won this prestigious award in recognition of outstanding contribution to heritage and learning within the historic environment
Oxford Archaeology East excavated the remains of Spitfire X4593 on behalf of the Wildlife Trust in October 2015.
A permanent memorial to Pilot Officer Harold Penketh was unveiled in a dedication service near to the crash site in September 2016.
Here are other key events in the history of the Great Fen Project.
How the land has been restored over time and the wildlife that has benefitted.
An increasing national and international profile.