Great Fen, Abbey College, Stories in Film, Heritage Lottery Fund
Major achievements have been possible at the Great Fen thanks to the support of funders and partnership projects.
In 2008 the Great Fen partners were awarded £7.2 million from Heritage Lottery fund - the largest grant ever given by the Lottery to a natural heritage project. With match funding from many other organisations, and more than 1,200 donors, this funding enables the ground-breaking purchase of 3,200 acres of land (1,200 hectares), surrounding Holme Fen, alongside restoration, monitoring, community, schools and heritage work.
Six members of staff have been employed over a five year period (2008-2013) to work deliver this ground-breaking project with the support of the Great Fen partners:
3,255 acres (1,317 hectares) of the Holmewood Estate land is now under restoration in the Great Fen. Grass seeds have been sown and hay crops have been taken from the newly restored Holmewood Estate land, providing high quality animal feed. Sheep can be seen grazing.
Monitoring and research funded by the Holmewood Estate Project has shown that rare wildlife is already spreading to the restored land, including plants such as golden dock and orange foxtail. Fenland birds are doing well across the area, and water voles, the UK's most endangered mammal, were found in 50% of the ditches.
The new schools and community service has engaged thousands of people through events, school and community programmes, including new interactive schools programmes, and youth work including shelter building, teamwork, using tools, making an animation, and film work.
More than 100 volunteers have become involved in the Holmewood Estate project, including conservation, monitoring, education and community volunteers and new Volunteer Officers on 6-9 month placements, designed to provide valuable training for people looking for experience and a career in the sector.
New Great Fen volunteer groups have been launched with the support of Great Fen staff. These include the Great Fen Local Group who are fundraising and running events for the Great Fen, and the Great Fen Local History Group, who work with staff to run an oral history project in the community, alongside history research and community outreach in day centres and sheltered housing.
New visitor facilities and interpretation includes waymarked trails, information boards, trail guides, new Information Points, memories books, and a new website with photos and film, with interactive maps to come.
A wide range of access improvements have been made across the Great Fen, enabling a wide range of visitors to enjoy the area throughout the year, including cycle parking, blue badge holder parking, portable and indoor hearing helper systems, an all terrain access buggy for free hire, and new accessible bird hides.
Our sincere thanks to the many individuals, organisations and funders who have made the Holmewood Estate Project possible, including:
The following work is building upon the Holmewood Estate Project:
With funding from the Woodford Community and Environment Fund, adminstered by Grantscape, and funding from SITA, the Making Fens project is creating an innovative Visitor Hub at the heart of the Great Fen: Great Fen Information Point.
Visitors will experience a 'Fen in microcosm', a mosaic of mini habitat areas including large pools, wet grassland, woodland and willow coppice and carr. There will be a waymarked trail and large pools will be specially positioned for a new straw bale bird hide. New interpretation signage and an accessible picnic area will be provided.
As part of a national project funded by Biffaward, twenty new ponds will be created in the newly restored land, creating new habitats for Biodiversity Action Plan species, including otters, water voles, redshanks, newts, toads, grass snakes and barbastelle, noctule and pipestrelle bats.
The project will also benefit a wide range of farmland birds and mammals as a source of food and water in the areas. It will also provide a refuge for aquatic plants and invertebrates.
With funding from Great Fen partner, the Environment Agency, and WREN Biodiversity Action Fund, more than 500 acres (200 acres) of reedbed, open water and floodplain grazing marshland will be created on what was once arable land.
Rymes Reedbed is named after an historic reedbed that once occupied the same spot 200 years ago, before the drainage of the Whittlesea Mere. As the area develops, it will provide habitats for huge amounts of wildlife. There are likely to be lots of firsts as new species of plants, animals, birds and insects find new habitats and move in. This could include otters, lapwings, water beetles or common cranes.
Funded by WREN, the Connecting with the Fens project will enable people of all ages and abilities to enjoy physical and intellectual access to the restored fenland habitats and to engage in the process of their creation.
It will build accessibility into the creation of the fantastic new habitat of Rymes Reedbed from the earliest stage. One of the first jobs is to put up an accessible tower hide/ fen shelter so that visitor and local people can come and watch the transformation, explore habitats as they establish, and be the first to see the wildlife that colonises this dynamic and exciting area.
Work supported includes paths, work to link the Public Right of Way to the north of Rymes Reedbed, waymarking, interpretation and information boards, website content including interactive maps, and school and community work.
Peterborough based company BGL Group sponsor the Great Fen's education and community work that takes place at the Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre.
The company has also given more than 250 volunteer hours through Corporate Team Building days out at the Great Fen, including creating a new path, making a willow fence, and building our wise woman's hut – a very popular education and community resource at the Wildlife Trust Countryside Centre.
You can find out about some of our previous major projects in History of the Great Fen project