I have been involved with the Great Fen for almost nine years, initially as a volunteer, before becoming a full-time member of staff in 2014. As the saying goes, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’, well it certainly has. There have been numerous challenges along the way, which have made the fruits of our labour even more rewarding. On the grand scale of things, this time has been short, but amazing progress has been made.
Most of our fields look like any other grassy field, but this is because they are undergoing the restoration process, and there are subtle changes happening within them. This could be changes in number of non-grass species or the reduced vigour of growth. When land finishes being arable and the first grasses are sown there’s that nail-biting moment of wondering will it grow or will it be overrun with the inevitable weed burden that occurs as a result of excess nutrients in the soil? Initially, most of the land becomes temporarily swamped with fat hen, a weedy annual plant. But after a quick flail, the first shoots of grass hidden underneath leave us hopeful that all will go well! Nine years on, we still have to keep thistle and ragwort in check. If left to their own devices, these thugs of the wildflower world would take over, outcompeting the vegetation we are trying to encourage.