Wicken Fen has been designated as a:
National Nature Reserve
is no higher recognition of ecological importance. These designations have been
principally made on account of the open Fen habitats such as sedge beds, reed communities
and Fen meadows. Aquatic habitats such as the dykes and pools are also very important.
Dryer grassland and woodland also add diversity to the site but in the case of woodland,
its expansion has often been at the expense of more valuable open Fen habitats.
The Fen has a prodigious list of rare species. Wicken Fen was originally saved as nature reserve because of its invertebrate interest, especially its rare moths, butterflies and beetles. However, it is also very important for lots of different groups of species, such as plants, birds, spiders, dragonflies, fungi and snails. Over 7800 different species have been recorded at Wicken Fen, making the site one of the most species-rich nature reserves in Britain.
Wicken Fen is unique in landscape terms. A remnant of the once massive Cambridgeshire Fens, it preserves a true sense of wetland wilderness. Standing in the middle of the reserve, nothing is visible other than wild habitats of fen, water and woodland. Outside the boundary is an expanse of carrot fields and intensive farmland, but within is an ancient landscape of great diversity and aesthetic appeal.
The nature of the Fen has been shaped by topography, hydrology, and in particular, by centuries of use by man. The wetland has played an important role in the social and economic life of the area. It provided materials for thatching local houses, bedding and feed for animals, fish and fowl for food, and peat for fuel. Such uses have all left their mark - ecologically, in the plant and animal communities that have developed over time, and physically, in the peat diggings, paths, ditches and dykes which were created for the ancient exploitation of natural resources. The result is a landscape where centuries of rural culture are stamped on the Fen. This historical resource has been well utilised in the study of the cultural importance of wetlands.
The Fen has also been long associated with natural history. Victorian naturalists collected beetles on the Fen in the 1820s and at the turn of the century the fathers of modern ecology and conservation, the Cambridge botanists Sir Harry Godwin and Dr. Arthur Tansley carried out their pioneering work. Charles Darwin is also known to have rummaged for specimens through sedge boats as they arrived in Cambridge from the Fens. The Fens long association with Cambridge University continues to the present day.
Right, photo taken in the
1920's or 1930's - members of Cambridge University looking at exhibits on Lode
Lane, Wicken Fen.
Wicken Fen is one of only four extant wild Fens which still survive in the enormous Great Fen Basin, the other three sites are Woodwalton Fen, Holme Fen and Chippenham Fen. 99.9% of the former Fens have now been replaced by arable cultivation.
Recreation, Education and Visitor Access
Wicken Fen is well used by local people and
visitors from further away:
The boardwalk was fully rebuilt in
2006, using black recycled plastic, and now gives access to 2 bird hides; it is
central to the visitor facilities. It allows barrier free access for all to the wetland
areas, without affecting any of the heritage values described above. It makes Wicken Fen
the primary site to experience a wetland wilderness with relative ease.