Wicken Fen celebrates 120 years of National Trust protection

A corner of England that has more species of plants and wildlife than anywhere in the UK is celebrating its 120th anniversary – with the arrival of never seen before animals.

Reflections at Wicken Fen. © Justin Minns/National Trust

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire has been managed as a nature reserve by the National Trust since its acquisition, and has since become a rich oasis of wildlife, yet it started as just a two-acre patch of fenland in 1899.

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The conservation charity has since expanded the area to cover 1,941 acres through a series of acquisitions, working with nearby landowners; and proactive wildling.

With more than 9300 species recorded living there, it has officially been recognised as the most species-rich area of the country.

The latest species discovery, Silvanus recticollis, a flat bark beetle, joins the illustrious list of 25 completely newly discovered species to the UK, recorded since Trust ownership, with seven species declared as being new to science.

Silvanus recticollis, the newly discovered bark beetle at Wicken Fen. © Allan Drewitt
Silvanus recticollis, the newly discovered bark beetle at Wicken Fen. © Allan Drewitt

“Despite our success at Wicken, it still makes up less than one per cent of the original fenland habitat that used to dominate East Anglia back in the 17th Century,” says Martin Lester, countryside manager at Wicken Fen.

“It takes decades for true fen habitat to develop, when starting from scratch, but there is huge wildlife value to the habitat, particularly in light of the warming climate.”

The fen is also home to 188 endangered species including the cuckoo, great crested newt and soprano pipistrelle bat, as well as 483 nationally scarce species such as marsh pea, bittern and marsh harrier.

Great crested newt at Wicken Fen. © Stuart Warrington
Great crested newt at Wicken Fen. © Stuart Warrington
Bittern at Wicken Fen. © Richard Nicoll
Bittern at Wicken Fen. © Richard Nicoll

20 years ago the Trust set out a new Vision for the Fen, with the ambition of expanding the site further to link it up Cambridge City itself, if successful, this project could expand the fenland to 13,000 acres.

“The need to create more of this rare fenland habitat is greater than ever before, as the demand on our environment continues to increase,” says Mark Harold, director of land and nature at the National Trust.

“Wicken is a real illustration of our strategy and desire to create a healthy, natural and beautiful environment that is bigger, better and more joined up for both wildlife and people.”

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Main image: Reflections at Wicken Fen. © Justin Minns/National Trust