Delight as fenland wins RSPB protection

Sutton Fen in the Norfolk Broads has become the RSPB's 200th nature reserve.The former organic farm, by the River Ant near Stalham, has been bought following a successful appeal to raise £1.5m.

Sutton Fen in the Norfolk Broads has become the RSPB's 200th nature reserve.

The former organic farm, by the River Ant near Stalham, has been bought following a successful appeal to raise £1.5m.

It is one of the finest examples of unpolluted valley fen in Europe and one of Britain's most important nature conservation sites.

This landmark purchase was made possible by generous RSPB supporters plus £465,300 from the Tubney Charitable Trust, £50,000 from Garfield Weston Foundation and a legacy by Lucy Frances Leake.

With its natural beauty, special mix of plants and bird and insect life, Sutton Fen was somewhere the RSPB felt it had to protect. Bitterns, marsh harriers, garganey and Cetti's warbler flourish alongside a nationally important population of insects, including Norfolk Hawker dragonflies and swallowtail butterflies.

Cranes are known to have bred nearby and the RSPB hopes they can be encouraged to use the site in the future.

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The fen is also a haven for plants once found all across the Broads but now restricted to this one site.

Graham Wynne, RSPB chief executive, said: “We are delighted that Sutton Fen is our 200th reserve. The chance to give long term protection to a site as magnificent as this only comes along once in a generation.”

The Sutton Fen totals 170 hectares (365 acres) consisting of 139ha of fen and 31ha of grassland. There is a public footpath around part of the fen but access may be limited because of the poor paths, roads and the fragile nature of the fen and its wildlife.

The RSPB's first reserve was acquired in 1901 at Loch Leven in Kinross. As of March 31, 2006, the RSPB owned leased or managed land totalling 131,127 ha, an area larger than greater Manchester.