Grant to expand Wicken Fen

An ambitious project to expand a unique fragment of the fenland wilderness which once covered East Anglia has been given the cash to buy another 42 hectares of land.

An ambitious project to expand a unique fragment of the fenland wilderness which once covered East Anglia has been given the cash to buy another 42 hectares of land.

A £466,540 grant from the Viridor Credits Community Wildlife Award will help the National Trust's campaign to create 5,500 hectares of traditional habitat at Wicken Fen, near Ely.

It will pay for 42 hectares of land opposite Burwell Fen, but it will also pay for water management works to create new floodplain grazing marsh, wet woodland, fen and reed bed and it will pay for a Viridor Community Wildlife Walk.

Beth Bottrill, regional fundraising manager at the National Trust, said: “When we heard that we had won, we were all absolutely thrilled.

“The trust was presented with an opportunity to acquire 42 hectares of arable land adjoining the existing reserve and we knew this award was our only chance to acquire it.”

Wicken Fen, which lays claim to being Britain's oldest nature reserve, is one of the most important wetlands in Europe.

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It dates back to a purchase of two acres of fen by the trust in 1899 - for just £10.

More than a century later, following nearly 60 separate further acquisitions of portions of land, the site now extends to more than 600 hectares (1,500 acres).

With more than 99.9pc of East Anglia's fenland now drained it provides a vital habitat for endangered species such as the bittern, otter, great crested newt and Desmoulin's whorl snail, as well as an extensive range of other wildlife.

Viridor Credits is an independent body which distributes funds from the Landfill Communities Fund.

The reserve, which is open to the public daily from dawn to dusk, is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest a Special Area of Conservation and a Ramsar site recognising its international importance as a wetland.

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