New wind pump will provide life saving water for rare wetland plants at Wicken Fen

Wind pumps were once a common sight as drainers drove the water from the Fens, before steam and diesel pumps replaced them. Now new sails will harness the wind to bring water back to one of the last expanses of un-drained peat.

The National Trust's Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, near Ely, is one of the last remaining fragments of un-drained fen which once covered the vast lowlands of East Anglia.

It's home to many rare and threatened species of wetland plant including the fen violet, greater spearwort and marsh pea.

At one time Wicken Fen periodically flooded with calcium-rich river water which had filtered through the chalk of the Newmarket Hills before flowing towards Wicken. Flooding has diminished over the centuries after drainage of the land for farming.

Today the Fen's main source of water is rainwater, which is more acidic and has led to a decline in the fen's delicate plant communities.

Now the Environment Agency has funded a major project to install a wind powered water pump to help re-wet the land.

Wicken Fen operations manager Chris Soans said: 'Wicken Fen is internationally recognised as a unique wetland habitat and refuge for many rare species.

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'The re-wetting of the Fen should aid the long term conservation of this special landscape and the many species it supports.'

The wind pump will lift river water up onto the Fen, via a newly constructed channel beneath under Wicken Lode, from where it will gradually spread out across Wicken's ancient Sedge Fen.

A wind powered water pump was selected as it doesn't produce CO2 in its operation and will be a green, sustainable method of supplying water to the Fen for decades to come.

Environment Agency area manager Dr Geoff Brighty said: 'It's great that the free energy of the wind is being used to pump water essential to the health of one of the world's most important wetlands. A truly sustainable solution.'

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