Wicken Fen is a wetland nature reserve situated near the village of Wicken, Cambridgeshire, England. It is one of Britain’s oldest nature reserves, and was the first reserve acquired by the National Trust, in 1899. The reserve includes fenland, farmland, marsh, and reedbeds. Wicken Fen is one of only four wild fens which still survive in the enormous Great Fen Basin area of East Anglia, where 99.9% of the former fens have now been replaced by arable cultivation.
Wildlife – Naturalists were originally drawn to Wicken because of its species richness and the presence of rarities. The Fen has therefore received a great deal of recording effort and huge species lists have accumulated. Many nationally rare species have been recorded. Indeed, in 1998 over 20 species new to the Fen were recorded for the first time and in 2005 another 10 were added. Many of these lists can be downloaded from the fen website . It was established as a nature reserve because of its invertebrate and plant interest. Over 8,000 species have so far been recorded on the fen, including more than 125 that are included in the Red Data Book of rare invertebrates.
Invertebrates – The reserve supports large numbers of fly, snail, spider and beetle species. Damselflies found here include the emerald, azure, large red, red-eyed, variable and common blue; together with dragonflies such as the southern and brown hawkers, emperor, hairy dragonfly and black-tailed skimmer. The Lepidoptera fauna is very rich also, especially the moths, with over 1000 species. The nationally rare reed leopard moth is common at the site. Other local moths include cream-bordered green pea, yellow-legged clearwing andemperor. China-mark moths such as the small, brown and ringed are also seen here. Local butterflies include the green hairstreak, brown argus, speckled wood andbrimstone. Snails include the Red Data Book Desmoulin’s Whorl Snail. Plants – Notable plants include fen ragwort, fen violet, great fen sedge Cladium mariscus, marsh pea and milk parsley. There are also a number of stonewort species present in the ditches and ponds.
Birds – The site is mainly noted for its plants and invertebrates, but many birds also can be seen, and these are particularly popular with visitors as they are often easier to observe than the more elusive insects and plants. Bird species recorded living at the site include great crested grebe, cormorant, gadwall, teal, sparrowhawk, water rail, kingfisher, snipe, woodcock, great spotted and green woodpeckers; and barn, little, tawny, long-eared and short-eared owls. Visiting birds include bittern, whooper swan, golden plover, garganey, pochard, goosander, marsh harrier, hen harrier, merlin and hobby. In season, it is most unlikely that visitors will fail to hear the ‘drumming’ of snipe
The Fen is open to the public. The site is open all year round from dawn to dusk except for Christmas Day. Some paths are closed in very wet weather, and some areas are inaccessible. However, there is a boardwalk, leading to two bird hides that is open all of the time. There are several bird hides and many miles of trails for visitors to follow. There is a visitor centre, shop and café. The visitor centre has a permanent exhibition of information about Wicken Fen, its history and ecological importance. The Fen Cottage is open on Sundays, showing the life of fen people at the turn of the 20th century.
Official Website : www.wicken.org.uk
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