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Walking the Boardwalk at Wicken Fen

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Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire is one of the oldest nature reserves in Britain.  It became the first nature reserve to be owned by the National Trust when it was bought by the charity in 1899.  Today the reserve covers an area of 758 hectares and has a varied range of habitats – fen, reedbed, wet woodland and open water.

In 1999 the National Trust announced their 100 year plan to extend the fen to a maximum of 5,300 hectares.  They were finding it increasingly difficult to nurture the wildlife in such a small and isolated area of fenland.  So far they are making good progress and have purchased enough land to double the previous area.

The fen is open to the public, with a number of trails and longer walks on offer.  Close to the visitor centre, is an easily accessible boardwalk trail.  You can follow this trail at any time of year and without getting your feet wet.  It is also accessible to wheelchair and pushchair users.  This trail is 1.2 kn long and takes around 40 minutes to navigate, unless you opt to take a seat on one of the benches or spend some time in a hide on the way round.

So, are you ready?  I’m going to take you on a quick guided tour.

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First stop is the old windpump, known as Norman’s Mill back at the beginning of the 20th century, when it drained Bill Norman’s peat diggings.  It later fell into disrepair but gained a new lease on life during World War II when it enabled the surrounding land to be used for agriculture.  After the war it was abandoned once more, but was rescued and renovated in the 1950s, reopening in its current location in September 1956.

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After a detour to admire this mill, we skirt Ganges Field.  This area is important because it lies on clay soil, not peat like the rest of the reserve, and is therefore home to a number of different plants, such as cowslip and ox-eye daisy.  Look closely, as you may spot some Highland cattle here too.

If you carry on to the end of the path here you’ll come to one of several hides that are available for bird and wildlife spotting.  But we’ll turn and cross the ditches.

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This is where you’re grateful for the boardwalk!

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In the summer, watch out for dragonflies darting above the water.

Soon we come to a modern version of Norman – this new wind pump is used to pump water to different parts of the fen to help support the habitat.

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From here, we turn back towards the visitor centre, with Wicken Lode, a manmade waterway, to our right.

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You’ll see a variety of trees along here, including ash, alder and willow.

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Now it’s the final stretch, with one of the boarding points for boat tours just along here and beautiful Norman’s Mill in sight once more.

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Time now for a cuppa and a slice of cake in the cafe, while we decide which of the longer trails to follow next.  In fact, I’ll leave you here, as I’m off in search of the wild konik ponies.

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Wicken Fen, Lode Lane, Wicken, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 5XP
Adult entry £6.45, free to National Trust members

Linked to Monday Walks and Water World Wednesday.
Posted by Debbie Smyth, 23 March 2015aDSC_0636_pp

23 replies »

  1. Looks like a nice trip for a balmy day! Guess the windmill was not used for people to live in … in Holland the miller and his family had their “studio apartment” ion the ground floor. Love the mossy branches!


    • An interesting question – I don’t know the answer!
      You’ve just reminded me of the old children’s series of the 1960s, Camberwick Green, with good old Windy Miller who lived in a windmill. I don’t know if they showed it in Holland


  2. Not an area I have visited but one I would love to as I like boardwalks. Lovely photos Debbie, beautiful soft colours of the grasses against the blue sky, the black weatherboard of that windmill, the strong shadows on the bridge. A perfect day.


    • It was so peaceful, I shall definitely be going back. It was a bit chilly or I could have stayed for hours, watching the horses. I shall be back!

      On Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 4:15 PM, Travel with Intent wrote:



  3. Wish I was on that narrowboat, Debbie! I could be so happy 🙂
    You fooled me this week. I was expecting more canals. Many thanks for the peaceful ‘ride’. I’ll look out for dragonflies when I’m down that way.


    • Ah yes, water but no canals. I did walk some of the canals of Manchester yesterday as it happens, but haven’t downloaded the photos yet.

      On Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 8:46 AM, Travel with Intent wrote:



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