Great Fen Project
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Coordinates: The Great Fen is a habitat restoration project being undertaken on The Fens in the county of Cambridgeshire in the United Kingdom. It is one of the largest restoration projects in the country, and aims to create a 3,700 hectare wetland and will connect Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve with Holme Fen National Nature Reserve to create a very large site with conservation benefits for wildlife and socio-economic benefits for people.
The project is impressive in its ambition and vision. It aims to combine nature conservation and management with tourism and other income-generating activities. It could also play a strategic role by storing winter water for the protection of the homes, farms and businesses in the area.
This is a long-term project managed in partnership by the Environment Agency, Huntingdonshire District Council, Middle Level Commissioners, Natural England and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough.
Woodwalton Fen is one of Britain's oldest nature reserves and occupies a substantial site of 208 ha north-east of Huntingdon. Its international importance has been repeatedly recognised in its designations as a Ramsar site, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a National Nature Reserve (NNR).
The site features a mosaic of habitats that are interlaced with stretches of tranquil waterway and footpaths. It soon becomes clear to see why the Ramsar Convention celebrated Woodwalton as a 'particularly good example of a near natural wetland, which is characteristic of the biogeographical region'.
Woodwalton is a key component of the Great Fen Project and features a variety of fen habitats. The result is an attractive reserve with an impressive list of rare plants and animals. Habitats include Purple Moor Grass meadows, tall fen and scrub communities, woodland, and other assemblages of grasses, sedges, herbs and mosses.
The site also supports 47 red data book species of invertebrates and two very rare plants. Fen violet is found in only two other places in Britain, whilst Fen woodrush is unique to the Great Fen in the UK. The total list of plants, insects, birds, and mammals runs into thousands.
Holme Fen is situated south of Peterborough, around 5km north-west of Woodwalton Fen and on the south-western shore of the former Whittlesey Mere. The Fen occupies a crescent-shaped site approximately 2.5 km long by 1.5 km wide and has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Geological Conservation Review Site (GCR).
Holme Fen is the largest Silver birch woodland in lowland Britain. More importantly it contains approximately 5 hectares of rare acid grassland and heath and a hectare of remnant raised bog, an echo of the habitat that would have dominated the area centuries ago. This is the most south-easterly bog of its type in Britain.
Holme is a key component of the Great Fen Project for it approximately marks the south-western limit of Stage 2 of the Project plan. The reserve is open to the public throughout the year.