Wicken Fen wildlife walk
Lode Lane, Wicken, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 5XPRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
This easy trail explores a fragment of the wilderness that once covered East Anglia.
Only 0.1% of Britain’s fenland remains un-drained. Wicken Fen is the most accessible remnant of this habitat.
It is the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve and home to many plants and insects, plus rare birds like bittern, and mammals, like otter.
- Bus stop
Start: Wicken Fen National Trust Visitor Centre, grid ref: TL563705
Take a look in the Visitor Centre to find out more about the wildlife and history of Wicken Fen. As you exit, Wicken Lode is on your right. Follow the path keeping the water to your right. You will pass some ash trees and Wickens Poor Fen on your left. This is common land. Traditionally local villagers had the right to collect sedge and peat from here.
Cross Monks Lode at Normans Bridge. Look out for plants like arrowhead and water lilies. Turn left after the bridge.
With a life span of just under a year, Brimstone are some of the longest-living British butterflies. It is said that Charles Darwin collected bugs here in the 1820s he certainly rummaged through boats of sedge harvested in the fens as they arrived in Cambridge.
Walk along Monks Lode, then turn right through the lower set of gates.
Note the two hides on your right. Look out for birds like wigeon, teal and shoveler in winter and lapwing and redshank in summer on the flooded fields; and for Konik ponies and highland cattle.
We use konik ponies and cattle to graze the scrub, preventing the formation of woodland on the fen and the loss of this unique wetland habitat. Roe and muntjac deer, hares, grass snakes, water voles and common lizards can also be spotted at Wicken.
Turn right along the next path, and on your right is the site of Normans Mill. Originally used to drain the turf (peat) pits. Spot the windpump which is now restored on Sedge Fen. On your left, roe deer can often be seen aswell. During the Second World War Dig for Victory campaign, the war office turned the fen into arable land. Restoration of the area is now being carried out.
Most of East Anglias fens have been drained for farmland. In 1899 the Trust bought its first piece of land here for £10. Now, we are leading the Wicken Vision, an ambitious habitat creation project, which plans to extend these historic wetlands by 1000% over the next 100 years.
Note the reedbeds on your left and the many birds and insects inhabiting them. Turn right again to walk alongside Wicken Lode. There is a squeeze gap and path on the right leading to West Mere Hide, used to overlook the meres west end and the island.
In winter, spot wildfowl and wading birds in marshy areas, plus flocks of fieldfare and redwing on farmland. Lapwing, redshank, wigeon, bearded tit, heron and marsh harrier live here year round. Woodpecker nest in birch trees and barn owls hunt over the fen and grasslands. In spring, listen out for the loud boom of the highly secretive bittern. They faced extinction in the UK in the 1990s but are now on the up, thanks to conservation efforts.
Continue on to a hide which has views across the whole mere.
Over 4000 insect species are found at Wicken Fen including Britains largest dragonfly, the emperor. Rafts of whirligig beetles skim over the surface of the ditches. See fenland plants like great fen sedge, hemp agrimony, meadowsweet, marsh pennywort, and the beautiful purple marsh pea. The ponds and ditches are home to yellow flag iris and greater bladderwort a carnivorous plant that feeds on water fleas.
Cross back over Normans Bridge and return towards the Visitor Centre.
End: Wicken Fen National Trust Visitor Centre, grid ref: TL563705
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 2.75 miles (4.5km)
- Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 154
A well-signed route along wide grassy paths (can be muddy). There are many other routes at Wicken Fen, including a Boardwalk Trail, accessible for wheelchairs, year round. See leaflet in visitor centre. Take care near waterways and ponds. Dogs on leads welcome. Please clean up after your dog.
- How to get here:
By bike: National Cycle Network route 11 passes the reserve boundary: www.sustrans.org.uk
By bus: no.12 from Cambridge-Ely (alight Soham High St, then 3 miles (5km) on footpaths to Wicken)
By train: Ely train station (9 miles or 15km from Wicken Fen)
By road: Wicken Fen is 17 miles (27km) NE of Cambridge and 3 miles (5km) W of Soham, just off A1123
- Parking : 120 yds. £2.50 Non-member 2013. NT members free
- Food and drink : Cafe serving soup. 'Fen Docky' and cake. Picnics welcome.
- Shop : Selling local crafts and wildlife books.
- WC's : In visitor centre.
- Cycle hire.
- Contact us