Chalky water helps save rare wetland flora

A bird's eye view of Wicken's historic Sedge Fen © Apex Images

A bird's eye view of Wicken's historic Sedge Fen

Sedge Fen at the heart of Wicken Fen Nature Reserve is one of four surviving fragments of the Great Fen Basin of East Anglia. It's home to rare wetland plant species such as Saw Sedge, Milk Parsley and the Marsh Pea - all desperately in need of chalky water.

When floods are desirable

Today over 99.9 percent of the fens have been drained for arable cultivation. Historically Sedge Fen was frequently flooded with calcareous water, which filtered through the chalk of the Newmarket Hills before flowing towards Wicken Fen.

In recent years, regular flooding has petered out and Sedge Fen's main source of water has been acidic rainwater. This has led to a decline in its delicate plant communities; in order to thrive, the Fen's plant communities need the right kind of water at specific times of year.

Green power to re-wet the Fen

To help conserve the Fen, we joined forces with the Environment Agency who funded a major project to install a wind-powered water pump to help re-wet the Fen.

The wind pump lifts river water onto the Fen, via a newly constructed channel tunnelled under Wicken Lode. From here, it will gradually spread out across Sedge Fen and re-charge the water table.

A wind-powered pump was chosen because it doesn't produce carbon dioxide during operation and will be a green, sustainable method of supplying water to the Fen for decades to come.

Changing with the times

One of the iconic views of Wicken Fen is its historic wooden wind pump (the last surviving wooden windpump in the fens).

The wind was originally used to drain nearby Adventurer's Fen for peat cutting during the summer months. It's ironic that its modern counterpart is designed to replace rather than remove water.