Visiting Wicken Fen with your dog
Whether you're a local dog walker who comes for a wander every day, or you're visiting from further afield, we welcome responsible owners and their dogs under close control in the wider nature reserve. To help us ensure our visitors, dogs and wildlife get along together, there are a few do’s and don’ts to take note of if you’re bringing your dog with you.
Our pawprint rating system
We’ve been working on making it easier for you to find out how dog-friendly your visit will be before you and your four-legged friend arrive. To help with this, we've created a new pawprint rating system and given all the places in our care a rating. You can find this information in the National Trust members' handbook.
Wicken Fen is a two pawprint rated place.
These places have water bowls, dog bins and dog-friendly walks. You’ll be able to take your dog into some areas, but not everywhere. If there’s a food and beverage outlet, you can have a cup of tea with them, probably outside. Read on to discover exactly where you can take your dog. Wicken Fen is a two pawprint rated place.
Where can my dog go?
There are miles of paths to explore with your dog around Baker's, Adventurers' and Burwell Fens, as well as beyond. See our map or speak to a member of our friendly visitor welcome team for more information about these wider reserve paths.
Dogs on a short lead are welcome inside the Visitor Centre and shop, as well as the Docky Hut Café when you're choosing and ordering your food. Please use one of our picnic benches outside if eating with your dog. (Inside seating may also be available in the Visitor Centre for enjoying your café food with your dog.)
Where can't my dog go?
We only allow assistance dogs on the Sedge Fen, as this area is home to several vulnerable, protected species. This includes the Boardwalk, woodland walk and summer nature trail.
Please do not let your dog jump in the water, as nests and birds are easily disturbed. Another potential issue, less obvious perhaps but with a massive impact, is the devastating effect your dog’s flea and tick treatment can have on the rich freshwater invertebrate life of the Fen.
When walking your dog, please ensure that it stays on the path with you at all times.
Our Fen Cottage is too small for your dog to visit with you, but we welcome dogs in the garden, where they can easily be secured while you pop inside.
We are unable to take dogs (other than assistance dogs) aboard our boat, the Mayfly.
Doggy do's and don'ts
To help us ensure our visitors, dogs and wildlife get along together, we ask that you:
- Do have close control of your dog at all times while visiting Wicken Fen
- Don’t allow dogs to chase or disturb wildlife, birds or grazing animals. If your dog has a strong chase instinct, always keep him or her on the lead
- Do pick up your dog's poo and place it in a dog poo bin. Dog poo bins are located opposite the boat house and adjacent to the Harrison's Drove car park
- Do have your dog sit beside you at the tables outside the Docky Hut Café, but not on top of chairs and tables
- Do think of other visitors and don’t allow your dog to come into unwanted contact with walkers, cyclists and horse riders
- Don’t take your dog, even on a lead, onto the protected Sedge Fen
What is close control?
Dogs must always be under close control while visiting Wicken Fen. But what does close control mean?
- Being able to recall your dog in any situation at the first call – if your dog does not come back to you reliably at the first call, you should keep your dog on a short lead
- Being able to clearly see your dog (i.e. not just knowing they are under a hedge or in a bush)
- Have a lead with you whenever you visit, as the paths can be busy and you never know what you might encounter
Why is it important?
Wicken Fen has several important designations, including National Nature Reserve, Site of Special Scientific Interest (national designations), a Special Area of Conservation (European designation) and a Ramsar Site (an international wetland designation). The Fen is one of Europe's most important wetlands; home to over 9,000 recorded species, including many rare plant, bird and dragonfly species.
Dogs can be very disruptive to birds, other wildlife and livestock. Any dog will be viewed by wildlife as a predator. Ground-nesting birds are particularly vulnerable to disturbance, and can be forced from their nests, leaving eggs or chicks exposed. The RSPB states that over half of England’s most threatened breeding species nest on or near to the ground. By sticking to paths, watching your step and keeping dogs on a short lead, you can give rare ground-nesting birds the best chance of survival.
We ask that you dispose of your dog’s poo in one of the designated dog waste bins. Dog poo damages the soil, plants and wildlife that make the Fen so special. Clearing up after your dog will protect the area, as well as preventing the spread of diseases that can affect people, other dogs and grazing animals.
Through careful conservation, the Fens continue to be crucial for our native wildlife. To ensure that people, wildlife and livestock can live in harmony, we’re working hard to help visitors understand more about the landscape and how they can help protect it and the plants and animals that live here. Please help us to protect Wicken Fen and walk your dog responsibly.
Find out how our rangers Ajay Tegala and Carol Laidlaw help to look after Wicken Fen by keeping their dogs under close control.
'My work as a ranger at Wicken Fen has given me a real insight into how we can all enjoy the wildlife and countryside, without having a detrimental effect through our actions. Adult birds will leave a nest if disturbed, and even a short time away from their eggs or chicks can result in them becoming too cold, as well as chicks being left unfed and unprotected. They are left more vulnerable, so even if it isn’t a dog, it makes it easier for other predators to take advantage.
'At the Fen, many of the nests are in the reeds and along the edge of the waterways, so even if it is tempting for your dog to go swimming, this too can be the difference between a reed warbler, cuckoo or duckling surviving – or not. Species such as cuckoos are endangered, it would be a real loss if their call was no longer heard at Wicken Fen.'
'I have been looking after the grazing herds of Highland cattle and Konik ponies at Wicken Fen for 20 years. For many years my old dog Tic Tac accompanied me, but I have now got a new young dog whom I am training. For visitors with dogs it is important that you don’t let your dog chase or frighten the grazing herds, as the animals may become stressed and upset, especially if there are young present. And of course, this is the time of year when most of our foals and calves are born.'
The Canine Code
We’ve worked with our partner Forthglade to come up with this Canine Code, which helps to make sure everyone can enjoy their day:
- Keep them close: using a short lead helps to keep your dog from disturbing ground-nesting birds and farm animals. It's essential to use a short lead around sheep. But if cattle approach you, it's best to let your dog off the lead, and call them back when it's safe to do so.
- Pick up the poo: please always clear up after your dog. If you can't find a bin nearby, take the poo bags home with you.
- Watch the signs: keep an eye on local signs and notices wherever you're walking. They'll tell you if a beach has a dog ban, for instance, or if a path has been diverted, or if you're in an area where dogs can run off-lead.
- Stay on the ball: remember that not everyone loves dogs, and some people fear them. So make sure your dog doesn't run up to other people, especially children.
Keeping control of your dog
Our definition of close or effective control is:
- Being able to recall your dogs in any situation at the first call
- Being able to clearly see your dog at all times (not just knowing they have gone into the undergrowth or over the crest of the hill). In practice, this means keeping them on a footpath if the surrounding vegetation is too dense for your dog to be visible
- Not allowing them to approach other visitors without their consent
- Having a lead with you to use if you encounter livestock or wildlife, or if you are asked to use one
Wicken Fen was the first nature reserve to be managed by the National Trust. Today it’s one of Europe's most important wetlands and home to over 9,000 species.
Explore the fens on two wheels or on foot. Enjoy an easy family ride to see Konik ponies or discover the wildlife in the wider reserve.
If outdoor activities and learning about nature sound like a good day out for your family, Wicken Fen is the right place for you. Discover everything you need to plan your family day out, from events and activities for kids to hiring bikes.
Discover the best places for a dog walk, from coastal adventures and dramatic mountains to more leisurely walks near you. Plus find information on dog-friendly cafés and read our Canine Code.