Conservation in Action - Fen Harvester trial

Picture of Fen Harvester cutting sedge with Wicken's historic windpump in the background

The National Trust has an ambitious target to return all our SSSI's (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) back to favourable condition by 2020. At Wicken Fen we've been trialing a Fen Harvester to see if it can help us meet this target.

Wicken Fen is a unique remnant of un-drained fen, which once covered the vast lowlands of East Anglia. It's not surprising that this unique environment holds a range of designations including Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), National Nature Reserve (NNR), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar (designated under the Ramsar Convention as an internationally important wetland).

The SSSI covers an area of 169 hectares and despite our very best efforts it has been classified as in an unfavourable recovering condition by Natural England.

Under our management plan, which is approved by Natural England, we aim to cut around 40 - 50 hectares per year. The plant communities at Wicken Fen require a regular cutting regime (every three years) to enable them to thrieve.

Unfortunately a combination of wet ground conditions, weather and difficulties of our equipment to deal with these conditions means we have often fallen short of meeting our target.

The Broads Authority have kindly provided the use of their Fen Harvester, in order that we can assess its suitability for working on the fen.

Our Ranger team have been suitably impressed by its ability to work in our wetland environment and hope to be able to purchase our own machine in the near future.

Hopefully, the Fen Harvester will enable us to get the SSSI into favourable condition by our 2020 target.