Visiting Wicken Fen with your dog
Whether you're a local dog walker who comes for a wander every day or visiting from further afield, we welcome responsible owners and 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.
Where can my dog go?
There are miles of paths to explore with your dog around Baker's, Adventurers' and Burwell Fens and 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 are 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 part of the Fen 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 them in the garden, where they can easily be secured while you pop inside.
We are unable to take dogs (other than assistance dogs) on 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 the 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 always 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 9000 recorded species including many rare species of plants, birds and dragonflies.
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 state 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 protects the area as well as preventing the spread of diseases that can affect people, other dogs, and grazing animals, and keeps the Fen clean for other visitors.
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 which 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."
" I'm careful to always walk my dog on a short lead when we are anywhere near wildlife, especially at this time of year, as it is so important not to disturb nesting birds."
"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."
" As well as the ponies and cows, the fields are also home to deer, hares and ground nesting birds – always keep your dog with you on the path so wildlife can thrive at the reserve."