Debate Over Wicken Fen Has Become Polarised

PUBLISHED: 11:06 20 November 2009 | UPDATED: 11:08 04 May 2010

THE debate over National Trust plans for Wicken Fen is becoming polarised. The need for a nature reserve is being set against the need for agricultural land. However, for people living in the area concerned, there is more to the argument. The nature rese

THE debate over National Trust plans for Wicken Fen is becoming polarised. The need for a nature reserve is being set against the need for agricultural land. However, for people living in the area concerned, there is more to the argument.

The nature reserve consists of large fenced enclosures, where herds of non-native wild horses and highland cattle are left to roam. Numerous paths that were previously open to all are no longer useable by dog walkers or horse riders because of the attentions of these herds. These include the path between Wicken and Burwell as well as parts of Reach and Burwell Lode banks.

Latest National Trust plans are to fence off land from the outskirts of Reach across Burwell fen to Wicken as a single enclosure. The proposal includes replacing Burwell Bridge with one that animals can use freely. The effect on local people will be that they can no longer walk or ride through the fen between the villages of Reach, Burwell, Wicken and Upware, without going through a herd of large and unpredictable animals.

Far from improving access for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, many routes are being lost.

Although the cycle path between Wicken and Lode will be a new route, access to it is being limited. From Burwell, it can be reached by Newnham Drove, which now has a locked gate at the point it meets National Trust land, or by Hightown Drove, where gates, cattle grids and herds of wild animals roaming on the road are proposed. Whilst tourists may be able to cycle between Wicken Fen and Anglesey Abbey, local travel through the fen is being hugely disrupted.

Meanwhile, all the tall trees in the area are being cut down, to prevent crows using them as a vantage point to prey on ground nesting birds, whose nests are regularly trampled by the cattle and horses. The Vision appears less of a nature reserve and more of a badly managed zoo than the National Trust care to admit.

Much has been said of the fertile farmland that will be lost to the Vision. Few who walk or ride in the area will have gone far without encountering a crop sprayer, working alongside the path. Usually they continue as people pass, which is not to everyone's taste! If the land is so fertile, surely local farmers could grow organically, without chemical sprays. This would result in higher prices for the crop, as well as more local support for their point of view.

BARRY GARWOOD

Ness Road

Burwell

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