I Admire Fighting Spirit But Stand By My Convictions Regarding Wicken Fen

PUBLISHED: 13:01 02 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:54 04 May 2010

I STAND accused of ridiculing Mr Woollard s attempts to paint the National Trust as some dark force, whose Wicken Fen Vision will starve us all. Fair enough. It s nothing personal, but as I ve said, while I admire his fighting spirit, I do find his stanc

I STAND accused of ridiculing Mr Woollard's attempts to paint the National Trust as some dark force, whose Wicken Fen Vision will starve us all. Fair enough. It's nothing personal, but as I've said, while I admire his fighting spirit, I do find his stance oddly misconceived. Yes, fenland farming is important. As last week's NFU correspondent points out, our black-soil plays a key role in UK food production. But the same Wikipedia page she quotes indicates that 'fenland' comprises about 1m acres. The NT's 100-year Vision is to reclaim up to 13,000 acres - just 1.3 per cent of the total fenland. That's not much really, especially when most of the area in question is not the highly productive black-peat land of the central fens, but actually low yielding gault clay, gravel and chalk. I'd bet that the potential effect of the Vision on agricultural production from fenland would be almost zero. Woollard, the NFU, et al talk about what we might lose. What they fail to recognise is what we've already lost. There is now less than one per cent of the wild fen that would have surrounded us 400 years ago. We don't want it all back, but it would be massively irresponsible of us to lose it all. The Vision would reinstate a small haven of this important habitat, saving the area from housing and industrial developers and ensuring the survival of many species of mammals, birds, insects and plants.

BEN GIBBS

Ely

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