The National Trust has said it is facing ‘challenging timescales’ to complete the work needed for an “essential” new project at Wicken Fen nature reserve.

The charity has received funding from the government to undertake a peatland restoration project at the nature reserve.

The National Trust said the project will not only help tackle climate change, but also provide a “dynamic wetland habitat”.

The organisation has asked East Cambridgeshire District Council for planning permission to undertake the work needed for the project, but has said it is facing “challenging” timescales, which means it needs to start work in just a few months.

Wicken Fen was the National Trust’s first nature reserve after the charity bought two acres of land in 1899.

The reserve is now over 2,000 acres in size and is described by the National Trust as being one of Europe’s “most important wetlands”.

A report put together by the charity said: “Despite growing in size, the nature reserve is too small and isolated to guarantee the survival of all its rare and numerous species.

“It was also under pressure from the increasing number of people seeking its peace and tranquillity.

“Launched in 1999, the Wicken Fen Vision is a 100-year plan to create a diverse landscape for wildlife and people; a historic landscape that will provide space in the modern world to breathe, think and explore.

“By 2099, we will increase the nature reserve around Wicken Fen to an area of 53 square kilometres.”

The National Trust said it has been awarded funding for a new peatland restoration project from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Nature for Climate Grant.

The charity said it is planning for the work to take place at three main locations within the nature reserve, including Verrall’s Fen, Burwell Fen and Tubney Fen.

However, the organisation said it was facing “challenging” timescales for the project due to the requirements attached to the grant funding and the ground conditions in the area.

It said it only had a “realistic construction window” of between mid August to November 1, this year to complete the work.

The National Trust said the project is an “essential component” in its plans to tackle climate change and meet its organisational goal of reaching net zero by 2030.

The charity explained that the Wicken Fen nature reserve is located on a “significant accumulation” of peat.

It said peat has “four vital functions” including as a carbon store, supporting scarce species, managing water, and preserving a record of past vegetation and archaeology.

The organisation explained that dry peat is easily eroded and washed away, and can pose a “major fire hazard”. The organisation added that dry peat also released carbon dioxide.

The National Trust report said: “The Wicken Fen peatland restoration project will provide significant climate change mitigation and adaption by securing continued carbon sequestration and safeguarding future capture possibilities.

“The project helps support delivery of the Wicken Fen Vision by enhancing and restoring biodiversity and enabling public access across the reserve.

“There will be temporary restrictions on access during construction and reinstatement but within a year this will provide enhanced visitor experience.

“The proposal will help create a dynamic wetland habitat community and contribute to green infrastructure provision.

“The proposal is at an appropriate scale within the fens.

“The proposal will provide an important showcase for lowland peat restoration that can be replicated within and beyond the Vision area.

“The works are expected to act as a showcase for river restoration techniques for the local area and will hopefully act as a catalyst for similar projects.”

The planning applications for the restoration work have been submitted to the district council for consideration.

The authority will need to grant its approval for the plans before the work on the project can get underway.