Manager Martin hangs up his boots after nearly three decades

Martin Lester at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve

Martin Lester (far left), who is retiring after 27 years at Wicken Fen, has seen the site more than double in size during his career. Pictured is Martin with the ranger team. - Credit: National Trust Images/Mike Selby

A countryside manager who has seen a nature reserve more than double in size is retiring after 27 years. 

Martin Lester arrived at Wicken Fen in July 1995 as head warden and has overseen many changes both at the nature reserve and in conservation. 

“After I leave, I hope the team at Wicken Fen continue to spread the news about everything they have achieved and continue to achieve,” he said. 

One of Martin’s first major projects was reviving reedbeds with the aim of restoring habitats for bitterns. 

He helped achieve this by ways such as creating more ditches, which has helped bitterns regularly breed in the area having last bred at the Fen in the 1930s. 

Konik ponies on Bakers Fen at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire

Martin Lester arrived at Wicken Fen in July 1995 as head warden and has overseen many changes both at the nature reserve and in conservation. - Credit: National Trust Images/Mike Selby

Martin also helped restore open characteristics of the Fens landscape as part of Wicken Fen’s centenary project from 1999, focussing on Sedge Fen. 

“We set about rectifying this by removing 120 acres of scrub from the centre of the Fen and introducing the grazing herds on Verrall’s Fen,” said Martin. 

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“The Fen looks very different to the way it did in 1995; we can now measure the landscape in kilometres rather than metres, and wildlife is thriving again.” 

But it was the launch of the Wicken Fen Vision 23 years ago that has perhaps been the biggest change seen during Martin’s career. 

The Vision is part of a 100-year plan which the National Trust says aims to “increase the nature reserve around Wicken Fen to an area of 53 square kilometres” by 2099. 

View of Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire

It was the launch of the Wicken Fen Vision 23 years ago that has perhaps been the biggest change seen during Martin’s career. The Vision aims to expand the area around the nature reserve to 53 sq km by 2099. - Credit: National Trust Images/Robert Morris

“We were largely standing alone at the start of the Wicken Fen Vision, there is now an entire network of sites and projects working to ‘re-wild’ landscapes across the country,” Martin said. 

“At Wicken Fen, we have more than doubled the size of the reserve in the past 20 or so years.” 

Martin, who includes travelling as part of his retirement plans, will be succeeded by Alan Kell. 

And he had fond words about Wicken Fen. 

Martin added: “It is one of the best nature reserves in the country - a majorly important wetland – as well as being a great place for people to visit and get closer to nature.”