Happy second 20th birthday Lakenheath Fen

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Happy second 20th birthday Lakenheath Fen

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Author: David White, RSPB Lakenheath Fen Nature Reserve

Last year, Lakenheath Fen celebrated its twentieth birthday. Back in 1995, the first spade entered what had been a carrot field, found on the border of Cambridgeshire, to begin the creation of a new wetland nature reserve.


This month, we are celebrating another birthday. Twenty years ago this month, the very first reed was planted. This single fluffy frond marked the beginning of our incredible reedbed, and it was quite the undertaking to ensure it became the special place for wildlife that we had envisaged!


Between August 1996 and 2003, one third of a million reeds were planted on the reserve. The majority of this work was done by our dedicated volunteers and unbelievably, in this modern age, by hand! Their hard work resulted in the creation of a much needed home for a great many rare wildlife species such as bittern, bearded tit and marsh harriers. It’s also become a special place for people too, with our nature trails offering visitors the chance to enjoy a vibrant, natural environment and a breath of fresh air from their day to day lives.


Twenty years on from our first reed, I am delighted to say that the reserve is going from strength to strength. Back in 1996, our new inland reedbed was designed primarily to create a place for rare and elusive bittern, whose coastal reedbed homes were predicted to one day be lost to sea level rise. These fantastic birds first nested on the reserve in 2009 and to this day we still have a lively contingent of bittern raising young each year here at Lakenheath Fen.


Our twentieth birthday year has also proved to be a great one for our two resident pairs of cranes who have successfully raised three chicks this summer. Two pairs and three chicks might not sound that many, but there are only around 10 pairs of these magnificent birds found breeding in the UK each summer, so we’ve been thrilled to welcome the new youngsters to our wild family this year!


It’s been an incredible 20 years since that first reed was planted, putting the Fens centre stage in conserving some of the UK’s rarest species and opening up a new wild world to our visitors. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve for wildlife in the next two decades!

For more information about Lakenheath Fen and to plan a visit: www.rspb.org.uk/lakenheathfen.

  • I'm sure your fantastic story will continue for many, many years to come.  I must say your reedbed planting remains one hell of an achievement!