Wicken Fen Vision The Grazing Programme explained
grazing in the wild
What is the Wicken Fen Vision and why do we need it? The National Trust launched its exciting and ambitious Wicken Fen Vision in 1999. The Vision aims, over 100 years, to extend the reserve fifteen-fold by taking in land to the south and east of Wicken. This will provide a landscape-scale outdoor living space for both wildlife and people, meeting with the aspirations of the founders of the National Trust more than a century ago. The National Trust’s core purpose of ‘looking after special places, for ever, for everyone’ makes us ideally placed to help deliver this longterm Vision, both now and far into the future. From the experience gained over many years of careful management and scientific research, it has become clear that it is impossible to protect every species, no matter how great the resources used, because this wetland nature reserve was just too small and too isolated. Thus the concept of extending the reserve was conceived. Since the launch of the Vision in 1999 the reserve has continued to expand in size. The various parcels of land are at different stages in the long process of restoration to nature reserve habitats. Our habitat restoration is planned over a large area and long timescale and we have been developing a more naturally sustainable approach to this management. We wish to avoid highly prescriptive, intensive and costly management, and we expect our approach to be more flexible and adaptable in the face of environmental change. Our restoration approach allows for the natural regeneration of plants, sometimes supplemented by some seeding with appropriate grasses, reduces the loss of water through the field drains and ditches, and also depends on the introduction of grazing animals. The grazing animals are a key part of the restoration and ongoing management, and this brochure explains in more detail what we do and why.
Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve Wicken Fen was the very first nature reserve to be owned by The National Trust and has been in our care since 1899. It is one of the most important wetlands in Europe and is an iconic ecological asset, supporting thousands of species of plants, fungi and animals. The core of the reserve has every level of designation for wildlife conservation and is one of the very best examples of a classic un-drained fen, full of very rare species.
Why do we manage the Wicken Fen Vision land with grazing animals?
What is conservation grazing and why do we want to use this on the Wicken Fen Vision lands?
Grazing animals are essential to influence the developing vegetation in this fen landscape. Some trees and shrubs may grow, but the grazers keep the landscape open and help the wetland and grassland plants to become established. Grazing animals, through their feeding and foraging behaviour, create different amounts of grazing pressure on different places and on different plants across the restoration land. Various grazing species, such as cattle, sheep, horses and deer all use the vegetation differently. This develops into subtly different habitats in the landscape, and these may change between seasons and years as the restoration proceeds.
Traditional farm grazing normally takes place from spring through to autumn, with animals brought indoors for the winter. The animals are moved between fields to ensure even grazing pressure. In the early stages of restoration, traditional farm grazing methods can be used. However, as the restoration develops, we introduce grazing animals that are adapted to live on the land all year around, and that can range over very large areas. We feel that this is a more naturalistic grazing system, with the animals able to choose where to go, and what to feed on, which allows them to display more natural behaviour.
Where do we use conservation grazing and how we wish to expand this approach. F