New Fen - dense scrub with stinging nettles beneath
This small remnant of the formerly extensive Thelnetham Fen was purchased by the LOHP in 2014 with the help of a generous Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Although only 2.2ha in extent, this site is a very important piece in the jigsaw of LOHP fens. It is one of the last unrestored fragments of Thelnetham Fen and adjoins both Parkers Piece and Thelnetham Middle Fen.
The site encompasses the south west corner of the original, low-lying fen, together with the transition from peat to sandier soils on the higher, west edge of the fen. In recent decades it has been used both for arable agriculture and as a tree plantation. Although the eastern side of the site, on the deepest and wettest fen peat, remained uncultivated, lack of any management together with low summer water levels, resulted in the invasion of willow scrub during the last decades of the Twentieth Century; all of the richest open fen habitats were lost.
Just next door - Thelnetham Middle Fen in flower
When the LOHP acquired the site, almost none of its formerly rich wildlife remained. The abandoned plantation - much of it of non-native trees - was very dense and the growth spindly. As a result it was of little value even as cover for nesting brids and the ground beneath was so shaded that almost the only plants surviving there were stinging nettles. On the wetter parts of the site, common reed grows in more open clearings between the sallow willows.
Volunteers creating the glade at New Fen in 2015
The LOHP plans to restore the open fen habitats on the deep peat soils, restoring continuity with the very rich plant communities of Thelnetham Middle Fen to the east. Much of the abandoned tree plantation on the higher ground to the west is being cleared and will eventually be replaced by open grass glades amongst extensive patches of scrub that will provide dense cover for nesting birds.
Restoration of fen wildlife on this site is particularly challenging because of its recent management history. Between 2014 and 2016 a Heritage Lottery Fund 'Our Heritage' Fund award is enabling us to carry out the surveys needed to assess how best to progress this work. The HLF award, together with generous donations to our Riverlink appeal, helped us to purchase the site and safeguard its future.
Access to New Fen will be created and opened once the first phase of restoration work is complete. A loop of path is planned from the Fen Lane (the the Angles Way runs laong the road at this point) around the drier eastern side of the site.
To read survey reports on the wildlife, landscape and soils of New Fen, visit our Archive.