Friday, June 22, 2012

Walking around Wonderful Wicken Fen

Thursday, 14th June 2012: This week is half-term, here in the Flatlands, well at least the bit that affects my wife – so I have had some time off work. Unfortunately my wife isn’t really into cycling, she use to and has been known to cycle the half-mile or so to work. She does like walking though and generally goes walking with a group of friends once a week.  Only being half-term they were on a break.

So we went for a walk in Wicken Fen. Now I cycle around Wicken Fen a lot, but despite being a member of the NT I rarely walk inside the grounds. The last time was when my Mum had come to stay and I took her there for a walk around the boardwalk.

We drove up via Upware – we have cycled before, but my wife hasn’t got quite as much energy at the moment. What I had forgotten is just how the road undulates. I certainly meant that I kept my speed down. It makes me wonder how cars and vans manage to whizz past me as quickly as they do when I am cycling. Although I have noticed that the vehicles that travel at the highest speeds probably aren’t owned by their drivers.

we got there quite late in the afternoon, but the car park was pretty full. (It was half-term after all). We then set off first up past the old windmill along the board walk and then off the plastic beaten track.  The map of our route is shown in the second picture, It wasn’t far around 4Km/2.5 miles and it was a delight. There were interesting flowers to see, we barely passed anyone one our walk and despite the fact I cycle around various parts of  Wicken Fen seeing it from a different angle almost made it seem as if I was seeing it afresh.

The Bike Route Toaster link to the map below is here. The route is expectedly flat with a maximum elevation of 4m and a minimum of 2m. It can get wet though – although we just wore walking shoes (actually I wore trainers!) this time around. We didn’t bother with a map we just set of to explore. We also had a drink and a piece of cake at the end in the cafe which was just about to shut – good timing.

We passed a meadow full of interesting flowers. On the map one end is shown as Breed Fen, so that is what I called it. Mind you here is an NT WF map which shows that is what it is called. I have to apologise now, although I had my camera I was under orders that we were supposed to be walking, not taking pictures of everything so the pictures aren’t quite as good as I would like.

You walk down to the Brick pits, where there is now a hide and the water-filled pits provide an interesting wildlife habitat.

Breed Fen: oxeye daisies and yellow flags in profusion

Unfortunately the OSM map does not show quite as much detail as the NT map.

A map of our walk around Wicken Fen

There were quite a few flowers in bloom that are not quite so visible outside of Wicken Fen. Which shows just how easy it is for plants to die out in our farmed countryside and managed roadside verges. The subtleties of habitat are important in keeping a diversity of plant life – but such subtleties are quite so easy to achieve. The roadside verges provide space for wild life, but even they are managed, although increasingly some verges are protected.

Here in Cambridgeshire we have over 75 protected roadside verges. Which are generally only cut twice a year – although safety is always a priority! Here is the list of PRVs, as they are known, in Cambridgeshire.

This is Bugle (Ajuga reptans). Normally it would take me ages to look up plants in my Collins Complete Guide to British Wildflowers – however the NT put out small “easels” with information about the various plants in flower. Thank you – it makes it much easier to identify. They also provide a bit of information – such as this had a medicinal use in healing wounds.

Bugle – Wicken Fen

As were carried on there were quite a few water lilies in flower. I have had a quick look on the NT’s Wicken website for info, but their search facility returned an error.  Their IT skills seem a little archaic, perhaps in keeping with the Habitat – although IMHO that seems to be extremely well managed. As an example the Copyright notices at the bottom of each page list each year from 2006 to 2010, but leave out 2011 and 2012 has nothing been created since then…

Yellow Water Lily, Wicken Fen

Another sight that was surprising, but shouldn’t have been was the profusion or orchids around the place. I think it is a Marsh Orchid – and does look like the Western Marsh Orchid in the picture in the link.

Marsh Orchid – Wicken Fen

Ragged Robin (Lychnic flos-cuculi) was also out in flower and in some profusion.  Apparently it is no less common in England as a result of modern farming techniques.

Ragged Robin – Wicken Fen

There was lots of Yellow Iris out and in flower – it is also known as yellow Flag. The Latin name is Iris pseudacorus. It has been widely grown as an ornamental plant and can be highly invasive – it certainly does well at Wicken Fen.

Yellow Iris – Wicken Fen

A little further along there was a sign indicating that a swarm of bees had located in an old hollowed out tree. There were certainly loads of bees flying in and out. What I should have done is take a video – it might have been easier to see and perhaps even hear the bees.  There are some bees in this picture – but a tad blurred.

Blurry Bees in a Hollowed out tree – Wicken Fen

As you might imagine the land around here is damper than most places – this is one of the paths we walked along – look how lush it is. This is the other side of Spinney Bank – which is one of the routes my wife takes with her walking buddies. (Funny how she can walk miles, but not cycle miles?).

Lush green path – Wicken Fen

As we continued round turning away from Spinney Bank there were cows in a small stable area on the other side of the water. The water was Drainer’s Ditch.

As I mentioned before this was like walking into completely new countryside – despite the fact I have cycled nearby many, many times. I think this was the first time I had been out this way. The other side, Verrall’s Fen reminded me of Dutch Countryside I’d cycled through on my honeymoon (she cycled then!).

Drainer’s Ditch – Wicken Fen

On the home stretch there were even more Orchids. I think they are all some form of Marsh Orchid – just don’t ask me which one.

Marsh Orchid – Wicken Fen

Although they did look different.

Marsh Orchid – Wicken Fen

As we walked back towards the Entrance/Exit there were loads of Orchids growing in the grass alongside Wicken Lode.

Orchids in the grass – Wicken Lode, Wicken Fen

Which explains how I managed to take a few more pictures of them.

Orchids in the grass – Wicken Lode, Wicken Fen

These are some of the information “Easels2 which were out along the walks to give names to the flowers in bloom and also the dragon flies. Mind you I have enough difficulty with flowers I think I’ll have to leave the dragon flies for another time.

I really enjoyed my change of scenery – I also enjoyed the chocolate tiffin cake – we also drive back by via the main roads.

Oops I almost forgot – some nice pictures, including insects from John’s Blog (Wicken Fen Vision Warden).


  1. Hi, Thanks for following my blog. I've added you to my list of UK cycling blogs now.

    Great blog by the way, I love the photography :)


  2. Hi,

    Thanks. Just back from a ride dodging the showers - but not the mud and puddles - good job the hosepipe ban has been lifted and I can wash my bike (Maisie)

    I see you name your bike.

  3. Yes. Well in truth I only just named her but previous bikes of mine have had names. Gives them character, and I know I'm not alone in naming their bikes.