I am currently putting together an updated unit on the Fenland landscape.
Elements of this will be used in 2021.
The Fens Biosphere project has received funding to support its work and has a new website. It aims to have the Fens declared as a biosphere.
A Biosphere is a special status awarded by UNESCO to a unique and valuable landscape. Biospheres connect people, economies and nature to create a secure future we can all look forward to. They are about developing new ways of living, exploring new ideas and working together.
The key characteristics of the area are suggested below:
The geographical boundaries of the Fens Biosphere have been built around the following key aspects of this landscape:
The peat soils, the ‘black gold’ of the Fens. Within the proposed boundary the dominant soil type is peat, intermixed with silt soils. Peat has become a scarce resource due to ongoing peat loss through shrinkage and fen blows caused largely by intense drainage and farming regimes; there is an urgent need to preserve remaining peat soils.
An important food-producing area dominated by Grade 1 and grade 2 soils; farming and food production are at the beating heart of the Fens. There is a need to ensure farming and the food sector remains vital to the local economy.
Extensive ditch and waterways network: Ditches, the ‘upside-down hedgerows’ of the Fens are renowned for their high biodiversity value, the area being a stronghold for many rare species such as spined loach and water voles.
Internationally important lowland wetland habitats (core areas on map), including Nene Washes, Ouse Washes, Wicken Fen and Holme Fen.
Multiple wetland vision projects, such as the Wildlife Trust’s Great Fen Vision, the National Trust’s Wicken Fen Vision and the expanding RSPB Ouse Fen reedbeds.
Several partnership-led initiatives for landscape-scale conservation in the arable landscape, including the Ely Nature-Friendly Farming Zone and Thorney Nature-Friendly Farming Zone.
Big urban populations acting as ‘gateways’ to the more rural Fens landscape: Cambridge; Peterborough; Wisbech
Historic market towns / small cities in the heart of the area: Ely; March; Chatteris; Whittlesey and Fen Edge towns that will feature in the transition zone such as St Ives, Soham, Ramsey and Downham Market.
Cutting-edge R&D, digital industries and innovative high-tech and agri-tech businesses – some of which also operate in the Fens – in Cambridge, the internationally recognised centre of academic research, and the Cambridge – Peterborough enterprise zone.
The number of academic and businesses dealing with sustainability, climate change and agri-tech developments is vast and still growing.